Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Geylang sipaku Geylang

Geylang, sipaku Geylang, Geylang, si rama rama.
Pulang, marilah pulang, marilah pulang bersama-sama.
Mari pulang, marilah pulang, marilah pulang bersama-sama.

Lyrics from a Malay Folk Song.


Geylang, sipaku Geylang, Geylang, si rama rama.
Home, come home, come home together.
Come home, come home, come home together.

Every balek kampung or home coming trip I have taken since I left Singapore nearly four decades ago, has always being a nostalgic journey to my past. My recent visit to my island home was no different except it was a double whammy. I was back to attend the 135th Anniversary of my alma mater and visited the house where I was born. Although my old house is insignificant and beyond any comparison to my former school, which holds a rightful claim of having three past presidents of Singapore as its former students, I could hardly hide my thrill to learn that it is under the preservation and heritage listing like my old school building. In this ever changing and land hungry city, not many Singaporeans can boast about of having their old house and old school to be protected from the demolishing hands of the city planners.
Early one hazy morning, last month I took a crowded MRT train packed with workers and students which stopped at every station to allow more passengers to join the morning rush. I travelled along the East- West line, passing stations with familiar sounding names like Bedok, Eunos and Paya Lebar in the direction of the city. As the train passed Joo Chiat and heading towards Aljunied, I had not been along this way in a good while but now on impulse, I decided to venture into the area, curious to see for myself, how much the district had changed at hands of planners as well as the influx of new migrants and residents, especially from China. So instead of continuing my journey to the city, I alighted from the train at Aljunied Station and I strolled towards Geylang Road.
I stopped and stared at the now empty space in front of the Aljunied Station. Just an empty space, but memories came flooding back. Gone was the Lorong 25 Market. It was a hub of the open air and wet market era, where the housewives, hawkers, fruits and vegetables sellers came to congregate, hustle and bustle every morning.
Here’s Geylang, I used to live, spending an uneventful childhood playing marbles, flying layangs(kites), fighting spiders and Siamese fish, sprinkled with occasional forays against the Lorong 27 kids who were foolhardly enough to venture into our territory. It appeared to me at that time our street gang had a fearsome reputation, though I suppose that by today’s standards we were not really at all fearsome. At the very most, we only had to explain or lied to our teachers or mother what caused the black eye or the tear at the back of our shirt was due to a game of catching at the school yard.
Bear with me, if I am rumbling like an old uncle for the next few postings but I promise to share some of the signature street hawkers recipes that I have collected during this balek kampong trip.


  1. Hey Uncle Phil

    I am away from SG for just 3 years but everytime I go back, I am shocked to see that some places have changed beyond recognition in a matter of months, so I can imagine your feelings right now :S


  2. Hi Bee,
    It is nice to hear from you. I always remember a quote from Edward Addey. "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell"

  3. Evening Sir
    it was good to have met albeit for a couple of minutes or so on Sep 18th...
    please excuse me for not dropping by your table often during the dinner...
    do hope to catch up with you for a cup of kopi-o...
    Stay blessed with happiness and take care Sir

  4. Hi Zan,
    Congratulations to you guys in the OVA to organise such a successful and memorable occasion! My old classmates and I are indeed grateful to you and the other committee members for us to meet at this reunion dinner. The Kopi is on me when I balek kampung again.

    Nil Sine Labour,

  5. Hello "Uncle Phil," I stumbled upon your blog as I was searching for the "Geyland si paku Geylang" lyrics. Recognized the photo to be the "old" Victoria school (the building has additions, I noticed). I was in VS in the last century (1977-78)! I've been away for 34 years, but would return to lovely Singapore every so often. Thanks for sharing the photo of the school where I spent 2 wonderful years of preu. :)

    1. I was at the "old " school building to attend the 135th school anniversary and it is now taken over by the People's Association. Where are you living now? I belong to the Class of 65 and next year I hope to go back to attend our 50th class reunion. Nil sine labore!

    2. Thank you for taking the time to reply. I'm in Portland, Oregon (U.S.), which has been my home for over 30 years. But old Vic will always have a special place in my heart. I left SG to pursue higher ed a year after A levels in VS in '78.