Ali Ibrahim's Impressions of Ubin

Excerpts from an olde email,

written after a slide talk given by Ali Ibrahim at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve Visitor Centre on the 13th of February, 1998.

-----Original Message-----
From: N. Sivasothi
To: The Habitat Group
Date: Friday, February 13, 1998 11:11 PM
Subject: Ali Ibrahim's talk on Ubin


Well I'm back from the Ubin talk by Ali - it turned out to be a 2-hour talk featuring about 280 slides! While he was on the island, he had access to many of areas we usually never go to and talked to many of the islanders from the 200+ families still on the island.

The photography was good and the Bukit Timah slide projector is a good one, so we were served up a picturesque treat. Let's see if I can remember some of the highlights...

He showed us first pictures from Logan's journal - this is a 19th-century journal containing many choice remarks about Singapore - here we learnt that Ubin was mined for granite and cut by Khek stone-cutters for granite which was used for the construction of Horsburgh lighthouse. There was a painting of the characteristic fluted granite of Ubin, and Ali showed us a slide of that section of granite cliff still present today.

In 1914 there was a young German girl who ran away (apparently in fear) from her Ubin-plantation home and fell to her death. The body, discovered the next day covered in ants, was buried at the same beach. Villagers kept seeing her ghost so the remains were removed to a nearby shrine. The Chinese shrine for the German girl is still present outside one of the quarries. The remains (hair, coins, some bone) were looted but the urn that held them is still there. The quarries, five in all, have all stopped work by now. The last two stopped their granite quarrying in '97 and '98.

Amongst the people featured was Mdm Lim, a 88-year old woman who walks 10km each day! She walks to the village bearing an umbrella, and uses it to carry her shopping on her shoulder on the way back. Cpl Tan is the policeman on the island, and apparently after the tiger scare, he was promoted to Seargeant. He was carrying a rifle behind the "orang asli" of Ubin as they searched the island during the tiger scare. A pager-bearing, computer-fixing Thai monk was also featured - he travels to Changi for his free-meals, which are not always vegetarian. The only vegetarian featured was a NParks officer!

I didn't realise the Bhuddist temple was a Thai one. The other Thai issue were the Thai girls who were apparently ferried over to mainland Singapore via Ponggol while the marine police mounted a search for the tiger on Ubin...

We saw a Keramat that was set up by an Arab who came there to set it up after summoned in a dream. The Keramat looks like yet another Chinese shrine, but for the writings from the Koran. There was also a nunnery and a surau (small mosque), complete with the bell that is struck for prayer call. There is an "English house" - a tudor styled house complete with chimmney. Lot more interesting buildings and derelict places with interesting histories. Some famous sculptor owns a house there...

The views from the highest point on Ubin were quite spectacular as were the scenes from the "stolen land" sitesand the new Outward Bound camp complete with a model ship, swimming pool and rock walls. For some reason, people semed quite upset about that - I think because they cut down the best forest and we can't access the place! Ubin's Visitor Centre is ready, and there are three sets of toilets around the island - the funny thing is that one small toilet-house is supported by a complex of buildings made up of a generator house, a pump house and a water tower - lot of buildings for one toilet!

*Yawn* Too tired to continue...he ended up his talk with slides of wildlife and flowers. There is a really interesting fig tree with steps leading to the centre....cannot continue, too tired.. Anyway, I think the next time Habitat does a cycling trip on Ubin, we'll have just a few more stops on our schedule! It was very insightful.

... On the way home, I talked to some guy on the bus who turned out to be from BEM - he's doing a project on Ubin and will be coming over the lab to get references on wildlife and vegetation next week.

Interesting night, with the moon and stars out...

Happy Valentine's Day!

Cheerio all!