Tok Lasam, Chieftain of Kampung Siglap

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.

Tok Lasam Grave

Tok Lasam Grave

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.

(The above information was translated from a Malay article found here and here.)

27 thoughts on “Tok Lasam, Chieftain of Kampung Siglap

  1. As I remembered correctly according to my late grandfather, Hassan Walad (the 4th generation of Penghulu Lasam), the late Penghulu Lasam was from Istana PagarRuyong and not Gowa, Sulawesi. He also had a brother who fled to Malaya and more specifically, Negri Sembilan.

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    • Hi Kathy,

      Thanks for the info! There were several stories about his origins. I think perhaps it would be great if the descendants could do a write up to help clear up any confusion, this also ensures that there would be a reference point for historians and researchers.

      Would you be interested to assist should there be a project to document the stories?

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      • Hi Abdillah,
        The info I got was from my late grandfather Hassan bin Walad. Unfortunately though, all of the older generations of my grandfather are no longer living. I know that my late uncles knew more about our family history.
        I’m very honoured for your invitation to assist in your future project. However, I’m sorry to say that I don’t think that I can be of much help to you as your biography covers much of my information with the exception of Tok Lasam’s other brother who fled to Malaya or more specifically Negri Sembilan. I think thats why Negri Sembilan still practises the “adat pepateh” which was derived from Minangkabau. That is only my opinion.

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  2. I’m a grandson of late Osman bin Yusof. Heard a little about this history of Kg Siglap. My name also Walad was taken from Kathy’s great grandfather given by my late grandfather Osman bin Yusof. I still have some of the photos with me.

    Warmest regards.

    Walad Jamaludin

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  3. Hi,

    You must be Abdillah then, are you? thks for your prompt reply. with regard to the photos, its somewhere in the envelope but I have to look for it. will get in touch with you once i found it.

    Warmest rgds.

    Waladj

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  4. Assalamualaikum Abdillah,

    Just to let you know that you can also get some info and photos of our kampong at the Masjid Kampong Siglap. Chikgu Anis Tairan wrote a book of the former kampong Siglap with some photos of Tok Lasam’s generations. Unfortunately, I’ve lost many of our family’s photos after shifting houses.

    Mr Walad Jamaludin is actually my second cousin. His grandmother and my grandfather (Hassan Walad) were siblings. She passed away long before he and I was born. His grandfather, Osman bin Yusof (actual name is Syed Osman bin Syed Yusof Alqudsy) was my grandfather’s brother-in-law. As far as I remember, I’ve never met Walad when we are adult because his family moved out of our kampong when he was still a young boy.

    If Walad still keeps the old photos of our family, I also wish to see them.
    Hope it will bring back those memories and also of our beloved kampong and our past generations.

    By the way, have you any relations with Tok Lasam’s generation? Thank you very much for the research you did (and still researching) about our family’s and Kampong Siglap’s history.

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  5. Thank you Zamzuri, on occasions when I walked passed, I always wondered what’s the special nature of land near Jalan Sempadan.
    Now I know. I appreciate your research and detail. Cheers,Anthony

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    • Hi Lisa. First, may I know whether you have any connection to Tok Lasam’s generation? If you have, I would like to know more about your family. Perhaps you can supply more information about Tok Lasam’s history from your family’s stories or any other source. My information about the history of Tok Lasam is quite insufficient. I am the 6th generation of Tok Lasam. My lineage is Lasam, Lama bin Lasam, Walad bin Lama, Hassan bin Walad (my maternal grandfather) Emah binte Hassan (my mother) then me Khadijah Abd Ghani. Unfortunately, I do not know the name of Tok Lasam’s father. All except for my youngest uncle (Lama bin Hassan) have died.

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  6. Hi Kathy,

    I am from the direct families of Tok Lassam. My dad is the 4th generation directly from him. So to say Tok Lassam is my 4 grandfather.

    I have all the great grandfather full name except Tok Lassam if you know are you willing to share.
    🙂

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  7. Hi There! I am Abdul here. I and my brothers are deeply interested to know and learn about the history and lineage of Penghulu Lassam. My Tok is Haji Walat bin Ismail. My father is Mat Aris. The Vacant Land near the road of Jalan Sempadan is where My Late Grandfather House stood. I had heard many interesting story about Kampung Siglap, Penghulu Lassam from my father and other family members and what i understand from my Dad that we are related to Penghulu Lassam too. Maybe with the advance of the DNA technology we could easily verified our link to Penghulu Lassam and each other. It will be a very interesting study.

