Friday, 20 November 2015

Disappearing Icon Siglap Estates

Panoramic view of old Siglap Estates
Over three decades I have been to Joo Chiat place for my PA card being issued in 1980 at Joo Chiat CC and I had registered as a member there but due to my working hectic, a guy from Joo Chiat CC came to my mum's house in 1981 or 1982 to look for me if I could remember. He wanted me to join and had a meeting there but I told him it was too far away from home. The place I used to dine at the coffee shop located at Joo Chiat near Joo Chiat CC where the old Siglap four blocks are and yet to be demolished soon. How time flies!
My old friends used to live at East Coast Road along the shop houses nearby and it was indeed busier street when local residents as well as office workers came to have their lunch and dinner there. I recall there is one staircase leading up to 2nd floor at one of the blocks of 5-storey low-rise flats where there is no staircase on the ground floor as it was occupied by Siglap South YEC.
Blk 1 to 4 East Coast Road
I managed to visit these five storey low-rise flats whenever I can and eventually I used to pass by this place occasionally, where I bought some items that used for my office usage at the provision shop located at Joo Chiat. I heard the legend of 'Siglap' and here it goes like this.
5-storey low rise flats
The particular name of ‘Siglap’ is a local legend that attributed it to a Malay chieftain, Tok Lasam, his first landing in the area during the dark thunderstorm, called it ‘Si-gelap’, which translated literally from Malay means ‘darkness that conceals’. One of the earliest records mentioning the name Siglap was with regard to a pirate village that existed here in 1845. Subsequently, two roads were the first to bear the name officially – Siglap Terrace and Siglap Valley in 1956 and 1957 respectively.
Siglap flats and terrace-houses beside each other
East Coast Road is occupied mainly by the bungalows of the wealthy and had the best seafront views. But many of the owners only came over for the weekends with their families and friends. Being a thoroughfare, the road was a vital transport link for the residents of Siglap.
These old metal gates have been here for 5 decades since residents and shop owners moved in after the four blocks built in 1960s.
There are the 10 rented retail shops in Block 1 and 2. While HDB offers the affected tenants compensation of $60,000 and a 10 per cent discount in their rental of other HDB rental shops, at least half of the tenants intend to close for good.
Used to be the site of once attap houses
These blocks were built in 1960s after the fire in 1962 that started near the Siglap market during the Chinese New Year, sparked by firecrackers that engulfed the whole 50 attap houses. Residents left homeless after the fire and HDB quickily built the four Blocks to rehouse the 'effected' residents.
These flats were opened in 1964 by Mr Rahim Ishak, then assemblyman for Siglap. The flats were meant to house residents who lost their attap homes in a 1962 fire on Chinese New Year.
Poster of Notice (SERS)
I noticed the poster pasted on the wall of the each block (Blk 1 to 3) except Blk 4 which is NOT affected yet. Thus the residents of 3 blocks are affected and given the 4 weeks notice till end of 2015.
Blocks 1 to 3 East Coast Road "effected" residents will be shifted to Blocks 807B and 807C Chai Chee Road (Ping Yi Greens) on the 4Q2015 as stated in "In-Progress SERS Projects".

