Friday, August 18, 2006

Tree Down!

Photo by November

2 weeks ago, I posted a letter to the forum written by an islander's daughter, complaining about a dead branch hanging over the roof of her father's house, causing much fear and worry.

At that time, my mom wondered if the children can just trim it for the father but then I managed to verify that the tree is truly very big, up to about 20m tall and definitely requires a crane to do the deed.

1 week ago, I updated on the sighting of SLA trimming branches of a grand old Angsana Tree behind the row of shops in Ubin Town, where the old Bin Kiang school is. This was observed during the Hungry Ghost Festival Wayang celebrations. Then, there was a crane observed trimming some branches.

Of course, immediate thoughts was that SLA seems rather responsive to the letter to the newspaper forum page. Either way, the villager can now sleep well at night.

SLA trimming
Trimming in process. Photo by November

Still, SLA must have been alerted a while back about this since it takes a substantial amount of time to arrange for a crane and then a barge to send the crane over. It would have taken more than a few days and is probably planned for prior to the release of the newspaper article.

What's missing? Photo by November

However, on Friday, 11 August 2006, when I revisited the island for a plant survey, I found something terribly missing as I stand in the town center, in front of the wayang stage. The place looked very bright and very empty.

It was then I realized that something was missing.

The whole Angsana tree has been cut down. Not just one, but 4 of them.

For scale
How big the girth of the tree was! The worker at the side for scale. Picture by November.

According to NParks, it turned out that one of the Angsana tree got a disease called Angsana Wilt where ambrosia beetles colonises the tree, causing it to wilt and eventually collapse. It also spreads very quickly to other trees and thus explaining why the other trees around it had to be cut down as well. This is a problem that is quite widespread in Singapore and Malaysia and the usual recommended way to control the disease is to remove the diseased trees. [Source: Botanic Garden Trust of Australia]

More than one
Photo by November

Although a terrible lost to the landscape of the island, it is rather dangerous to have a 15-20m tree crashing down on your house in the middle of the night, or even in the day. However, we all wonder if the villager will now have very hot days and warm nights to complain of from now on. I know we will.

Truck load
Took a few days to remove the trees - truck load of dismembered leaves and branches remains. Photo by November

Related Articles
  • Pulau Ubin Old Tree's Dead Branch, By Cai Li Zhu, Lianhe Zaobao Forum Page, 2 August 2006, Wednesday
  • Branch Trimming, Pulau Ubin Stories, 10 August 2006
  • Angsana Wilt Disease Complex
  • Wednesday, August 16, 2006

    Recent visits

    Visited Ubin 3 times in the last week and am filled with updates and stories to share on Ubin Stories. But before I rain words and tales on you, I thought I will share the photos from my visits first.

    View from Butterfly Hill Pulau Ubin @ Hungry Ghost Festival
    Includes visits to Butterfly Hill, otherwise known as Jelutong Hill or Jelutong Campsite. Looking more and more like ECP or Pasir Ris Park if you ask me. The hill is artificial. The area was a dumpground for Ho Man Chu quarry which it overlooks. After years of creating holes on Ubin, now we're building hills instead!

    Goodbye Pulau Ubin @ Plant Survey
    Includes pictures of baby wild boar, OBS land, Nparks officers, wayang stage, and angsana trees being cut down.

    Lucky Offspring Pedal Ubin @ 13 Aug
    The most recent trip to Ubin was rewarding as spring tide exposed some glorious sights of Ubin. I also met this lucky offspring that is the newest addition to the Jelutong Coconut Stall Auntie's household! Lucky had an offspring! heh It was also my first time riding to Kampong Melayu proper. Only time I went that far in was with the Cookery Magic class.

    Thursday, August 10, 2006

    Branch Trimming

    On 8 Aug 2006 tuesday, when I was there for the Hungry Ghost Festival Wayang, I saw the path behind the Tua Pek Gong temple being blocked off.

