The Story Behind Peg 2906

by Norman Cho

How many of us believe in the unexplained? There are reasons why certain things happen unexpectedly.  But are we receptive enough to take the cue from such signs?  One recent account was of tomb 481 which was pegged 2906 at Bukit Brown Cemetery, slated for exhumation to make way for the 8 lane highway due to slice the cemetery in half by 2017/

A post about the Ee Hoe Hean Club in the Facebook page of Heritage Singapore – Bukit Brown Cemetery, spurred me to do a search on my granduncle, Mr Tan Kay Tiang (ie) the husband of my paternal grandmother’s second sister, Mdm Yeo Say Neo. Grandmother had once told me that he worked for an exclusive millionaires’ club called the Ee Hoe Hean Club. No details of the position which he held or the period where he was under their employment were given.

Out of curiosity, I did a Google search over the internet and found to my astonishment that he was buried in Bukit Brown Cemetery and that his tomb was marked for exhumation with the peg number  2906.

Tan Kay Tiang Grave 1

The Grave of Tan Kay Tiang #2906

I made a few enquiries and discovered that the tomb had yet to be claimed and that it was due for exhumation in only three weeks! I tried to contact the deceased’s three grandchildren unsuccessfully to make a claim. They are in their fifties and sixties and I sensed their reluctance. They probably have their reasons to decide not to do anything about it.

Looking back, I realised that discovering his tomb just three weeks before the exhumation was no mere coincidence! Possibly, he was trying to reach out to someone to handle his exhumation and to relocate him during the desperate final few weeks. I felt very uncomfortable if I did nothing about it and so I decided to claim the tomb on behalf of the family. To make sure that I had identified the correct tomb, I verified the name of his only child on the headstone – 月娘which corresponded with the name of my late aunt, Guek (Guat) Neo. I found a newspaper article in the online digital archive (Newspapersg) which confirmed the identity of the tomb.

The tombstone of Tan Kay Tiang with closeup of daughters name 月娘 (photo Norman Cho )

The tombstone of Tan Kay Tiang with closeup of daughters name 月娘 (photo Norman Cho )

Family accounts has it that he died due to septic wound on his foot caused by a nail which he accidentally stepped on. He had concealed nails on the ground along the exterior wall of his house at Neil Road to deter thieves. The irony was not lost on me that these nails were what caused his death, A newspaper report in The Straits Times, 19 June 1938, “Nail Causes Man’s Death”  returned a verdict of misadventure. The date of death on the tomb was 10 June 1938.

Tan Kay Tiang married my grandaunt, Yeo Say Neo, in 1923 at his family home in Neil Road. He was 39 and she was 27. During those days when people commonly married in their teens, they were considered an old couple. The couple stayed together with Kay Tiang’s widowed elder sister and his mother.

TanGuekNeo

The wedding photo of Robert Chia and  Yeo  Guek  Neo ( courtesy of Family Archives of Tan Kay Tiang

My grandmother recalled visiting the 3-storey townhouse and was intrigued by the many carpets that she saw on each floor. The couple had their first and only child, a daughter, Guek Neo, in 1925. He was a doting father who was known to piggy-back his daughter till she was nine or ten. The maid would take over after he was tired. As a child, my aunt was thoroughly spoilt and there was an account where the maid was made to walk the dark alley to buy her favorite char siew pau for her supper.

After her father’s death when she was twelve, Guek Neo’s life took a drastic change. She had become a sensible young lady. The house was sold several years later and Guek Neo was arranged to be married to a Baba named Robert Chia, the son of a well-known nyonya medium in the 1920s and 30s who was known by the name “Ah Lian Potong Lemo” She could predict fortunes by reading the sliced limes.

Mrs Tan Kay Tiang (Yeo Say Neo) was the ideal wife and homemaker. She excelled in cooking and sewing. She was soft-spoken and mild-tempered. She did not gamble and hardly stepped out of the house. The maid would run all the family errands and do the marketing. To supplement her living expenses after the death of her husband, she made nyonya kueh which her maid would take to the coffee shop at Joo Chiat Road to sell. She eventually had to let her maid go as she could no longer afford to keep her but the maid was reluctant to leave her and stayed on for a few more years.

Yeo Say Neo circled (courtesy of Tan Kay Tiang family archives)

Yeo Say Neo circled (courtesy of Tan Kay Tiang family archives)

 ***

A footnote:

Every tomb is a repository of personal stories of the family that was left behind

Moving forward 76 years later, I had made a claim for the tomb to be exhumed on 14 July 2014 and the remains to be re interred at Block E0116-202 in Choa Chu Kang Columbarium. It would be easier for me to visit since most of my relatives are placed there. He was buried in the traditional Chinese coffin which was relatively intact and had several funeral artifacts which included miniature clay kitchen utensils and two pieces of circular glass which I suspect could be reading glasses – one concave and the other bi-convex.

TanKayTiang_CCK

The final resting place of Tan Kay Tian at CCK (photo Norman Cho)

TanKayTiang_Artifacts

Artifacts found at the exhumation ot Tan Kay Tiang’s grave (photo Norman Cho)

About Norman Cho:

Norman Cho is a regular contributor to atBB and  guest blogs about his search for his roots and Penanakan material culture. He is the founder of the facebook group Peranakan Material Culture

You can find out more about Norman’s search for his roots here and here and posts about Peranakan culture here and here.

 

 

 

 

 

Romancing the Mid Autumn Festival by Andrew Lim and Victor Lim

Romance the night with tales of myths and legends of the mid-autumn festival recounted by your brownies in attendance Andrew and Victor as they guide you to their “magical” spots at Bukit Brown.

Please bring your own lantern, or at the very least, a stick for paper lanterns and candles which will be provided if you don’t have one.

Also bring torch lights, wet weather protection just in case it rains, mozzie repellant and you are advised to wear good walking shoes

Sun 7 Sept’14 Time: 6.30pm – 8.30pm
Meeting place : Gates of Bukit Brown at end of Lorong Halwa.

If you have a FB account please help brownies keep track of numbers by registering here

Or if you don’t just meet us at the starting point. We meet there rain or shine or exhumations.