Blocks 1 to 4 East Coast Road were announced for Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) in November 2011. Except for Block 4, a rental block housing 35 two-room flats, the rest of the 3 blocks are sold flats.
The owners of the HDB flats were offered replacement new units of 2, 3, 4 and 5-room flats at Chai Chee Road at subsidised prices. In addition, they are given monetary compensation pegged to the prevailing market value of their current flats.
Tenants in the rental block 4 are given the option of purchasing a HDB flat at a discount or renting another. I believed the residents at Blk 4 of rental flats will be moved to 808C Chai Chee road when the time comes.
Single Staircase leading up to 5 floor
The four flats have no lifts, residents who are elderly and old aged, had lived over the decades and now had difficultly to walk up and down the staircase, to open the letterbox below their flats. 
Nevertheless, some residents are nostalgic about leaving the 50-year-old blocks of 5-storey flats despite that there are no lifts and each block is served by a single staircase.
walked up and down of the staircase
These blocks where the elderly residents who had difficult to walk up and down the staircase and now they live in their new replacement flats that have lifts and better amenities
  Seven units on each floor 
 Lucky Number Door
Notice of Possession pasted on door
Half of the Siglap residents have moved out to their new replacement flats at Blk 807B and 807C Chai Chee road at Ping Yi Greens.
Peep thru the window
The typical 2-room flat is somewhat similar to Tanglin Halt estates but there is no wooden door at the kitchen, only has wooden kitchen door at Siglap estates. The wall of the living room has been "wear and tear" over a long period of time since they moved in 1960s.
Adjustable ladder
 At the roof top
At the rooftop, where the old antenna are and some old residents would call the town council (area office) for help to adjust the antenna.
Installed gate at the corner end
In those days, some units had installed steel gates at the corner end and had its unit number on it, can be found in old estates.
 Quiet and serene corridor
Aluminium window of old
The aluminium window of old, that left broken and damaged by someone..
A Kitchen
A fridge is left behind by the resident
A resident should have called the East Coast town council for help to dispose the unwanted heavy items if they have difficulty to bring it down the staircase as the four blocks are completely devoid of lift.
The park residents used to relax
Checker table
The small garden and park where the residents used to chat and play the "chess" on the table in the good old days when the shops and a restaurant, where the visitors and residents were busying all year round. Now it's quiet and forlorn at nights.
Taken from a view at 2nd floor Blk 1
Viewing from Blk 1, where elderly residents stood at the common corridor looking at the shops opposite and busy neighbourhood road during the good old days and chatting with their neighbours. View of a busy neighbourhood of shops from the corridor of Blk 1.
Blk 2 East Coast Road
Better known as Siglap fire site housing estates. More than 50 years, a small cluster of low-rise flats have stood in the heart of Siglap.
Only single external staircase leading to level 2
Only this single external staircase on the outside at Blk 3 leading to level 2 where the ground floor is occupied by the Siglap South Youth YEC and one unit. The Siglap Youth YEC was used to be kindergarten centre back then. The "external" staircase is exposing to the rain and made the stairs more slippery and it's not safe for the elderly residents who lived at Blk 3.
A canal was once located
Standing at the staircase at Blk 3, overlooking the "fenced-up" is where the canal was located in between the two blocks (four blocks) on each side to one another and has been covered up with wooden boards as the construction is on going.
A typical Rubbish Chute
This typical rubbish cute is similar to the old estates in Queenstown and Tiong Bahru, some rubbish chutes are shared by residents on each side as seen on the chute door by unit numbers indicated.
 View from Blk 3 next to Blk 1
 Common corridor on Level 2 at Blk 3
Below is the youth centre and there is no staircase in the middle and it is at the corner end of one and only staircase leading to level 2 then followed up to 5 stroey
A lone Shelter
Looking down from Blk 3 at level 3, where a lonesome shelter stands alone with playground that once the children played in the field, filled with laughter while their parents and grandparents sat on the bench of the shelter, busying chatting with neighbours.

 A Lone elderly man sat on the wooden bench
A lonesome day or night where the children and old residents, young or old alike loved the quietness surrounding atmosphere , chatted the good old days, the sounds of student or a child growth were back in that neighbourhood.
 A child's playground field
Known for being an adult playground and more for bringing play to where children were and hear the kids laughing. This Gateball court was where the children played football in the 'big' field and now it was quiet and serene.
A place is where a kid's laughing was heard 
A quaint park and shady playground area and the play areas become shaded as there are many large trees that cover the playground and the four blocks.
Children's playground
A lonely "modern" playground where the sounds of the children from the kindergarten centre, played happily, now it's desert and quiet. Would the playground be preserved or demolished? I wonder.

A lonely "Mango" tree

Some of the heritage trees were planted around the blocks for decades or even longer. Sadly, the trees will be left desert on the lonely nights once the demolition starts soon after the blocks left vacant and desert. The 19th Planting Day, this lonely "Mango" tree was planted by Mr Abdullah Tarmugi, an adviser to CCC and MP for Siglap Constituency on 5th Nov 1989 at Siglap Constituency..
 Left discard items at level 2 Blk 3
Mostly bulk items are religions statues and wooden chair, plastic pail, old painting, cupboards and other items were left discarded by an elderly man who lived alone. He mentioned that these items are of no use to him as he has no siblings and his parents had passed on, he lives all his life as a bachelor.
 A "neglect" flower pot
A "neglect" flower pot was left or discarded on the corridor and he said he doesn't want it anymore as it is too heavy for him to carry down the staircase of the 3-storey unit. He is uneducated and only speaks some dialects and Mandarin.
A unit where an elderly man lives
The "Siglap" residents especially 'not married' and lived alone in two room flat at Blk 3 whom I knew the elderly man named "Mr Loh" who lived here for over 50 years. He loved this place, lived all his life as a bachelor and would miss the good old days as the place is quiet and peaceful surrounding at nights.Some residents had two bedrooms, one spacious hall and two toilets at opposite side. For example; one of the residents has a family of five to live with one bedroom and other bedroom next door with one big living hall that being hacked to join adjacent unit next door so that they can live together to one another. That means you are buying your neighbour's flat which is adjacent to your unit. 
  A red brick from JURONG
He said that the red brick which he collected at the construction sites nearby for decades and used for his flower pots at the corridor.

