My first publication. My last throw of the dice. BACALAH comprises of two "post-modern" and "absurdist" scripts ; "AL-IMAN" & "CLAUSTROPHOBIA".
I cannot say that the pricing is based on all the time spent researching, thinking, writing and editing the scripts over many months, as that would be considered "unquantifiable".
Without any support, benefactors and sponsors, I can only say that the price of the book is enough to cover the printing and delivery charges, plus 1 Mcdonalds meal.
Throughout the years, I realise many people I meet, schools, even practitioners, confuses theatre with drama. I want to say that "drama" is a kind of theatre performance and there are many other types of performances under the "umbrella" of a "theatre show".
And personally, I do not like drama performances and I hardly write drama scripts. Even when I do, I will not write in in a template drama formula. Maybe if one day I have my own playwright sharing session or a play writing class, I can explain the differences to you and also share why I personally dislike drama scripts.
Therefore my 1st publication, with the title inspired by the 1st Qur'an verse, I hope it will be a revelation to all about the differences and the variation of theatre stage play scripts. There are more interesting concepts in theatre than just drama.
Thank you so much for the support. BACALAH is a sold out within 36 hours of announcement. I didn't expect that truthfully.
As I still have requests for the books, I will do a 2nd printing, which is suppose to arrive very soon. Once I have received the reprints, it will go back on sale ok?
Do keep a lookout for the reprint and share it with your friends.
And also to keep you and myself excited, I am going to publish 3 more titles within this year. A compilation of drama scripts, period plays and ensemble plays.
Thank you for the support again and I am very excited for the reprint and upcoming titles!
THE GENERAL KNOWLEDGE SERIES / HDB ROADS
The year 1990. I was 10 years old. I was waiting for the feeder bus service number 802 to go for my madrasah classes at Masjid Darul Makmur. While I waited for the bus, I saw a new thing on the bus stop notice board. It was very new. And I was excited.
It was a map of Yishun showing bus routes. There were not much details. Just a road map.
For as long as I can remember, I was obsessed with maps. I love maps very much. Remember there was no internet then. If I wanted to look at maps, I would have to go the library and look for atlas or globes. My father used to bring home planner books every year and there will be a map of the world in it. I would look at it and memorise the maps. That being said, there would only be maps of the world or maps of Asia. Anything smaller than that would be hard to find. But here, at the bus stop, there was a map of Yishun! How much smaller can it be? I kept looking at it in awe and memorised it. Every time I took a bus at the bus stop, I would look even more to remember more details to be memorised.
I would then draw them on foolscap paper. I had a classmate. His name was Azmi. He was a sucker for maps too and we would compete with each other to draw the best looking maps. As accurate as possible, with as much details as possible.
Here, I try to replicate the drawing that I did then when I first saw the map. I remember I quickly drew it in case it faded from my memory. Madrasah classes were easy to me at that time so I spent that day drawing this map. Before I would forget the details.
Yishun New Town, as how it was called then, were separated into "Neighbourhoods". Each neighbourhood was colour coded.
Neighbourhood 1 = Green
Neighbourhood 2 = Yellow
Neighbourhood 3 = Orange
Neighbourhood 4 = Purple
The mysterious Neighbourhood 5 = Dark blue. (It was a mystery then because that area was just forest. So I assumed that they were going to build flats there. They finally did after 2010)
Neighbourhood 6 = Light blue
Neighbourhood 7 = Brown (Yucks. I was annoyed that they used brown for my neighbourhood. I would love the pink.)
Neighbourhood 8 = Grey
Neighbourhood 9 = Pink
The block numbers in the neighbourhood will start with that particular number. ie. Neighbourhood 1 = Block number 100 onwards. Neighbourhood 2 = block 200 onwards. Though not all neighbourhoods have a hundred blocks.
And then as I observed the map, I realised a few patterns. Only when I was much older with accessible internet, then I would be able to prove it to people. At that time, when I told adults of my "discovery", they didn't believe me and they said it was just random order.
Singapore's HDB estates are designed poorly. There are no straight lines with no explanations whatsoever. The roads curve randomly and without any good reason. The worse design to me would be Hougang. The neighbourhoods splatter everywhere. Tampines comes next. The minor roads lead to nowhere with random turns that would have saved space if they would just go straight. I have no explanation to the mess in the estate designs. It is disturbing to me but I still cannot find an explanation.