Disclaimer: By agreeing to take this walking tour of Bukit Brown Cemetery, I understand and accept that I must be physically fit and able to do so.To the extent permissible by law, I agree to assume any and all risk of injury or bodily harm to myself and persons in my care (including child or ward)

Helpful tips and Important information on how to get there Please read if it is your first visit to Bukit Brown
http://bukitbrown.com/main/?p=7250

 

About Bukit Brown:

The Bukit Brown area is about 233 hectares in extent, bordered by Lornie Road, Thomson Road and the Pan-Island Expressway. It lies just to the south of the Central Catchment Forest, being separated from it by Lornie Road and includes Singapore’s only Chinese Municipal Cemetery. With more than 100,000 graves, Bukit Brown is also one of the largest Chinese cemeteries outside of China.

Don’t forget to bask in the peaceful surrounds, and also chat with your guides and make friends with other participants. We are amateurs and volunteers, but we are passionate and serious about what we do at Bukit Brown, and we encourage sharing of knowledge.

Here is a map of the grounds:
http://bukitbrown.com/main/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/API.BBC_.Map_.ver3_4.jpg

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Please take note:

1. We will be walking mainly on paved roads. But there are hill treks so dress appropriately, especially your footwear.

2. Wear light breathable clothing. Long pants and long sleeves if you are prone to insect bites or sunburn. Bring sunblock and natural insect repellent.

3. Wear comfortable non-slip shoes as safety is important. Walking sticks are recommended.

4. Do read up on Bukit Brown before going so you have a better understanding of the place (e.g. BukitBrown.com)

5. Do bring water, light snacks, poncho/umbrella, sunhat and waterproof your electronics.

6. Please go to the toilet before coming. There are NO facilities anywhere there or nearby.

 

 

As for 3 September,14 this guided walk is now fully subscribed. Those interested can still apply to be on a wait list. Thank you for your interest and for those who have had notification that they have confirmed places, please note there will be no further reminders. We  request you check this blog post should there be any last minute updates. Please also inform us if you are unable to make it for any unforeseen reasons so we can release your place to those on the wait list

Once more into the fray. As we prepare for Liberation’70 next year, the anniversary of end of Japanese Occupation of Singapore and peace once more in the second theatre of World War 2 in the region, join Jon Cooper, historian and archaeologist on the Adam Road Project for :

The Battlefield tour 

Sunday Sept 28th’14, 9.30am – 12pm

Meeting point  at the pedestrian bridge on Sime Road entering Bukit Brown, opposite the SICC traffic light. Tour  Ends at 12 pm in the grounds of Bukit Brown. 

Leave a comment on this  post to register for the tour with your name and you may register for up to 4 pax. Please note as spaces are limited to 18, please make sure you and your companions can attend and inform us early for cancellations as this tour is highly popular. It is suitable for children from  4 years upwards.

The size is kept small for safety reasons and for ideal interaction as Jon shares the maps, photos and stories of the battles. All things Bukit Brown is only the organizer as we  support the work that Jon and his team are doing out of respect for our common heritage.

Disclaimer: By agreeing to take this walking tour of Bukit Brown Cemetery, I understand and accept that I must be physically fit and able to do so.To the extent permissible by law, I agree to assume any and all risk of injury or bodily harm to myself and persons in my care (including child or ward). The route is not difficult, still good hardy footwear is highly recommended and  depending on the weather it can be hot, so please wear sunscreen, a hat is advisable and plenty of drinking water. Be prepared as well for rain, bring umbrella and ponchos and Jon will assess whether the tour will continue should it get too heavy and there is lightning.

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About WW 2 at Bukit Brown

On Feb 15, 1942, Singapore fell just one week after Japanese forces landed. As they headed down south, fierce battles were fought in the Adam Park area and the fighting extended to Bukit Brown, then known as Cemetery Hill.

“On the evening of 14th February 1942, the rolling hills of the Bukit Brown Cemetery were suddenly engulfed in a barrage of flame and fire. It appeared like scene from Dante’s ‘Inferno’. ”

Jon Cooper, the battlefield archaeologist behind The Adam Park Project, wrote this gripping account as he retraced the battle ground route with all things Bukit Brown.

This is your chance to brush up on your history. Jon Cooper will take you through the paces. Don’t miss his energetic retracing of the movements on both sides, as we commemorate the fallen. You will be expected to do some walking in the sun, so wear good walking shoes and bring snacks and water. The tour ends at the Bukit Brown Cemetery, where you will see the graves among which the soldiers sheltered and fought.

Jon’s post on his interest in Bukit Brown and the missing soldiers is here.

For a visual guide to your route, cartographer Mok Ly Ying has done this wonderful guide map for you.

Previous tour reports here:

July 28 2013 tour

May 26 2013 tour

Oct 21 2012 tour

July 22 2012 tour here and here 

June 17 2012 Father’s Day Special

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To help you plan your Sunday morning and enjoy the tour, you can follow this map of a previous one: https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=208524362450694978161.0004cc9d065f2a171893d&msa=0&ll=1.336901,103.817351&spn=0.003566,0.005681

Jon conducts the Battlefield Tour when time permits. For other war-related stories, you can join tours by All Things Bukit Brown on the heritage tours.

 

SAA award

The Award (Photo: Theresa Teng)

 

All Things Bukit Brown is pleased to announce that it is the first recipient of the Civil Society Advocate Organisation of the Year Award in the inaugural Singapore Advocacy Awards. This is our acceptance speech at the ceremony on August 30, 2014. 

“We are honoured and humbled to have been deemed deserving to receive this award by a dedicated and diverse panel of activists, many of whom have worked tirelessly and for a much longer time on a variety of causes such as foreign worker abuse, AIDS awareness and education, the protection of women’s rights and the championing of the local arts scene.

While we are very much the “new kids on the block” among causes highlighted today, we have stalwarts before us who championed the cause of heritage preservation and protection. We look upon this award as encouragement and affirmation, that what we do in promoting awareness of the Habitat, Heritage and History  of the iconic Bukit Brown Cemetery is contributing to the growing voices of concern about how rapid development has resulted in the loss of our old places and a growing sense of alienation of what is home.

Our encounters on the ground talking to and documenting stories from tomb keepers to descendants have been enriching, and our wider Bukit Brown experience has led us to places we have never been, to temples and other areas of cultural and ethnic significance, and in observing the customary rites and rituals which are being practiced today, and further afield to maritime port cities linked to our past. By celebrating the rich diversity of a shared past which is being kept alive by sheer dint of devotion and effort, we find ourselves sharing in a larger collective act of preservation of our culture and identity. We are far from alone.

