A Tribute to the Brownies: Zaobao


Lianhe Zaobao (zbNOW) 10 July, 2o13 : Commentary by Ng Siang Ping 黄向京

Translated by Ang Yik Han:

A few months ago, I visited Bt Brown. I was surprised by the knowledgeable volunteer guide who led a group of more than 10 enthusiastically, explaining while resting on a stick, wearing a hat and with a towel to soak his sweat.

This group of around 20 volunteers come from a range of diverse professions. They gather on most weekends at the cemetery, taking turns to lead English and Mandarin speaking groups. Schools, organisations and foreigners have attended their tours, and they have guided a total of more than 6000 people so far. After their tours when they share generously with the public what they have learned from the tombs, they often get together for lunch and sessions of bonding and companionship, helping each other to continue to collect and record information about the cemetery. Their FB group “Heritage Singapore – Bukit Brown Cemetery” has a membership of 2636 members. (Another group “SOS Bukit Brown” has 1148 members.)

The “Bukit Brown: Our Roots, Our Future” exhibition at Chui Huay Lim is a presentation of their research findings collected in their free time over the past two years. Some of the Brownies were also speakers during the talks. Due to their efforts and that of other parties like the Nature Society, interest in Bukit  Brown has increased  and it has become an attraction for nature and cultural tours.

Dr David Chng, who traversed the cemeteries of Singapore and Malaysia 30 years ago, mentioned during his talk that these youngsters are even more foolish than he was then. However, touched by their stubborn persistence, he has agreed to conduct the second public talk of his life.

In this society where most spend their life working and taking care of their families, the time and money dedicated voluntarily to the cemetery by the Brownies cannot be measured. It is imbued with a sense of local identity, and a persistent belief that treasuring the past is protecting the future, like a pebble thrown onto a lake, creating waves which spread and inspire more people to become “Brownies” in the wider sense, to care about the cemetery and other public issues.

And when there are more “Brownies” who care about this land in which they live and have grown up in, giving voice to the past and the future, one’s heart is warmed, and we can see hope.