Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Free Shuttle to Bukit Chandu in September!

Courtesy of NHB's website

FREE Admission* and Shuttle Bus Service!

Only for this commemorative month of September, visiting
Reflections at Bukit Chandu (RBC) has never been easier!

Schedule and Timings

*Free admission applies for visitors who use the shuttle service.

It's a beautiful place to spend a weekend afternoon, as we
found out.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Commemoration Ceremony at Kranji War Cemetary

We were at Kranji War Cemetary on the morning of 12 September for the Commemoration Ceremony marking the 60th Anniversary of the end of World War II in Southeast Asia.

The sacrifice of those who fell for Singapore's defence weighed heavily upon us, as we walked past the neatly aligned graves.

Wee though the hours may be, the troops and uniformed groups were out in full force.

Raffles Voices' mournful rendition of 'Amazing Grace' set the tone for the day.

We didn't expect there'd be such a big crowd, this early on a Monday morning

There were young and old, locals and foreigners, civilians and uniformed personnels, dignitaries and ordinary folk - all gathered for a common purpose.

The morning's proceedings took place at the Inscription Wall.

Seeing the various religious leaders offering prayers together was indeed an affirmation of the religious tolerance we've worked hard at.

Military dignitaries took turn laying wreaths and paying their respects.

Thinking of the horror they'd endured and the friends that they'd lost , witnessing war Veterans laying wreaths was an emotional experience.

Dr Warren Lee, MP Sembawang GRC, followed with a heart-felt reading of Rupert Brooke's 'The Dead'.

'Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead
There's none of these so lonely and poor of old,
But, dying, has made us rarer gifts than gold.
These laid the world away; poured out the red
Sweet wine of youth; gave up the years to be
Of work and joy, and that unhoped serene,
That men all age; and those who would have been,
Their sons, they gave, their immortality.

Blow, bugles, blow! They brought us, for our dearth,
Holiness, lacked so long, and Love, and Pain.
Honour has come back, as a king, to earth,
And paid his subjects with a royal wage;
And Nobleness walks in our ways again;
And we have come into our heritage.'

Madam Halimah Yacob, MP Jurong GRC, recital of 'For the Fallen' touched many in the audience.

'They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow,
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them.'

This was followed by the reveille, where a minute's silence was observed, followed by the lowering and raising of the flag.

As Kemal Ataturk's ode 'Our Sons' was read by journalist Ms Peh Siok Lian, we couldn't help but imagine all the families who've been affected by the war.

"Those heroes that shed their blood
and lost their lives,
you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country
therefore, rest in peace.

There is no difference between the Johnnies
and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
here in this country of ours.

You, the mothers
Who sent their sons from far away countries
wipe away your tears;
your sons are now lying in our bosom
and are in peace,
after having lost their lives on this land they have
become our sons as well.

And how people from different nations came to defend our land, sometimes at great personal cost. A point which the Navigational Star seeks to remind us of.

The event ended with a bagpiper's lament underscoring all our sorrow.

We then walked around Kranji Memorial, where we discovered these subtle tributes:

The Memorial Register held names of visitors to the Memorial. The list showed visitors from far and near, who came to pay respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Names from the Malay regiment. Lt Adnan's name is inscribed in the lower left corner.

A solitary salute to those who fell.

We Will Not Forget.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Hello again, old friend

The idyllic seaside locale Singaporeans know as Changi is home to a beautiful museum which tells of tragic yet inspirational stories of World War Two (WWII) Prisoners-of-War (POWs) who were interned in Changi Prison.

I was fortunate to be at the launch of the revamped Changi Museum, one of the activities happening over
Memorial Weekend.

Prior to the launch of the revamped Changi Museum, there was a short observance ceremony, which comprised of a reading, wreath laying by dignitaries and war veterans and their families,

as well as an observance of a minutes silence.

At 11.25 am, Guest of Honour Dr Balaji Sadasivan symbolically unlocked the chains which shackled the entrance of the museum, to launch the revamped Changi Museum.

I've always had fond memories of Changi Museum since visiting it as part of history lessons in secondary school. Then, even with its sparten layout and presentation of artefacts, the museum managed to articulate the contrasting emotions of despair and hope explicitly. I clearly remember the beautiful
Changi Murals painted by Stanley Warren.

I'd strongly recommend picking up this book from the Changi Museum Gift Shop.

You'll discover the inspirational stories behind Stanley Warren's Murals

Why Jesus' eyes were always closed in his paintings

As well as why this painting is 'unfinished'

With the new museum promising to have more comprehensive artefacts, panels and new interactive displays, I was pretty hyped up about the tour they had lined up for us.

While waiting outside the entrance of the museum, the diorama freak (
SHM still has the best IMHO) in me just had to get pix of replicas of:

Changi Chapel in Singapore

and Australia

On to the exhibition proper. Click
here for an idea of the the museum's layout.

The general presentation format was black and white photo montages accompanied with artefacts.

Examples of vegetables grown by POWs

You'll pick up interesting tidbits (heh) including the existence of a snail farm in the prison where snails were a source of protein for the POWs. Vegetables were grown on available land, discarded tins and containers.

Medicine bottle, container used to grow vegetables and ration card.

The extent of food shortage? This quote enlightens.

"In Singapore, I was told there were some 210,000 ration cards that relied on the distribution of rice by the government. One ration card was issued to at least two persons. On the average, some ration cards might even be for four or five persons."

Always in gloom, a glimmer of hope. I was particularly fascinated with 'Innovation in times of distress' themes which was testement to how the human spirit triumphed over adversity.

I was amazed at how dire circumstances brought out the resourcefulness and creativity in the POWs. They had ingenious ways of making objects they needed. Artefacts featured include a razor made of tooth brush, plastic and metal from a Japanese Zero fighter plane, a badge, tobacco box and copper tooling.

Activities POWs engaged in during their internment

Lining the walls of the replication of St Luke's Chapel were the murals mentioned earlier on. I'm glad they didn't change this section of the museum too much, as its appeal lay in its simplicity.

Artefacts from the original St Luke's Chapel



Original Altar Cloth

Actual Elements of Changi Prison

Brick from Changi Prison

Changi Cell Door

Tributes to those who fell in World War II

Changi Quilt - embroided by female POWs at Changi

Letters from POWs' loved ones

I had to pay a visit to the Changi Chapel before leaving. A comforting abode to seek respite, the Chapel was a beacon of hope to the POWs who's only wished to survive the ordeal and be reunited with their loved ones.

The most lasting impressions from this visit?

1) The contrast of the victor's pride

With their humble surrender

2)The quote which accompanied the following picture was particularly sad

"Some of the girls told me, with tears running down their cheeks, that they were asked in some restaurants for the Japanese in Singapore. However, in this island (Blakang Mati or the present Sentosa), they were forced to become prostitutes for the Japanese Army."

3) The Corporal and His Pal

A heartwrenching poem which most emphatic line (for me, at least) was

"Grant unto me this last request
That's in your power to give
For myself I ask no mercy
But let my comrade live"

It was great to see you again, old friend. Looking better than ever!