In receiving the honour of this award, we pledge to continue to engage in conversation and in concert with all stakeholders to make heritage a part of the development paradigm, and to re-imagine spaces which will reinforce memory and identity from one generation to another generation.

We would like to thank especially Raymond and Charles Goh, for leading the way and sharing with us so generously and so passionately all your research from when both of you started exploring Bukit Brown eight years ago. Our abiding gratitude goes to the community especially on Heritage Singapore – Bukit Brown Facebook group which have encouraged and supported us, and which enlivens Bukit Brown daily with the members’ sharing of interesting articles and stories, anecdotes and sometimes grave discussions. It is your enthusiasm that led us all on this journey; unlike most online communities, we are glad to have met many of you face-to-face in on- and off- site events.

We thank the Singapore Heritage Society for nominating us and finally we thank the SAA for this honour, which we will endeavor to live up to. We have much to live up to.

We acknowledge and congratulate all the other nominees. For us, it was enough to have been nominated.

This initiative by SAA makes all of us nominees winners because it celebrates the acts and sacrifices made by volunteers across different communities. Volunteers are the heart of many communities, raising awareness, lifting spirits, affirming shared values, shaping aspirations, and connecting the different threads of society into a fabric that is stronger for weaving its constituents together. Volunteerism is often driven more by passion and purpose than resources, and demands us to be creative, persevering and collaborative. It is often, especially in the nascent stages, lonely and intimidating, confusing and almost crippling in the face of lofty expectations of what a few individuals can and should achieve.

We acknowledge and endorse the efforts of the SAA to bring voices to the communities that need encouraging, causes that need acknowledgement and affirmation, and issues that benefit from airing in public discourse. We do ourselves a service by taking ownership of issues and responsibility for making dreams a reality. This is our contribution to our society. It is humbling to be acknowledged.

Next year, we as a country will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of Singapore as a republic, and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Singapore from occupation during WWII. We salute all the communities and civil society activists before us who have taken our country to where it is today.”

 

Claire Leow & Catherine Lim, Co-Founders, All Things Bukit Brown

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The Brownies with Constance Singam, one of the judges and a highly esteemed civil activist and writer

The Brownies with Constance Singam, one of the judges and a highly esteemed civil activist and writer

 

The symbol chosen is an inverted ‘A’ (for Advocacy) and stems from the idea of the ‘tipping point’, which in sociology is defined as ‘a point in time when a group —or a large number of group members— rapidly and dramatically changes its behavior by widely adopting a previously rare practice’. Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘The Tipping Point’, defines the tipping point as “that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behaviour crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire”.Here, the inverted ‘A’ is placed in a transient state in which it may sway both ways. Its position and layout in relation to the text suggest that the ‘A’ will stand firmly over the text if you choose to tip it over.
The Judges:

  1. T. Sasitharan (Panel Chair) – Arts educator and Cultural Medallion winner
  2. Cherian George - Academic
  3. Richard Ho - Architect
  4. Faizah Jamal – NMP & Environmental Activist
  5. Sharon Siddique – Consultant
  6. Constance Singam - Civil Society Activist and Writer
  7. Wong Ting Hway – Medical Doctor
  8. Geoffrey Yu – Arts Supporter and Former Diplomat

 

“Activism and advocacy are the cornerstones of an active and vital civil society movement and the need to establish and protect free space for civil society has never been more urgent than it is now,” said Mr Sasitharan. “A strong civil society will lead to healthy, functioning democracies. Conversely, healthy, well-functioning democracies must allow strong civil societies to exist.”

“If civil society in Singapore is to grow and mature, then it is crucial that good advocacy work that makes an impact on society, that is engaged with the community and that empowers people, should be properly recognised, acknowledged and applauded.” (Source: TOC article here)

 

The Honours List:

ACRES * All Things Bukit Brown * Braema Mathi * Chan Li Shan * Damien Chng * Eugene Tay * Jeremy Boo and Lee Xianjie * Louis Ng * M Ravi * Pink Dot

 

SAA honorees

SAA honorees

 

 

Advocate of the Year: Braema Mathi (President of Maruah, a human rights advocacy group)

Advocate of the Year: Louis Ng (ACRES - Animal Concerns Research and Education Society)

Advocacy Organisation of the Year – All Things Bukit Brown

Most Promising Advocate – Chan Li Shan (mental health advocate, author of A Philosopher’s Madness)

Most Promising Advocate – Damien Chng (We Believe in Second Chances)

***

 The citation:

citation for SAA I

citation for SAA II

 

Postscript: It is worth mentioning that we acknowledged fellow nominee Eugene Tay, who supported us from the early days, and blogger Jerome Lim of The Long and Winding Road fame, for bringing us together. They inspired us in their railway walks, a precursor to the Green Corridor campaign.

 

Jerome Lim and Eugene Tay at SAA

Jerome Lim and Eugene Tay at SAA, with us and Constance Singam

 

We received the award from William Lim, one of the greatest honours we have experienced.

 

(Photo: SAA)

(Photo: SAA)

 

William Lim and his wife at the SAA

William Lim and his wife at the SAA

 

Lim Su Min, a Brownie and a descendent of Tan Tock Seng and Lim Boon Keng, sketched the historic inaugural awards:

 

SAA sketch (Credit- Lim Su Min)

Related Posts:

Bukit Brown named World Monuments Watch site

Aug
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Romancing Taiping 2

A photo essay by Simone Lee

 “I was a little apprehensive at the beginning. Even as a Malaysian, I’ve never heard of anyone raving about a visit to Taiping. But while we were there, I fell in love…………” Simone Lee

Romancing Taiping  1  continues with part 2  as Simone Lee takes you through to  sights and sounds  from cemeteries – of course -  to temples and museums.

