Bukit Ho Swee Heritage Trail Experience

Thought moments at Bukit Ho Swee

This is my favorite photo taken by Zinkie Aw at the MCA (Malayan Chinese Association) building at Havelock Road, Singapore during a recent photoshoot for the Drama Box “IgnorLAND of its Time” project.  Photo credit: Drama Box.

The back of the MCA building at Havelock Road, Singapore in 1962

I was thinking back to the time of the same place over 50 years ago juxtaposed on this archived photo the back of the MCA building with their spiral staircases, original architecture and century-old building design.  The old photos on this blog with “For online reference writing viewing only” watermark to share for non-commercial or advertising purposes.  With thanks and acknowledgement to the National Archives of Singapore.

Why was I making so many trips back to Bukit Ho Swee to walk down memories for the past months?  When would I ever forget Bukit Ho Swee?  How many people would want to know about a little known place in Singapore or about the Bukit Ho Swee fire which happened 53 years ago?

Few people among the younger generation would ever care about the nostalgic memories of the Bukit Ho Swee kampong to be forgotten.  Why recollect and waste time thinking about the old past memories or to romanticise heritage stuff?  I was told that I am a “karung gunny” collector of antique stuff and memories of old Singapore … to be forgotten when I leave this world.

These fond memories to share with my nostalgia friends and I for as long as we are still alive.

Sometime last year, the two young ladies from Drama Box, Koh Hui Ling and Han Xuemei contacted me about their “IgnorLAND of its Time”:

Project Director: Koh Hui Ling
Deputy Project Director: Han Xuemei

IgnorLAND is a site-specific project that aims to excavate shared memories of a place, and bring unknown or forgotten stories to the people. In the 2007 IgnorLAND of its Time, audiences were brought to different parts of Singapore where site-specific performances were staged at Labrador and the Old Nantah University Arch, to hear the stories of these places. In 2009, IgnorLAND of its Desires brought audiences to Geylang to experience its nightlife, where colourful characters and food delicacies rule the streets.  The concept and format for the project was unconventional with fresh ideas as a community learning participation.

IgnorLAND is back and this time we are taking you to the Bukit Ho Swee estate! From the infamous fire in 1961 to the present, how much has changed in Bukit Ho Swee, and what has stayed the same?

bhs one-room flats
The one-room “emergency flats” at Jalan Bukit Ho Swee in 1962

2014-08-11_201138The Drama Box publicity brochures for the “Bukit Ho Swee Heritage Trail”:

Ever wondered what life was like in Bukit Ho Swee before the 1961 fire?
Take a tour around the neighbourhood with our guide, James Seah, who was born and bred in Bukit Ho Swee, and had survived the fire. Hear his stories as he recounts his memories from the days before the fire to the present.

So I thought the project is meaningful, educational and entertaining for Singaporeans who have not heard about Bukit Ho Swee or the Bukit Ho Swee fire.  I agreed to contribute to the community project embarked by Drama Box and to share my personal memories of Bukit Ho Swee which was my birthplace and where I lived for 13 years in the kampong until the 1961 fire and another 3 years at the one-room “emergency” flat at Jalan Bukit Ho Swee.

How to create awareness of fire safety prevention of fire hazards although there are no longer wooden and attap kampongs in Singapore since the last major Bukit Ho Swee fire in 1961?

How much has the physical environment, the public amenities  changed over 5 decades ago and the visible landscape and infrastructure at Bukit Ho Swee today?

10406344_892638584083799_2459456714211453254_nIn front of Block 50, Havelock Road to show the direction towards Prince Philip Avenue where my mother and I escaped from our attap house at Beo Lane from the Bukit Ho Swee fire on 25 May 1961.

1017535_892641124083545_4310388426606424888_nOn the roof-top of Block 44A Beo Crescent multi-storey carpark to show laminated old photos and pointed to the new high-rise HDB apartments at the Havelock View, redeveloped and rebuilt over 50 years later.

10570562_892642037416787_8496211000557882590_nOpposite the MCA building at Havelock Road, I pointed to the new buildings at Havelock View.

2014-06-14_153322The routes of the “Bukit Ho Swee Heritage Trail” was conducted on 28 July, 2014 at 10:30 am,  on 2 August, 2014 at 9:30 am and final tour at 11:00 am.

Group photo on 28 July 2014 (10:30 am)
Group photo on 2 August 2014 (9:30 am)
Group photo on 2 August 2014 (11:00 am)

I would like to express my appreciation to everyone at Drama Box, the online Facebook registration of the participants and the help of so many people in so many ways, made possible with their splendid efforts to complete the heritage trail successfully.  Thank you for joining me on a personal memory trip at Bukit Ho Swee which I enjoyed as much as you did.  It was a fun and unforgettable experience!

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