Looking at a letter of commendation from President Yusof Ishak to Mr Tan
Mr Tan Hai Liang,
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.