Sungei Road

Monday, December 23, 2013

Quek Guan Kiat (Bukit Brown)

Quek Guan Kiat
While exploring Hill 4, Section C, in an area heavily pegged (i.e.affected by the 8 lane highway), i came across this marble tomb belonging to Mr Quek Guan Kiat. On his tomb, it says

In Loving Memory of Quek Guan Kiat
8th June 1938 
Age 22 Years
Specially erected by
The Golden Bell Minstrels 
In appreciation of his services to the party

In 1935, a variety entertainment organised by the Straits Chinese Reading Club, a branch of the Chinese Christian Association in honor of its President Rev. William Murray, O.B.E, M.A (on his forthcoming departure from Malaya on his retirement ) was held at Y.M.C.A Hall Orchard Road. Quek Guan Kiat was one of the performer that danced the Hula-hula in "Twilight in Honolulu".

Quek Guan Kiat must have been so well loved by the Golden Bell Minstrels group that they came together to erect this tomb for him when he passed away at the young age of 22.  The below is a picture of him taken in 1937, a year before he passed away. He is in the back row, standing, 1st from right.
Quek Guan Kiat (standing, 1st from right) in a Golden Bell Minstrels photo 1937

The Golden Bell Minstrels
In 1935 The Patron was Hon. Dr Chen Chang Lok (Chinese Consul General), Wong Siew Teng and Tan Laung Kia. The President was Tan Teck Guan, Vice-Presidents, Ng Peng Kim, Yeo Soy Bah, Tan Hong Kee. The hon secretary; Tan Chin Guan.

There were many groups or minstrel bands that played old-time English classics and performed using stringed instruments and costumes. This bands or troupe mushroomed in 1930s wherever Peranakans lived. Some of the well-known bands include: Cornwall Minstrels, Wales Minstrels, Merrilads, Springdale and Forget-me-not. Members usually met regularly in patrons' or members' houses. The Minstrel bands performed at social parties. They also put up sketches and stage shows, sometimes for charity. Minstrel activities came to a halt before the World War 2.

The Golden Bell Minstrels 

Quek Guan Kiat (peg 2707)
References
The Golden Minstrels. (1932, September 25). The Straits Times
Farewell to Rev. W. Murray. (1935, September 17). The Straits Times
A Prosperous New Year to Clubs ! (1935, February 3). The Straits Times
Untitled. (1937, November 21). The Straits Times

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Pengerang in danger (Heritage Trails of Pengerang)

A silver lining for Pengerang or is it sunset ?
My series of articles related to Pengerang continues. This article is not on a heritage trail per se, but gives insight into how it all started. Development has reached Pengerang in a big way. The Malaysia Government announced a mega development project in 2011, the Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex to be built on 22,500 acres of land acquired from the people of Pengerang. Construction has already began and some of the local population have become alarmed at the environmental and large scale impact of their livelihood caused by this project.
source: Malaysiakini 
In addition of land acquisition of their homes, farms, schools, places of worship and cemeteries; concerns of health and environment destruction from the pollution released from the petro-chemical plants were raised. A community who have been fishing and farming for generations have to in future, relearn or find new jobs.

Balancing development with existing livelihood
Various community leaders and Non governmental organisations have rallied together against this mega development project. However, not all are against this mega development that will create job opportunities for their children, whom some are working in major cities such as Johor Bahru and Singapore. The key concern is the need for clear transparency in compensation and that amount of land acquired be reduced so as to acquire land only truly needed for the project and not impact on the communities livelihood. The argument of job creation is rebutted as well because the nature of work in the refinery industry is very specialised and niche. How would a farmer or fisherman overnight switch to such jobs?

The Pengerang Community have recently rallied together (in the backdrop of the Malaysia GE2013 elections) to protest against one of the components of this mega project called the Refinery and Petroleum Integrated Development (RAPID) by Petronas which is reported to be valued at RM$60 billion. The locals have claimed a minor victory after managing to dissuade a Taiwan company (The Kuokang Petrochemical Technology Company ) to back away and not put in RM$40 billion into the RAPID project. The Government have accused this group, whom they claimed are influenced by external opposition politicians as "traitors".
source: The Straits Times 
With mud slinging back and forth, efforts by the grassroot groups to create awareness on Pengerang's cultural heritage continues with a Jogathon held on November 17, 2013 in protest of the relocation of the Chinese cemeteries.  Will there be a change that will safe Pengerang or at least protect the culural and heritage spots? The battle continues.........

