Under One Roof star Zaibo has stage four cancer

Beloved Malaysian actor and comedian Zaibo said he started vomiting whenever he ate solid food a few months ago and was admitted to a local hospital last month. PHOTO: SINAR HARIAN

SINGAPORE - Beloved Malaysian actor and comedian Zaibo, best known for portraying mee rebus seller Yusof in the 1990s sitcom Under One Roof, has stage four cancer.

Friends and former co-workers on both sides of the Causeway have rallied in support.

Zaibo, 62, told The Straits Times by phone from Malaysia on Monday (Sept 17) that he has oesophageal cancer, which has spread to his stomach, lungs and left rib cage.

He said he started vomiting whenever he ate solid food a few months ago and lost 10kg in eight weeks.

Zaibo, who lives in Batu Pahat in Johor, was admitted to his local hospital last month.

The actor, whose real name is Zainal Ariffin Abdul Hamid, was then referred to Sungai Buloh Hospital in Petaling earlier this month, where he was hospitalised for a week.

He was discharged about a week ago and is awaiting the results of a scan that will determine his treatment.

His diet is restricted to liquid food, such as high-protein milk, soup, plain porridge and fruit juice.

Still, Zaibo, who also suffers from high blood pressure, cholesterol and gout, is sanguine about his condition: "Apart from that, I am all right. I don't feel sick. I can walk, talk, do housework and send my kids to school."

His upbeat mood is a far cry from when he was initially diagnosed. The shock was so much that he locked himself in his room for three days, refusing to see anyone.

He said: "During that time, however, I thought to myself, I know at least six secondary schoolmates who have passed away. So if it is my turn, what is unusual about it?

"Everybody will go through this process, so there is nothing to be scared of."

In any case, he adds: "There are also many cases of cancer patients who survived. So I might die, or I might not."

During his week in hospital, Zaibo was visited by many friends and colleagues. There were between 50 to 70 people dropping in at each visiting period.

He says: "There were so many people, and they had to stand because there were no seats. I went from one group to another, entertaining them.

"One friend commented that I looked less like a patient, and more like the host of a high-tea party."

His fellow co-stars from Under One Roof also reached out.

Ms Vernetta Lopez, 45, who played Denise in the series, told The Straits Times that her heart skipped a beat when she heard the news.

The Mediacorp Gold 905 DJ added: "I was shocked. When we filmed the show, Zaibo had always been a sweetheart, buying snacks and gifts for everybody whenever he came back from Malaysia.

"He was very earnest in making it a good show."

The former cast of Under One Roof raised about $1,800 among themselves to help Zaibo with his medical expenses, she said.

They are also planning another round of fund-raising via a crowdfunding platform next month.

Ms Lopez said: "When I video-called him, he was still the same bright, positive Zaibo, and I really hope he beats the illness big time."

Zaibo says he is very grateful for the funds that friends, former colleagues and members of the public have raised.

"Financially, I am not worried for now. But I don't know how much my medical bills will come to, or how long all this will take."

He added: "Norleena Salim also contacted me from Australia, hoping I will get well soon and asked me to be strong.

"The people who reached out, or came to see me, were those I met from all parts of my life - my childhood, schooling days, working days.

"They represent the journey of my life, and seeing them really touched me."

Apart from Under One Roof, Zaibo starred in the Malaysian sitcom Spanar Jaya (1999 to 2005) as well as films such as 2010 fantasy musical Magika, and Awan Dania The Movie in 2013.

He also played a small role in the 1999 Hollywood movie Anna and the King.

Zaibo stopped acting two years ago to be a househusband.

His wife, Ms Siti Hawa Sawal, 52, works in a non-governmental organisation, and has nine children from a previous marriage, of which five - aged 10 to 17 - still live at home.

While he has a fight ahead of him, Zaibo is taking great cheer from the fond memories he has of his Singapore acting days.

"During the production of Under One Roof, I worked with lovely fellow actors, and a beautiful, supportive production team."

"The Singapore public also received us very well. The whole experience made me feel very blessed."

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