Hokkien Cemetery

t2 7 (from left to right): Stairway to Ng Boo Bee’s ‘residence’, mythical creatures, tomb guardian (photo collage Simone Lee)

(from left to right): Stairway to Ng Boo Bee’s ‘residence’, mythical creatures, tomb guardian (photo collage Simone Lee)

The most valuable tomb in Taiping belongs to Ng Boo Bee. Penniless when he left China, he became the wealthiest man in Taiping from running tin mines, opium farms and construction. He was the first contractor to the British, building the first railway line in Malaya running from Taiping to Port Weld. He made many contributions to society during his lifetime. He built schools in Perak and China, public fountains, shophouses, donated land to the Hokkien Association and more. In fact, he built half of Taiping and owned many properties and plantations in both Perak and Penang. At death, his wake lasted for about 2 months to allow time for his friends to travel, some from as far as England. The entire town of Taiping shut down to join the procession, which took 4 hours to pass his house. Today, he rests on a 3-level tomb accompanied by guardian generals, lions and other mythical creatures, which showcase his wealth and influence while he was alive.

t2 8 -(Left) As you walk up the hill towards Ng Boo Bee’s majestic tomb, you’ll see the 3-levels of the stone platform, which looks like a fort (photo by Bianca Polak) -(Right) The View from the back of Ng Boo Bee’s tomb (photo by Raymond Goh)

– (Left) As you walk up the hill towards Ng Boo Bee’s majestic tomb, you’ll see the 3-levels of the stone platform, which looks like a fort (photo by Bianca Polak) – (Right) The View from the back of Ng Boo Bee’s tomb (photo by Raymond Goh)

t2 9.png Our guides Ah Kew explains Ng Boo Bee built the first railway in Malaya for the British at Port Weld (photo Simone Lee)

Our guide Ah Kew explains Ng Boo Bee built the first railway in Malaya for the British at Port Weld (photo Simone Lee)

t2 10.png A memorial for the victims of the Japanese occupation (photo Simone Lee)

A memorial for the victims of the Japanese occupation (photo Simone Lee)

t2 11.png.jpg Some unique grave art found in Taiping’s Hokkien Cemetery (photo Simone Lee)

Some unique grave art found in Taiping’s Hokkien Cemetery (photo Simone Lee)

Kwantung Cemetery

Kwangtung Cemetery contains burials mostly of Cantonese and Hakka residence.

t2 12.png.jpg Kwangtung Cemetery's  mostly Cantonese and Hakka tombs (photo Simone Lee)

Kwangtung Cemetery’s mostly Cantonese and Hakka tombs (photo Simone Lee)

 

Taiping War Cemetery

The fallen soldiers who defended Malaya from the invading Japanese forces were interred in this cemetery. There are 3 sections of the cemetery; the Christians (on one side of the road), the Muslims and Indians (on the other side of the road).

t2 14.png.jpg Indian soldier, view of Christian side of the War Cemetery, and a tombstone for an English soldier (photo Simone Lee)

(from left to right): A tombstone for an Indian soldier, view of Christian side of the War Cemetery, and a tombstone for an English soldier (photo Simone Lee)

Amongst over 850 tombs are tombs of 4 volunteer soldiers. Three of them, Lim Poh Ann, Tang Bee Choon and Ong Kim Sai, were sent to fight in Singapore where they died. After the war, their bodies were returned and given a soldier’s burial.

t2 15.png.jpg -(Top row) The 4 fallen soldiers who volunteered to defend our land. -(Bottom row) Lim Poh Ann, Ong Kim Sai and Tang Bee Choon were sent to Singapore, where they were killed in action (photo Simone Lee)

– (Top row) The 4 fallen soldiers who volunteered to defend our land. – (Bottom row) Lim Poh Ann, Ong Kim Sai and Tang Bee Choon were sent to Singapore, where they were killed in action (photo Simone Lee)

As more immigrants were brought in to work in the booming new town, many temples were built.

A temple which  has stood the test of time is the Sam Wong Yah temple. The temple was built by Loke Yew, a millionaire and philanthropist who came to Singapore to seek his fortune. He started work at a provision shop at Market Street until he saved enough to open one of his own. He then travelled to Taiping to explore the tin mining businesses. However, he did not do well and was soon broke. He sought shelter at the hut housing the Sam Wong Yah deities. One night, in a form of a white figure, he dreamt of the deities advising him to go further south to strike it rich. And strike it rich, he did. He returned to Taiping to build the temple around the hut where he had taken shelter.

t2 16. The 2 dragon pillars in the Sam Wong Yah temple  (photo Simone Lee)

The 2 dragon pillars in the Sam Wong Yah temple (photo Simone Lee)

In Singapore, a road was named after him (Jalan Loke Yew, opposite of the Peranakan Museum at Armenian Street) in honour of his contributions while the Cathay Gallery at The Cathay (founded by Loke Yew) showcases the history of the building and the Loke family.

t2 17.png.jpg.png

Brownie Peter Pak sitting on the bench which Loke Yew slept on (photo Simone Lee)

Matang Museum aka Ngah Ibrahim Mansion

Ngah Ibrahim succeeded his father, Long Jaafar as the Malay chieftain of Larut. He fortified his mansion by building thick brick walls around it, resisting the violence between the Ghee Hin and Hai San fights. Part of the wall was damaged by a Japanese war plane which crashed into it. In the mansion are stories and artifacts belonging to Ngah Ibrahim and showcased what the mansion was used as after Ngah Ibrahim was exiled in Seychelles. He was never allowed to return and died in Singapore (1887). In 2006, his remains were exhumed from Masjid Al-junied and reinterred in the compound of his grand old mansion which now is the Matang Museum.

t2 18.png.jpg.png Ngah Ibrahim’s mansion/Matang Museum (photo by Bianca Polak)

Ngah Ibrahim’s mansion/Matang Museum (photo by Bianca Polak)

t2 20.png.jpg.png Picture 20: Ngah Ibrahim’s final resting place (photo by Bianca Polak)

Ngah Ibrahim’s final resting place (photo by Bianca Polak)

Other Attractions

t2 21.png.jpg.png Taiping Lake Gardens, originally a mining ground, is the first public garden in Malaya since it's conversion in 1880. The beautiful 120 year old rain trees line the road around the lake have been a hot subject as nature lovers fight to save them from urban threats.  (photo Simone Lee)

Taiping Lake Gardens, originally a mining ground, is the first public garden in Malaya since it’s conversion in 1880. The beautiful 120 year old rain trees line the road around the lake have been a hot subject as nature lovers fight to save them from urban threats. (photo Simone Lee)

Upon our return in Singapore, a fellow member of the Heritage Singapore – Bukit Brown group asked, “did you guys do anything else in Taiping but eat?”, questioning the amount of food postings (and food) we had on the our Facebook pages. We certainly did and visited many more places apart from the ones featured in this write-up but there is simply too much to write in just one post. Besides, the best way to learn more about a place is to be there in person. There are many more that we didn’t get to explore. We certainly fell-love with Taiping’s charm and hope to go back in the near future.