Videos on Pengerang















References
Malaysian's protest against Petronas Project. (2012, October 1). The Straits Times
Taiwan firm gets nod for Pengerang Plant.(2013, June 4). Free Malaysia Today
Two sides to Pengerang's boom. (2013, March 14). The Edge
"Those who caused losses in Pengerang are traitors". (2013, December 5 ). Malaysiakini (via Yahoonews)
Jogathon: Protest against relocation of cemeteries. [website] Pengerang, Sungai Rengit

Related post
Chinese String Puppet Troupe, posted on December 20, 2013
Pengerang Temples, posted on December 17, 2013
Pengerang Battery, posted on December 16, 2013
Day Trip to Pengerang and Sungai Rengit, posted on August 6, 2010.
Trip to Sebana Cove, Pengerang to watch fireflies, posted on April 9, 2007

Getting to Pengerang via boat
From Singapore, the place you can take the boat is at Changi Village Ferry Terminal. Upon reaching Tanjong Pengelih, Johor, there will be many taxi's that will be able to bring you to the major town nearby, (roughly at the cost RM$20 - RM$25 for 1 cab) Sungai Rengit. The ferry will only leave when there are 12 people available to board it. So try to go with a group of friends consisting of 12 pax. At the point of writing, it cost about $11 - $13 per pax for a one way trip.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Chinese String Puppet Troupe (Heritage Trail of Pengerang)

In one of our temple visits in Pengerang ( 四湾凤山宫 at Kampung Sungai Rengit ), the temple was having a big celebration. Part of the celebrations is a chinese string puppet performance by the New Hokkien Opera Troupe. This performances are usually organised by temple management, clan associations for the entertainment of the audience or to honor the deities celebrated in this festivals.

Again, i am no expert in the area of temples and its beliefs but i am privilege to be welcomed to go backstage and take some photos of the Troupe's preparation before their actual performance.
The stage. Curtains not up yet !
Backstage. The troupe getting ready
Close up of a puppet
The sticks that are used later by the master puppeteer

Placing the beard on a puppet  

Placing the beard on the puppet
One do not often see such traditional heritage performances anymore especially in develop Singapore. It's heartening to see the Pengerang Chinese community holding on to its heritage and culture despite rapid changes in society. Will Chinese String Puppet performances disappear one day ? My opinion is it will likely face that threat, unless it can remain relevant and closely knitted with the community as the community progresses in the face of many external and western influences. Subtitles maybe ? or a more contemporary plot ??

Dragon Joss sticks burning with
Sungai Rengit in the background 
 四湾凤山宫
Related post
Pengerang Temples, posted on December 17, 2013
Pengerang Battery, posted on December 16, 2013
Day Trip to Pengerang and Sungai Rengit, posted on August 6, 2010.
Trip to Sebana Cove, Pengerang to watch fireflies, posted on April 9, 2007

Getting to Pengerang via boat
From Singapore, the place you can take the boat is at Changi Village Ferry Terminal. Upon reaching Tanjong Pengelih, Johor, there will be many taxi's that will be able to bring you to the major town nearby, (roughly at the cost RM$20 - RM$25 for 1 cab) Sungai Rengit. The ferry will only leave when there are 12 people available to board it. So try to go with a group of friends consisting of 12 pax. At the point of writing, it cost about $11 - $13 per pax for a one way trip.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Public exhumation of graves started (Bukit Brown)

The public exhumation of the first phase of graves in Bukit Brown Cemetery began on Tuesday, 17 December, 2013. According to the report, 3,400 graves will be exhumed with a total of 304 graves privately exhumed to-date. The Channel News Asia report highlighted also that the documentation team will witness the exhumation process and family members present will be able to keep burial items recovered or pass it to the National Heritage Board (NHB). But whether it is preserve or not, it is not been confirmed or guaranteed.

The Strait Times report on December 19 indicate the exact number of tombs to be exhumed to be at 3,442.
In all, 1,263 graves have been claimed. Unclaimed remains will be scattered if remain unclaimed for 3 years.

A private exhumation in Bukit Brown held on October 2012

Headstone destroy to indicate moved house

The 8 lane highway that will cut through this Heritage Park
The destruction of this heritage park as begun. However the hope to save the remaining areas have only just began. Can a win win situation be achieved ? I sincerely hope.

Reference
Public exhumation at Bukit Brown begins. [website] Channel News Asia
Exhumation at Bukit Brown begins. (2013, December 19). The Straits Times

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Pengerang Temples (Heritage Trail of Pengerang)

When you make your way to Sungai Rengit via Tanjong Pengelih, it is not difficult to observe the many religious landmarks like mosque, surau, temples and shrines. In this trip i was given the opportunity to visit some of this temples and shrines that represent a community that is trying to balance development and yet hold on to its traditional practices and beliefs. This balance is been broken with a multi-billion oil project (RAPID) that will and has changed the landscape of Pengerang forever.

