Friday, February 20, 2009

Last Village

Last night, Australia Network ran a short video about Kampong Lorong Buangkok. Yours truly was one of the interviewees. You can watch it here. (Click on Last Village.)

(Photo from Victor's blog)
The interview took place on 2nd of February. Would you believe that that was the first time I visited Kampong Lorong Buangkok, and I was surprised that it was so near to Yio Chu Kang Road.

Well actually, it is not my first visit to this kampong. But in the early 70’s we had a family friend who lived in Lorong Buangkok. But I remember at that time we had to access it from Upper Serangoon Road and Ponggol Road.

Anyway, as I had expected, there wasn’t much of a kampong left to see. As I told the reporter Norman Hermant, if Singaporeans want to show their children a real-life kampong, all they need to do is to take a short trip up north - lots of kampongs in places like Pekan Nanas and Pontian.
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alex said...

Well, I remember visiting my uncle who had a orchid farm in Lorong Buangkok. It was a long ride for us who lived in the east coast, and I remember that he had lots of pots and my cousin has a cross federalisation “work shop” where he “cross the powders” from different types of orchid.
I also remember the place being one we can see many animals, squirrels, song-birds, lizards and other “strange creature” to the kids. The road is muddy and when it rains, we would come back with reddish mud all over the car.

Victor said...

Alex, I think you meant cross-fertilisation.

There is a TV program on Singapore's free-to-air Channel 8 about Kampong Lorong Buangkok and the current renovation happening there. The program is coming up in 10 minutes' time.

fuzzoo said...

Hi Chun See, I refer to your earlier post To Everything There is a Season. I agree with you that we should not keep kampungs just for the sake of nostalgia. How about keeping them because the people living there do not wish to move out? I think that is a good reason. If I am not mistaken, it seems to me that the land owner of Kampung Buangkok and the people living there are not keen about the move. It reminds me of how my great grandmother had her land acquired by the government in the 1980s. She lived in a kampung in the Rangoon Road area and was the land owner. At that time I thought the land was being acquired for development of public infrastructure or public housing or some other greater good. But what was developed on the land later were private apartments. I don't know what became of my great grandmother's neighbours/tenants but she, at the age of almost 90, ended up in a small HDB flat which cost more than half of what she was paid for her land. She died not long after that. When I told my oldest daughter about this, she said her great great grandmother must have "died of sadness". Probably. My view is that people should not be forced off their land unless absolutely necessary. Just as it would not be right to retain kampungs just for the sake of nostalgia, kampungs should not be removed just for the sake of "progress".

Anonymous said...

If one feels sad about "missing kampungs", what about properties that go enbloc sale? Between 2005 and 2008, I am not sure what has become of Singapore but maybe it's because we want to create wealth or we need to self-renewal the homes we live in. If not for the 2008 Financial Crisis, en bloc fever would have gone on and on.

I agree homes that have not been maintained by owners/tenants and left to decay should be "re-built". To rebuild blocks of flats that are >15 years is crazy.

The sad part of the 2008 Financial Crisis is when you see en bloc flats knocked down but no new sign of construction activity. All you have is a big empty piece of land. Worse still, an empty land filled by containers and Kobelco cranes,

Hmm...maybe there needs to be a paradigm shift. Someone remarked that the last decade of the 20th Century was a period of mergers & acquisitions to unleash the "intrinsic value of companies" and personal wealth creation. The first decade of the 21st Century demolishes all those fallacies.

fuzzoo said...

Come to think of it, why shouldn't we preserve a kampung? We have Baba House at Neil Road which showcases the living environment of the Baba Nonyas and in Istanbul there is the Dolmabahce Palace which is kept the same way it was when royalty occupied it. Or are the homes of poorer folks not worth preserving? Kampungs for the older generations are nostalgic but for the younger generations, a "kampung heritage site" can serve to give them a feel of life in the past. Otherwise we would only have museums and blogs to tell us about our heritage.

Lam Chun See said...

Fuzzoo. When I said, we shouldn't keep a kampong simply for the sake of nostalgia; I am looking at that decision from the govt's point of view and that of Spore society at large.

From the point of view of the residents; if they are allowed to stay on simply becos they wanted to; then thousands of Sporeans; including your great grand mother, me, possibly YG and many of my friends will still be living in kampongs; or at least we would only sell our land when the time/price was right.

But then this is Spore. Maybe that's why so many Sporeans of my generation have migrated - including several of this blog's readers, I suspect.

Lam Chun See said...

Peter has made a good point. Many of us were really angry to see that long after we were forced out of our kampongs, the land was not utilised. In my case, our kampong was on what is now the CTE between Lorong Chuan and Bishan Park. We moved out in 1974. But the CTE wasn't constructed until years later.