Nevertheless, within this mess, there is this simple order that I realised.
ONE. Street numbers. The street numbers are all assigned according to the neighbourhoods. For example, neighbourhood 1 will have streets such as Street 11, Street 12, Street 13, etc. Neighbourhood 2 will have street numbers such as Street 21, 22, 23 etc. Neighbourhood 3, Street 31, 32, 33, etc.
TWO. Avenues. Pasir Ris uses "Drive" instead of "Avenues" but they are arranged the same way.
When you study Geography, you will learn about "Latitudes" and "Longitudes". Latitudes are grid numbers going East to West while Longitudes are grid numbers going North to South. I realise the avenues are arranged in that way. Let's make it simpler with just "Horizontal" and "Vertical" lines.
If you look at HDB maps, and you place "North" on top (supposedly quite naturally),
Odd number avenues would be placed horizontally, while even number avenues would be arranged vertically.
That is how it is supposed to be but like I said, I don't know why HDB estates are designed horrendously, therefore the roads are not straight horizontal or straight vertical.
Ok so that is something I would like to share if it gives you some knowledge in this "GENERAL KNOWLEDGE" series! I remember sharing this to a girl in a school I taught. She was in Secondary 2 in a "clever school". And then she said to me, "how is that a good information and beneficial to anyone when we all use GPS now?" I was a bit sad. But she was from a clever school while I was from a neighbourhood school in Yishun neighbourhood 1, so I guess she should be cleverer than me. I didn't say that we didn't have GPS in 1990 so I guess I am irrelevant.
Well maybe if you are a map geek like me, you would enjoy this info! But then again if you're a map geek, you would have already know this.
Ok then.... it was fun to me at least.
"don't just share celebrity posts because they are good looking
they already have a lot of followers and sponsors
your friends would have seen them even before you share them
like a post because of the effort creating them
share a post to allow others to enjoy them
thank you for reading"
THE PHOTOGRAPHY SERIES / WILDLIFE
The last Gen X or the first Gen Y. Whatever it is, it was a tricky period of time.
I was born when this country was on the beginning of technological modernisation. I was alive when the Malay word "Canggih" was invented. It was a very exciting time to be born. And thus, when we were small children, we were seen as the luckiest people to be born in this country ever. Economic stability, peace and prosperity, bright future, no wars, low crime. We were supposed to have a very exciting life ahead of us.
The teachers and older folks looked at us in envy. They call us lucky.
And with that, they told us to have ambitions and dreams and work hard for them and we can achieve.
We can achieve..... we can achieve....
There is something down the road that we can strive for
We are told no dream's too bold that we can't try for
There's a spirit in the air, it's a feeling we all share
We're going to build a better life, for you and me
We can achieve, we can achieve
So I had dreams. I had ambitions. And yes, I worked for them.
I had ambitions to be a traveller, a photographer, a librarian, an astronaut, a researcher, a curator. I wanted to be in the field of History, Geography, Anthropology, Astronomy, Etymology, Archaeology.
But I couldn't be any of them even when I tried. They are all not Singapore jobs. My dreams and ambitions are not supported here. Go look at the jobs list. It's all sales sales sales business business business and more money.
So what happened to dreams and ambitions?
They are all lies.
Not that I didn't try. I did. I had belief.
The only job close enough to my dream that is achievable, is the library. But I cannot be a librarian because I don't have a university degree. Even a few months ago I applied to be an associate librarian, hoping that my age and experiences could be of some help, I got rejected. A clear rejection email.
The only thing I had left was the arts. It wasn't my first choice but it looked achievable. I wanted to become an actor, director, playwright. I worked hard for a good 20 years to master the craft. But now at 40 years old and I cannot even buy a simple 2 room HDB flat, it is obviously a fail. A failed choice. Being too old to change a life choice, I deduce I had a failed life.
So now I am just going to live my remaining life in peace and without ambitions or dreams and wait for my time to end.
And I look back at the things that I dreamt and wanted to achieve.
I shall do them without having any hopes of being successful or making a living out of it.
So here we have the PHOTOGRAPHY SERIES!
I wanted to be a travel photographer and get paid taking photographs of sceneries and animals and architecture and stuff. You know those things. I will take more when I have the time. These photos were taken with my old camera the Nikon D50 and D300. The photo quality is not as good as current cameras. But it doesn't matter. I had fun. I hope you will have fun too.