 One bedroom, a hall, a kitchen and a toilet
Luckily, I saw him and recognised him from the distance as if he couldn't recall or remember me as it's been so long I haven't visited for ages since my last visit of Siglap estates in year 1999 that when one of my colleagues moved to East Coast road at that time. I remember that my old friend used to call me out for coffee session at East Coast road where the rows of shop houses located, just opposite the old estates of Siglap.
 Unwanted items
He said that some items need to discard away and the HDB rules mentioned that NO items are left in his unit and everything must cleared.
Spoiled LCD TV and other items
A hall is not that big compared to newly replacement flats in Chai Chee road and a bedroom with rubber sheet flooring.
 Typical bedroom with rubber sheet flooring
I recall of my late parents-in-law's unit at Havelock road, their room and their living hall filled with rubber sheet floorings too. They said that in the past, it is very affordable for the rubber sheet flooring and very cheap at that time in 1960s as they couldn't afford to renovate the whole unit. Let alone at the original flooring and tiles that made by HDB for as long as they live without renovation.
Compressor on the outside
Some people have inexpensive "window air-con" mounted to the window louvre using wooden board that covered up one side of window louvre while on the outside was compressor unit and the window closed all the time.
I remembered that through the corridor window was a bedroom, would easily spied on by HDB pervert in the early morning or night that happened in old estates with corridor window located outside.
 Kitchen with concrete flooring & wooden door
A Kitchen with original concrete flooring and wooden door that connected to the laundry and toilet with 1st generation "squatting" model that can be found at old HDB blocks and old coffeeshops. 
 A electric Stove and stainless steel sink
A modern electric stove and a stainless steel sink that left untouched. Some old HDB blocks have Gas Meter being installed inside the gas stove cabinet while other installed outside the units or above the wall beside the toilet door. This can be found in Queenstowns and old estates.
Gas Meter below the stove
Mostly old residents requested their Gas Meter to relocate outside their unit so that gas inspector may come to inspect it outside their unit should they not around at their unit and also it is safe for them not to let any "fake" inspectors or intruders to check gas meter reading by posting as a HDB officer. A aluminium sink can last for decades without damaging and an exposed sink pipe abit "rundown" and the dirt concrete flooring without washing for years.
 Typical gas meter cabinet with a stove above
These "Blue" blocks lying on the floor that were used by our earlier generation under their washing machines and refrigerators. This is to avoid water damage from flooding in the service yard when you are washing the floor. My mum has these blocks till now.
 Closeup: A "twin" stove
 This used to be a fridge or washing machine here
A relatively small kitchen could not give space for his fridge and washing machine. His fridge was outside at the hall as it is too big for a kitchen to fill up the space. He has an old fashioned washing machine at home. He used to wash his clothes with his own hands and his pails with running water in the past.
A modern chute & stainless steel door
A modern chute was replaced by old chute and old stainless steel toilet door is durable for decades and he mentioned that his toilet door was replaced by the old stainless steel that wear and tear for years.
 Concrete toilet floor
 Squatting position
 A "black" painted pipe
A "black" painted pipe is hardly seen any dirt or stained on it. A relatively small and yet it fixes one person in. My mum's old block have this old-fashioned toilet for decades till now
 Closeup: Squat toilet
Our earlier or 1st generation of "squat" toilet in old estates and HDB blocks were the only type of toilet in the past before it replaced with elongated toilet seat on round bowl in later years in the new housing estates in early 2000s. This can be found in Tanglin Halt estates in Queenstown in my blog. Some old estates in Queenstown, have changed to elongated toilet bowl after sealed up the "squat" position with floor tiles in early 2000s.
 AToilet and a kitchen
A toilet connected to the kitchen is rare in old estates nowadays but a long walk from one bedroom to the toilet in the middle of the night and a squeaky sound of the "rusty" hinge of aluminium door was heard. Now it is no longer used to the old residents who have shifted to their new replacement flats with new folding doors. Missed the sound of "aluminium" doors in the middle of the night.
Laundry door connected to the kitchen
The wooden door is the same as the front door, it prevents from intruders coming from the windows in low-rise flats in those days and also it prevents rain water coming in and he would close the door at nights or when he was not around at home.
Canal between the blocks
The canal in between the two blocks to one another was once located and now it covered up with wooden boards with mini excavator dredging the canal during construction on going over the months. It is believed to be sealed up the canal once the blocks are vacant and empty.
Rusty wall and casement window
The wall of the casement window below are rusty and damaged and it has covered with stained as if it was left for a long time over the 5 decades. Construction on going as well as mini excavator dredging the canal is seen through the kitchen window.
A red new umbrella
Mr Loh, an elderly man gave one of his "newly" umbrellas to me and I thanked to him with a smile and also invited me to his old home to see his original state of the unit without renovation for decades and just painted the wall.
Typical Wooden blue door with rectangle hole
Some old HDB blocks in Queenstown and Tiong Bahru estates have the same designed of wooden door in 1960s with a rectangle hole but the hole is at different place (letter slots were at the bottom in Tanglin Halt estates while others are at the 2nd below top - see above pic). The rectangle hole of which a letter slot that was fitted up to the early 1960s which the postman would put the letter into the slot day by day upon delivering the letters in those days.
 Blk 3 East Coast Road
On the ground floor of the block was once a kindergarten centre before it converted to Siglap South Youth YEC. On the corner end of the the block was a resident's unit that lived on the ground floor next to the centre. Beside the block is the children's playground. 
Mr Loh's old block
He mentioned that during his younger days, he was very poor back then, couldn't afford to buy a bigger flat, if he marries and raised a child, he said life was hard at that time and used to live kampong with his parents before the fire. Now he has a new home at Chai Chee road and some of his belongings and junks left at the backyard of the block. He told me sadly, these items are of no use to him as he lives alone and need not to bring lots of the things to the new home. He was once a hawker back then and lives all his life after his parents passed on.
Eastsiders of Siglap South Youth YEC

