PICTURES

Pulau Ubin's past 'worth preserving for future'

Long-time Ubin boat operators Mr Fang Ya Ba and Kit Kau Chye aboard a boat at the Changi Ferry Terminal. Photographers (above) taking snapshots of the island's Pekan Quarry. -- ST PHOTOS: NEO XIAOBIN
Long-time Ubin boat operators Mr Fang Ya Ba and Kit Kau Chye aboard a boat at the Changi Ferry Terminal. Photographers (above) taking snapshots of the island's Pekan Quarry. -- ST PHOTOS: NEO XIAOBIN
The oldest son of the village head Mr Lin Chu Zi (left), 82, and his wife Madam Chen Siew Zhen (right), 75, at 427 Pulau Ubin, still reside in his father's residence with their son. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
The oldest son of the village head Mr Lin Chu Zi (left), 82, and his wife Madam Chen Siew Zhen (right), 75, at 427 Pulau Ubin, still reside in his father's residence with their son. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
A warning sign situated at the Pekan Quarry, also known as the Ho Man Choo Quarry in Pulau Ubin on Oct 2, 2013. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
A warning sign situated at the Pekan Quarry, also known as the Ho Man Choo Quarry in Pulau Ubin on Oct 2, 2013. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Members of the public with their offerings seen at the Tua Pek Kong Main Temple, the oldest temple on Pulau Ubin on Oct 2, 2013. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Members of the public with their offerings seen at the Tua Pek Kong Main Temple, the oldest temple on Pulau Ubin on Oct 2, 2013. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Tourists seen at a bicycle rental shop located at the village centre, described by a resident as the Orchard Road of Pulau Ubin. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Tourists seen at a bicycle rental shop located at the village centre, described by a resident as the Orchard Road of Pulau Ubin. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Mr Fang Ya Ba, 66, has been a boat operator for almost 45 years. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Mr Fang Ya Ba, 66, has been a boat operator for almost 45 years. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
A media photographer shoots Kampong Durian/Kampong Melayu resident Madam Hajah Maimunah Bte Abdullah (right), 87, in the kitchen area which they use to conduct cooking classes, on Oct 2, 2013. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
A media photographer shoots Kampong Durian/Kampong Melayu resident Madam Hajah Maimunah Bte Abdullah (right), 87, in the kitchen area which they use to conduct cooking classes, on Oct 2, 2013. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
A scarecrow seen among a patch of lemon grass (cymbopogon citratus) grown in the vegetables, herbs and spices garden in Pulau Ubin on Oct 2, 2013. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
A scarecrow seen among a patch of lemon grass (cymbopogon citratus) grown in the vegetables, herbs and spices garden in Pulau Ubin on Oct 2, 2013. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Members of the public try to avoid the camera as they walk past the wayang stage in the village centre of Pulau Ubin, located near the jetty, on Oct 2, 2013. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Members of the public try to avoid the camera as they walk past the wayang stage in the village centre of Pulau Ubin, located near the jetty, on Oct 2, 2013. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
The oldest son of the village head Mr Lin Chu Zi (left), 82, and his wife Madam Chen Siew Zhen (right), 75, at 427 Pulau Ubin, still resides in his father's residence with their son. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
The oldest son of the village head Mr Lin Chu Zi (left), 82, and his wife Madam Chen Siew Zhen (right), 75, at 427 Pulau Ubin, still resides in his father's residence with their son. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Members of the public with their offerings seen at the Tua Pek Kong Main Temple, the oldest temple on Pulau Ubin on Oct 2, 2013. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Members of the public with their offerings seen at the Tua Pek Kong Main Temple, the oldest temple on Pulau Ubin on Oct 2, 2013. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Long-time Ubin boat operators (above, from left) Mr Fang Ya Ba and Kit Kau Chye aboard a boat at the Changi Ferry Terminal. Photographers (below) taking snapshots of the island's Pekan Quarry.
Long-time Ubin boat operators (above, from left) Mr Fang Ya Ba and Kit Kau Chye aboard a boat at the Changi Ferry Terminal. Photographers (below) taking snapshots of the island's Pekan Quarry.ST PHOTOS: NEO XIAOBIN

Heritage Board launches virtual tour, plans online video of boatmen

Sleepy Pulau Ubin was once a hotbed of rowdy gang activity in pre-war Singapore.

Initiation ceremonies by secret societies such as Sin Ghee Hin would take place on its shores.

This is one of several little-known facts uncovered by the National Heritage Board as part of its efforts to document the history of the 10.2 sq km, boomerang-shaped island in the northeastern corner of Singapore.

A team from the board, headed by group director of policy Alvin Tan, spent the last five months scouring academic texts, newspaper articles and conducting interviews with some of the island's 38 remaining residents to add to existing literature.

Mr Tan said publications about the island tend to focus on the island's flora and fauna and marine life. "Not a lot of research has been done on the lives of the people here, the occupations they held and how the land was used," he said.

He added that Pulau Ubin is worth documenting and preserving because it is the "last real kampung in Singapore".

There are plans to compile the information from the fact-finding exercise into an e-book and make it available to schools and heritage groups.

The island hit the headlines in April this year after a notice by the Housing Board led to confusion among islanders that 22 households would be evicted for the development of an "adventure park".

But the Government has since clarified that there are no plans for the time being to further develop the island, which is to be kept in a "rustic state for as long as possible".

Beyond the research effort, the board also launched a virtual tour of the island's main hub as part of its Walking Through Heritage series yesterday, while cooking classes organised by the Malay Heritage Centreat a Malay kampung house on the island will take place over the coming weeks.

By December, a documentary on Ubin's boat operators will also be uploaded on to the board's YouTube channel.

The video will be the final episode of the board's second season of Heritage In Episodes - a series of short documentaries aimed at connecting with the younger generation through social media.

The team's research further delved into detailing heritage sites such as the island's jetty, which was built by the Japanese during World War II, Singapore's oldest community centre and the Bin Kiang School, which was set up in 1952 and demolished in 2000.

Other interesting facts uncovered include how granite from the island was used in the construction of Fort Canning, Pearl's Hill Reservoir and the Horsburgh Lighthouse on Pedra Branca.

Islanders such as Mr Kit Kau Chye, 65, a boat operator and chairman of the Changi Point Ferry Association, said the island is worth documenting and conserving.

"Through these materials, I hope Singaporeans and other visitors will get to learn more about the island's rich history and make a visit here," he said.

melodyz@sph.com.sg