Tuesday, April 01, 2008
Pulau Ubin featured on The New Paper
Click on thumbnail to read article
Thanks to Kenneth Pinto for alerting me to the articles in today's The New Paper (1 April 2008). This article is partly the result of my trip with TNP reporter Teh Jen Lee to Pulau Ubin on 16 March 2008.
Thanks to my immense luck, I also happened to write about Mr Tan Hai Liang just a day of this article appearing in the press. I had no idea but I'm glad anyways. You can see behind the scenes photos of the interview between Jen Lee and Mr Tan 2 weeks ago.
Living past 100: on Pulau Ubin, Singapore
GOING... GOING... GOING...
Teh Jen Lee, The New Paper 2 Apr 08;
Madam Asiah prefers to grow old on the island. 'All I did on the mainland was eat and sleep,' she recalled. 'I fell sick. My joints ached from lack of use.
He's 101 but he can read without glasses. She's a great-great grandma but she can walk 6km a day. Both are among a vanishing breed of long-lifers on Pulau Ubin
EVER wondered what your life would be like if you ever live past 100?
Well, take a leaf from the book of Mr Tan Hai Liang, a 101-year-old Pulau Ubin resident.
But Mr Tan is probably even older.
Though his IC says he was born on 1 Jan 1907, Mr Tan said he was actually born earlier than that. He has no birth records from his hometown, Guangdong province in China.
But Mr Tan looks not a day older than 90. He eats whatever his family eats and does not need a special diet.
He can walk for short distances without the help of a cane and read the newspapers without glasses.
The father of five lives with one of his sons in a one-storey zinc-roofed house in Pulau Ubin's town centre, a five-minute walk from the jetty.
His son runs a seafood restaurant and grocery store next to the house.
Mr Tan has lived on Pulau Ubin ever since he arrived in Singapore in the 1940s. He worked odd jobs and later opened a grocery store there.
In his younger days, he served in the island's residents' committee and even hosted a visit by Singapore's first president, Mr Yusof Ishak, in the 1960s.
But these days, Mr Tan leads a leisurely life.
He wakes up at 9am, brushes his dentures and eats breakfast. His daughter-in-law, Madam Koh Siew Hong, 56, said: 'Whatever we eat, he eats. His dentures are strong enough.'
When the Chinese newspapers are delivered, he pores over them.
After that, he would watch the TV or Teochew movies on DVD.
Madam Koh said: 'We just had to teach him once how to use the DVD player.'
Every few months, he goes to the mainland for a medical check-up as there is no clinic on the island. He suffers from high blood pressure.
His hearing is also failing him. But Mr Tan has generally been healthy.
He told this reporter in Teochew: 'I'm old already, more than 100 years old, but still not dead.'
Madam Koh said that when her father-in-law was in his 90s, he was still taking baths in the sea and riding his motorcycle around the island.
When a Chinese worker we met during the interview found out Mr Tan's age, he said: 'He's special.'
Indeed he is. And he's not alone.
He's part of a small group of aged residents who still call Pulau Ubin home.
Over the last few weeks, The New Paper team caught up with a few of them. Like Mr Tan, Madam Asiah Ibrahim is older than the 86 years that her IC shows.
She recalls not having a birth certificate and getting her IC only when she got married. She was around 17 then.
The sprightly woman walks at least 6km a day from her home to the town centre. She lives in a village about 3km from the town centre.
Madam Asiah is used to being on her feet as she used to work standing in a bottle factory in Ang Mo Kio.
After her husband died in the 1980s, she moved to Pulau Ubin as she wanted a more relaxed life.
She has five children, 30 grandchildren, 25 great grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.
Her children visit her every week, and bring her food and money.
One of her sons works with the Outward Bound School and goes to Pulau Ubin frequently.
Madam Asiah, who lives alone with her cat, spends her free time gardening. On the island, water has to be pumped from wells using diesel generators, which are also used to generate electricity.
Despite this, Madam Asiah prefers to grow old on the island.
'All I did on the mainland was eat and sleep,' she recalled. 'I fell sick. My joints ached from lack of use.
'Here, I can plant trees, walk around and collect leaves and plants.
'All the people here are old. When we are gone, these villages will go back to the cats and monkeys.'