Category: My Hometown

My Hometown :: From gambir to vegetables [武吉甘密]

Mushroomed buildings in Bukit Gambir.

Mushroomed buildings in Bukit Gambir.

Bukit Gambir and Sengkang Batu 19 were formed during the Malayan Emergency in the 1950s.

It was recorded that Yang Li Zeng first developed Sengkang Batu 17 and 16, before opening ground in Sengkang 19. Yang Li Zeng then sold the two pieces of developed land to Yang Ren Mei.

Yang Ren Mei then cooperated with Xu Bing Zhang and grew gambir on a 500-acre hillside. The place was then named Bukit Gambir.

Although they later replaced gambir with rubber trees, the name retained. However, gambir can no longer be seen in Bukit Gambir.

Bukit Gambir is the second largest town of Ledang. Local housing industry has developed rapidly while businesses are booming here.

Former village head Chen Lai Chun, 75, who moved to Bukit Gambir from Sengkang Batu 17, said that during the Malayan Emergency, the new village was originally a rubber plantation. It was used by the British colonial government and 250 families were moved into the village. Life at that time was very hard.

He said that local council president was a Chinese at that time and several roads carried Chinese names. However, these road names have now been transliterated into Bahasa Malaysia.

Chen said that founders of the town founded three schools for educational and cultural inheritance.

He pointed out that residential areas were started to be developed in the early 1980s, driving local business activities.

As time goes by, Bukit Gambir has grown from a humble small town into a modern city with infinite room for development.

Federation of Malaysian Vegetable Farmers’ Association president Tan So Tiok, 66, vaguely remembered that his family was forced to move into the new village in 1954. His father had difficulty after suffering injuries in a traffic accident and thus, the family burden fell on his mother and sister. Therefore, life was extremely difficult for his family when he was young.

He said with a smile that many villagers would rush on bicycle to queue for inspection in the morning during the Malayan Emergency period.

He said that children in the village at that time spoke different dialects until they were enrolled and started to learn Mandarin in primary school. He recalled that his teacher did not understand Teowchew and thus, wrongly pronounced his name, causing him to have his name changed.

He revealed that there was a custom of using candles to make obituary. Villagers would know that someone in the village had passed away when they saw red candles in front of the houses. Assistance would be offered and they would also lit candles at night. However, the custom eventually died out following the village’s expansion.

He said that villagers have maintained good relationships, filling the village with deep sense of human touch.

Developing his vegetable farm into the biggest in northern Johor has been Chen’s proudest achievement.

He said that he gained experience after helping in his father’s small vegetable garden at their yard since young.

He disclosed that the government distributed 400 acre of land to Sengkang Batu 18 villagers, or 2 acre each. He thus gave up his job and started his vegetable farming business on that desolate swamp.

He said that it was a temporary lease and they were not allowed to grow financial crops like durian, cocoa and rubber trees. Therefore, he grew vines and leafy vegetables while other grew banana, taro, etc. Their applications for 99-year lease was approved only in 1987.

He said that the development of vegetable farming has provided job opportunities to local residents.

He lamented that today, harvest dropped and the survival of vegetable farms is at risk, due to climate changes, high costs and low prices.

Former Bukit Gambir New Village volunteer fire-fighting unit chief Chen Zhong Zhou, 83, said that 58 shop houses were burned down in a massive fire in 1992 and only 10 were not affected. The town encountered another massive fire in 2002, 10 years after the first.

Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE

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GPS Coordinates: 2.21209N, 102.65347E Geotag Icon Show on map

Category: My Hometown