Friday, May 20, 2016

Ubin Day turns Pesta Ubin!

Last year we wrote about the revival of Ubin Day in 2014, more than a decade after its inception in 2002. Since then, Ubin Day just kept growing! In 2015, it became Ubin Day Weekend where the non-stop activities were held over both Saturday and Sunday. But all of us Ubin lovers just couldn't get enough of it and so this year 2016, Ubin Day has become a five-week long Ubin open house known as Pesta Ubin, from the month of May to June!

Pesta, pronounced ‘Pays-ta’, is Malay for festival or party. Pesta often describes festivities that bring a community together, such as a wedding; or a cultural celebration and there is no better word to describe how this wonderful event is bringing the community together!

This is not just a specialised niche event reaching out to nature lovers, or an outdoors adventure event, or yet another heritage event. It has something for everyone who loves something about this wonderful granite island or has something to do with this last wild frontier and rural kampong - from delicious seafood to farm tours to heritage and temple celebrations to world premiere of new movies! From the kayakers to the stargazers, there is just something for everyone. And nothing brings together people from all walks and all interests together in the same place like Pulau Ubin.

For the past 2 ubin days, I was only able to help out behind the scenes as the social media manager, updating and coordinating updates to facebook and the blog from home, away from the action in Ubin as I was pregnant one year, and juggling an infant the next. This year, the Ubin Stories team is one toddler stronger and we will be guiding at the Balik Chek Jawa event on Sunday 5 June! This will be the son's first sojourn to ubin with ubin grandma and mummy! I am looking forward to being reunited with the fibre glass dugongs from the 2008 May Day Dugong Ambassadors Outreach at Chek Jawa as well as friends involved in Chek Jawa since pre-reclamation deferment till today! From old friends such as the pedal ubin guides who will be helping to bring you on bicycles to Chek Jawa and the Naked Hermit Crabs who will be wandering as guides throughout the boardwalks, to new friends such as the Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative which was started in 2014.

With my mom with me at Balik Chek Jawa, we hope to share stories about Ubin, maybe meet old classmates, neighbors (or relatives I never knew I had!) and hope to collect stories you have on Ubin! If you have or had family and relatives from Ubin, bring them and we hope to meet you at Balik Chek Jawa to hear your stories. See you there!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Another facelift for German Girl Shrine

Photo by Faizah Jamal

It appears that Datuk Guniang at the German Girl Shrine will be getting a new temple face lift. Faizah Jamal reported on 10 Feb 2015 that the altar is now residing in a temporary shelter while the old hut of a temple has been demolished. In its place, a new brick and mortar temple is being constructed.

Photo by Faizah Jamal

Faizah wrote:
"Was at Pulau Ubin last weekend with a group of students and as has always been my practice, to take visitors to the German Girl Shrine as an example of the living culture of Ubin important to people beyond the island's residents. Horrified to find that the shrine as I knew it is no longer there. Instead there is to be a newly constructed - and what looks to be much bigger and modern- shrine."
This is not the first facelift that the temple has had at its current location. 10 years ago in 2004, we reported a change in the facade of the temple as well. Even before that, the shrine was relocated in 1974 from its original site on a hill to its current location when the original site was required for quarry expansion. From a crumbling wooden structure to a bright airy spruced up shrine, to a more permanent brick structure, the german girl shrine is still very much a symbol of cross-cultural 'fusion' in Singapore that holds a special place in many of our hearts.

Last reported change on Pulau Ubin Stories in 2004

Facelift aside, and more importantly, I hope the large granite boulder that, according to stories from my mother, marked the temple when it was on the hill, will continue to stand guard at the new temple when it is completed. I do recall seeing it previously at its current location, outside the shrine and appearing to be rather significant to devotees. It is definitely something worth checking out when the new temple is completed.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Ubin Day: Past, present and future

Past: 2002 and 2003

Ubin Day was first held in April 2002 organised by Grant Pereira with the Singapore Environment Council (SEC). Activities consisted of educational workshops, talks and performances at the wayang stage. It focused on teaching participants on how to conserve natural resources and to appreciate the beauty of nature.

Dikir Barat at the Wayang Stage
SEC Tent
Can Sculpture by Students
Images by Juliana Yasin

Revival: Ubin Day 2014, 30 November

Ubin Day Badge design by Rebecca Lee,
Graduate of School of the Arts

After a decade of hiatus, Ubin Day has come a long way since 2003 due to the support of 31 organising groups. Thank you to all that contributed activities and without whom Ubin Day 2014 would not have been possible! A day dedicated to celebrating the natural heritage of Pulau Ubin, it was a Sunday for all to have fun and leave their troubles behind on the mainland.