Speaking about large pieces of land being left vacant, I blogged about the huge piece of land near MGS-Old Holland Rd here. That was 3 years ago and the land is still empty - not that I am complaining. In that case, thousands of insects, birds, reptiles where deprived of their habitat and lives even.

fuzzoo said...

Yes we should at least be able to sell our land when we want to. I don't think this would have led to a problem. Just look at the number of people happily selling their houses and condos to developers or knocking down their houses and splitting the land up to build little semi-Ds and terrace houses. There will be the sentimental ones like us who would keep the kampungs but I'm sure we are a rare breed :)

In any case, it is a matter of priority what we choose to do with our land - is it more important to have this many golf courses and shopping malls or to preserve our heritage? Was it more important to keep the National Library building or shorten our drive by 3 minutes? I'm not even middle age yet and for me Singapore has changed beyond recognition already.

Icemoon said...

If kampong not knocked down, where are newly-weds going to live? Even BTO flats snapped up pretty fast, so I think there's a demand for land to build them.

Changed beyond recognition may not be bad. In few years time, Jurong Lake will be that. They are rebuilding the Science Center there, together with new apartments. How cool is that?

Icemoon said...

To see a kampong, go to Ubin. I hope they don't turn Ubin into another Sentosa.

Maybe Chun See can enlighten us about kampong differences in Malaysia and Singapore.

Victor said...

About houses being cleared and then left vacant for years, it happens even in/near the city area. One good example is the plot of land between my old home in Cheng Yan Place and Manila Street (opposite Bugis Junction). It was converted into a public car park for more than 20 years. Now a newly completed building (shopping centre?) stands there. I don't even know its name.

Another example is the Sungei Road Thieves' Market area. How long has the place been cleared of its pre-war houses? I would guess that it's at least 2 decades too. Today, it is still empty state land.

Icemoon said...

The houses opposite Clyde Terrace Market also good example right? They and the lorongs have disappeared, only Parkview Square and Fraser Street stands today, the rest is State Land.

Anonymous said...

The kampung at Lorong Buangkok is on private land, unlike some of the previous kampungs which were on State Land. It should be left to market forces. Glad to know that the owners have no intention of selling and are contented will collecting nominal rent.

It seems that when the government puts it's hand in, things get fouled up. Look at Chinatown today, nothing but tourists shop selling cheap souvenirs. Then there is the Malay Village at Geylang Serai... need I say more.

Anonymous said...

In the East Coast area, I can think of these places which were en bloc but left vacant.

1. Corner of Haig Road and Mountbatten Road, on the side of Katong Shopping Center

2. The former Ocean Apartments opposite St Patrick's School

3. A former mansion next to Christ Methodist Church

4. A pre-war mansion @Elliot Walk opposite Laguna Park

5. Rose Garden between Amber Road and Mountbatten Road

6. A Malay Kampung @Jalan Sempadan

I am not sure whether readers were aware that back in the 1980s when the property market collapsed, there was a "big crater" left standing at where Pan Pacific Hotel now stands. It was called the Rahadja Center.

In recent times, schools were turned into office buildings in the last 2 years like the former Mountbatten School which had a large field. I am not sure what type of tenants would be interested to rent given the current financial crisis. Would the Circle Line make a difference to rent?

Anonymous said...

I have never lived in a kampong, although I've visited relatives across the causeway who used to live in one. As a highrise dweller then, it was certainly an eye opener for me to stay over as a child.

Regarding the conservation of kampong, I think there are many reasons to consider before older places get torn down. If progress is one of the reason given, one must ask, for whose benefit? And does it follow that the minority land owner must surrender to the majority? The answer: it should depend on merits, on a case by case basis.

Icemoon said...

I can't tell which kampungs were on state land. Erm, won't they be squatters that way? Even private land can be requisitioned by the state, if there's a need.

Icemoon said...

From the photo, Kampong Buangkok is a mixed kampong, with Malay and Chinese? If so, I suppose they don't rear pigs and hopefully not so many dogs. :P

Zen said...