Here are some photographs of animals in Singapore (of course mostly are in the zoo) and as I pretended to be a wildlife photographer.
More of these photos are posted in this facebook album. Have fun looking! You can use them too.
THE PHOTOGRAPHY SERIES / MINIATURES
I have a folder with pictures of various places like this. I used to want to make it a lifelong hobby, until I realise that cameras have shelf lives and they deteriorate with time. The fungi and moulds don't help either. I thought, these photos can be used as reference for the future. This was when I thought that there would be such thing as a "future".
The folder is named "Sights Of Singapore". As mentioned in the previous post, these are sights that I wished I could draw but I cannot. So I capture them with my camera instead.
One interesting thing that I used to do is editing photos to look like miniatures. It was harder to do then, but you can do them easily now with photo editing apps such as Snapseed.
Simple aerial photos, a bit of blurring, and then they look like toys. Try it when you have the time.
This is a screen grab from the movie Army Daze.
Corporal Ong: Sorry no cure. Drop 20 drop 20 drop 20
Recruit Krishna: Aiyoyoh that means drop 60 ah?
Corporal Ong: Habis?
"Habis" means "done", "completed". In a colloquial Malay sentence, it is used to finish off a conversation.
"Jangan cakap banyak. Habis!"
"Stop talking. Period!"
Though this sentence structure is not used anymore. But the word "habis" is still used with a question mark at the end to denote an understood phrase that is not mentioned.
Habis! So what's next? So what can you do? Anything else?
They are then cut to just, "Habis?"
In colloquial English or Singlish, it has become, "Then?"
The point of this post is the word "Abuden?"
It is derived from these words said together. "Habis? Then?"
Malays have a habit of swallowing syllables and consonants when speaking. Therefore the word "Habis" is usually pronounced as "Abih"
A combination of both Habis and Then became "Abih then?"
This photo was taken when I was about 2 or 3 years old. I don't remember when. I do remember seeing my father snapping this photo of my crying. I cried because I wanted to hold the camera he was holding but he didn't allow me to. I said I wanted to take a photo with it. He refused to let me touch it and I cried. And then he took a photo of me crying. Of course at that time, I had no idea how precious a camera was to my father. I don't think many people now understand how precious and expensive a camera was back then too. I had no idea. I only knew that I wanted it.
I cannot remember how his camera looked like. I think it looked like this. He really took care of it. I understand why now.
Cameras were expensive and prone to damage. There were glass mirrors inside and extremely fragile. Living in Singapore, cameras and lenses are prone to moulds and fungi. You'll have to store them in a cool dry place. There are dryboxes on sale everywhere now, but back then there were none for the amateur photographer. They used film rolls. A maximum of 36 exposures per role. I don't remember how much they cost then. But they were troublesome. You had to buy film rolls. Fit them into a camera. Snap a maximum number of 36 pictures. The cameras were mostly manual and you had to set the right settings for every shot. (I remember my father took very long to set a shot before he pressed the shutter button.) After all the 36 exposures were used, you'll have to send them to a photo shop to be develop. There, they will take your film and say "come back in 3-4 days" and you hope for the best. 3-4 days later you come back to the shop and they will give you back your negative film and the developed film. This is where the excitement (or disappointment) happened. You may get all 36 exposures developed, or less than that. There will be exposures that couldn't be developed because of your settings. They can be overexposed or underexposed or fungus ridden. It's always a surprise. If you get above 20 exposures developed nicely, you'll be happy enough. Of course, you have to pay for the photos developed and buy an album too.
You see, it was a tedious process but definitely exciting. The whole family would be excited to see the photos developed and view them together. For memories.
That's the word. The first word. Memories.
The memories in our brain fades. A photo might fade too, but if you keep them properly, it can be around for many years. Definitely way longer than your life years. This was one of the reason why I took up Diploma in Information Studies. To preserve memories. Photographs, ephemera, books, videos, documents, etc. I just have a liking for them. I find it interesting to see what had happened before and understand how life used to be. I hope I can remember these memories all the way until I die by looking at photographs.
I have another interest too. Second word. Sights.
I used to live on the 12th floor of block 29 Dover Road. From the corridor I could see far far away. It was an unblocked view. I remember seeing the jet planes, helicopters and fireworks from the corridor during every National Day Parade. I love these sights. Buildings, views, sceneries, events, colours, etc. I store them in my head. The memory in my head. And I realise I couldn't store them all. After a while, I will forget. So i started to draw these sights. Things that I saw. I drew them. Since I didn't have a camera, I would draw them.
