Kebun Botani Singapura

The Botanical Garden's heavy steel gates.

Many Singapore tourist spend their holidays in its shopping malls and entertainment attractions, which is understandable because Singapore has invested in promoting these impressive places and It’s really worth going to most of these great spots. While there are many people that visits the Singapore’s Botanical Garden, its not on top priority for many merrymakers.  The Botanical Garden was founded in 1822 by no less than the founder of the modern Singapore himself, Sir Stramford Raffles. It just celebrated its 150th year since it relocated in Tanglin. In a promotional booklet available in its reception office it tells of its beginnings:

“The Singapore Botanic Gardens is a dynamic and living monument to the foresight of the founding fathers of Singapore. Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore and a keen naturalist, established the first botanical and experimental garden on Government Hill (Fort Canning Hill) in 1822, shortly after his arrival in Singapore. He aimed to introduce cultivation of economic crops such as cocoa and nutmeg.”

The marker with the Botanical Garden's brief history.

Signboard in English with Chinese, Malay and Japanese translation. The Garden is popular among the Japanese tourist.

However, it was closed down in 1829 because there was no more fund to run it. It opened its doors again in 1859. Henry Ridley is credited for ushering the modern botanical garden, making it the center of rubber tree research during his time. He discovered a new orchid specie and named it after a woman named Miss Joaquim. She was from an influential Armenian family. It is said that it was this lady who discovered the orchid in the botanical garden and brought it to Ridley’s attention. This humble orchid is now the national flower of Singapore. Ridley was a pivotal figure for the cultivation of Malayan coffee and rubber trees. The South East Asian rubber industry would’ve not been a strong producer today if it were not for this man. Mad Ridley as he was known during his administration because of his zealous researching methods.

Singapore’s Botanical gardens happens to be Rizal’s favorite destination in Singapore. In his diary he observed the garden’s, “cleanliness and orderliness…numerous plants with labels beside them”. In his second visit to the islands he also made fascinating notes – which only goes to illustrate his passion in botany. Pepe was said to have visited Singapore’s botanical garden three times, even in one of his shortest stopover to the port colony he still managed to find time to see it. This is the reason why the Singaporean authorities originally wanted to erect the plaque of Rizal [part of their  program called “friends to our shores”] in the garden but later decided to put it in the greens of Asian Civilization Museum, which I believe was an excellent choice. The Garden that Rizal frequented is the current Botanical Garden whose main entrance today is located in Cluny Road. It’s less than 500 meters away  from the American embassy. The old garden in Fort Canning, which was established during Raffles time, can still be visited today.

The garden has many attraction, aside from these small streams, there is a lake, a falls, a rain forest, yes, you heard it right, it's all inside this magnificent garden. There's even a venue for performing arts. Restos and hawkers for those who would want to just enjoying dining in the presence of nature. The research facility can be viewed from the outside, so you can actually see researchers in lab gowns making baby orchids. The reception area is unbelievable, it was more like a hotel lobby than a garden patio - it is surrounded by pond waters. This place is so vast that it will tire even the fittest guy in the gym. It's a good idea to bring a bottle of water, in my case, soda!

The preservation of this gardens is something that needs to be replicated by us, who had botanical gardens long after anyone started theirs in Asia – why our leaders seem not to care at all for these ancient cultivated patches of land is something that escapes my understanding. Too bad we no longer have the historical gardens of Manila, the grounds of Fray Blanco’s botanic garden is now a dormitory and the Mehan, once a Chinese ghetto converted into Jardin Botanicom, when the unruly Chinese were compulsorily vanished has been occupied by Atienza’s projects during his term [Ayayay! No more seat for this man please!] This UST architecture graduate will demolished all known heritage sites in Manila, this is his idea of saving them, like what he did to Skydome. Of all people, you expect someone like him to completely understand the importance of preserving our historical links, especially buildings with architectural and historical significance. Siya pa ang nagpapasimuno ng pag-giba, ibang klase din naman itong tao na ito. No wonder, heritage conservationist hates this guy.

Singapore Botanic Garden

December 2008

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3 responses to “Kebun Botani Singapura

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