Monday, 28 January 2008

Haw Par Villa

This may not be part of the Pasir Panjang Commemorative Walk we do each February or the July Heritage Trails. However, as a child, one of my memories of Pasir Panjang (PP) was of Haw Par Villa. There really was not much of a reason for me to traipse over to PP unless we had some relatives from the USA or Anambas Islands who came to visit. This was on my mom's list of 'TO-SEE' places for our guests. Much to my chagrin, I often had to go along with her to Haw Par Villa, especially when the rellies from Anambas came over.

What was it about Haw Par Villa that I hated? Let's see, it had to be the Seven Chambers of Hell. No trip was ever complete without moral lessons from my mom about why I shouldn't misbehave. The first time I was old enough to remember the Seven Chambers, I had nightmares 2 nights in a row. As I got to primary school, I told my mom I would wait for her elsewhere when she went to that ghoulish sector.I am sure every kid felt the same.

Everything else about Haw Par Villa seems so retro and kitschy in today's context. I have never re-visited it since it became the short-lived amusement-theme park in the late 1990s. As one website put it, it is 'serene and creepy' at the same time. I agree. It's as if ghosts from the pasts are going to pop out any minute and sneak up on an unsuspecting visitor. Today, when one drives past it, it seems so out of place, amidst the condominiums and expressway that has grown around it.

We do tend to forget that the park had an illustrious past. I remember as a kid that it was the one of two similar parks in Asia, built by the Aw Brothers of Tiger Balm fame. The other one was in Hong Kong, which, if memory serves me well, was demolished sometime in the 1980s. I remember too, hearing from my dad, a taxi driver and Oi Yee that the Aw family also had a swimming pool in the area, that was opened to members of the public.

I found some photos from the 60s of my parents and cousins at Haw Par Villa on a picnic. When I get a break, I'll scan some of it here. I have been wondering since I became a part of the PPHG, if the gardens were built in 1937, would it not have seen much of the battles of WWII in the area? Any comments on that anyone?

Friday, 25 January 2008

Back to School!

Pasir Panjang Guides re-examine ridge plants. See "Plants of Pasir Panjang," by Kenneth Pinto. Toddycats, 13 Nov 2007.

We have had two sessions on plants late last year, and one session on history and the map last night. All this in preparation for the 2008 walks.

Pasir Panjang Training - Simpoh Ayer drawing

Musings of a PPHG newbie

Till today, I still don't quite know how I stumbled into the group. Kenneth will probably attribute it to my 'too nice and can't say no' ways while Siva will say it's due to my 'aunty and kay poh' nature. It's just one of life's little mysteries. I suppose I have always wanted to carry on with some heritage and public education gig, though I have left both fields for quite awhile now.

My first 'encounter' with Siva was after some awards thing at the Grassroots Club. I had been trying to reach him as I had to get the logistics going for RBC's July Heritage Trail. He didn't seem to respond to my emails, which got me into quite a quandary with my higher ups. I sure felt like a sandwich then! When we did meet, Siva mumbled something like 'you are the kancheong person' and that's when things got rolling. I met everyone else thereafter when we ran the the trails and the rest is history!

I have never been a sciencey person, don't think I will. Maybe except when it comes to baking. But the first time I pounded the pavements during 2006' trails, I was impressed by this dedicated group of volunteers. They were friendly, knowledgeable and passionate about their craft. The faces of the most jaded participant at the end of each walk was enough to see they had successfully told their stories. So 2 successful runs of Heritage Trails, 1 September WWII Commemorative later, I find myself a probabtionary guide with the PPGH. Don't even remember how I ended up here!

Regardless, being a part of the group gets me out of my shell, which is in danger of being focused on only work (or lack there of) and job hunting at the moment. As I get older, I realise I don't really hang out with many friends or club or party or do social stuff. Volunteering with PPHG keeps my mind active and my social life from dying out.

More importantly, I think I have come to enjoy the friendships made with the rest of the PPGH. I must say I was extremely touched when Airani,Anand, Oi Yee and Kenneth took time off from their busy schedules to pop by my dad's wake. They lifted my spirits during some very dark days for me. So if there was a silver lining from my previous (work)life, it would have been invited to be a part of PPHG.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Guiding dates in 2008

Battle of Pasir Panjang Commemorative Walk
Sun 10 Feb 2008: 7am
Passive advertisement on Habitatnews.

International Museum Day
Sat 24 May 2008: 5.30pm, 6.30pm
To update 2007 webpage. We will not be including MOFF this year as participants are too tired to really explore the gallery, which does not do it credit.

Heritage Fest
Sat 19 Jul 2008 & Sat 26 Jul 2008: 8am - 12pm
To update the 2007 webpage.

Talking about Pasir Panjang Heritage

I was at a workshop for teachers last Friday at the Singapore Management University (SMU). During that session, NHB revealed the interesting heritage calendar of theirs.

I was there, supposedly to give pointers about heritage projects. However, my talk was preceeded by none other than the Pei Hwa Secondary students and teacher from the Jalan Kayu Trail. During their rehearsal I realised they were going to cover similar issues so I hastily amended my slides while watching them.

Indeed the Pei Hwa students and teacher did an excellent job of covered all the learning points the audience possibly needed to hear about. I enjoyed the presentation and could empathise very well with their experience!

By the time I went up on stage, the teachers had been listening to a lot of serious stuff since the first presentation about NHB activities. So asking them to to sit back and relax worked very well as the final element. I had decided to resort to pure story-telling about Pasir Panjang. By emphasising stories, I hope it would remind them about the core around which we build our activities.

I had actually been scratching my head right up to the moment as to the exact delivery method and point to emphasise. However, once I went up on stage, their faces provided the feedback I needed and we had fun.

The teachers responded very well and several came to say they enjoyed it. That was good to know and I thought even as they thanked me that the teachers probably knew everyone needs encouragement and positive feedback was an important thing to provide.

I also ran in to our friends from the National Archives - Stanley, Sujin and Eileen. We conspired as usual, and since I had worked out my annual plan for Toddycats, I was able to confirm the 2008 dates really early this time.

The next post will have it!

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Penrod Dean (video) on NAS webpage

In response to news of Penrod Dean's passing in 2006, the National Archive of Singapore posted a webpage called "A Tribute to Lt. Penrod Vance Dean (19 Nov 1914 - 16 May 2006)." This includes two short video clips of him honouring the memory of the Malay Regiment soldiers.

Penrod Dean video, 400 pixels

You can view the longer version of the clips at the shows screened at Reflections at Bukti Chandu and Memories at Old Ford Factory.

Thanks to Kenneth for highlighting this earlier.