The Last Kampong
Story and Photos by: Theodore Tan
In the urbanised city-state of Singapore where high-rise buildings dominate the skyline, a rural hamlet continues to hide away, encompassed by thickets of trees - the canalised remains of Upper Sungei Punggol.
Once a place symbolic of underdevelopment and poverty, Kampong Lorong Buangkok now serves as a historic reminder of simpler times. The last of its kind, it is a place of nostalgia for many a Singaporean.
Located just off Gerald Drive in Sengkang, the small village is currently home to about 20 families, most of whom have lived in the kampong all their life.
One such person is Nenek Yut, an elderly lady who has lived in the kampong for about 60 years.
When asked about life in the kampong, she said, “I really enjoy living here because of the fresh air and also because I can roam around freely without worrying my kids.”
When asked for his thoughts on this, her son Chumail said, “Yes, I have no worries when she walks around the kampong because of our kampong spirit - gotong royong. If we see someone in need of help, we will definitely try to help them. So as long as she stays inside the kampong, I know she is safe.”
From his strong words of confidence in her safety and faith in his neighbours, it is very apparent that the residents at the kampong have a great deal of trust in one another.
“Here in the kampong we leave our doors open. Anywhere else, people not only lock their doors but even have gates to keep others out. Is it because Singaporeans can no longer trust their neighbours? Think about it, there is definitely something wrong here,” Chumail added.
Of course, with it being the 21st century, the kampong has had to change and make some advances to keep up with modern everyday life.
Unfortunately even with such advances, time may be catching up with Kampong Lorong Buangkok. Right next to it, the construction of new high-rise buildings is taking place, and cranes can be seen towering over the zinc roofs of the kampong.
“Whether or not it is true that the kampong will be demolished in the near future, I do not know for sure. But, with the construction so close to my home, it is hard not to feel worried,” said Nenek Yut.
With signs of redevelopment closing in, one can only hope for the best for the kampong and its residents, for they are the sparks keeping the last flickers of our kampong culture alit.