If you do plan to visit Taiping, do contact Lee Ah Kew through  http://ahkew.blogkaki.net

Ah Kew is a freelance writer and field historian, whose knowledge and collection of folk stories would enhance your experience at Taiping.

Ah Kew’s article on the Brownies

t2.art 1 t2.art 2

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t2 22.png.jpg.png Self-Portrait (photo Simone Lee)

Self-Portrait (photo Simone Lee)

Editor’s note: If you have enjoyed Simone’s blog post and photo essay, do leave a comment and encourage her to do more. She is the “official” brownie travel concierge

 

“Ullambana” Festival by Bukit Timah Seu Teck Sean Tong @ Tangling Halt.

by Sugen Raniah

The Ullambana Festival is observed and celebrated by the Buddhists during the Seventh Lunar Month. The Sanskrit term, ‘Ullambana’, refers to the compassion for all beings suffering in the realms of misery. The observance of this festival is based on a discourse by the Buddha – where Maudgalyayana, a disciple of the Buddha, discovers that his mother, Lady Niladhi, had been reborn into the realms of misery. The troubled Maudgalyayana then seeks the Buddha for help. The Buddha advises him to make offerings to the Sangha, as the merit of doing so would help relieve the suffering of his Mother, and that of other beings in the same state.

Here in Singapore, it is a common sight for Teochew sian t’ngs (temples) to perform these rituals during the seventh lunar month. I observed and documented the Ullamabana Festival at Tanglin Halt Market and Hawker Centre by the members of Bukit Timah Seu Teck Sean Tong.

There are three temporary ceremonial altars set up in the tentage – the main altar of the three Buddhas, the altar for the Patron Deity, Du Di Gong and the last for Da Shi Ye (King of Ghosts). Offerings of dried goods and drinks, vegetables, a variety of meat and paper offerings are assembled in the centre of the tentage. Here associate members of the market and members of public are invited to offer joss sticks to the wandering spirits. There are also smaller areas around designated for the spirits for ‘lodging’, ‘washroom’ and ‘leisure’ purposes.

A Main Altar of the Three Buddhas

Main Altar of the Three Buddhas (photo Sugen Ramiah)

B Food offerings of meat (photo Sugen Ramiah)

Food offerings of meat  and seafood (photo Sugen Ramiah)

C Meat Offerings (photo Sugen Ramiah)

Meat Offerings (photo Sugen Ramiah)

Unlike the elaborate Taoist salvation rituals by Xuan Jian Dian, the Buddhists embrace the recital of Ulka Mukha Sutra. Men, draped in red vestments, are represented as the Sangha (the community of disciples). The Sutra recited is an amalgamation of the mind, body and mouth. Mind in absolute contemplation, with hand gestures of the mystical Mudras and together with the recitation of esoteric words of the Sutras- they invite the wandering spirits to listen to the teachings of Buddha and liberate them from all sufferings. These men sing the Sutra in Teochew and the lyrics are accompanied by beautiful Teochew styled music. It is meant to work like a beautiful charm that draws the spirits to listen and attain liberation.

Men draped in red vestments are represented as the ‘Sangha’ (photo Sugen Ramiah)

Men draped in red vestments are represented as the ‘Sangha’ (photo Sugen Ramiah)

E The ‘Sanghas’ (photo Sugen Ramiah)

The ‘Sanghas’ (photo Sugen Ramiah)

F The ‘Sanghas’ paying homage to the Patron Deity of the market and hawker centre – Du Di Gong (photo Sugen Ramiah)

The ‘Sanghas’ paying homage to the Patron Deity of the market and hawker centre – Du Di Gong (photo Sugen Ramiah)

G The assembly of ‘Sangha’ and the recital of the Ulka Mukha Sutra (photo Sugen Ramiah)

The assembly of ‘Sangha’ and the recital of the Ulka Mukha Sutra (photo Sugen Ramiah)

H Performing a Mudra while in deep contemplation by the head ‘Sangha’ (photo Sugen Ramiah)

Performing a Mudra while in deep contemplation by the head ‘Sangha’ (photo Sugen Ramiah)

The tossing of longevity buns to liberate the wandering from all sufferings (photo Sugen Ramiah)

The tossing of longevity buns to liberate the wandering from all sufferings (photo Sugen Ramiah)

J – A happy supplicant

A happy supplicant (photo Sugen Ramiah)

The day ritual comes to a close with the tossing of longevity buns. The food offerings are then packed and distributed to contributors and friends. Members of the temple take a break before preparing for the dance of the auspicious lanterns later in the evening.

****

Sugen Ramiah a teacher by training, has been observing and documenting Chinese festivals and rituals conducted by temples for the past one and half years.

More on  the Hungry Ghost Month from Sugen  here  and here .

 

 

There will be 2 morning guided walks this Sun 31 August.

Disclaimer: By agreeing to take this walking tour of Bukit Brown Cemetery, I understand and accept that I must be physically fit and able to do so.To the extent permissible by law, I agree to assume any and all risk of injury or bodily harm to myself and persons in my care (including child or ward)

Meeting Point for all Guided Walks: At the Bukit Brown entrance gates at end of Lorong Halwa

Time: 9 am- 11.30am (please make sure you are on the right guided walk you signed up for)

1) New Theme : The Bukit Brown Perspective of ” Civil Society”

When it came to governing their colony, Singapore, the British adopted a laissez faire approach. This meant that when it came to support services to uplift the lot of the masses, it was left to the initiative of individuals and “grassroots organizations’ in the form of temples, clans and the kongsi to take care of their own.

Join brownies Claire, Fabian and Catherine as they trace the networks of a nascent “civil society”  at the turn of the 20th century colonial Singapore – one which took care of a myriad of social issues such as education, health and the welfare of abused of children and women and the shaping of the sanctity of customary marriages. Who were these people and community groups and what motivated them to step up to the plate?

This is a newly minted guided walk and we are capping the numbers of pax to 30.

The Brownies are dedicating this guided walk to Civil Society in Singapore, today, to thank them for what they do with the hope they will be inspired to continue and to grow.

