Monday, March 31, 2008

Oldest man on Pulau Ubin

Looking at a letter of commendation from President Yusof Ishak to Mr Tan

Mr Tan Hai Liang, 102 101 years old, is probably the oldest man on Ubin today. His long-time friend and colleague, Mr Lim Chye Joo, the former headman was 101 years old when he passed away 2 years ago in 2006. Mr Tan and Mr Lim both worked together on the Ubin resident committee and were men who contributed much of their time to the welfare of the island.

In the 1960s, when my mother was a young girl, she remembers buying drink from Hai Liang's provision shop every day from the way home from school. Dennis writes that Hai Liang was the drinking buddy of his grandfather as they lived just down the street from each other.

These days, Grandpa drinks alone, having survived most of his friends.

Today, Hai Liang is known affectionately as Ah Gong (or Grandpa) by everyone. He lives on the island with his second son and daughter-in-law. The Teochew family has been running the same provision shop on the island since my mother was a young girl. Hai Liang was not born on the island but came to Southeast Asia from China. He worked in Malaysia and Indonesia before finally settling down on Ubin. Although he could no longer hear very well, the amazing centurion can still write us messages in beautiful chinese characters. He communicates mainly in the chinese dialect of Teochew as Mandarin was a relatively recent standardization which many of the Southern Chinese did not learn when they left their homeland to seek jobs in the Southern Seas (Nanyang).

Today the provision shop is still there and on top of that, the former storeroom of the family has now been converted into the restaurant that we all frequent regularly! Ah Lian, the lady boss of the restaurant is Grandpa's daughter-in-law!

The restaurant used to be the storeroom of the family!

When we visited on 16 March 2008, this centurion just finished his shower and was about to settle down into his routine tsingdao beer and biscuits. Perhaps those are his secrets to longevity!

I found this amazing photo of Hai Liang from Dennis' photo collection from almost half a century ago (left). Still looking young as ever!

In fact, his youngest son divulged to me that back in the days when Bin Kiang School did not have enough classrooms, not only did they use the wayang stage as classroom but Grandpa Hai Liang also lent out the use of his home as classrooms for the school!

These rooms in Mr Tan's house were once temporary classrooms of Bin Kiang school.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Increase in Ferry Prices

On the ferry back from Ubin last Sunday with the bicycle shop auntie and her family, I was alerted to the fact that ferry prices will soon be increased. My attention was brought to the notice on the boat (pictured below).

Photo by November. 16 March 2008.

With effect from 15 April 2008, boat fare to and fro Pulau Ubin will be increased from the current price of $2 per person to $2.50 per person. However, the current practice of charging $2 per bicycle remains unchanged.

Ah to think of the days when tickets were but 50cents and police wore shorts. What with fuel prices rising all over the world, this increase is timely. Hopefully, it would help the boatmen to continue providing these much appreciated ferry services to and fro Ubin. Meanwhile, this Monkey dreads hearing renewed complaints from Singaporeans who have already been bemoaning the "expensive ferry service" to Ubin at the previously lower rate of $2/person. Perhaps it's time we put ourselves in the shoes of the boatmen. I haven't seen any of the boatmen wearing rolexes or driving mercedes yet.

During my chat with the auntie on the ferry home, we also talked about how not every bumboat has this notice but the increase, if I am not wrong, is standardized across the board with all the boatmen. Perhaps they have since increased the distribution of this news but I did not see it on my trip to Ubin, only on the way back. However, I just received a SMS from the annotated budak, informing of the same information which reminded me to share this piece of news with everybody. Spread the word!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Upcoming features on Ubin

Was contacted today by a member of the press and of the community. She is interested in doing a series of feature on Ubin, talking to villagers who have remained behind. Hopefully the series will highlight how Ubin is really a treasure and asset of Singapore and not quite the redundant liability that has no better use unless developed.

Talking to the late headman's daughter-in-law on 1 March 2008. Photo by Kenneth Pinto

I will be going down on Sunday and introduce the few families that I have been talking to, getting to know. I meant to write about their stories on the blog but work got the better of me. It'd be lontong in the morning again and a nice sunday of chit chat. That, is the perfect way to spend Sunday for me. And perhaps, for the urbanite Singaporean like me, that is the value of Ubin. A getaway, the last wild frontier, the last island refuge for our rural heritage. On a more personal level, a piece of family history.

What is your value for Ubin? Any thoughts?