Siglap, as we know it, is one of the most happening places to hang out at. Coffee houses line the streets along Upper East Coast Road and fancy restaurants as well as relatively fashionable individuals enjoy spending late nights chit chatting over a cuppa.
But, how much do we know about what exists in that area or rather, the history behind Siglap?
Did you know that much of the land on the opposite site of those coffee houses along Upper East Coast Road used to be the coast?
A few days back, I was informed that in Siglap itself, there is a graveyard which belongs to the Chieftain or Penghulu of Siglap. Siglap’s original name is also “Si Gelap” which means “The Dark One”. Very mysterious indeed.
This particular gentlemen who was the Penghulu of Kampung Siglap originated from the Indonesian province of Gowa located on the Sulawesi island (another finding mentioned that he was from Istana Pagar Ruyong, Minangkabau, Sumatera). Tok Lasam, the Penghulu of Kampung Siglap was in fact, a prince and he had to leave his kingdom as it was under attack from the Dutch.
Tok Lasam requested for him and his followers to travel to Singapore because he had relatives who were already staying in Singapore, in Kampung Kallang or Tanjung Rhu. He didn’t stay put for long there and continued on his journey to find a suitable spot to begin a new settlement with his followers and that’s when he found ‘SI GELAP’.
To officiate the opening of the settlement, Tok Salam placed his keris into the grounds of the settlement (Ground Breaking Ceremony). The settlement of Siglap prospered with many fishermen but it wasn’t long before his royal subjects came to find him to request him to return back to his Kingdom in Gowa, Sulawesi to take the throne as his father, the Sultan had passed away.
He didn’t want to return as he had assimilated well with the new environment and hence, ordered that his twin brother take the throne instead and he requested that no other royal subject to ever speak word of his presence in Singapore. Before his subjects left, they presented him with a spear as a symbol of significance that they had indeed been in the presence of his royal highness.
During his death towards the end of the 18th century, his body which had already been wrapped with a white cloth (following Islamic teachings) turned yellow. Everyone believed that he was a leader with supernatural abilities. His body was buried near a tree at Jalan Sempadan, Kampung Siglap.
To visit the grave, it’s just behind Mendaki premises off Tay Lian Teck Avenue. There’s a park at the back there, you won’t be able to miss it.