Helpful tips and Important information on how to get there Please read if it is your first visit to Bukit Brown
http://bukitbrown.com/main/?p=7250

Registration:

Our weekend public tours are FREE …
Optimally the group size is 30 participants (15 individuals/guide).

Please click ‘Join’ on the FB event page to let us know you are coming, how many pax are turning up, or just meet us at the starting point. We meet there rain or shine or exhumations.

2) Escapades: Heritage Guided Walk

Organised by a new meetup group, and supported by brownies, Bianca and Keng Kiat, this guided walk is at the moment fully subscribed. But if you would like to place yourself on a waitlist please go their website to register here

About Bukit Brown:

The Bukit Brown area is about 233 hectares in extent, bordered by Lornie Road, Thomson Road and the Pan-Island Expressway. It lies just to the south of the Central Catchment Forest, being separated from it by Lornie Road and includes Singapore’s only Chinese Municipal Cemetery. With more than 100,000 graves, Bukit Brown is also one of the largest Chinese cemeteries outside of China.

Don’t forget to bask in the peaceful surrounds, and also chat with your guides and make friends with other participants. We are amateurs and volunteers, but we are passionate and serious about what we do at Bukit Brown, and we encourage sharing of knowledge.

Here is a map of the grounds:
http://bukitbrown.com/main/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/API.BBC_.Map_.ver3_4.jpg

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Please take note:

1. We will be walking mainly on paved roads. But there are hill treks so dress appropriately, especially your footwear.

2. Wear light breathable clothing. Long pants and long sleeves if you are prone to insect bites or sunburn. Bring sunblock and natural insect repellent.

3. Wear comfortable non-slip shoes as safety is important. Walking sticks are recommended.

4. Do read up on Bukit Brown before going so you have a better understanding of the place (e.g. BukitBrown.com)

5. Do bring water, light snacks, poncho/umbrella, sunhat and waterproof your electronics.

6. Please go to the toilet before coming. There are NO facilities anywhere there or nearby.

Beauty shots 2 (photo public domain)

The road to “civil society” (photo public domain)

 

武吉布朗展览系列华语讲座

2014年9月20日(星期六)

地点:新加坡国家图书馆5楼,Possibility Room

2-3pm坟墓建筑(主讲者:赖启博士)

3-4pm 说书的石头—武吉布朗坟场坟墓石雕中的故事(主讲者:洪毅瀚先生)

4-5pm 记录武吉布朗:地图与制图(主讲人:莫缕勇先生)

如欲出席讲座,请在下列网站登记:

http://www.eventbrite.com/e/bukit-brown-exhibition-public-talks-mandarin-tickets-12507206391

坟墓建筑

主讲者:赖启博士

武吉布朗坟场的坟墓建筑是它独特物质文化的一部分,为新加坡和本区域以及中国南方之间在社会、文化和经济上的联系提供不少重要的资料。讲座将探讨武吉布朗坟墓建筑的记录和这项工作的重要性。主讲者也将利用纸模型让出席讲座的孩童对 坟墓筑有更深一层的认识。

赖启健博士,新加坡注册建筑师,新加坡国立大学建筑系硕士(1996),美国加州大学柏克莱建筑与都市设计系博士(2005)。他的研究领域为东南亚艺术、建筑、聚落、都市化和景观的历史。 

说书的石头—武吉布朗坟场坟墓石雕中的故事

主讲者:洪毅瀚先生

武吉布朗坟场的坟墓石雕数量庞大、题材丰富,堪称海外华人坟场中的石雕大观园,早年精湛的手工石雕艺术作品随处可见。坟场内许多雕刻精美的石质坟墓构建丝毫不受岁月的洗礼损坏,让百年后的游人有机会一睹它们的风采。无论是江山美人、择贤用才、事亲尽孝或是神话志怪,流传千百年的民间故事和历史典故在石匠的巧手下生动地呈现。

这次讲座将通过大量的图片介绍石雕中的故事题材。

洪毅瀚,工程师,工余参与武吉布朗坟场导览活动和历史文化项目研究,曾在bukitbrown.com网站发表关于武吉布朗坟场坟墓装饰题材的博文。

记录武吉布朗:地图与制图
主讲人:莫缕勇先生
在记录武吉布朗文史的过程中,工作团队搜集到了不少非常珍贵和罕见的历史地图和空中照片。主讲人莫缕勇先生将在讲座中呈现这些历史地图和空中照片。同时也会分享一些地图和空中照片中有趣的细节。在另外一方面,由于坟场受到开路工程的影响,约有4000座坟墓需迁移。为了记录这些坟墓的确切位置,有关当局测量了每一座坟墓的地理坐标。主讲人也会讲解这一测量和绘制坟场地图的过程和结果。

莫缕勇是武吉布朗文史记录工作小组和工作委员会的成员。目前从事地理资讯系统(GIS)的咨询工作,也是地图发烧友及研究者。在武吉布朗文史记录团队里负责研究历史地图与处理地理资讯和绘制地图的工作。曾在新加坡制图单位任职和国家挡案馆工作,是伦敦皇家地理学会会士。

Public Talks in association with the Bukit Brown Exhibition (In Mandarin)

Saturday, 20 September 2014

2-3pm

Speaker: Dr Lai Chee Kien

Title: Tomb Architecture

3-4pm

Speaker: Ang Yik Han

Title: Story Telling Stones – Tales from the Stone Carvings of Bukit Brown Cemetery

4-5pm

Speaker: Mok Ly Yng

Title: Documenting Bukit Brown: Maps and Mapping

Please register your attendance at the following website if you are interested to attend these Mandarin talks:

http://www.eventbrite.com/e/bukit-brown-exhibition-public-talks-mandarin-tickets-12507206391

Tomb architecture
The material culture at Bukit Brown cemetery, including tomb architecture, is unique and offer many insights on Singapore’s social, cultural and economic connections to the region and to Southern China and Singapore. This talk discusses the documentation of tomb architecture at Bukit Brown and the importance of such records. There are also opportunities for children at this talk to learn about tomb architecture using paper models.

Dr Lai Chee Kien is a registered architect, and graduated from the National University of Singapore with an M Arch. by research [1996], and then a PhD in History of Architecture & Urban Design from the University of California, Berkeley [2005]. He researches on histories of art, architecture, settlements, urbanism and landscapes in Southeast Asia.

