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Travel & Holiday

Go island-hopping at this year's HeritageFest

Visitors can take history tours of Republic's isles and lighthouses
The Straits Times - June 27, 2014
By: Audrey Tan
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Go island-hopping at this year's HeritageFest

VISITORS to next month's Singapore HeritageFest will get to sail back in time for a glimpse of the Republic's island history, and explore a lighthouse that is usually out of bounds.

They will get to see the former Fullerton Lighthouse from the bus, sail past the one on Sultan Shoal, near Jurong Island, and explore Raffles Lighthouse which dates back to 1885 and is on Pulau Satumu, Singapore's southern-most land possession.

Yesterday, the National Heritage Board, the body behind the event, gave details of the festival, which aims to intrigue visitors with "lesser- known tales of our trading past". Besides conducting a lighthouse trail for the first time, this 11th edition of the yearly festival is focusing on Singapore's island heritage - another first.

A lesser-known fact about Singapore is that it was actually made up of not just one island, but more than 70 of them.

Some have been lost due to land reclamation, but visitors can still visit the tranquil St John's, Lazarus and Seringat islands, the religious Kusu Island, or Tanjong Rimau - a lesser known part of Sentosa - on three island-hopping excursions during the festival.

Themed Our Islands, Our Home, the festival, to be held from July 18 to 27, also hopes to help Singaporeans get in touch with their roots by showcasing the cultures and traditions of the migrants who settled here.

For instance, visitors can enjoy traditional performances, which include the lion dance or nanyin ("music of the south" in Chinese).

Originally from China's Fujian province, nanyin performances were popular with devotees visiting the temples on Kusu Island, south of Singapore, during the pilgrimage season in the 1970s. The popularity of nanyin may have faded, but festival-goers will get to hear the music enjoyed by their forefathers.

"Usually, the nanyin performances are held only during the ninth lunar month at the Tua Pek Kong temple (on Kusu)," said Ms Celestina Wang, vice-chairman of Siong Leng Musical Association, which is putting up a nanyin performance on Kusu for the festival.

"But we feel that Singapore HeritageFest will be a good platform to showcase this traditional art form to the public," she added.

There will be more than 60 different programmes on the mainland and on the surrounding islands during next month's event.

Eleven festival hubs will also be set up at locations such as Century Square, Changi City Point and the National Museum of Singapore.

Visitors can learn more about Singapore's myths and legends and Peranakan culture through activities such as exhibitions, storytelling sessions and face and body art painting.

Festival director Angelita Teo was heartened by the growing number of past festival contributors coming back this year. "Their contributions will allow more people to understand our heritage," she said.

National University of Singapore business undergraduate Jason Ng, 24, said he was keen to attend this year's festival.

He said it is good to explore the islands during HeritageFest since there will be activities then. "It's a good opportunity for couples and families to bond," he said

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