What disappointed me was, I couldn't draw. I tried very hard for many years, learning how to draw, but I just couldn't. That was when I decided for myself, one day I am going to get myself my own camera.
When I was a boy in primary school, suddenly there was an "invention" called the disposable camera. I was excited. I have always wanted to buy them. But mother said they were expensive and you will never know if the exposures could be developed properly. They looked flimsy and cheap compared to father's camera so they must be of poor quality. They were hung in dozens in front of a photo shop like how bananas are hung. Until today I never got a chance to buy them.
Sometime in 1994, I saw a flimsy camera on sale at a shop. It was placed where the toys were. I cannot remember how much it was. It was definitely more expensive than a normal toy so it couldn't be a toy. I used my Hari Raya money and bought it without placing any hope in it. It was definitely less than $10. But that amount was expensive then. At that time, my Hari Raya "collection" would never be more than $50. So $10 was a lot of money.
It looked like a toy. It felt like a toy. There were no batteries. No flash. No "ON / OFF" switch. It was just a flimsy plastic thing. It uses a 110 film which is actually a 16mm film made in cartridges. I went to a photo shop and asked for the film and there were very few left because that format was going obsolete. In fact even at that time, my father and I didn't know that it existed in normal shops.
I still keep the camera until today. It is my very first camera. I was surprised that it worked. The photos are all blurry and heavy to one side. This is because there is no focus function. The view finder and the lens were at different locations.
Here are some of the photos from my first roll.
They are not the best photos but they are definitely special. From that day onwards, I will not stop taking photographs wherever, whenever I can. I don't know what will happen to the photos but I don't care. When I die, you can use them or delete them. Sceneries, buildings, people, sights, change all the time and to be able to freeze them in time, is special. So, during my life time, I will treasure them.
Many civilisations and cities had their beginnings along river estuaries and river mouths. Cities such as Cairo, New York, Sydney to name a few. Even Singapura and Melaka, had their beginnings from the river mouth.
This is due to freshwater supply, fishing, ease of transport via the waterways and trade. The mouth of the river, going out to the sea, was also a gateway to other cities and ports.
As the population grows, more people will settle upstream. The busy parts will be near the river mouth while the more peaceful dwellings will be further upstream.
The point of this post is to share the usage of the word "hulu".
Hulu is a Malay word for the beginning, or the source of something. In this case, the source of the river. "Muara" or "Kuala" means the mouth of the river. Therefore, hulu and muara are at the opposite ends of the river.
The idea that the word "Hulu" or "Ulu" depicts a far flung place, is because there would be less dwellings near the river source, further upstream, away from the bustling activities at the "Muara".
"Hulu" does not directly and literally mean, far or secluded. It basically means the beginning of something or the source of a river.
Look through the maps on Singapore Street Directory and spot the river sources for places like, Ulu Sembawang, Ulu Seletar, Ulu Pandan etc. and you will notice they are all at the source of the particular river.
SISPEC. Advanced Section Leader Course. I found the group photo of the course and I finally manage to remember the dates for the courses.
If you remember the previous post, SISPEC was tough. I am not sure of how it is today, but it was tough then. It was supposed to be tough. Yet I had no qualms about it. Unlike BMT where I hated it very much. If you look at the group photos, I actually smiled. It was tough and stressful but, it was different. It had good memories. And I shall write them down before I forget them.
Like I said before, I have slowly forgotten many things. Unfortunately I have to avoid sharing some things even though they were memorable and I still remember them. They were mostly the treatment and punishment we got. Meet me and I will share them to you in person.
18th December 2000.
The start of ASLC. As a number of us from BSLC were posted out, the number of trainees in this course were relatively smaller. Also mean, it's harder for you to escape the "tekan". I realise now that it was also very short. About 12 weeks. But, so many things happened within these 12 weeks and I had a hard time remembering and squeezing them all in this post. I have to split ASLC into 2 blog posts then.
By now, I have acclimatised to the life in SISPEC. Training got more intense. I realise they were trying to squeeze as many things as possible within these 12 weeks, including 3 weeks of training in Taiwan. So for this post, I will share about the training in Singapore. The Taiwan trip will be in the next post. That too, there were 2 phases in Singapore. 1 in Tekong and another phase at Pasir Laba Camp.
