The Last Kampong on Mainland Singapore
Lorong Buangkok was originally a swampy area. In 1956, a traditional Chinese medicine seller named Sng Teow Koon bought a piece of land at Lorong Buangkok and rented it to several Chinese and Malay families, which gradually formed a kampong over the years.
The closely-knitted kampong went through the racial riots of the sixties. Both the Chinese and Malay residents agreed to look after one another during the turbulent periods and keep the village unaffected by the external chaos. When the peaceful time returned, the village was actively engaged in gotong royong, helping each other in the construction and repairs of houses.
Today, the piece of land that Kampong Lorong Buangkok is standing on, about the size of three football fields, is owned by Sng Mui Hong, the daughter of Sng Teow Koon. Around 28 families are still living in this rustic village, paying tokens as monthly rentals to the landlord. There is also a kampong head, who takes care of the surau, daily prayers and other Muslim affairs within the village.
Lorong Buangkok has been a low-lying area that is prone to flooding during thunderstorms. So much so that Kampong Lorong Buangkok was once also known as Kampong Selak Kain, which means “lifting up one’s sarong” in Malay, as the residents had to lift up their sarongs to their knee levels in order to walk through the waters during the flooding.
In 1976, the kampong was hit hard by a downpour that lasted three hours. Some 40 Malay families were affected and had their Hari Raya preparation ruined as their beds, furniture and curtains were soiled by the flood water that covered the entire lorong.
History of Lorong Buangkok
Lorong Buangkok used to be part of the Punggol constituency, represented by Ng Kah Ting who served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Punggol for 28 years between 1963 and 1991.
In 1978, after several requests, the government approved a $770,000 project to metal 15 muddy trails at Lorong Buangkok and Cheng Lim Farmways. The upgrading took almost three years. By the early eighties, the residents of Punggol and Lorong Buangkok finally had new tarmac roads flanked by brightly-lit street lamps.
The Cheng Lim Farmways was a network of roads between farms and plantations at the southern part of old Punggol (where Sengkang’s Anchorvale neighbourhood is today), linked by a small trail named Lorong Buangkok Kechil (kechil means “little” in Malay). Lorong Buangkok had its network of farmways too; there were Buangkok North Farmways 1 to 4 and Buangkok South Farmways 1 to 4.
On the eastern side of Lorong Buangkok were the Seletar East Farmways, which had been redeveloped into the Fernvale neighbourhood of Sengkang. To cross over to either side, the residents and farmers of Lorong Buangkok, Cheng Lim and Seletar East made use of a simple bridge that spanned across Sungei Tongkang, an extension of the main Sungei Punggol.
Sungei Tongkang – From Stream to Canal
For years, the sluggish and narrow Sungei Tongkang was the main cause of the numerous flooding at Kampong Lorong Buangkok. The stream tend to overflow during downpours. In 1979, the Ministry of Environment’s Drainage Division decided to widen and deepen Sungei Tongkang, and convert it into a canal at a cost of around $1.8 million. Works were also carried out at the upper and lower parts of the river to ensure the water flowed smoothly.
Despite the upgrading, the kampong still suffered from occasional floods. It was especially hit hard by one as recent as 2004.
All the farmways above-mentioned were expunged by the early nineties, with their vegetable, chicken and pig farms demolished. The clusters of villages scattered around Lorong Buangkok, Cheng Lim and Seletar were also gone, making way for the development of the Punggol and Sengkang New Towns in the late nineties.
The housing estates of Fernvale, Anchorvale and Buangkok Crescent were up and running between 2002 and 2004, surrounding Kampong Lorong Buangkok, the last village standing in the vicinity. A jogging track and park connector were constructed in the late 2000s along the canal that was previously Sungei Tongkang.
Development and Possible Demolition?
By the mid-2014, the vast forested area beside the kampong was bulldozed, confining the Kampong Lorong Buangkok to its remaining strip of vegetation sandwiched between the canal and the cleared land. The new parcel of land is likely to be reserved for an extension of the existing Buangkok Crescent housing estate.
As for the kampong, it is not sure how much longer it will be able to hang on. After withstanding the test of time for the past 60 years, the clock, for now, seems to be ticking fast on Kampong Lorong Buangkok’s eventual demolition as development is inching ever closer to the last village of Singapore.
Updated: 13 January 2015