The programme board designed by Rebecca Lee and Sankar Ananthanarayanan.
List of the types of activities:
  • Art
  • Birdwatching
  • Cycling
  • Exhibitions
  • Fly fishing demonstration
  • Guided tours
  • Mountain biking
  • Kayaking
  • Performances
  • Photography
  • Stargazing
  • Talk on Kampong Houses
  • Workshops

The day was officially opened by PM Lee who spent the day engaging in various activities around the island!
Opening speech
The PM looking at a baby dugong
PM engaging in conversation with one of the founders of
Ubin Day 2002, Grant Pereira from the Green Volunteers
Photos by Sumita Thiagarajan 

You can watch the highlights of the PM's day in this video:

Here's a glimpse of what happened on Ubin Day 2014:

Thank you for the Storify, Kenneth Pinto!

More details can be found on the official website and the Facebook page.

Future: 2015 and beyond...

Efforts to preserve and improve Pulau Ubin have been picked up by MND through the Ubin project. Hopefully this will become a yearly event for all to enjoy! If you would like to contribute, watch the Facebook page for updates.

Other related links:

SEC Newsletter (April 2002) - Elements - April 2002 Newsletter issued by Singapore Environment Council [PDF]

TAV Archives - Ubin Day (20 April 2002)

The Ubin dogs: The friendly, furry mascots of Ubin

Have you met the friendly Ubin dogs? Free from the stress of city life, these four-legged sweethearts are first to greet you when you step on Ubin Jetty. If you are not too comfortable with dogs, do not fret as these dogs are well-behaved and there is no cause for concern. Also known as Kampong dogs, these furry ambassadors encompass the true meaning of the Kampong spirit through their wagging tails and friendliness towards anyone and everyone that steps on the island.

A day in the life of an Ubin dog is often tasked with greeting visitors, playing amongst themselves, running around the island and taking a dip in the sea.

Most days are spent soaking up the sand and sun and resting under a coconut tree.

More belly rubs please!

These pups will accompany you on solo bicycle rides, run alongside your vans and keep you company on the whole island. However, this can get tiring and these content fur-balls are often seen taking a nap to recharge their paws for another day of the glorious island life and hours of playing under the sun.

Tudor style housing, my favourite. - Spotted at House no.1 

I would greet you but I'm too tired! - Spotted at House no.1

This little one didn't even realize I was there. - Spotted at House no.1

Have you come with food? - Spotted at House no.1

Some of these resident dogs are so good at being ambassadors, they are often given names by Ubin folk or those that frequent Pulau Ubin.
One of the well-known resident dogs, Bytyy (pronounced as Bitey),
frequenting his favourite spot at the HSBC Volunteer Hub or Assembly Area

Looking for a tasty housefly to snap!
More details on these Kampong dogs here.

Photos by Sumita Thiagarajan

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ubin Stamp Series

Source: Singpost News Release [PDF]
I grew up quite the stamp buff and spent many of my childhood days queueing up for first day covers at the post office. Although I have not bought any first day covers in a while, this beautiful (and of personal interest) first day cover makes me want to indulge again! I'm really glad that they have decided to do a stamp series on Ubin and such beautiful illustrations too. My favourites amongst the four must be the wayang stage and the jetty, for the little glimpse into Ubin's past they offers. This collaboration between Singpost and NHB also means that the news release is rich with history about the 4 landmarks featured on the stamps. For archive sake, I have reproduced the factoids below.

There were of course other stamp series inspired by Ubin before, such as the Chek Jawa nature series [PDF] from 2004 which celebrated the beauty of Chek Jawa's biodiversity. One does lament though that it hardly provides any glimpse of the Ubin landscape except for the faint beacon in the background, if you can spot it!
Source: Singpost News Release [PDF]
Well, you know the stamps have really captured my attention when I broke my one year silence on this blog to post about it! The new stamp series will be released on 18 July 2014, a date to remember. An event worth recording on Pulau Ubin Stories, for posterity!

Other Related Reads:
Singpost Press Release - A Glimpse into the Islands of Singapore - Pulau Ubin Through Stamps [PDF]

Four landmarks showcased on stamps: Main Jetty, Chek Jawa, The Wayang Stage and a Quarry
Channel News Asia, 17 Jul 2014

SINGAPORE: A series of stamps depicting Pulau Ubin’s iconic landmarks will be available from Friday (July 18).

The stamps, launched by SingPost and the National Heritage Board, feature images of four landmarks: The Main Jetty (2nd local), Chek Jawa (S$0.65), the Wayang Stage (S$0.80) and a Quarry (S$1.10).