I have never done this before. I never got the chance to do all these things. I was super excited! Until.... I got to the top of the tower.
It was actually a simple rappel down the slope. It wasn't a 90 degree wall, but being up there for the first time, it was only natural to feel worried and shikes! The harness was uncomfortable at the crotch really. The free size gloves didn't help either. As I was lowering myself down the edge of the top deck, the gloves started slipping off my small hands. I braked and asked my PC who was despatching me down, for help. He just squinted his small eyes at me and shouted at me to go on.
"But my glove sir......"
(unexplainable moment) and the next thing, I have already reached the ground with my gloves halfway up my hand. I basically rappelled with my fingers. That was scary yet fun and I volunteered to run up again for another round. Yup. This was what I meant. It was tough yet enjoyable.
We had to learn and try this infantry river crossing exercise. There wasn't easy access to internet then but I think I saw pictures of it so I could expect what it would be like. You can google it to see how it looks like.
So basically we would have to attach a rope across the river and the whole unit would then cross the river by tugging along the rope. There were SOPs that we had to learn like, the security team, the swimmers, the knots, the waterproofing of equipment preparation, etc etc. It took place at the Pulau Tekong reservoir. You can view the place on Google Earth too. I remember the whole platoon sitting in front of Warrant Sim while he was giving us lectures about the whole procedure. It was in the early afternoon. We were all so tired and sleepy. Everyone including myself were just nodding off. He told the whole platoon to get up and fill our helmets with water from the reservoir. He made us stand in a line by the water and did our punishment (unexplainable moment) and then put on our helmets. To be honest, the water that splashed from our helmets when we put them on, didn't really freshen us up. I think most of us actually still fall asleep somehow after that. But that punishment was memorable. We had a good laugh when we went back to our bunks that night.
Fighting In Build Up Areas. We were all looking forward for this one. Finally gunfights in a building. Finally counter-strike! Counter Strike was a popular video game at that time. We went to a small "town" at the end of Tekong Highway in the east called "Ayer Samak". There are some buildings there that looked like old shophouses. I wondered if they were really abandoned shophouses or made just for army training. It was cool to play fighting in buildings for a change. One thing I found out now is that, all FIBUA training now requires the soldiers to put on ear-plugs. It wasn't a requirement then. The gunshots and thunder flash (flashbang in COD mobile) were so loud but we loved it. The adrenaline rush were fun in this one.
Another round of topography exercise in Tekong. In BSLC I was with Paul. This time I had another buddy, Dzulkifly, because Paul was posted out. Same thing, we had to look for checkpoints the whole day and evening with the last checkpoint being at the top of Rocky Hill just behind the SISPEC camp. This time around, the exercise was interesting.
Ok let me tell you. There is this part of Pulau Tekong that is "out of bounds". It is called Kampung Unum, on the northern tip of the island. Why was it out of bounds, we had no idea.
It was about 11am. Dzul and I just reached a checkpoint somewhere around the north-east part of the island. Our next check point was at the north-west part of the island. To play safe, there were a lot of roads in Tekong that we can use as guides. Well they weren't exactly tarmac roads. More like dirt tracks. There was this track that goes across the island on the northern side called the "Northern Axis". We could use it as a guide to get to the north-western part of the island. If we were lazy, we can just walk along the track and quickly hide in the vegetation if we hear any vehicles. We were not allowed to walk along the tracks actually. We didn't feel safe also as we believe there would be instructors planted on different parts of the tracks to spot us. No way were we going to break the rules. Our weekend bookouts were precious. So what did we do? We walked in the jungle, BESIDE the track. Always keeping the track in sight.
But, to follow this track, it would bring us a longer route. Dzul and I decided to bash through the jungle and take a more direct route. There were foot tracks that we could use too and the jungle wasn't that thick. The thing is, a direct route means, we would have to bash through Kampung Unum. Hmmm... was it a risk? Yeah we took it. It was a bright sunny day and there were footpaths anyway. If we got lost or anything, we can just track back along the path and look for the "Northern Axis" as we would be walking parallel to it.
