A Photography Project

 

Some of our grandfathers worked as rickshaw pullers, while others worked in plantations and construction sites. Some of our grandmothers, on the other hand, were Samsui women who provided invaluable support for the construction industry, building Toa Payoh housing estate under the scorching sun. There is so much our nation’s pioneers have done for us, but how many of us take the time to understand them?

I started this project as a tribute to the pioneer generation to thank them for their efforts in making Singapore what it is today. It isn’t much but it is the only way I know to thank them as a photographer. I went about Singapore to find these people and talked to them to learn about their stories.

Some opened up to me, telling me of their close calls with death, and some found love. Through talking to them, I learnt a lot about the hardships they dealt with. Their stories taught me many things, the most important of which is to never give up on your dreams. Walk if you can’t run, and crawl if you can’t walk. But no matter what, always keep moving towards your dream.

To all the people I have interviewed, a huge thank you for participating in the interview. But more importantly, thanks for all the hard work you’ve put in to bring Singapore to where it is today.

 

What makes you happy?

 

1. Soh Hock Guan, 69

 

Q: What is your happiest memory/moment?
A: Having 5 grandchildren and being able to spend time with them.

 

2. Phua Cher Meng, 80

 

Q: What is your happiest memory/moment?
A: When I am here people watching.

 

3. Leow Choy Heng, 89

 

Q: What is your happiest memory/moment?
A: Being able to travel overseas especially to Japan with my kids and grandchildren.

 

4. Liang Xiu Ru, 82, Boatman

 

Q: What is your happiest memory/moment?
A: When I am working on a boat.

 

5. Ho Xiu Heng, 86

 

Q: What is your happiest memory/moment?
A: When eating my favourite food, and also when I go out for a walk with my kids.

 

6. Yap Ahr Kee, 68

 

Q: What is your happiest memory/moment?
A: While doing volunteer work for the public free clinic society.

 

7. Rahim, 68

 

Q: What is your happiest memory/moment?
A: When I can hang out with my family.

 

8. Yeo Kheen Soon, 66

 

Q: What is your happiest memory/moment?
A: I am happiest when my kids get good results for their exams.

 

9. Tan Guan Cheng, 66

 

Q: What is your happiest memory/moment?
A: When I was 16 because I could bring girls out to clubs! Also things were less expensive back then. 

 

10.) Shen Ya Shu, 70

 

Q: What is your happiest memory/moment?
A: When I am healthy and fit!

 

11.) Chew Peck Swee, 79

 

Q: What is your happiest memory/moment?
A: When I am eating delicious Singapore food.

 

12.) Siew Gui Hao, 75

 

Q: What is your happiest memory/moment?
A: I am most happy when I am cooking for my family.

 

13.) Ngan Nam Fong, 65

 

Q: What is your happiest memory/moment?
A: When I can save money from selling packets of tissue.

 

14.) Hong Wen Yuan, 70

 

Q: What is your happiest memory/moment?
A: I am happy when I have a job, food on the table, and enough money.

 

15.) Peng Yao Hua, 72

 

Q: What is your happiest memory/moment?
A: I am happy when I get to travel. I’ve been to a few places and I love Taiwan.

 

A tribute to our Pioneers

 

Fifty years ago, there was no Marina Bay Sands, there was no ION orchard, and there was no modern Singapore. We were a small island without any natural resources – those were difficult times.

My grandmother used to tell me her stories of how hard life was back then. She was 25 when the racial riots happened and it was a really frightening experience for her. She rushed to close her shop when the riots broke out to avoid getting caught in the crossfire. It was chaotic. Many lives were lost. Till today, she keeps reminding us how lucky we are and we ought to be more appreciative of what we have now.

Listening to my grandmother talk about the past, it makes me appreciate how simple things like these are sufficient to make the Pioneers happy. We have so much to learn, to count our blessings and be content with what we have. Thank you for all your contribution and efforts in building a modern Singapore. We salute you.