Sunday, August 23, 2009

2009 National Day Speech (2nd Half)

Listen in to part of PM Lee's 2009 National Day speech.

He gave a interesting lecture on the THEN and NOW of Singapore.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

How did we survive before the flush was invented?

There was an article in Today's paper that talks about those old Kampong Toilets.

The writer went on the describe how thankful she is for the modern toilets the HDB has put into every home.

Actually, it was the SIT who led the way when they installed modern toilets into Singapore's 1st public housing estate at Tiong Bahru.

It was probably a "
Heineken" moment when people saw those modern toilets.

And yes, I still think it was a
BIG DEAL back then.

Here's the article which I have reproduced here for everyone's benefit :

Aug 04, 2009
Elisabeth Lee
My Life: Then & Now photo contest entry. Submitted by Karen Young

Thank god for modern loos

TO LEAF through the submissions to Today's My Life: Then & Now photo contest is to take a stroll down Singapore's memory lane.

Some photos are a game of spot-the-difference.

Queenstown Bowl hasn't changed much, except for the fact that it isn't open for a game of 10-pin anymore.

But the library is still next door, and the popiah auntie still churns out her famous tissue-paper-thin skins - you just have to go down the road to Margaret Drive to find her.

Others are a stark reminder of what, and who, we've lost.

My great-granddad was buried at Bidadari Cemetery.

That multi-religious cemetery isn't there anymore, having been closed in 2001 to make way for a North-East line MRT station, and neither is my great-granddad.

But sifting through the pile of entries our readers submitted for the contest, this photo of a kampung toilet stood out.

Looking at it triggered neither fond nostalgia nor the ache of a keenly-felt loss, but a sense of sheer relief.

It made me want to fall on my knees and thank the good HDB for the indoor plumbing in my three-room flat.

Singapore has come a long way in 50 years of self-rule, and nothing has come further than the state of our loos.

Imagine waking up in the middle of a moonless night with a sudden urge to drop the kids off at the pool, so to speak, groping your way outside, fumbling for a kerosene lamp and a bunch of newspaper (yep, no four-ply Downy supersoft then, either), and then squatting.

Think of the horrors lurking in the shadows.

Notice the massive gap between wall and roof - this loo was definitely not python-proof.

It could have been worse, I guess, but not much.

Now, we've got indoor plumbing, electricity and our bathrooms are sometimes even en suite.

Imagine that. Yes, we still have our problems.

Sometimes you have to squat, and sometimes there's no soap in the dispenser - but at least we're indoors and well-lit.

So, if you're nosing around the display, sniffling a little and feeling a little sad or a little wistful, and Barbra Streisand is crooning The Way We Were in your head, take a look at the outhouse.

You can thank me later.

The writer, a Today sub-editor, is 30 years old.

The 50 best entries from the contest will be on display at Orchard Central from Aug 10 to 21.

Contest winners will be announced in a special National Day issue
of Today.

Take action against clutter at Tiong Bahru wet market

The Straits Times
Online Forum
Aug 4, 2009

I WOULD like to complain against the National Environment Agency's (NEA) management of the Tiong Bahru wet market.

From December last year till now, I've made at least half a dozen calls to the hotline to alert them that numerous stallholders are placing goods beyond the two-tile boundary.

Each time, the response was they would look into it, but nothing has changed.

Two months ago, I escorted two NEA officers around to show them the many stallholders who were placing goods beyond the third and sometimes fourth tile.

They are a threat to fire safety and hinder ease of movement for passers-by.

The NEA officers promised to take action, but nothing has happened so far.

When I called NEA again last month, the officer said that they had "issued notices" to stallholders advising them to comply with the rules.

Who is responsible for enforcing compliance?

I hope the NEA is not waiting for another fire to happen before taking steps.

Doris Cheng (Ms)

Monday, August 3, 2009

The mystery of the missing BINS

I'm reposting a blog entry from Tiong Bahru Home & Friends which shed some light on the missing bins.