    Upon exploring, it seems that a crane was trimming the branches of a very tall Angsana(?) tree near where the Old Bin Kiang school was, behind the row of shops in Ubin Town.

    out of bounds

    Could this be the branch that was mentioned in the letter to the forum in the chinese newspaper that we mentioned last week? [See: Pulau Ubin Old Tree's Dead Branch, Lianhe Zaobao Forum page, 2 Aug 2026]

    trimming a branch

    The tree being trimmed seems to loom over the houses in the area as the article described but this could just be a routine trimming. However, after asking around, it seems that this particular tree trimming is being conducted by SLA instead of Nparks. Could it be just a coincidence?

    Still, I am unsure if this is the tree that was mentioned in the letter to the forum. If it is, then surely the letter to the forum was quite effective afterall!

    I must clarify something from my previous post though. After an interview with Adelle, our friend at the Nparks office on Ubin, it does appear that only certain areas on Pulau Ubin is under the care of SLA and others have been taken over for maintenance by Nparks.

    However, what remains unclear to me is whether SLA is the overall landlord of the entire island but only certain area it is responsible for upkeep while most have been given over to Nparks for caretaking. Or does it mean that SLA has no jurisdiction over 'Nparks land' at all?

    I did hear that even if OBS wants to clear any trees or forested area within its boundaries, it has to run through its plans with NParks first.

    (?) unconfirmed

    Wednesday, August 09, 2006

    Hungry Ghost Festival Celebrations

    hungry ghost festivalTeochew opera is staged on Ubin every year for the 7th month of the lunar calender, also known as the Hungry Ghost Festival or Zhong Yuan Jie in Mandarin Chinese. Pulau Ubin has one of the few rare freestanding wayang stage left in Singapore. In fact, there is probably only 1 left on mainland Singapore (at Balestier) which would make this 1 of 2 in the whole of Singapore.

    These days, the stage is only used twice a year, once during the 7th month of the lunar calendar, and once in the 4th lunar month. One of the groccery shopkeepers divulged to me that the latter is also for the Tua Pek Gong temple that is facing the wayang stage.

    This year's 7th month celebration is held on the 15th and 16th day of the lunar month which is effectively 8th and 9th August 2006 (Tuesday and Wednesday). Despite it being a public holiday eve, when I arrived on the island at 1pm, the island was relatively quiet. As Adelle who was there last year confided that last year there were many more people. Perhaps people are away on holiday already! Hopefully tomorrow there would be more people.

    wayang stage

    The stage was set up by the troupe on Monday, the day before the actual performance. Even as I arrived, much activities were bustling backstage and on stage. Mic tests and what nots. Yes, it comes with a full sound system. The troupe was the same as last year according to Adelle. Many photographers were also sighted on the island. 2 ladies were busy backstage taking photos. Meanwhile there was a gentleman that came equipped with camera, tripod and all. I heard through the grapevine that he is like me, the descendant of an ex-islander. Sadly, I was unable to cajole my parents to join me today.

    praying for 4dguards
    Part of the ceremony involves 'praying' for 4D numbers, drawing numbers randomly out of a canister [photo on the left]. In case you are interested, the number drawn was 9102. See the gleeful smiles of the actors as they draw the numbers. In the photo on the right, demoted guards from last year's generals.

    Around 2.30pm, activities started first with a cast line up and paying respect to the gods. I am not sure who the main characters were dressed up as but Victor has a brief account from last year's ceremony which is almost exactly similar. The only difference was the obviously diminished offerings. There was definitely no freshly slaughtered pig as Victor reports. Also the generals have been demoted to mere guards. Instead of televisions for the auction, there were 2 new bicycles up for grabs! Of course the usual gold 'trophies' seen in hungry ghost festival auctions. The auction will be held tomorrow night so if you miss the action today, feel free to go join in the bustle tomorrow.

    Highly diminished numbers in the ubin population reflected in the small number of 'goodie bags' distributed to the contributing members of the celebration - usually the majority of the members of the community. Adelle confides that there are less than 50 residents on the island now.

