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 Zaobao dated 22 September 2014 on the rediscovery of the tomb of Yap Geok Seong. I discovered this tomb in 4November 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 17 August 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 the 14 September 2014.
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
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.
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.