I moved to Bukit Batok when I was 16. It was a new town then. I was very excited moving from a small 3-room flat at Telok Blangah to a more spacious point block 5-room HDB apartment. It is no big deal among the young Singaporeans who are used to condo and swimming clubs. But it was a big deal to me.
As far as I know, Dr Ong Chit Chung was my MP at Bukit Batok. There must be predecessors before him but as far as I am concerned Bukit Batok equals Dr Ong. When I first moved in, there were all the urban legends that Bukit Batok was haunted. Every new estate had such stories. But today, Bukit Batok is one of the best places to stay in Singapore. My parents love the place so much they refuse to move. Forget about condo and all that. They love Bukit Batok and their spacious 5-room flat. I believe a lot of the town's developments are attributable to Dr Ong and his hardworking team of grassroots heroes.
I left Bukit Batok for Boston in 1999 for my Fulbright Fellows programme. When I came back to Singapore in 2001, I stayed in Bukit Panjang. While I was very active in the cyber roots for the PAP in the late 90s, our own start-up business with my pals Victor and VicSent took priority - we got it listed in 2005 but I was a bit out of touch with grassroots activities as a listing exercise is draining. It was a call from Minister Yeo that got us back to the team.
Here is the irony. While I was away, my parents and relatives became very active in grassroots activities! My dad has retired and he nows teaches Chi Gong in the morning for residents at Bukit Batok. My uncle is a keen photographer and he has assisted Dr Ong on many an occasion. My aunty Shirlene is the real "Higglytown hero" - she is often performing line dancing for block parties and events. I drop by several times with my daughter to see those performances and Dr Ong will be there to say hello to the people. He is very warm and often has a kind word to say to people around him. Whenever he sees me, he would give me a slight "Hello" nod.
On one occasion during the MP walk-abouts, he came to my parent's flat at Block 101 in the evening. It just happened to be our family gathering (and a few of us had quite a bit of good wine) and we took a family shot with him in the middle. It was heart warmingly nice. I hope my Uncle has that picture and I could post it here.
We will miss you Dr Ong.