SINGAPORE – At dusk each night, retiree Zainal Angus lights his oil lamp at the hut where he tends the tomb of Radin Mas – a Javanese princess who, according to folklore, was knifed in the heart while trying to shield her father during a family feud.
“I love this shrine more than my house – I don’t even mop my own house sometimes,” laughs Mr Zainal, 69, the sole volunteer caretaker of Keramat Radin Mas, which despite the glow of his oil lamp remains shrouded in darkness from the road below.
The memorial, on the slopes of Mount Faber, is one of the stops on a new walk launched by My Community, a non-profit organisation which promotes Singapore’s history.
The four-hour “My Telok Blangah Heritage Tour” is its ninth free guided walk, following others in areas like Tiong Bahru, Holland Village, and Redhill.
The 3.6km trail is described as ” a walk through 700 years of Singapore” and takes in eight sites including a Sikh temple, the Royal Johor Mausoleum and cemeteries such as the Marang Graves and Tanah Kubor Raja.
The story of Keramat Radin Mas is one of the most fascinating, not least for its recent history – of which Mr Zainal plays a major part.
Two decades ago, the tomb was enclosed by a hut strewn with litter and overgrown with bushes and weeds.
In late 1999, Mr Zainal decided to clean up the place to give Radin Mas the recognition she deserves.
With permission from the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS), Mr Zainal cleaned and repaired the hut with his own retirement money.
“A Chinese friend helped fix the floor, for free,” he recalled, telling how the community pulled together to help him. “The staircase was fixed by a Hindu man. I got the railings from a construction site nearby and fixed them together myself, so people can hold them while climbing up the stairs.”
Mr Zainal visits the memorial every day to clean up and welcomes visitors by telling them the tale of Radin Mas Ayu’s heroics. He hopes the authorities will recognise it as part of Singapore’s heritage as well as a tourist destination.
The first My Telok Blangah Heritage Tour will take place this Saturday and all its 50 places are already booked, while following walks are fully taken up until September.
To register for a future walk, visit: www.mycommunity.eventbrite.sg