This post is long overdue, but it still must be posted, I guess. There are lots of blogposts, websites out there about Bukit Brown, so information is not lacking.
I went down to visit Bukit Brown over two Saturdays, 3 March 2012 and 17 March 2012. This place was not a forgotten place, or an unknown place, like Chek Jawa. But it’s gained prominence in local news in the recent months, because of the government’s announcement to build a road cutting across Bukit Brown. With that grim prospect, many groups decided to take action, raise the profile of this hidden & rather neglected (in my opinion) treasure trove in the heart of Singapore, and hopefully change the minds of the Powers-that-Be. (And if you didn’t know, their minds weren’t changed. The road is still going to be built, but at least it will be in such a way so as to minimise impact/damage to the area.)
I’m not very familiar with the place, nor have I actively followed the news and updates. But I just wanted to see this place, learn more about our heritage and see if there is anything that we can do to keep the place the way it can. Briefly, Bukit Brown is also known as Kopi Sua, because there used to be coffee plantations over in the vicinity. It’s located a few bus stops down from Marymount MRT station, but I never knew it existed. I wonder how many youths out there are like me, not knowing that one of the most important and extensive Chinese diaspora cemetery is still in existence and in our very own country.
From my first visit on 3 March 2012. Woke up late, reached there at 10.00am (very late, if you want to do any decent bird-watching) and wandered around on my own.
Subsequently crashed the guided walk, can’t remember most of the things they talked about though. Their post on the walk is here.
The cemetery is pretty big and extensive, I definitely didn’t see much of it. But is it not amazing that you can still find a place in Singapore so nice and quiet and relatively untouched by urbanisation? Not even our Nature reserves or parks can compare, I think. The walk ended at Ong Sam Leong’s tomb, the biggest on in the area. After that, they provided some very nice refreshments, where I talked to the organisers and also met this guy who was writing an article about Bukit Brown for the Lonely Planet! I just wonder if more people posted up memories of Bukit Brown on the Singapore Memory Portal, would anything have changed?
Subsequently on my second visit on 17 March 2012, I went with Andy early in the morning at 6.45am. Mostly for the sights and sounds of the place.
After we were about done, we met more people, again from bukitbrown.com. I think it’s them anyway. They were holding more walks, and Ms Tan Beng Chiak (from RGS) was also helping out with some eco-stations. The next day (18 March) was a family day event, for more members of the public to learn more about the place. We didn’t stay long, as we had to go off for our ICCS meeting.
I’m glad I made the effort to go down, because some things are best experienced first-hand. I could read about all this on blogs, websites, in textbooks, on iPad trails or whatever, but nothing beats first hand experience. How can you replicate that visual of complete greenery dotted with tombs of our pioneers, the smells of the forest, the sounds of birds & insects, or the feel of the wind against your face?
Like what was written in this article on The Online Citizen, how does the government expect us to develop our own unique culture (beyond the superficial) or a sense of belonging to this country, if places with rich memories or of historical/ecological importance keep disappearing? I don’t think I’ll come back to Singapore, after my studies, just because it has all these swanky new shopping centres boasting a wide range of the latest fashion from all over the world, or the many sky-scraping, shoe box apartments that cost a bomb. I’m sure I can find those in many other cities around the world. And as wonderful as our public healthcare system or education system may be, it’s not like this is the only place where those are available, in equal or even better standards.
What would keep me coming home would be the wonderful memories I have of Singapore and what I’ve done here. And if all that represents them are gone, why should I stay?
Personally, I think it’s important that we learn about our pioneers in National Education or Social Studies. I wish I learned about why the MRT stations are named as such, or certain places are named that way, while I was in school. It’s not impossible to learn out of school, of course, with the ease of Google searching and the vast amount of information available on the web. But are such things not important enough that we learn them in school? So many places are named after our pioneers: Boon Lay MRT Station, Hong Lim Park etc
Sighs, it is always very sad to see something go. Be it Bukit Brown, the MacDonald’s outlet at ECP, or Borders at Wheelock Place. Singapore’s landscape is changing at such an alarming rate, I wonder how many even realise, because it seems that we are so inundated with information and hectic lifestyles (endless stacks of homework and insane work schedules) that we are unable to take a step back and reflect. Then again, even if we disagree with what’s happening, how much of what we feel/think gets to the decision-makers? And even if it does, how many people will step out and speak up, because it has been so ingrained in us to not question and just listen?
Sorry for the rant, I think I blended a lot of issues into this one post. I’m still trying to sort my thoughts too, so pardon any illogical ramblings!
More on Bukit Brown & its history:
Stories behind the graves at Bukit Brown – http://bukitbrown.org/
All Things Bukit Brown – Heritage. Habitat. History
SOS Bukit Brown
Nice blog post – The Long & Winding Road
Another great blog post. I love the blog too! Full of interesting heritage stories – Remember Singapore