Wan Toh 湾岛
The Chinese community in Pengerang and our guides for this trip told us that location here are "measured" by the cove it belongs to. So if you counted from Tanjung Pengelih, it is 一湾岛 (literally translated as the 1st cove island) and Sungai Rengit would have been known as Si Wan Toh , 四湾岛 (literally means the fourth cove island). It is called an island, because of local traditions and geographically this area was so rural with no road access to here from Kota Tinggi. The community had to take a boat to go to the bigger town or city.
source: Google maps
Temples in Pengerang
It is really beautiful to see this picturesque temples that have an ocean view. My logical guess on why temples are built sea facing is because of the occupation of the community as predominately fisherman and the deities offer them protection from the elements. Below are some of the temples we visited. Unfortunately i am not an expert in these area and can only describe those i remember and not their significance.

大湾顺镇宫 
大湾顺镇宫
護福廟 temple at Kampung Jawa護福廟 temple is said to be over 100 years old and pays homage to both Mazu (Goddess of the Sea) and Tua Pek Kong.
護福廟
notice the dragon head knife in the incense urn 
福德宫 temple ( 二湾福德宮 ) at Kampong Langkah Baik

福德宫
福德宫
新湾顺安宫 at Kampong Teluk Ampang 
Note that this temple used to be facing the sea. It is now facing massive oil bunkers

新湾顺安宫

note location of temple and what it is currently facing
(source: Panoramio)
三灣嶼仔嶺伯公廟 at Tanjung Dato 
This beautiful shrine offers a lovely view of the 3rd cove on one side and the destruction caused by land reclaimation of the RAPID project bunkers on the other. 
source: Panoramio
Note the Datuk Kong, Tua Pek kong and unknown chinese diety in  middle 
Admiral Zheng He is one of the deities here
三湾观音寺 at Kampong Sungai Buntu
观音寺
Fish Dragon seemingly reaching out to a
full moon in the background
四湾凤山宫 at Kampung Sungai Rengit


四湾凤山宫
四湾凤山宫

Related post
Pengerang Battery, posted on December 16, 2013
Day Trip to Pengerang and Sungai Rengit, posted on August 6, 2010.
Trip to Sebana Cove, Pengerang to watch fireflies, posted on April 9, 2007

Getting to Pengerang via boat
From Singapore, the place you can take the boat is at Changi Village Ferry Terminal. Upon reaching Tanjong Pengelih, Johor, there will be many taxi's that will be able to bring you to the major town nearby, (roughly at the cost RM$20 - RM$25 for 1 cab) Sungai Rengit. The ferry will only leave when there are 12 people available to board it. So try to go with a group of friends consisting of 12 pax. At the point of writing, it cost about $11 - $13 per pax for a one way trip.



References
Union of Pengerang Chinese Cemetery Associations. [website]
http://www.panoramio.com/map/#lt=1.347863&ln=104.188145&z=0&k=2&a=1&tab=1&pl=all

Monday, December 16, 2013

Pengerang Battery (Heritage Trail of Pengerang)

Pengerang is a very well know place for many Singapore tourist as a destination for seafood such as lobster, cycling and kelong (offshore platform /house built by wood on stilts).

What is lesser known is the historical aspects of the community that call Pengerang their home. Last weekend, i was one of the privilege few that got to experience and see how some of the Chinese Community (who make up 10% of Pengerang's population) engage in their religious and community activities as well as interesting sights within Pengerang.

Heritage Stop: World War II Pengerang Battery
The arrival point coming by boat from Changi Village would be Tanjong Pengelih ferry terminal. Nearby Tanjong Pengelih, about 100m after you walk out the main gates, you will see by the roadside concrete gun pill box. This landmark was a reminder of a time where the British ruled over Malaya and in anticipation of a Japanese invasion from the sea, pill boxes, bunkers and gun batteries were constructed at this strategic location at the mouth of Sungai Santi, overlooking the narrow Singapore Straits between Pengerang and Tekong Island.
Machine gun pillars from World War II

Close up of the pill box. It has rails to allow ease
of moving of the heavy gun 
The Pengerang Battery, Sajahat Battery (Pulau Sajahat) and Johore Battery (in Changi) were part of the defense plan network put together to foil a sea invasion. The defense system were coastal defenses facing seaward. The guns utilised were either for close defense ( 6 inch or 9 inch )  or counter bombardment guns (15 inch)
source: NewspaperSG 
They were primarily built to deal to with hostile warships or motor torpedo boats. However most were never used. Reading through what other researches have written, the Pengerang battery saw brief action firing at Japanese planes flying overhead and a suspected "Japanese" junk around the end of the war in February 1942.