I think it is essential that this message be spread to as many resident as possible.

Last week, I've got an expat who was moving out of Tiong Bahru and he tossed all the rubbish at the spot where the bin used to be.

When I told him that the Town Council has removed all the bins that were placed in front of the building and residents are now required to bring all the trash to the bins located at the back of the building, he said something which I think is probably what most residents were thinking.

He thought someone had stolen the bins and the Town Council will replace them soon. (Anyway, he promptly moved all his rubbish to the bins located at the back of the building after I told him about this new initiatives by the town council)

And tonight, the impetus to blog about this came after I saw resident Carol's facebook entry asking where are all the bins in Tiong Bahru.

Walking around the last few evenings, there were so much rubbish thrown around the spot where the bins used to be located.

And mind you, you could be fined for littering just by placing trash at the spot that you were so used to placing them.

I think more needed to be done to inform the residents about the permanent removal of the bins.

Perhaps, the Town Council should even put up a signage of sorts at where those bins used to be located so that residents will be aware of this bin removal exercise.

It is odd to fine people for unintentional littering since no one told them the bins are not coming back again.

Anyway, this is the blog entry from Tiong Bahru Home & Friends :

Some of you would have noticed the issue with the reorganisation of the bins in the neighbourhood.

Here is the update from the Town Council:

To discourage residents from dumping their refuse at 5 foot way and shop front, we have worked closely with NEA and ceased putting bins at 5 foot way and shop front.

3 summons were issued by NEA to residents for not disposing their refuse into bins being provided at back lane.

To encourage eating outlets to co-operate with us, new bins will be provided by public waste collector this week to the eating establishemnts in Pre-war estate.

To prevent infestation of pest, shop tenants are required to cart their trade refuse in the bin to the bin centre opposite Blk 75 Tiong Poh Road daily.

For residential units, we will respond to any request for provison of bin for disposal of domestic refuse.

The bin must be placed at the back lane of their units.

Please contact Eric Soh of the Town Council at 64119418 if you need a bin of your own.

Lets all cooperate to make the estate a cleaner and more hygienic place for all of us!

Please inform your help, your family, your tenants, about the new arrangement.

And there is nothing like social pressure - it would be good and right if you were to politely remind people you see, who are still leaving the rubbish bags, along the backlanes, that it is not the right thing to do. :)


A friend of mine posted this youtube video on Facebook.

Probably to get everyone into the 44th Singapore's National Day Celebratory Mood which will be celebrated this week.

I think the Mandarin Version is so beautifully and wonderfully written. Here's the English version for those who hasn't mastered Mandarin :

Yes, Tiong Bahru is truly my home!

And the way, we almost had a Tiong Bahru National Day Song, view my previous post :
Happy National Day Tiong Bahru

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Tan Tock Seng clan's grave undertaking

Today, there was an article in the Straits Times that reported that the family of the late Tan Tock Seng will be giving a facelift to his tombstone.

Tan Tock Seng's final resting place is situated along Outram Road, just at the edge of the Tiong Bahru Estate and I've blogged about it before. Here's a link to my previous post :
Tan Tock Seng.

I am glad the article shed some light on the indentities of the owners of 2 other tombs that are situated near Tan Tock Seng's tomb.

Read more about it in the Straits Times Article :

The Straits Times
Aug 2, 2009
By Jamie Ee Wen Wei
Mr Roney Tan, a fifth-generation descendant of Tan Tock Seng, sweeping away twigs on the Singaporean pioneer's grave. The family has set up a fund to maintain the grave and those of other ancestors. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM

Concerted effort to keep site in good condition and preserve memory of Singapore's pioneer

You have heard of Tan Tock Seng Hospital but do you know where his grave is?

The answer is Outram, and the 159-year-old grave of the Singapore pioneer will be getting a facelift starting next week.