We walked along a very clear path. Wide enough for a man to walk. Through the jungles. It was our lucky day. And then the path brought us into a clearing. It was like a helipad and it was circular. It wasn't so big. Maybe about 2 basketball courts. The path goes into the clearing and we walked across the open patch. At the end of the patch, we were blocked by palm trees with sharp thorns. We tried bashing through it but they were too sharp and tough. So Dzul and I decided to walk back across the clearing to the path we came from, to look for another route. And then, we realised, we couldn't find the path we came from. We walked around the circular clearing looking for the path. We had our bearings and directions all recorded so we knew where we had to look. Plus the clearing wasn't big. The path was at the east of the clearing. But we couldn't find it. Imagine walking around a circular grass patch the size of 2 basketball courts surrounded by thick thorny palm trees. It was cool because there weren't any of those palm trees when we reached the clearing from the east. But now, the palm trees surrounded the whole clearing.
We kept on circling. We couldn't find any path. We couldn't get out of that clearing because it was surrounded by the palm trees. We were puzzled but we continued searching. We stopped for combat ration lunch. We continued searching. We were there for hours. I remember it was lunch time and we were there until about 4 plus. We just went around and around looking for a path.
And then somehow at around 4 plus, we saw a path out of the clearing heading west. The path was as clear as day and was not blocked by any palm tree. Wide enough for 2 men to walk. No way we could have missed it for 4 hours. We didn't think anything about it. It was more of a... "aaaah found it!" and we walked to the west where we found more clearings, more paths. As we walked, the tracks turned into cemented paths, which was quite surprising. Then we saw ruins of a village. Buildings with walls intact but without roofs. We could see through the houses. Bed frames, cupboards, sewing machines, slippers and all. We just found it cool and walked. In my mind was, "if I only I have a camera with me." We walked until we found our checkpoint on the north-west. A walk that was supposed to be 2 hours shorter as compared to using the Northern Axis, turned out to be a 5 hour walk. It was frustrating but we didn't think much about it. Only when we reached back the bunk that night did we talk about it. How could we be stuck in the clearing for 4 hours? How could we not see the path for 4 hours when it was there, so wide, so clear? It was a mystery to us and we just slept it off.
This was another interesting experience. It was a "defence exercise" where we were supposed to defend an area from enemy attacks. We were suppose to be there for 5 days 4 nights. Unlike the field camp in BMT, this one was more "tactical". The highlight of this exercise was, we all had to dig a trench in pairs. My partner was Chua Koon Ann.
The trenches were set along the perimeter of the area that we were suppose to defend, facing outwards. This was the first time we had to dig a trench. It was suppose to be about 2 metres long and about 1.6 metres deep. If we stand inside the trench, it should be about neck height and only our heads and guns will be above ground. Some instructors told us, everytime there is an Exercise Nutcracker, SISPEC will indent (order) rain. And yes, it rained throughout the 4 days, only stopping intermittently. Instead of digging into the ground, we had to dig into the mud. Everytime our trench looked like there was some progress in terms of depth, the rain would wash the mud back down the hole or the trench simply collapsed and we would have to dig again.
One thing I could not forget, one side of my trench had holes in them. At first I freaked out. I was worried. But I had to think of my weekend bookout and continued digging only to see more holes. They were clean holes like a network of tunnels and they were all in perfect patterns. I could just assume they were tunnels made by snakes. It creeped us out. But after a day, we didn't see any snakes and we made peace with it. In fact, when we had to dig at night, we even placed candles in the holes to illuminate our trench. It was quite a pretty sight.
When the exercise ended, we were quite sad to fill our trench up. Our 3 room hdb flat for 4 nights.
PASIR LABA CAMP
We had a moment at Pasir Laba camp. The old run down camp. Not the new one that you can see now. It was an abandoned camp. We were there for maybe 2 or 3 weeks. I cannot remember. We were there because our next few exercises would need us to be on the mainland. You have no idea how excited we were to be back on the mainland. Finally, we had things called "Nights Off". We can go out of camp after dinner and be back by 10pm. We didn't have much. I think maybe once a week. But it was good enough. A few extra hours per week off from camp. It was heaven.
We had a chance to sleep for a few nights at the old Basic Combat Training Camp (BCTC). It was a good experience staying at an old camp and feel how BMT was like many years back.
Fighting On Fortified Objectives (FOFO). I heard that this concept is not in use anymore. What happens here is that, remember Nutcracker? There is a hill near Pasir Laba called FOFO hill. The hill has trenches made in it. Supposedly, the enemy are in this trench, defending this hill, just like how we defended the area in Exercise Nutcracker. But Singapore being Singapore, the trenches were all cemented and had a series of trenches that were interconnected. The objective of our training here was to learn how to capture this hill with the enemy inside the trenches.
