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Old 5th June 2013, 01:09 PM   #1 (permalink)
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100 years and still going strong

100 years and still going strong



S'poreans flock to Pulau Ubin to mark week-long traditional Taoist festival.

Celine Chen and Eunice Toh
Wed, Jun 05, 2013
The New Paper


IT IS a sight dwindling in numbers on the Singapore mainland.

But on Pulau Ubin, the tradition of wayang still burns strong.

Every year, the island's town centre comes alive on Vesak Day with the staging of wayang, known as Teochew opera or "Chao Zhou Da Xi".

The week-long festivities started on the eve of the birthday of Taoist deity Tua Pek Kong and ended last Tuesday. Tua Pek Kong's birthday coincides with Vesak Day, a holiday observed by Buddhists.

Many residents who grew up on Pulau Ubin have grown to understand the Teochew opera although they were never taught the dialect.

Wayang is a century-old custom by the Pulau Ubin Fo Shan Ting Da Bo Gong Temple, a 144-year-old Taoist temple, said its custodian Doreen Lim, who is in her 50s.

She has lived on Pulau Ubin for more than a decade.

Mr Soh Geok Hock, a former Pulau Ubin native who now lives in Bedok, still makes it a point to attend the shows and catch up with his old neighbours.

The 66-year-old said: "The wayang is a necessity. It must be done for Tua Pek Kong to watch."

The stage is set directly facing the temple, in which the altar is placed.

Every year, thousands of people turn up to offer prayers to Tua Pek Kong, said Madam Lim.

"Some of them strike 4-D and come back to thank Tua Pek Kong. But most of the people who come know about it through word of mouth."

On Tua Pek Kong's birthday this year, the temple gave out food - a whole duck or chicken, roast pork and biscuits - to about 700 people.

The public got free bumboat rides from the mainland to Pulau Ubin between 6.30pm and 10pm, courtesy of temple donations.

"Whatever society has given us, we would like to give it back to society," said Master Wong, the sole Taoist practitioner at the Pulau Ubin temple.

One night of wayang typically costs a few thousands, he added.

One of the temple's most generous patrons is an Indian businessman, who once sponsored a few nights worth of festivities.

On Monday night, there were about 30 people present. Most were middle-aged men sitting at round tables with bottles of beer and chatting animatedly.

Dying tradition

Mr Ong Kim Cheng, 54, a taxi driver on Pulau Ubin and a regular volunteer at the temple, felt that the wayang is a dying tradition.

He recalled a time when the place was so packed during the weeks of wayang that people had to jostle for space. But, said Madam Lim, the crowds are getting better.

"You will be surprised. We are starting to see more young couples in their 20s and 30s, Indians and even 'ang mohs' in the audience," she said.

"We have tried to draw in the crowds by adding a getai show on the last day, which is very popular."

On the last day of festivities, The New Paper saw a 1,000-strong crowd at the getai show.

Mrs Daphne Tan, 30, who does administrative work, was there with her in-laws, her husband and their four-month-old son.

She said: "My in-laws used to live here, so they come here every year. We've been joining them for the past few years.

"My in-laws also come here to meet their friends. For us, we like to walk around and just watch and listen."

Mr Tami Selvam, 62, who conducts survival courses on the island, was also seen enjoying the show.

"I don't understand what they're saying, but I just follow the music."

His friend, who wanted to be known only as Mr Bala, 53, said: "We come here mostly to relax."

Miss Christine Chua, 18, was one of the youngest in the audience.

She and her family members have made the trip to the island from their Sembawang home for the past three years.

The polytechnic student said: "This year's show is slightly more exciting because some of the singers are stars whom I recognise from television shows."

Retiree Teo Ngak Hong, 68, who was present at both getai and wayang with his wife of over 40 years, said: "First and foremost, we come to pray. Then, to enjoy the atmosphere.

"We live in Tampines so it's very convenient for us."

Source: http://news.asiaone.com/News/Latest%...04-427243.html

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Old 7th June 2013, 05:08 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: 100 years and still going strong

There will be one day where this tradition disappears.

How many people from the younger generations actually understands such operas ? How many people from the younger generations are willing to endure the hardship and perform such operas ?

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Old 14th July 2013, 11:20 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: 100 years and still going strong

It is good to see good tradition passing down generation by generation and hope it can survive for the next century

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Old 22nd July 2013, 01:43 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: 100 years and still going strong

Haven't been there for a long time. Quite miss the place.
I think the winning of 4d is part of the factors for the crowd. If not for those who win 4d, nobody will want to pay for the show.

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