The complete set is priced at S$2.87. Other products include a Pre-Cancelled First Day Cover affixed with the complete set of stamps, priced S$3.70, and a Presentation Pack with the complete set of stamps, priced at S$4.65.

The new stamp issue, Islands of Singapore – Pulau Ubin, will be available at all post offices, the Singapore Philatelic Museum and online at

A Glimpse into the Islands of Singapore - Pulau Ubin Through Stamps
Singpost News Release [PDF]

Singapore, 17 July 2014 - The boomerang shaped Pulau Ubin, Singapore’s second largest offshore island, lies on the Straits of Johor off the north-eastern coast of Singapore. It was once known as Granite Island. Four of its iconic landmarks are captured in this stunning new stamp issue, Islands of Singapore - Pulau Ubin. SingPost and the National Heritage Board (NHB) collaborated to launch this series of stamps which comes in four denominations - 2nd Local, S$0.65, S$0.80 and S$1.10.

Main Jetty (2nd Local)

The main jetty on Pulau Ubin was first built by the Japanese between 1942 and 1943, and rebuilt in 1965. In 1978, a new jetty was built which was upgraded in 1994 to include a shelter and a seating area. Ferry services between Pulau Ubin and Singapore are provided by licensed bumboat operators.

Chek Jawa (S$0.65)

Chek Jawa, located at the eastern tip of Pulau Ubin, is a natural beach that is teeming with marine wildlife. It is also one of Singapore’s richest ecosystems with six distinct habitats including mud and sandflats, mangrove, coastal forest, lagoon, coral rubble and a small island called Pulau Sekudu. The beauty of Chek Jawa lies in the fact that several different ecosystems exist in a small area. These ecosystems, the plants and animals found there, are no longer common in mainland Singapore. It is a popular natural heritage destination and boasts a visitor centre, over 1 kilometre of boardwalk and the Jejawi Tower.

The Wayang Stage (S$0.80)

The Wayang Stage on Pulau Ubin is located at the centre of Ubin village. The stage was originally a simple wooden structure with an attap roof but was rebuilt in 1939 and 1971. It was once a classroom for the children during the 1960s as well as a venue for election rallies. Today, it is still used for performances three times a year namely, during the fourth month of the lunar calendar, Vesak Day and Hungry Ghost Festival.

A Quarry (S$1.10)

Pulau Ubin was one of two main granite quarrying sites in Singapore and accounted then for approximately 25% of the granite reserves in Singapore. The mining of granite on the island started in mid 1840s and by the 1850s, government quarries were established and convicts were deployed to mine granite for the construction of historically important structures including Horsburgh Lighthouse on Pedra Branca (1851), Fort Canning (1858), Raffles Lighthouse (1855), Singapore Harbour (1913), the Causeway (1923), and Fort Canning Reservoir (1926). By 1934, there were at least ten operating quarries on Pulau Ubin. The mining of granite ceased in the 1960s with the last quarry on Pulau Ubin closed in 1999. Since then, all defunct quarries have become scenic lakes.

The complete set of stamps is priced at S$2.87. Other products include a Pre-Cancelled First Day Cover affixed with the complete set of stamps (S$3.70), and a Presentation Pack with complete set of stamps (S$4.65).

The Islands of Singapore - Pulau Ubin stamp issue is available from tomorrow, 18 July 2014 at all post offices, the Singapore Philatelic Museum and online at Please refer to Annex 1 for more information.

Pulau Ubin Commemoration Efforts

The Ministry of National Development (MND) has recently launched The Ubin Project to gather public feedback and work with the community to preserve and sensitively enhance the island, so that Pulau Ubin remains an enjoyable rustic destination for all.

In May this year, a broad network of stakeholders was formed to share their ideas on how to continue to enhance Ubin as a rustic sanctuary that is both charming and unique. Called the Friends of Ubin Network (FUN), it included members of various heritage and nature groups, socio-anthropologists, students and volunteers.

The Ministry has also launched a microsite for Singaporeans to share their ideas on how to enhance the island’s natural environment, biodiversity and history. The Ministry has received a number of good feedback thus far and will be studying these suggestions in detail. Members of the public who wish to find out more about the charming island and join in the Ubin conversation may visit the microsite at

On its part, NHB produced a documentary on the boat operators of Pulau Ubin as part of its Heritage In Episodes series and developed a virtual tour of Pulau Ubin’s main hub (around the jetty area) as part of its Walking Through Heritage series (

In addition, NHB collaborated with National Parks Board to showcase Pulau Ubin as part of the “Stories from Singapore’s Islands” exhibition currently on display at the National Museum of Singapore from 2 June to 10 August 2014.