Heritage stop: First village closes to Tanjong Pengelih (a village under threat) 

A one street village was our first stop. This village at a glance is not significant, but on closer inspection it plays host to a 100 year old provision shop " Leong Hup " and two of the wooden shops close by has very interesting spear motif. 


Spear motif near roof top 
This village is potentially threaten together with other major coastal pengerang areas due to a major oil bunkering project by Petronas. I will cover this and other heritage trails of interest in my upcoming post on Pengerang.

Related post

Pengerang Temples, posted on December 17, 2013
Pengerang Battery, posted on December 16, 2013
Day Trip to Pengerang and Sungai Rengit, posted on August 6, 2010.
Trip to Sebana Cove, Pengerang to watch fireflies, posted on April 9, 2007


Getting to Pengerang via boat

From Singapore, the place you can take the boat is at Changi Village Ferry Terminal. Upon reaching Tanjong Pengelih, Johor, there will be many taxi's that will be able to bring you to the major town nearby, (roughly at the cost RM$20 - RM$25 for 1 cab) Sungai Rengit. The ferry will only leave when there are 12 people available to board it. So try to go with a group of friends consisting of 12 pax. At the point of writing, it cost about $11 - $13 per pax for a one way trip.

Cost of getting to Pengerang

References
History. [Website] The Pengerang Battery
Pulau Sajahat: Forgotten outpost of the war. (1981, January 10). The Straits Times

Monday, December 09, 2013

Searching for the descendant of Wan Chin Neo (Bukit Brown)

source: Straits Times 
One of the top stories featured on the Sunday Straits Times, dated December 8, 2013 is a house in 168 Carpmael Road that was bought in 1937 for $1,900 and later sold in 2013 for $4 million.

Wan Chin Neo's house ( 168 Carpmael Road)
source: google map 
The house was bought by Madam Wan Chin Neo (Mrs.Koh Lian Ghee ) for the sum of $1,900 in 1937. Mr. Koh Lian Ghee passed away September 3, 1936 at the age of 82 and Madam Wan Chin Neo passed away October 25, 1938 at the age of 75. It was Madam Wan Chin Neo's wish (according to the article) that the house be kept for her children and her grandchildren. She created a trust for this.
Madam Wan Chim Neo (died Oct 25, 1938)


By 1939, her two daughter's  (Koh Sun Hay and Koh Keng Hay) has passed away. Only her son, Koh Hoon Teck survived as Madam Wan Chin Neo's only son. Koh Hoon Teck himself passed away in 1956.

$4 million waiting for distribution
The trustee of the estate recently sold the house for almost $4 million in 2013 at the request of the descendant's who challenge the trust should not last forever. The trustee (Rockwills Trustee) is now actively seeking to distribute this wealth to the surviving grand and great-grand children. The article mentioned that a total of 15 people have stepped forward to claim a share, all from Koh Hoon Teck's branch. The article reported that Koh Sun Hay and Koh Keng Hay had 11 children. Maybe, more might turn up to claim a share of the pie.

Bukit Brown connection
Koh Hoon Teck and his parents, Madam Wan Chin Neo and Mr. Koh Lian Ghee are buried in Bukit Brown Hill 1 Division B. I wrote an article about Koh Hoon Teck before in February 7, 2013, but as my articles is not on mapping the family tree, it was probably only used as a reference during Rockwills Trustee research but was not able to resolve their search for the complete descendants. I wish them all the best !

Rockwills Trustee can be reached at 6221-8633.

Koh Hoon Teck 

References
Search for the heirs to $4m fortune. (December 8, 2013). The Straits Times 

Friday, December 06, 2013

Birdwatching in Bidadari - Jambu Fruit Dove ( December 6)

With the rainy season in full effect, December makes bird watching a challenging task. Fortunately today was a "fruitful" (no pun intended) day for me especially when i decided to take leave to do a spot of birding in Bidadari ! I manage to sight and the added bonus of capturing a shot of the Jambu Fruit-Dove ( Ptilinopus jambu ) in Bidadari. This was the only picture i got of it before it flew off (uncropped and cropped)

Can you spot the Jambu Fruit Dove?

 Jambu Fruit-Dove, Male ( Ptilinopus jambu ) 
Today i observed also a male Tanimbar Corella (Cacatua goffiniana) chasing away a beautiful parrot. On closer inspection it was the African Grey Parrot that was being chased away. Two other Tanimbar Corella were busy stripping off the bark of a fish tail fern palm.

African Grey Parrot 

Tanimbar Corella busy stripping the bark of the branch of a fish tail fern
Other birds that i saw today before the 11 am rain forced a closure to today's birding activities.
  • Brown Shrike
  • Dollar Bird
  • Black Baza
  • Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo

Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo