Pulau Ubin Is Home, Truly: My National Day Message 2018

Hi All!

This post is my message for the Singaporean people as we unite as one to celebrate our nation's 53 years of independence on August 9th, 2018.

Majulah Singapura! Photo courtesy of Mothership SG

Every National Day, we would come together to celebrate with our nation on the many accomplishments that we have achieved. In fact, rightfully so we should take pride in how far Singapore have come since gaining independence in 1965. Our little red dot, hardly visible from outer space, had been in the eyes of the world recently with many new breakthroughs coming from our island, opening new doors of opportunities and possibilities, much to the awe and inspiration of the world. Comfortably to say, Singaporeans are always celebrating our nation's future. However, let us not forget to also celebrate our past and heritage.

There are countless things that we can celebrate about it, but for me, I would like to take this opportunity in celebrating our kampong heritage. As we all are very well aware of, Singapore currently only has two kampongs around, Kampong Lorong Buangkok in the mainland and the offshore island of Pulau Ubin. As one kampong's fate continue to remain unclear, constantly threatened by the ever rapidly changing urban landscape surrounding the land, it has become apparent for the urgent need to raise a sense of awareness in understanding and celebrating our kampong heritage; and as for Pulau Ubin, hope remains strong and firm that it is not too late in doing so. I would like to share in this message of mine for the nation, the story of my late grandparents' new life on Pulau Ubin and what is the true meaning of home.

My late grandmother was pregnant with my mom, who was her seventh child, at the time when my late grandparents decided to move to Pulau Ubin from Pulau Tekong, as my late grandfather saw new job opportunities on the island. My late grandfather came to the island with virtually almost nothing in his hands, except for his hopes and dreams of starting a new life together with his new family. The first priority was in making a house which they can call home. 

It was not an easy task for him to find a suitable location on the island, given the vast landscape and rough terrain that Pulau Ubin had. It was clear that the forests then had remained untouched since the beginning of time and the whole area was unbelievably dense; and yet my late grandfather did not let that hinder him to provide shelter for his family. He finally found a place, filled with tall grass higher than his own height and trees with huge canopies, providing ample shade from the scorching sun and along a river and stream where he could use for transportation out to sea. He knew that this was the place to be.

With a sickle in hand, he began his laborious task in clearing a path from the existing footpath and into the forests. He continued to clear the grass and eventually expanded it so that the new growth would not eat up on the path so soon. He reached a slight opening in the forests and cleared the entire land with his axe; chopping up the huge trees surrounding the opening so as to expand the surroundings in which he were to build his house. From the chopped trees that crashed onto the earth with his axe, he converted them into planks with the help of other villagers who came in from the other distant parts of the island after receiving news that my late grandfather wanted to build a house. Tirelessly, my late grandfather together with the team of villagers regardless of whether they were Malay or Chinese, worked together hand-in-hand and side-by-side in assembling and building his house and after a couple of days, it was done.

This is home, truly.

At the time, my late grandparents' house was the only structure standing within that forest, but overtime more people came to the island and needed a place to call home. Eventually two other families, Pak Ahmad's and Haji Menawar's built their homes along the path created by my late grandfather, with the latter's children, Sawall and Norliah creating their own homes surrounding their parents. The people there were really close to one another, so much so that one of Haji Menawar's children, Dolmat eventually got married to my late-eldest aunt, Ketom and the neighbours were no longer just like family, but really were.

This was the community that my late grandfather had formed. It was not in his intention to create an entire kampong, but eventually the entire village rose from my late grandfather's intention of building a home. I am continually in awe in how one man's pursuit in starting a new and happy life for his family, helped to forge and develop a strong community within Kampong Surau. It was through his hardwork, love for one another, friendship and character that he had received quite a name for himself on the island, yet he continued to remain humble for his contributions to the people around him and for Pulau Ubin.

Today all of those houses are no longer in existence, except for the foundation of the houses that still remained and a lot more houses on Pulau Ubin would suffer the same fate. For each kampong house that collapses, another family's heritage becomes lost. For another resident that has passed on, another story remains undocumented. For another day that passes by, another part of our Singapore heritage remains at risk of not being celebrated.

Not all things are meant to be forgotten, and not all things are meant to be the way they are. I am extremely grateful that we have talented, passionate and enthusiastic individuals who have come together for a cause in preserving our kampong heritage. However, it is not just good enough to leave everything in the hands of these heroes, because I strongly believe everyone and anyone can play their part too!

Our kampong heritage is something that we as Singaporeans can and should take pride in, for our nation and its communities could not have formed and remained strong if it were not through the many kinship formed within our kampongs. A kampong house is not just some structure made of wood, but a home where families, character and noble values are nurtured so that everyone can become a valuable and cherished member for the community and country. So as we continue to celebrate our future and present, let us also rejoice that our past can and should still be celebrated with huge fanfare.

Together, we can play a part in preserving our kampong heritage. Together, for Pulau Ubin.

With that, on behalf of the former and current residents of Pulau Ubin, I would like to wish Singapore and every Singaporean, a very happy 53rd National Day!

Majulah Pulau Ubin! Majulah Singapura!

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