    View from the stage

    With the opera troupe momentarily installed at the stage, the entire Ubin Town seems to come alive, even for a tuesday public holiday eve. I have never seen the stage opened up or even visited backstage before but I got a treat today and fully covered the 4 corners of the structure like an excited fan who suddenly got backstage pass at the sydney opera house. In fact, I also spotted a few celebrities during my backstage tour. One of the visitors to the island observing the celerbations looked very much like Dr Julian Davison, the host of Site and Sound. Perhaps it was really him!

    by the seaadverts
    Backdoor leads out to the sea [photo on left] while adverts hangs at the side of the stage. Phone number for the troupe at the bottom. [photo on right]

    Unfortunately, I did not stay on till the end of the day. Perhaps those who went at night or stayed on could leave a comment as to whether the crowd got bigger after the sun set.

    backstage peekDog at the Wayang Stage
    It's definitely not quiet anymore! Not for now anyways...

    I was planning to stay and thus while waiting, I visited the 'new' butterfly hill, had a tour of the NParks facilities courtesy of Adelle and had the most fascinating conversations with Adelle and Angie from NSS. When the ladies decided to go home before sun sets, this monkey was persuaded to leave as well.

    troupe kidmusicians
    Musicians warming up

    It was lucky I decided to leave then since I managed to capture some wonderful photos of the setting sun.

    What a way to end the day

    For more photos, please refer to my flickr account.

    If you would like to share your experience of this year's hungry ghost festival celebrations on Pulau Ubin, leave your blog link in the comments section or email me your account.

    Related articles
  • Sons of Ubin keep tradition alive
  • Account of wayang performances on other occasions on Ubin
  • Pulau Ubin Zhong Yuan Hui by Victor Yue
  • Sunday, August 06, 2006

    Hungry Ghost Festival Wayang

    If you have always wondered about the old days where Ubin was a bustling community, the Hungry Ghost Fetival wayang performance may just be the chance to send you back in time. The nowadays usually neglected wayang stage in the center of Ubin town comes alive with lights and performances. Islanders and their descendants who have left for the mainland come back for this annual event.

    Date: 8 and 9 August 2006 (Tuesday and Wednesday)
    Time: Various (around noon and after sunset)

    Adelle from NPark writes that:

    "... Normally in a day there's a few performances and there should be one at past noon. On the first day, there would be prayers by the performers at past noon. If one is interested in the rituals and the villagers, they can come in at noon, catch a performance and leave the island at a decent time. Second evening, there would be the 'auctioning' of the symbolic items."

    Dog at the Wayang Stage
    Dog sleeping at the backdoor of the wayang stage on a quiet lazy afternoon on Ubin.
    Photo by November Tan.

    It would not be quiet anymore!

    Questions? Post them on the Focus Ubin Forum.

    Related articles
  • Sons of Ubin keep tradition alive
  • Account of wayang performances on other occasions on Ubin
  • Pulau Ubin Zhong Yuan Hui by Victor Yue
  • Thursday, August 03, 2006

    Pulau Ubin Old Tree's dead branch

    By Cai Li Zhu
    Lianhe Zaobao Forum Page
    2 August 2006, Wednesday

    My father is 70 years old this year and currently lives on Pulau Ubin. Life was peaceful and without worries but recently something made him extremely worried and uncomfortable. An old tree besides my father's house has 2 dead branches hanging over the house and when the wind blows, the branches swings about perilously, threatening to fall on the house, causing much fear and worry.

    Therefore, my father made a trip to the Nparks office on the island to complain but guess what, they asked him to lodge his complaint with the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) instead.

    Not long after, my father againt went to look for another Npark officer to seek their help. This time, the lady officer finally helped him to write a report and promised to submit it on his behalf. However, it has been 2 months and yet there has been no action to remedy the situation.

    Do we have to wait till the branch falls and for a tragedy or accident to happen before there will be remedy?

    Briefly translated by November Tan.

    Thanks to my mom for the alert! She has been very conscientiously supplying me with chinese news and articles with regards to Ubin as she knows I have been trying to keep Ubin Stories updated.

    On another note, she also commented that perhaps the author of this letter should have helped her dad to cut the branch or to report to SLA as suggested instead of writing to the newspaper. Is that what people would have done in the good ole kampong days? A reliance on self and family.

    Still, it's interesting to read about SLA's role on the island since it's the 'landlord' and owner of the island. Would NParks then be considered Ubin's custodian? I am always piqued by the interplay of agencies on the island.