The trenches were big. We all called it 5 room flats, compared to our 3 room flats. The paths were wide enough for 1.5 men. Meaning, if one person stayed flat at the sides of the trench paths, another man can squeeze through beside him. Funny thing about this exercise is, we would attack in lines, like ants as we made our way along the narrow paths. And if the in front person got "shot", he would have to lie flat on the ground on his stomach and the rest of the platoon would have to continue running pass him. We learnt how to step on them safely and jumped over them quickly.
In other exercises, any of us would love to be shot and declared as a casualty so that we can rest by the side, assuming that we are "dead". But in this exercise, no one wanted to die, because if he dies, the rest of us would have to step on his back as we run across him. That was funny. We were all laughing at the people we stepped on and those who got stepped would go "aaah aaah aiyohhh! expletives expletives". I think the instructors had fun declaring people as casualty because of this. I'm still laughing as I typed these.
STANDARD OBSTACLE COURSE
You remember I was a weak runner right? Yes, I had trouble passing my SOC. I couldn't meet the timing. But here at Pasir Laba, everyone who failed, would pass. Because 700 metres run before the course were all downhill. The obstacles were smaller. The wall was lower. The "Monkey Bars" were so low, I could walk and act as if I was hanging on to them. We all passed. Everyone thought that it was funny. But it was all good. We all passed. The commanders told us, "if at Pasir Laba also you all cannot pass, just go and be (unmentionable words). Hahaha.
There is a chamber here for us to train in "Chemical Warfare". It is basically a room filled with tear gas. We would be in chemical warfare suit with gas masks on and play in the room. The suit was hot, but it was ok to us. What we didn't know then was, the tear gas not only would sting our eyes, but also on skin if we perspire. So the instructors made us perspire in there. Made us do physical exercises, jumps, jogs, runs, etc.
We went into the chamber with our section of 8 men. After we were done with the exercises, we were told to stand in a straight line facing the door out. We stood in our bed order. So basically bed 1 in front, bed 8 the last man. We were told to sound off our rank, name and ic number, one man at a time. The door would be opened. The man can run out of the chamber. Door closed. 2nd man to say out the same thing and run out. One at a time. Sounds easy.
And then the instructors told us all to remove our masks. We are going to do this with our masks off. The stings started to settle in. Good luck to the number 8 man! I was number 5 or 6, I couldn't remember.
Number one got out. Door closed. Number 2 man shouted out his rank, name and IC number. Door opened. Run out. Door closed. The remaining men were already enduring the sting on our face, eyes and neck. And then, this one guy.......
"Corporal Tan Boon Tee! IC number... S7.....7....S79....."
The rest: "faster la Boon Tee!!!!"
Boon Tee: "S...... S...... eh what is my IC number ah???
We all groaned and told him to hurry up. He got more stressed. It was painful but it was funny. When he finally got his number right, he ran out of the door. Since we were there longer than expected because of him, the door didn't close anymore and the instructor told us to shout out our rank, name and IC number together and run out together. We ran out gasping for air and crouched all over the place, waiting for the stings to ease. The moment we were all ok, we gave Boon Tee a good bashing. While laughing, of course.
The finale of our training exercise here in SISPEC while in Singapore. I think it was a 5 days 4 nights exercise. It's always maximum 5 days. Monday to Friday. We still get to book out on Saturdays.
Exercise Grandslam is a a platoon level mission exercise. Meaning, the platoon would be given military missions for that one week. Attacking enemy objectives (hills mostly. sometimes buildings), defending an area from enemy attacks, ambush missions, scouting missions, quick attack missions, security patrol missions, you know all those army stuff. It was fun if it wasn't tiring. You're practically awake throughout the 5 days except for a few hours shut eyes here and there when you're not on "duty". No showers, maybe 1 change of uniform, combat ration meals. Things like that. I thought Grandslam would be the real finale. I really hoped that it would be the finale. Though I expected and it came true, that this mission exercises would be my life for the next 17 years.
