Victoria on a boat smiling and peacing at the camera
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Victoria's Reflections



29 December 2023

My year on Pulau Ubin and what I’ve learnt so far.


After being in Ubin and attending various events and engaging with different residents, it has hit me that a lot of these culturally driven festivals and celebrations, regardless of race, have a reduced attendance in general, especially from the young people. This might be because of the westernization of the Singaporean culture, and perhaps the lack of emphasis of celebrating our own culture from our elders, cultures are slowly flowing away...


However, I feel that these celebrations that we used to have been representative of our own people, who we are, and as a young person who doesn’t really participate in the rituals my grandparents and parents still do is because I don’t understand why it is necessary. And necessity in this case may be the reason why many young people slowly forgo the celebrations their elders still celebrate. In Singapore, cultural heritage is a rich tapestry that reflects the nation's diverse history and multicultural identity. This island city-state boasts a unique blend of Chinese, Malay, Indian, and various other cultural influences, harmoniously coexisting to create a vibrant cultural mosaic. From the colorful Peranakan shophouses in Katong to the historic temples in Chinatown and the aromatic spices of Little India, Singapore's cultural heritage is palpable and deeply ingrained in its everyday life.


On Pulau Ubin specifically, their cultural heritage is the remaining kampung houses, the various job unique to Ubin, like the van taxi drivers, the bumboat drivers, the crab catchers, the various restaurants and provision shop owners, and the bicycle rental shop owners. It is impressive how everyone is able complement each other and live harmoniously on the island of just 30 residents.


This brings me to one of my most memorable moments in Ubin which is the Tua Pek Kong festival. The Tua Pek Kong festival involved a lot of different support from the bumboat drivers who have to stay past the usual 7pm to help bring festival attendees back to Singapore. The restaurant owners provide some of the catered food for the festival as well. During the festival’s finale dinner, many residents of the island, whether they are chinese or not, could be seen attending the festival together. This reflects what a true kampung spirit really is about and how race and religion can live together in peace and harmony, something many countries around the world still are not able to grasp.


One of the videos that the Ubin kakis made that is the most special to me is the one featuring Aunty Ngak Heng. Although it is a very simple video, it makes me happy that Aunty Ngak Heng enjoys her job as the provision shop owner, and after spending time with her in real life, the video really reflects the personality of Aunty Ngak Heng.


One of the Instagram posts that is special to me is the series of posts on the Deepavali event we organised on Ubin. The post will always remind me of the day when we went down and organised Deepavali for the foreign workers population there and ended up having members of the public surprising us with their rangoli drawing skills as well as their diya painting skills. On that day, I also managed to speak with some of the foreign workers who attended, and they said that the family would come together to decorate their house together, which is quite a heartwarming story to hear, since they must miss their family by working in Singapore.