NDP @ Bukit Brown


NDP @ Bukit Brown

by Martina Yeo

As Singaporeans gather at the floating platform or Esplanade area to celebrate the nation’s 47th birthday, a group of some 70  celebrated this occasion together with the “Nation’s Deceased Pioneers” at Bukit Brown. As people gathered around at the round-about area, a flag of the nation was hung up on one of the rainforest trees.

Putting up the flag (photo Martina Yeo)

After a brief introduction of Bukit Brown by Catherine, participants were handed a NDP goody bag each. After all, what’s an NDP celebration without goody bags? The goody bag was uniquely Bukit Brown and filled with symbolic meanings.

Catherine on what NDP at BB is about (photo Matina Yeo)


Giving out the goody bags (photo Martina Yeo)


What’s in the bag (photo Albert Ong)

It contained an ice-cream stick with a number written in red (symbolizing the graves affected by the 8-lane road), a packet of instant coffee (symbolizing the name that Bukit Brown was popularly known by, Kopi Sua or Coffee Hill), a candle (for participants to offer to any grave), a box of matchsticks (for lighting the candle and which symbolizes one of the Bukit Brown pioneers, Lee Kim Soo’s story from rags-to-riches), “Eagle” brand medicated oil (which is a brand successfully build up by Tan Jim Lay a grandson of  Tan Quee Lan), and a party popper (which symbolizes the five-coloured paper which is laid out  when descendants visit their ancestors’ graves during the Qing Ming Festival as an act of remembrance).

Much ado over ice cream sticks which became stakes (photo Martina Yeo)

Look at the smiling faces of those participants who were the first to guess the names of those who were buried in the graves that correspond to the number on the ice-cream sticks they received! They each won a Bukit Brown T-shirt.

The first prize of the day courtesy of Lai Chee Kien/Raymond Goh (photo Martina Yeo)


Claire on tour of staked tombs (photo Martina Yeo)

Clare then led the excited participants for a tour to visit some of the pioneers. Some seemed unable to contain their excitement when they saw a hanging branch.

Birdwoman Georgina Chin channeling her inner Jane (photo Martina Yeo)


NDP Tour continues (photo Martina Yeo)

Amongst the pioneers, participants visited the graves of Mr. & Mrs. Tay Koh Yat, Mr. Lee Kim Soo, Mr. & Mrs. See Tiong Wah, Mr. & Mrs. Khoo Kay Hian, Mr. Khoo Kay Hian’s mother and Mr. & Mrs. Tan Yong Tian.

After a short tour to some of these graves, the participants went back to the place under the Ole rain tree for a buffet. While some were making new friends and enjoying the food, others played with the dogs, patted the horse or took turns to hold the flag and took a photo with it.

The NDP “spread” in more ways than one sponsored by Raymond Goh (photo Martina Yeo)


Our 4 legged friends (photo Martina Yeo)

Astroboy after he polished off a bag of carrots nuzzles on grass (photo Martina Yeo)


Flying the flag, proudly (photo Martina Yeo

More games followed. Those who managed to answer the quiz questions correctly were smiling from ear-to-ear as they received their prize of painted tiles.

The tiles donated by Victor Lim were collected from old houses and can be found at Bukit Brown which is also the final homes for the departed (photo Martina Yeo)


Participants then sung the national anthem and said the pledge as one voice. Of course, like other NDPs, there was also the “fly-over,” but at Bukit Brown, participants folded their own paper planes using papers printed with the national flag and “flying” it using their han

Singing the National Anthem followed by the recitation of The Pledge marked a high point in the celebrations (photo Martina Yeo)


Many continued to stay on to watch the sunset, learn yoga from Bala, watch monkeys jumping from one tree to another, sing along with others or simply to enjoy the atmosphere of the place.

The beauty near day’s end (photo Martina Yeo)

Lingering on into the night (photo Martina Yeo)

“So we bid you goodnight, in one last flickering light, till we meet again my friends, we hold each other in our hearts” (photo Claire Leow)

About Martina Yeo who documented this for us:

Martina Yeo is a NUS History student. She was part of the Bukit Brown Documentation Project led by Dr. Hui Yew-Foong in documenting graves, Qing Ming, and exhumations. She wanted to document the NDP @ BB event because of the meaningfulness and uniqueness of celebrating NDP at BB rather than at other conventional locations.

(photo Matina Yeo)


Catherine reflects: I like this photo, the plane I believed was artfully and simply  folded by Lawrence Chong. The  flag  symbolising how far we have come and our aspirations , side by side with a blank space  to unfold the story still to be written.