A wall painted and decoration on the wall
Once a former kindergarten, was occupied by "Eastsiders" of Siglap South Youth YEC, a platform allowing youth volunteers to interact with the elderly of Joo Chiat who may crave for personal interaction from the community, and to interact with people from different ages and humble backgrounds. The residents had a hand in painting and decorating the Community Wall at Block 3 East Coast Road in recently years.
 An old antenna over the rooftop
An old outdoor antenna over the rooftop at Blk 1 is clearly seen on the low-rise block and it has been here over 5 decades. Some old residents still used an old TV who knows and one of the residents said that one of the antenna is not cut off yet and still in use. This old "outdoor" antenna comes with two ribbon cables of the grounding cables that grounded to the copper pipe on the wall of the block, to the resident's unit. Those 2 ribbon cables are twin lead 300ohm for the antenna. You can see the grounded hook that attached to the antenna. Decades ago, old residents like us used to go up to the rooftop to adjust the antenna for better picture in the past before Starhub cable released to the public. Even now, the old antenna MATV can be used to receive digital signals as long as the existing ultra-high frequency, or UHF, antenna is in working condition and pointing towards the transmitting station, it will work as good as, if not better than, use an indoor antenna.
Reflection of Siglap estate
Fitness Corner (1999)
Would the fitness corner as well as children's playground and Gateball court be demolished? I wonder.
View of B/W of the estates of yesteryears
The photo looks better on B/W of the Siglap estates as if it travelled back to the past of once the site of Siglap villages. Is it possible to travel back into the past?
Goodbye Siglap estates
Goodbye Siglap estates, looking back people do not find what you left behind. If you must leave a place that you have lived in all your life and loved the place and where all your yesteryears are buried deep in your heart. Hard for old timers and local residents to say goodbye to their very home-sweet-home.
If you want to visit the estates, avoid visiting around at nights as the residents who are still living in that area, might call the police. The posters on the blocks had instructed the residents to call the police, should any person found loitering around their area.
Please note: East Coast Town Council have requested the police to step up the frequency of patrol of the surrounding estates.


  1. May I know whether the blocks are already hoard up for demolition or are they already demolished at the current date?

    1. Hi, I think it going to hoard up and the police will patrol the area frequently.