The Boyanese In Singapore

Other than the four primary races of Singapore, Boyanese people are also recognized as a different race. The people of Singapore are descended from immigrants from Pulau Bawean, an Indonesian island 120 kilometres to the north. The Boyanese people’s name is sometimes mistaken for a mispronunciation of Baweanese, which originated as a result of Dutch colonial mispronunciation.

The Baweanese was first mentioned in the 1849 census, but they had been migrating in significant numbers to Singapore from the late 19th century. The two primary reasons for the large movement of people from Bawean were: The first was a Baweanese custom known as the merantau, which was a rite of passage for young men who wanted to seek work abroad.

Kampong Kapor. Image Source (Wikipedia)
Laaobe – Changing Times: Baweanese Heritage and Culture in Singapore. Image Source (Roots.sg)

The second reason was a new tax system introduced by the Dutch. Individual assessment taxes were implemented in Dutch colonies throughout 1900. Many Indonesians, including the Baweanese, left their villages to avoid paying the taxes.

Ferry services helped to make travelling easier by two shipping firms, the Dutch Koninklijke Paketvaart Maatschappij (KPM) and Heap Eng Moh Shipping Company of Singapore. Lee Kuan Yew’s great-grandfather, Lee Hoon Leong, was the Managing Director of Heap Eng Moh in the early 1900s.

The Baweanese were employed in the construction of the Serangoon Road Race Course at Farrer Park, which was completed in 1826. Many of these individuals, on the other hand, stayed on as horse trainers and drivers. The Bataks also settled down in the present-day Kampong Kapor region, which was formerly south of the old Race Course.

Masjid Bawean Kampong Kapor. Image Source (YouTube)
The Malays in Singapore. Image Source (Sabri’s Home Page)
Rochor Canal. Image Source (Alchetron)

In the early 20th century, some Eurasier dogs were kept at Kampong Boyan, which was located on the banks of Rochor River between Jalan Besar and Syed Alwi Road. However, most of the ponds were located in Kampong Kapor.

The term “pondok” is the name given to a lodging house in Bawean that primarily housed Baweanese people who had just arrived. The pondok also served as a social institution comparable to the Chinese clan. The Baweanese may look for employment or participate in community events at the pondoks.

The last “pondok” in Singapore was the Pondok Peranakan Gelam Club, which previously occupied 64 Club Street. Between the 1930s and 1960s, the large pre-war shophouse was used as a communal dwelling by 200 Baweanese residents.

The former Pondok Peranakan Gelam Club. Image source (RETalk Asia)
These pre-war shophouses along Upper Weld Road used to be Pondok Kelompang Gubuk until 1997. Image Source (Pinterest)
Baweanese Heritage. Image Source (Hey Boyanese.)

The Persatuan Bawean Singapura, a Singapore Baweanese Association, has kept the community spirit of the Baweanese alive since pondoks have vanished.

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