The property in Punggol that keeps alive the spirit of kampung


SINGAPORE: The Kampungs may have almost disappeared in Singapore, but a group of neighbors in Punggol are working hard to keep alive the community spirit of yesteryear.

They appear with food to accompany someone who may be eating alone, provide simple handyman services and buy groceries for each other. And they maintain constant contact through chat groups – just like the family.

This extended family feeling among neighbors was evident in a recent meeting of 20 people in one of the group's apartments at the Waterway Cascadia HDB property, with conversation flowing easily and a sense of camaraderie in the air. The scenery was modern, but they seemed to perfectly capture the spirit of kampung – a colloquial term for neighborhood and community, dating back to the 1950s and 1960s, when many Singaporeans lived in these areas and knew each other well.

The meeting was held at the home of Juliana Johari, who lives in her apartment in Punggol with her husband and two teenage children. Speaking to CNA, she said the people in the group take care of each other in every way.

"It may be as simple as" I ran out of cooking oil, but I have guests coming in and I need to cook so someone can spare me a cup, "Juliana said.

Getting to the nearest store would require a 20-minute trip, as the new neighborhood still needs to develop close services, she added.

In fact, his neighbor, Mr. Mohammad Zaki, stepped forward. Once, he decided to cook instant noodles with egg but found that he had run out of eggs.

He exchanged messages with his neighbor who lives downstairs to ask for help, and the men created a clean system – the eggs were placed in a plastic bag and tied to a rope. One tip was thrown at Mr. Zaki and he used it to pull the sack of eggs.

Comment: The spirit of the Kampung is not a desire to return to the past, but a desire for unity

Zaki's wife, Nurul Huda, received more than ingredients. Sometimes she finds packets of food hanging from her gate.

"Sometimes they write and ask if someone is at home because they have extra food. paiseh (embarrassed), so I'll say that's fine, but they're still going to hang a package at my door, "she said.

In fact, the food seems to be the glue that keeps the cohesive group together. The confraternizo meant that the tables set up outside Juliana's house were full of food – from roti kirai to brownies to cattle.

And it seems they do not represent their solitary neighbors at the dinner table.

Juliana said that once when they learned that she was alone at supper time with the rest of the family abroad, some of the group appeared unannounced with food so she had some company.

"That kind of thing makes me feel like there's a family here, instead of having to travel from Punggol to Bedok (where their parents live) to keep company," she said.


The Punggol group helps each other in small ways like family all the time.

For example, when Juliana was unable to return home in time to receive food, all she had to do was call her neighbor, who lives in front of her, to greet her.

What also helps is that she is so close to her neighbor that she knows when she will be home.

Sometimes the neighbors turn into deliverers, helping to buy groceries or bread from the bakery to their network of friends.

Mr. Mas Siswandi Suyoto, another member of the informal group, finds his neighbors helpful when he hosts many guests and needs items such as folding tables. At other times, he has also lent tools like a screwdriver and a hammer.

It's also not difficult to get help fixing minor electrical or carpentry problems, he said.

Neighbors also love their two-year-old son, something that Mr. But thanks. The child was the star of the recent encounter, while the adults cooed over him and tried to get his attention

But Mas's trust in his neighbors is implied.

"I will have no problem trusting my son to babysitters if need be," he said.

His wife, Elise Phong, also said he appreciated the presence of his neighbors in his son's landmark events.

"It looks like we have family around because they're all cozy and I feel like I can depend on them the way it would depend on my own family," she said.

But they are not good weather friends.

"If anyone is sick or in the hospital, then we meet and visit, or if there is a death in the family, we will raise funds and visit the family to pass on the resources," Juliana said.


Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser of the Department of Sociology of the National University of Singapore said there are clear benefits of having a spirit of community among neighbors, such as creating a more friendly environment, facilitating mediation and conflict resolution, and having people available . willing to offer help and support when needed.

"Knowing the neighbors promotes ethnic and religious harmony and contributes to the building of community and spirit," he said.

However, there are challenges that can hinder the building of these communities in a modern urban environment, said Professor Tan.

For example, people spend more time on digital devices than interacting face-to-face, usually manage to be self-sufficient and spend more time at home instead of wandering around, he suggested.


However, such challenges did not prevent Punggol's neighbors. In fact, following Juliana's account, the digital opened the way for these titles to be made.

She said that it could now be even easier to spark the spirit of kampung on HDB properties, as there are social media to get to know each other better, and it is possible to stay in touch almost all the time through chat applications.

While her mother has also made friends in her Bedok apartment, the chance to develop relationships tends to happen only when people are in the market or in other common areas. Their communication is limited to these relatively rare occasions.

"I do not think they have meetings the way we do now, maybe because it's a new property, it's a reason to get to know each other," she said.

The group started making connections before even moving to the property because there was a Facebook group set up just for the Waterway Cascadia property, she said. For three years they

"When we learned that we had the unit here, the property was under construction, so everyone was updating themselves with photos of what levels and what blocks were in operation," she said.

Unknown Juliana Johari

Juliana Johari preparing a dish in her kitchen for the quarterly meeting of the neighbors. (Photo: Marcus Mark Ramos)

They also visited each other's homes to take inspiration from the decoration as soon as they moved in.

"It started with us going to each other's flats during the festivals. From there, we became friends on Instagram and on Facebook, "said Juliana.

Going on a road trip with neighbors

Ms Huda highlighted how they took the neighbors bond to another level, venturing beyond their block and traveling with a group of 10 families from across the property.

They got together in two vans, booked 10 rooms and spent four days and three nights in Johor Bahru.

But it was not without meticulous planning. Ms Huda, who was in charge of booking the hotel while working in the industry, said: "We had a meeting, we discussed everything from the location, to how many vehicles, to how many rooms. Whoever has contacts for anything would help that, "she said.

While going on a trip in a large group may be a recipe for disaster, even for the closest families, they all got along and had fun eating, shopping and having fun, Huda said.

They are also there for potential others in emergencies.

In one example, a resident wrote in the group chat around noon: "I need help. There is someone in my unit, and my wife is afraid to see who she is. "He was at the National Service camp at the time.

Before he knew it, 12 men, including Mr. Zaki, showed up at the apartment to make sure everyone was okay.


For Mr. Zaki, he is also having close friends nearby, which makes the property a joy to live in.

"We, husbands, also have a group conversation to relax in the terrace garden. From time to time, someone will randomly message: "Today we lepak (relax) in the garden. Some will bring snacks, some bring coffee, so we sit there, chat, "he said.

Mrs. Huda also clearly comes treating her neighbors as family, even complaining to her parents that she does not have time for them.

"They ask," Every weekend you have activities, even weekends after work. So, when are you going to visit me? "She said.

She echoed Juliana's view that her neighbors feel more like friends than friends, and that's exactly how she likes it.

"I do not want to just stay in my unit, just the two of us, without interacting with each other." So I think the connection is necessary.For me, it's also about the spirit of kampung, not only in this building, but also with other blocks ", she said.


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