If the govt is determined to level kg Buangkok, there is nothing to stand in the way. It is actually fairer if a survey could be carried out to see whether Singaporeans are in favour of retaining this last kampong as part of our heritage. After all we are all supposed to be owners to this country. I agree that if our younger generation wishes to see an authentic kampong all they need is to cross over the causeway, but then Buangkok is still Buangkok with its own identity, colours and characteristics which no other kampongs in Malaysia or elsewhere can replace. Who knows, our kids or even tourists may thankful to the present authority, for retaining the sights and sounds of yester years, for they need not go to the zoo to see a few live chickens flapping about.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in the East Coast area (Katong) and its almost frightening to witness the changes.I'm told whatever was left of the little kampongs along Still Road and Lorong Stangee are all gone.I recently learned that our former house in St.Patrick's Road was torn down to build condos.Before I left S'pore I was already in a minor state of shock when the Govt rammed a highway in front of my Grandmother's house in Karikal Road(the highway that leads to Marine Parade).It was a sleepy quiet dead end road with The Grand Hotel at the end of the raod but even that didn't stop the Govt.The poor hotel was split into two!
I feel I'm sort of going off topic here about Lorong Buangkok but what I wanted to say is that its sad to watch helplessly how so called progress is wiping away vast chapters of Singapore's heritage and traditional charm.And at such an alarming speed.I wonder if the bureaucratic decision makers really have feelings or even an iota of nostalgia in their veins.My uncle used to call them Terminators.

Anonymous said...

Well done to Lam and all other heritage bloggers who have shared a part of your history in your "Thunder at Down Under" in the Australian Network. It sure it brings awareness to the intrinsic value of our history and way of life which has changed.

Lam Chun See said...

Even as we debate here about the preservation of Spore's last kampong, the govt has already embarked on the next phase of 'terminating' newer parts of Spore.

I think it was last week that I heard on the radio, National Development minister Mah Bow Tan disclose in parliament that they are in the process of transforming the entire landscape of this country.

That means that many of the things that are familiar to the younger generation; and which were built after independence, will be gone soon. Many of the older flats and structures like those in Queenstown and Boon Lay will be gone in no time.

I think before long, my fellow heritage blogger and foyer (Friend of Icemoon, will have to rename his blog from Second Shot to Third Shot.

Anonymous said...

And then they wonder why Singaporeans have no connection to their homeland. Abuhden? They think what, every few years things change we still feel proud of 'the same place'? Sheesh.

In a few decades it'll be considered absurd that Singapore ever had a history. At least some of us will continue telling new generations so that they understand the context of past events/backgrounds/etc that have shaped our current situation(s).

Icemoon said...

Actually I still have connection to my homeland. When I touch down at Changi, the weather suddenly becomes humid and I find myself inside one of the best airport in the world.

There is also Hokkien Hay Mee, Char Kway Teow and Mee Siam Mai Hum.

And of course our one-party government. Ahem.

Anonymous said...

Ahem LOL!
Iceman's right about the food. At least no one can Terminate that away from S'pore. I haven't touched down at Changi Airport in over 20 years but if I do I know the first thing I'm going to do after the family kissy kissys is head for the nearest hawker center.And probably cry my eyes out while looking at the area's changes along the way to the makan place.

Anonymous said...

"Lo Sat Kong my friends...", I could not care less what the government wants to do about the landscape. Sometimes they do it right, sometimes they do it wrong (Question: When did they ever make mistake????). It's their prerogative being the government. If I need to be reminded about the past, I think it's best to do it within one's house, leaving the rest to William Lim & Co or social activists.

I know of a retired (= mandatory retirement I mean) SAF officer who lives in a 3 room HDB flat. To keep himself connected to the kampung era and the places he has been, he purchased a piece of land in Johore's Galang Patah area. Built his own Balinese house (featured on TV). He commutes to work every day via Second Link (one-way S$30). He has a) koi pond done in traditional Balines style, b) large living room that looks into the pond, c) Pondok (aka gazebo), d) SUV registered in Malaysia, e) keeps Asian paintings and European sculptures and f) Thai corner. The price for everything = what you might have to pay to live in a Marine Parade 5 room flat (based on 2007 pricing).

I can golf, do a Sungei Buloh hike or shop at Jayajusco....

BTW my friend is not a Bumi ok?

Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention, my friend works in Jurong area.

Zen said...

The ruling party understands the power of the ballot box very well, that is why they are able to rule the state for so long. The infamous issue of CPF which drew cross-fire from all directions, forcing the then tough-as-nail MP to withdraw totally from politics, testifies the people's power - Singapore version. Hence if citizens are really passionate over certain ideals, they should really press home the point and do not be surprised of the outcome.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I would ever vote for the incumbent gov. where is our sense of belonging, loyalty or the right to know we owe this piece of land? everywhere we go, places are more constraint than ever. i see my old house being demolished and left vacant, under the expansion plan its suppose to be a classy condos for the rich. what do that left us? Any legacy , any fond memories of the places we grow up in, knowing we had our sweet/sad/happy times here, something for us to go back and reflect on our past. we have all these taken away, all for the profit, making money scheme, sales, what does that left us? pray tell me!