*******

 Story Telling Stones – Tales from the Stone Carvings of Bukit Brown Cemetery

The large number and varied themes of stone carvings in Bukit Brown veritably make it a museum of stone carvings where masterpieces of the past can be encountered at every turn. Many of the intricately carved stone structures in the cemetery are untouched by the ravages of time, and visitors can still see them in their full glory a century after they were created. Be it themes of heroes and beauties, appointing wise officials, filial piety or the supernatural, folktales and historical stories which have been passed down for centuries come to life in the hands of skilled craftsmen. During this talk, numerous pictures will be used to introduce the themes found in the stone carving stories.

Ang Yik Han is an engineer by profession. He is involved in conducting tours in Bukit Brown Cemetery and historical and cultural research. His posts on the decorative motifs of tombs in Bukit Brown Cemetery have appeared on the All Things Bukit Brown website (bukitbrown.com).

*******

Documenting Bukit Brown: maps and mapping

This talk showcases the various historical maps and air photos which were collected during the Bukit Brown Cemetery Documentation Project.  Interesting details from these maps and air photos will be highlighted.  The process of surveying and mapping the affected graves as part of the documentation will also be covered.  The potential uses of these maps and surveyed data will be briefly touched on.

Mok Ly Yng is a member of the Bukit Brown Cemetery Documentation Project team and the Working Committee. He researched and sourced for the historical and current maps of the Bukit Brown area for the project.  He had worked in Mapping Unit and the National Archives of Singapore.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of London.  He researches the history of surveys and mapping of Singapore as a hobby.

The Story of Bo Ya and Zhong Ziqi _Ang yik Han

The Story of Bo Ya and Zhong Ziqi carved in a tombstone (photo_Ang Yik Han)

 

 

I am Jing Xiang, an architecture student from NUS. I would like to dedicate a drawing of Bukit Brown I did in 2013 to Bukit Brown, those interred there whose histories precede their death and of histories yet discovered, and to All Things Bukit Brown for raising awareness of this rich heritage site.
****
About the Drawing…..
It’s not an accurate depiction of the physical landscape, but rather it represents the landscape as imprinted onto my mind that which is then translated into a drawing. In short it is my memory of the landscape. The section drawing also reveals the underground, a condition that we cannot see but doesn’t mean it isn’t present. The roots of the trees intermingle with some remains of the body. This relationship is open for interpretation, one obvious one is the connection between bodies (pioneer/ancestors) and ‘root’.

Some elements in the drawing are all too familiar landmarks in the cemetery, while others suggest hidden secrets, or things that,as of the present moment, has disappeared due to the roadworks. The drawing straddles between what is real and what is imagined, what is there and what is not there, or ‘not there’ because we can’t see it (yet) like other intangible (forces or) values of Bukit Brown.

(please click to view and appreciate full image)

sectional landscape Jing Xiang jayx89@msn.com

Sectional landscape by Jing Xiang

Copyright:
“The use of the image for private or educational purposes is permitted, however, for public related matters that involves making the image physical such as publication, mass-printing, or for other forms of commercial purpose; I would appreciate that the relevant person would first seek my consent”  Jing Xiang

 

Singapore is 49 and Bukit Brown is 92! The invitation went  out weeks before on the blog, on Facebook, the event of the year at Bukit Brown, celebrating the nation’s birthday. Thank you to all who  came,  regulars, first timers, old and young, singers and well wishers.  The official NDP’14 theme was a good fit :

NDP ’14 (Nations Deceased Pioneers) @ Bukit Brown this year honours the “can do” and caring spirit of our pioneers who helped to forge bonds which built the foundations for SG 50. It is the story of how “Our People” in Bukit Brown made Singapore, “Our Home”.

We promised 3 guided walks, goody bags, eats and music. But the highlight as always is the singing of the National Anthem – this year led by Brownie Mil Phuah, the reciting of the Pledge – this being Raymond Goh’s first ever NDP@Bukit Brown (previous years he was away on business trips)  it fell on his shoulders, followed by a minutes silence to remember especially the 4,153 pioneers who have had to make way for the highway. Our resident videographer James Tann captured  an NDP  on the celebratory Hill 1 festooned by flags large and small, and the pride of over 50 voices.

It has been a momentous past year for Bukit Brown  from being on the World Monuments Fund watchlist to be being voted by Singaporeans as their top 3 sacred sites . The good news continued as Claire Leow, co founder of All Things Bukit Brown, shared some more developments .

“We are humbled and honoured to announce that thanks to the nomination by the Singapore Heritage Society, all things Bukit Brown has been shortlisted for the inaugural Singapore Advocacy Awards 2014, under the category of Civil Society Advocate Organisation of the Year.

The winner will be announced Aug 30, but let us say now for the record, just being nominated has been a real honour as a recognition of all that this community has achieved since early 2012.

To date, the Brownies have guided more than 12,000 people, staged two exhibitions, and tried to connect descendents, academics, students and teachers, docents, heritage bodies and communities. We don’t always succeed but we surely give everything a passionate shot! Your unstinting support as a community has sustained us. We have guided rain or shine or exhumations. Behind the scenes, many work hard to raise awareness of the intrinsic value of this historic site, and a few have worked patiently with the authorities for a better outcome.

We thank all of you for your support in our endeavour. It is an understatement to say it has not been an easy mission. But driven by conviction, we have carried the heart of this community. We have become good friends, and made good friends. Inspired by the early groundwork laid by Raymond Goh and Charles Goh, the Brownies have built on a solid foundation to spread the word: this is our heritage, habitat and history – and we appeal to you to join us, and honour our pioneers and save this sacred site.

On this, the 49th birthday of Singapore, we say, Majullah!” Claire Leow, Co Founder, All Things Bukit Brown.

***

Bukit Brown was also highlighted in the national daily Today   August 9th Special issue  Preserving Memories of a Changing Nation

“In 2012, the two women created a blog, all things Bukit Brown, to provide a platform for people to share memories of the area as well as to raise awareness of the walks they were planning there. Since then, the blog has garnered more than 550,000 views and more than 4,000 members on its Facebook page.

With the help of 40 volunteers called Brownies, the two women have also guided more than 11,000 (now 12,oo0)people on their Bukit Brown heritage trails.