One night as I trudged down the jungle path on the first night of Grandslam, we passed by a building. It was a cool thing to actually see a civilian building while being in a mission. After so long in Tekong, the sight of a civilian building was a sight to behold. It was night and the building's rooms were dark. But its area was lit, the building was lit and the corridors were lit. The shape of the building was a giant horseshoe and it looked exactly like my polytechnic. It was a blatant architectural rip off I tell you. But yeah, at that time, my eyes were wide open as I walked past it, wondering what the hell am I doing here while looking at a building that looked like the school that I have just graduated from. I still remember the view. It was a..... wow plus sigh moment. I walked on, leaving the building behind me together with my army mates. All tired and trudging.
But definitely a highlight of Grandslam was the helicopter ride. I believe it was the first time for almost all of us. It was the first time for me. I savoured that moment because I never thought I would ride a helicopter again. In the pitch dark of Pasir Laba jungle, we boarded a "Super Puma" helicopter. I heard that the Super Puma is not in use anymore. As the helicopter lifted off in the night accompanied by the deafening sound of the rotor blades above us, I saw Singapore below me. The lights, the sea, the buildings, the roads, the vehicles. They were all there below me but I wasn't able to be with them. I felt like a soldier. I can see my country. But my country cannot see me. And then the helicopter flew into the jungles of Singapore's army training area. A whole area out of bounds for every civilian unless you're a soldier. A whole area to the west of the island. I have to tell you this. It is beautiful. Both day and night. The jungles, the hills, the lakes and rivers. It's beautiful. I always wish to go there again some day with a camera. But I guess, I can only have the images of the scenery in my mind.
There was also one mission where we had to "attack" a place called "Cow Hill". We had no idea where it was. I was just sleeping in the lorry (Back then it was a 3 tonner truck. Now they are all replaced with a bigger 5 tonner truck.) and didn't bother where it would bring me. Upon alighting, I was surprised. We alighted by the roadside at some block of flats. I cannot remember the exact block but it started with the number 6. So it was 6 something something, in Woodlands. The area is all built up now. At that time, that block faced a forested area and we quickly ran into the forest. A short walk later we arrived and "attacked" Cow Hill. From on top of the hill, I could see the whole of Woodlands and Marsiling with JB in the background. It was really an awesome sight. Again, looking at civilian buildings but not able to be there made me feel heavy. Much later I found out where we were actually was. The hill is beside the SLE in between Woodlands Avenue 2 Exit and BKE exit.
As Grandslam ended, so did our ASLC training in Singapore. After that, we were to embark on a 3 week training exercise in Taiwan, also called exercise "Starlight".
There were other wonderful memories I had in SISPEC.
One of it was when I had to do Company Orderly Sergeant (COS) duty during Chinese New Year holidays. COS means the sergeant in charge of your company's administration. You had to man the company phone for 24 hours, check the premises, go for canteen duty. It's like a mish-mash of being the security guard cum receptionist cum school prefect. There will always be one person doing the duty every day.
So when everyone left Tekong for Chinese New Year, the non-Chinese would have to do COS duties. Me included for one of the day. Just me alone at the quiet SISPEC Alpha building for 24 hours. It was peaceful and quite a cool experience. When another person took over my duty at 7am the next day, I could book out and enjoy the remainder of the holidays.
The interesting thing was, the whole island was almost isolated. I had to walk from SISPEC to Tekong Ferry Terminal. There was no transport. If you read my previous post, you would know how far the walk is from SISPEC to BMTC. As I slowly walked, I saw a pick-up truck with Indian foreign workers. I guess they were building contractors. With no shame, I hailed them and asked if I could hitch hike to the ferry terminal and they welcomed me on board. That was cool right? So I got myself a free ride. As I reached BMTC, I saw my childhood friend, Alfian, walking to the terminal too. I shouted out, "Yan!!". We had a good laugh. He was doing his BMT and was marching towards the terminal. Sorry I couldn't ask him to board the pick-up truck with me.
Another interesting experience was, the trees behind Alpha company building were rambutan trees. They were just there. Rows of them. Just trees. Somehow, as our time there was ending, the trees bore fruits. Bright red rambutans on all trees. It was an exciting sight. Even more exciting was, all of us went to pluck the rambutans. We had a fun time plucking them and eating them together with our instructors and our commanders.
I told you. SISPEC was tough. We were treated like dogs. Yet we appreciated every single moment of it. We grew to become soldiers. We became tougher, stronger, braver yet we never forget to have fun and appreciate life.
Next up would be the highlight of ASLC.
Taiwan. Here I come.
Categories : The Army Series
Web logs of art activities on a regular basis (hope).