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    • Dear Abdul,
      I do not know you but I know who your grandparents and father are. My late grandmother told me that our families are related. Unfortunately though I do not know the lineage.
      As for the connection to Tok Lasam, I know that I am his 6th generation.
      Lasam, Lama (son), Walad (son) Hassan(son) Emah (daughter).my mother. All my maternal uncles (except for my youngest uncle) and aunties have died. Your father knows who my living uncle is (Ismail…real name is Lama bin Hassan). I’m sorry that I can’t give you much information. Anyway, I’m glad that you are interested in knowing Tok Lasam’s history.

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      • Hello Kathy
        You seem to know lot of lot about the Kampong Siglap and the
        peoples whom Tok Lasam and his followers begin to setlle down long long ago. It triggers me to know more after following the stories. Besides, Kampong Siglap there was also a Cemetery Kubor Kassim which I think have connection with Kubor Kassim and Masjid Kassim as well. I formerly staying at Lorong Mydin and Jalan Masjid near Masjid Kassim.
        Haji Abdul Hamid Ismail

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      • Assalamualaikum Kathy. Can we set up or revive a project team to work into the history and lineage of Penghulu Lassam, Siglap and his family link beyond Singapore. Maybe we can come up with informations that could benefit generations after us and those from indonesia and malaysia who might be looking for their links with descendants of penghulu Lassam. Me n my brother are looking foward to hear and work together with any interested party in this meaning project In Sha Allah

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      • im so glad and appreciative to your blog. for this, i thank you, abdillah. it is just a matter of time that we (the lasam family) will get the opportunity to meet and re-tie the relationship… guys, do look out for me on FB or email muhamadnauruz@yahoo.com
        salam ramadhan🙂

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  8. There are no evidence to prove base on the architecture, way of living, type of dishes, attire, games and daily life activites in old Kampung Siglap to suggest its relation to the Minangkabau (Pagar Ruyung). From the tombstone and the kerises and names used by the original residents of Siglap none suggest the Penghulu was from Pagar Ruyung. The claim made that he was a Prince from Pagar Ruyung was baseless and incorrect. He was indeed of Bugis Royal lineage. The Kampung Siglap original mosque architecture itself strongly suggest he was not from Mianangkabau but instead Bugis (Sulawesi).

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    • Hi Shahizan

      I’m inclined to agree with you because my late step grandfather’s name was —– Bin Basok which is a typical Bugis name. Btw I was born & grew up in Jln Sempadan 61 yrs ago.

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      • Hi Aminah,

        I too used to lived at No. 16, Jalan Sempadan, Siglap in 1950s & 1960s in our family (yellow colour) 2-storey bungalow house infront of the sea-side and beside the Mosque. Those were the good old kampong days living in Jalan Sempadan which I remember to watch from our house balcony every year there are the malays with their sailing boat race which the malay word call “koret” if I am not wrong. Also my uncle was the political candidate standing for election for Siglap district under Singapore People’s Alliance (SPA) party. It would be nice if you do have some photos to show if your days living in Jalan Sempadan, Siglap?.

        Thank you.

