Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Newspaper mentions of the Rojak Librarian (2014)

Spending my free time researching, walking the ground and writing articles is something that grew with time and out of the need to create awareness of the rich natural and heritage value that Singapore has in Bukit Brown which is under threat by the highway and development. Occasionally some of the articles i wrote help the families to rediscover their roots and the final resting place of their ancestors. Even rarer are the ones that get press mention. I am blessed to have two press mentions this year either by name or for my blog, The Rojak Librarian,  in addition to being on a documentary titled "History from the Hill" in 2013.

The first is a feature on Zaoboa dated September 22, 2014 on the rediscovery of the tomb of Yap Geok Seong. I discovered this tomb in November 4, 2011 with the help of a tomb keeper who showed me this tomb. I got around to writing the article and finally publishing it on my blog in April 2013. Since then more information cropped up from the Bukit Brown community and from a descendant of Yap based in Canada. Finally in August 17, 2014, I brought the descendants of Yap Geok Song who contacted me to visit and pay respects. They eventually cleaned the tomb and had a ceremony on September 14th.  

The efforts are not mine alone, but are testament of the Bukit Brown community, a group of individuals working the ground to bring history, heritage and nature alive ! This group who called themselves Brownies recently won this years inaugural Singapore Advocacy Award

Source: Lianhe Zaobao September 22, 2014 
The tombkeeper and the tomb in November 2011

The compound of the tomb when i first discovered it in November 4, 2011

The happy descendant's when i brought them to visit on August 17, 2014

The tomb after being cleared 

The second press mention happened in April this year, with a young journalist looking for features on people and their hobbies or passion in a weekly article. Somehow, i managed to fit the bill and the interview took place in English (as i am not able to converse in Mandarin). Since i could not read the article, the good folks on Facebook translated it for me.

Lianhe Zaoboa April 24, 2014 

走遍坟场记载历史
张育铭 报道/摄影
ymchong@sph.com.sg

两年来,白友源走遍武吉布朗坟场,研究各个墓碑主人的生活故事,并将其记载在自己的博客上与网民分享,其中包括郑古悦巴士老板郑古悦和华商周如切。
对一些人来说,武吉布朗坟场只是新加坡多座坟场之一。对白友源(40岁)来说,这个地方却充满了新加坡的历史与文化。
两年来,白友源走遍这座坟场,研究各个墓碑主人的生活故事,并将其记载在自己的博客上与网民分享。他所记载的墓碑主人包括郑古悦巴士老板郑古悦和早期华商周如切。

他说:“许多安葬在这里的人在新加坡历史上都扮演着重大角色,是我们国家发展的先驱,很多国人对他们的贡献却不知情。”

在这里安息的许多是早期从中国来南洋谋生的华人。白友源从他们的墓碑中观察到他们语言与文化上的演变。
有的人和英国殖民政府一起工作,学习英文,也给自己取英文名,都反映在墓碑上。也有一些南来华人和当地人成婚,落地生根,后代是现在的土生华人,形成了本地独特的娘惹文化,他们的墓碑上也刻着娘惹式图案。有的墓碑前甚至站了锡克族侍卫的雕塑,反映这里种族之间的交流。

白友源说:“我们的祖先从中国过来后,让自己的母文化和本地文化交流,形成了在墓碑上所能观察到的独特文化。我认为,这是一种代表新加坡的文化。”
记载自己在武吉布朗坟场所学到的历史与文化之际,白友源有时会收到网民或墓碑主人后代的答谢,感激他的付出。这让他非常有满足感。

Translation by Darren Koh via facebook crowd source 

Zaobao News Apr 24, 2014
Walking the cemetery ground, documenting the history 

In the last two years, 白友源 has explored Bukit Brown Cemetery, studying the tombstones, and recording the stories of the deceased in his blog, which is shared on the Internet. Some of the stories recorded include those of Tay Koh Yat owner of Tay Koh Yat Bus Company Limited, and Chew Joo Chiat. For many people, the Bukit Brown Cemetery is just another of the many cemeteries in Singapore. To 白友源 (40 years old), this place is a repository of Singapore's history and culture.

In the last two years, 白友源 has explored Bukit Brown Cemetery, studying the tombstones, and recording the stories of the deceased it in his blog, which is shared on the Internet. Some of the stories recorded include those of Tay Koh Yat owner of Tay Koh Yat Bus Company Limited, and Chew Joo Chiat.

He said: "Many of the people buried here in Singapore played a significant role in the history of, are pioneers in the development of our country. A lot of people do not know of their contributions.” In here are laid to rest many of the early Chinese who travelled to Southeast Asia to make a living. 白友源 observes from their tombstones the evolution of their language and culture.

When people began to work with the British colonial government, they learnt English, and began adopting English names. This is reflected in the tombstones. There are some who inter-married with the locals, put down roots in this new world giving rise to a unique local culture known as the Peranakan. Their tombstones bear a unique Nyonya-style pattern. Some graves even have sculptures of Sikh bodyguards, reflecting the interaction between the races found here.

白友源 said: "After our ancestors arrived from China, the culture they brought with them inter-mingled with the local culture, giving us a unique cultural identity visible from these tombstones. In my opinion, this is one part of what is the culture of Singapore." 白友源, who taught himself the history and culture of Bukit Brown, sometimes receives thanks for his efforts from netizens or descendant of someone he has documented. This is what he finds most rewarding.


Conclusion
I am happy that some of my articles have made an impact on the lives of people however small. That motivates me to keep going and i thank everyone who have written in or commented with words of encouragement.This too is a journey for me as well and at times mistakes and errors are made as any humans do. I seek your patience and guidance in correcting me.

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