The family of the late businessman-philanthropist and founder of the hospital that bears his name has hired professionals to give the moss-covered tombstone a scrub according to Chinese customary rites.

The red Chinese characters engraved on the tomb will get a new coat of paint.

Mr Roney Tan, 62, a fifth-generation descendant, told The Sunday Times that family members recently pooled money to set up a fund to maintain the grave.

It is on a hill overlooking Outram Road.

The fund of 'a few thousand dollars' will also pay for the upkeep of graves of other family members like the pioneer's daughter-in-law Chua Seah Neo, and grand-daughter-in-law Wuing Ye Ho.

Their graves lie just metres away from his.

The graves of his eldest son Tan Kim Ching and great-grandson Tan Boo Liat are in Bukit Brown Cemetery between Lornie and Mount Pleasant roads.

Tan Tock Seng had six children. His family genealogy now bears more than 1,600 names and spans over eight generations.

Some descendants, like Tan Kim Ching and grandson Tan Chay Yan, also became well-known for their charity work.

Mr Roney Tan said a group of family members would visit and clean the graves in Outram every year during the Qing Ming Festival.

All in, the Tan Tock Seng clan has about 500 known members in Singapore and overseas.

'We wanted to do more because the tombstone is covered with moss and there is some corrosion,' said Mr Roney Tan, a company director, and administrator of the grave fund.

The idea of having a fund came three months ago when two family members flew in from London for a small family reunion.

A group of about 10 visited the graves and agreed that repair works should be done.

'We noticed defects on the tomb face and the grounds weren't properly maintained,' Mr Roney Tan said.

The family also noted growing public interest over the upkeep of graves of prominent Singaporeans.

Mr Roney Tan said he has seen Singaporeans from community clubs and Chinese associations coming by the busload to pay respect to his great-great-grandfather.

The spruced-up site will hopefully facilitate such visits, he said.

'It'll be good especially for the younger generation to know the history of Tan Tock Seng and the good work he has done,' he added.

He also said the family had earlier hired help to scrub the tomb of Tan Boo Liat, great-grandson of Tan Tock Seng.

They managed to locate his grave in Bukit Brown Cemetery only in May.

Tan Boo Liat, who died in 1934 in Shanghai, was a president of the Singapore Kuomintang and a strong supporter of Chinese revolutionary leader Sun Yat Sen.

His residence, The Golden Bell Mansion, still stands on Mount Faber.

It is now the Danish Seamen's Church.

The family hopes the authorities will consider turning the site into a national memorial to facilitate visits to the grave.

They echo the sentiments of wartime hero Lim Bo Seng's family, who earlier approached the National Heritage Board (NHB) to accord the grave such a status.

Currently, no graves here are national monuments.

There are 55 gazetted national monuments, all buildings selected for their historical significance and architectural merit.

Ms Cheryl Koh, NHB's deputy director of corporate communications and industry promotions, said the board has noted the calls from the public.

She added that much has been done to ensure that 'Singaporeans and history do not forget these individuals who have given so much to this country'.

In the case of Lim Bo Seng, she said that while his grave site is not a national monument, there is a memorial in his honour at the Esplanade.

It is managed by NParks.

The memorial is part of the Civic District Trail organised by NHB to help Singaporeans and tourists understand the nation's history.

There is also a road - Bo Seng Avenue - named after the wartime hero.

'We believe that it is more important to celebrate the life of our heroes and their contributions.

So while Lim Bo Seng's grave site is not a national monument, his memory and selfless contributions to Singapore are recognised in several other ways,' Ms Koh said.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Tiong Bahru's 'village chief'

The Straits Times
Aug 1, 2009
By Melody Zaccheus

For 25 years, Linda Koh has served the needy

CALL her a village chief, of sorts.

Mrs Linda Koh, a spry 71-year-old volunteer, knows the name of every single resident she has been helping for the past 25 years at Tiong Bahru estate.

She can even rattle off their ages, family backgrounds and medical history.

Every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, she packs and delivers food rations to seniors at Blocks 105 and 125 in Kim Tian Road in a Nissan Sunny that her sons gave her.

These days, she sees a growing number of younger people hit by the downturn.

Since June last year, about 40 more people have joined her group needing free rations - most of them young families.

A recent beneficiary is Mrs Zulaiha Abdul Wahab, 33, who was retrenched earlier this year as a factory production operator. She and her odd-job labourer husband often skip meals so that their three children aged five to eight can go to bed fed.
'This is a difficult time for my family. Even as my husband and I look for stable jobs, my children still need to eat.

Here, there's rice, canned food and sometimes Milo that we can rely on, when we run out of milk powder,' she says.

Mrs Koh is particularly moved by the plight of such families.

'I am willing to help these young people out because they are genuinely at their wits' end.

I allow them to join our food queues because I trust them and want to help them.'

Known to Kim Tian residents as 'Hui Tai' (Mrs Koh in Cantonese), she is well-known for her work with senior citizens as a volunteer at Lions Befrienders.

Since most of the seniors at Kim Tian Road live alone and are cooped up in one-room flats all day, she encourages them to socialise at the void decks.

She has even appointed a level representative for each floor of Block 124, and an overall block representative, to help them solve day-to-day difficulties such as buying provisions and running errands for the immobile and taking the sick to the doctor.

'They can keep a lookout for each other when I'm not around and forge a bond through their daily chats,' she says.

Several times a month, she charters a bus to take them to places such as the Singapore Zoo and the Jurong BirdPark, or lunch at the Goodwood Park Hotel.

Mrs Koh's sons fund her volunteer efforts. Dr Hsu Li Fern, 40, is a cardiologist at the National Heart Centre, while Dr Hsu Li Yang, 36, is an infectious diseases specialist at National University Hospital.

Her 80-year-old husband, a former businessman, continues to be supportive of her volunteer work.

She has always been a housewife.

The daughter of a businessman and a housewife, she started volunteering in 1984 when she taught handicraft-making to senior citizens at Tiong Bahru Community Centre.

Her heart went out to them when she found out they survived on meals of salted fish and rice.

She says: 'They needed proper meals and nutrition so I asked my maid to cook for them.'

But the food her maid prepared could serve only 10 elderly folk.

So she recruited 20 housewives to cook at Tiong Bahru and Kim Tian community centres.

'The old folk I met told me that they were waiting for death to come.

I said: 'No, this shouldn't be how you live your golden years',' she recalls.

'They needed to have meaning in their lives and with proper meals, I thought they would have at least something to look forward to a few times a week.'

Since then, she has roped in other meal ration sponsors like Zouk, Bo Tien Welfare Service Association and Tang Gah Beo Temple.

Her friends, as well as kind-hearted individuals who have heard about her efforts, also chip in at times.

Over the past two decades, she has also helped arrange funerals for almost 40 people in the area - including some samsui women and amahs.

She and her group of 10 volunteers, mostly middle-aged working adults, chip in to pay for the funerals.

The free-thinker attributes her giving nature to the example her mother set.

'I was brought up in a middle-class family and I learnt from my mother that it was always a blessing to give and help others, in cash or in kind.

'We're all Singaporeans so we should always try to help the needy. We can start by being friends with them,' she said.

71, and still a volunteer

MRS Linda Koh, 71, has been a volunteer with the community group Lions Befrienders for the past 25 years and chairman of Tiong Bahru Community Centre for 15 years.

The housewife started out in 1984 as a volunteer teaching handicraft skills weekly to senior citizens at Tiong Bahru Community Centre. A year later, she started thrice weekly food drives for the elderly at Kim Tian Road, which has continued until today.

She recently started helping low-income families and young singles affected by the recession. She welcomes them to join her food queue, providing them with free food parcels three times a week at Kim Tian Road and once a month at Jalan Bukit Merah and Punggol.