        Koh See Kok
        Singapore

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      • Hello Mr Koh…….. Thank you for replying to my comments. The info I received personally from my Uncle Mansur who was the oldest grandson of Tok Walad was that the he being very close to his grandfather heard from his own mouth and conversation that Tok Lasam was indeed of Bugis origin from Sulawesi. I was personally instructed to divert my attention not towards Pagar Ruyung but to try find the truth and start my research based on Bugis. Pagar Ruyung (Minangkabau) in my opinion could have been used as a diversion from the truth. The Original settlers of Siglap knew there was no physical evidence to suggest Siglap was in anyway related to the Minangkabau. The name Lasam was not supposed to be pronounced as a whole word. It’s La’Sam. In Bugis the title La’ means Putra/Pria/Lelaki or in English term La’ is a Man/Prince. The calling of Sam might have been chosen to suggest his religion was Islam. It has been a norm for any man what more an influential man as he to have more than one name. As far as I’m concerned his name was Said Abdul Rahman. His wife was from an Arab descendent the Al-Gadry (Al-Qadri). At the foot of their grave was one of their 3 sons whom has passed away at a young age. His name was Hamdan. Their eldest Ismail following his father footsteps he travelled out of Singapore and for all I know he became a great religious teacher. His other son Ahmad who was also known as Tok Lama had two family. One in Singapore (Tok Walad’s family) and one in Daik Riau Lingga. There he married with a woman from the royal bloodline of Sri Paduka Sang Nila Utama. Tok Lama grave was never in Singapore. For all I know it’s in Lingga. One of Tok Lama’s son from Lingga came to Siglap to meet Tok Walad. He was wealthy he had Kelongs along the Eastern Coastline of Singapore. He was known as Pawang Kelong (Raja) Muhammad Yunnos of Siglap. I come from this lineage. I have seen the weapons which were heirloom from Siglap. I can tell you these weapons handed down from generation to generation they are not weapons from Minangkabau but they were all of Bugis origin. Weapons of Bugis Warriors. Ppl can tell many stories from hearsay but the truth still lies in the physical evidence such as architecture, sport, culture, tradition, food, petua (special prayers, etc. The search is a valuable learning process. The truth comes from tedious continuous own research and certainly not from some baseless hearsay. By the way I just learned there is a place in Sulawesi that has a somewhat similar name as Siglap. Now that is continuous research……. There is no need to hold too tightly over things that gives no justification. Be like Tok La’Sam……. Explore and have faith in your own hardwork. Say prayers from him……… Al-Fatihah…….. May Allah guide you to the truth one day…….. It is close but Pagar Ruyung, Minangkabau is far from any concrete evidence. I can’t be sharing everything here because I do not want it to be another hearsay. You got to wake up and do your own research. Find the truth until you’re satisfied. That is the spirit of Tok La’Sam true descendent. We do not sit and wait to be fed. We go out to the sea and for days we battle the ocean to bring back food from the sea for the ppl of Siglap. We are not farmers (anak petani) living on mountains…….. We are the fishermen (anak nelayan). The sea is our strength it was from the Kelongs our main source of income were made from.

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      • Hello Mr. Shahizan,

        Thank you very much for your reply to me.

        Yes I used to lived in Jalan Sempadan, Siglap in the 1950s and 1960s which my grandparents bungalow house was directly facing the sea which I always watch from our balcony to the sea that I can see all the Kelongs out there. And whenever the sea water resides in the evening our family members will go down to the sea-side to dig for oysters and then bring back to to fried it for dinner. Hope if you do have some photos of Jalan Sempadan kampong scenery will be nice to memories for me. Also every year I remember there will those malays sail boat racing in the sea which I will watch from our balcony with binoculars the race to see which sail boat is leading.

        Regards
        Koh See Kok

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      • Yes Mr Koh I do have some pictures you’re looking for. Give me your email address I will send you what I have. Some good sweet memories to smile about. Thank you.

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      • Mr Koh…….. Tok Walad’s wife and Tok Yunnos’s wife were siblings. Their mother for all I know was from a Chinese descendent. She was known as Koh Eng. Her husband was known as Haji Salleh (Kiyai Haji Salleh). I’m not sure if you are related to Koh Eng my Great Great Grandmother. I was told her family use to own a Pawn Shop in Siglap decades ago.

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  9. Hi Mr. Shahizan,

    Thank you for your reply to my enquiry here about my family 1950s 2-storey bungalow house at No. 16, Jalan Sempadan, Siglap (beside the mosque) which I hope if you do have some photos of it. My late family 2-storey bungalow house at No.16 Sempadan, Siglap was a Yellow color 2-storey bungalow (beside the mosque).
    As you mentioned:- “Shahizan says:
    May 10, 2016 at 3:36 pm
    Yes Mr Koh I do have some pictures you’re looking for. Give me your email address I will send you what I have. Some good sweet memories to smile about. Thank you.
    So here is my email address: henrykh@singnet.com.sg
    So I will be looking forward to receive some pictures of it as for memories of the good old Kampong days in the 1950s/1960s at No. 16 Jalan Sempadan, Siglap.

    Thank you very much.

    Best regards,
    Koh See Kok
    Singaporean

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