“This shows we made the right move and have won the hearts and minds of the public,” said Ms Lim, now a freelancer in broadcast media. She attributed the positive response to the blog and heritage trails to more than just nostalgia. “It’s a much deeper meaning — a yearning, post- sickness, when old places have to move for new ones.”

Since 2012, all things Bukit Brown has also added a unique twist to the National Day celebrations: While others get ready for the National Day Parade, its members have their own National Deceased Parade. This year, they plan to go on a heritage trail in Bukit Brown to commemorate Singapore’s pioneers for their resilience, contributions to and sacrifices for the country.”

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Here are highlights from  the different heritage trails, behind the scenes set up and the camaraderie and conviviality that took the celebrations from dusk to moonlit night. Thank you to all who  came,  regulars, first timers, old and young, singers, photographers  and well wishers.  the Brownies are grateful for your support.  Here are your memories:

Such a beautiful day for a celebration Lawrence Chong

Such a beautiful day for a celebration! (photo !Lawrence Chong)

The Guided Walks by Claire, Bianca, Fabian, Simone and Walter

Start of tours Garden Hill

Claire giving a general briefing before the they split into 3 heritage routes (photo Garden Hill)

Fabian _ Garden Hill

Fabian Tee, Brownie guide for NDP’14 (photo Garden Hill)

Double Dutch Angeline Lee

Bianca doing double dutch in the poetry trail she co-led with Claire (photo Angeline Lee)

Guess whose grandmother lies over yonder Garden Hill

“Guess whose grandmother lies over yonder” (photo Garden Hill)

Hush little baby don't you cry

Hush little baby don’t you cry (photo Garden Hill)

It's a girl Garden Hill

It’s a girl! (photo Garden Hill )

James Tann by Garden Hill

James Tann our videographer captured by Garden Hill

Lets talk about the coolies of Christmas Island _Garden Hill

Lets talk about the coolies of Christmas Island (photo Garden Hill)

Oh yes its true, it took 3 years to build this grave _Garden Hill

Oh yes its true, it took 3 years to build this grave (photo Garden Hill)

one gets away _ Garden Hill

One attempts a getaway (photo Garden Hill)

Philip Holden

埋骨何須 故里 盖棺 便是吾盧 Why is it necessary to bury my bones in my ancestral land? The place where my coffin is sealed is my home Tan Ean Kiam, on his tomb at Bukit Brown(photo Philip Holden)

Simone Lee @Chew Boon Lay Garden Hill

Simone Lee @Chew Boon Lay (photo Garden Hill)

the Chinese tour Victor Yue

The Chinese Tour led by Walter Lim, had some Hongkong visitors, so Cantonese was also the lingua franca of the day (photo Victor Yue)

The God is in the Details Garden Hill

The God is in the Details (photo Garden Hill)

The next generation garden hill

The next generation of Brownies? (photo Garden Hill)

When I grow up.....Garden Hill

When I grow up….. (photo Garden Hill)

Young cub in the Lion CIty Garden Hill

Cub in the Lion City (photo Garden Hill)

 Behind the Scenes, A Team of Brownies Setting the Stage for Celebration

A Brownie moment 1 Garden Hill

In he lull while waiting, a Brownie moment for Mil Phuah ( photo Garden Hill)

A Brownie Moment 2 Garden Hill

A brownie moment for Victor Lim (photo Garden Hill)

Lets flag everything ! Khoo Ee Hoon

Lets “flag” everything ! ( photo Khoo Ee Hoon)

lighting up with a smile ee hoon

Peter “strung up” with a smile (photo Khoo Ee Hoon)

My country oh my country Garden Hill

My country oh my country (photo Garden Hill)

Planting the Flag Garden Hill

Steven Planting the Flag (photo Garden Hill)

Preps 1 Lawrence Chong

Patriotic Jade Girl (photo Lawrence Chong)

Preps 21 Lawrence Chong

Like we said “flag” everything! (photo Lawrence Chong)

Preps Lawrence Chong

Festooned with flags (photo Lawrence Chong)

Hey bro lets tie the knot Ee Hoon

Hey bro lets tie the knot (Khoo Ee Hoon)

Hi@ Happy Birthday Singapore!

Hi Happy Birthday Singapore! (photo Khoo Ee Hoon)

stringing it up in a row Khoo Ee Hoon

Stringing it up in a row (photo Khoo Ee Hoon)

We are ready! Garden Hill

We are ready! (photo Garden Hill)

Celebrations!

Jubilation Garden Hill

Jubilation (photo Garden Hill)

National Anthem as recorded by  Albert Ong

Raymond Goh (photo James Tann)

The photo speaks for itself. Raymond Goh leading the Pledge (photo James Tann)

National Anthem 2 _ Lawrence Chong

( photo Lawrence Chong)

National Anthem Huat Ah _ Lawrence Chong

Huat Ah ! (Lawrence Chong)

Food glorious food _Peter Pak

Makan! (photo Peter Pak)

Making Music Garden Hill

Music ! (Garden Hill )

Happy Birthday Singapore Cake Ee Hoon

Birthday Cake! (photo Khoo Ee Hoon)

Not Just Singapore’s  birthday but 3 Brownie Birthdays in August!

Blow! Ee Hoon

Left to right “Uncle Foo aka Garden Hill” 9 August, Simone Lee 10 August and Keng Kiat 11 August- HUAT AH! (photo Khoo Ee Hoon)

Now serve...ee hoon

And the youngest gets the honour of serving (photo Khoo Ee Hoon)

Hands up for BB photo Kerk

Hands up for Bukit Brown ( photo Kerk Eng Huat)

Good night, see you next year at NDP'15 Peter Pak

Goodnight, Peace be with You and See you at NDP’15 (photo Peter Pak)

” Deeply reflective and moving National Day observance at Bukit Brown today, with graves already exhumed and half the site sectioned off for the road. There are some things that money can’t buy. A big thank you to Catherine Lim, Claire Leow and others!”  Philip  Holden.

A big shout out to those behind the scenes and catering:Brownies Victor Lim, Sugen, Mil Jonathan, Raymond, Ee Hoon, Peter, Steven, Mitch, Andrew and tombkeeper Lim Ah Chye. To Lee Kok of Asia Pac Publishers for contributing goodies to goody bags, National Heritage Board for the bags and National Library Board for commemorative books on Khoo Seok Wan.

 ****

More photos from the album of Garden Hill here

From the album of Lawrence Chong here

 

 

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