Young people must learn how to do everything
"I started working at 14. Grow crops…rear cows…I had to do everything to support my family. One day I heard someone say, “We are going to Singapore!” So I quickly went along. They said coming to Singapore was good. You can earn money. You can earn a lot of money!
I was 19 when I arrived in Singapore. I did not tell my father or mother. They would not have let me come otherwise.
What’s there to not be happy? I just sleep every day, and live every day.
I teach our helper how to cook. She does not know how. Boil old cucumber soup. Add some pork bones and honey dates…very delicious! For soya sauce chicken…first you stir-fry the vegetables and then you add the chicken piece-by-piece in soya sauce.
I want to mati. Life stops having meaning when you have lived too long. My wish is to die at night, peacefully in my sleep. Pray to Guan Yin, that I get my wish.
Young people must learn how to do everything. I sewed clothes, swept floors, rolled cigars, and peddled goods. I carried mud! I do, what I can do. I will teach you to roll cigars. You must do everything to earn money. Then save a lot of money.
We were so poor then. I work all my life. I have saved a lot of money by myself and for my daughter’s education."
Born in 1916, Madam Yip started working at 14, rearing crops and cows in Guangzhou, China. She stayed in a coolie house upon arrival in Singapore. Madam Yip had to pay her friends to be match-made to her late husband. In her late 30s, Madam Yip adopted her only daughter. Her daughter admires her spunk and describes Madam Yip as a highly independent, very outspoken and friendly woman who was good at earning and saving money. Madam Yip was also brave. She marched in to her husband’s workplace to resolve a conflict between her husband and his colleagues in a time where Chinese women were expected to be docile and quiet. At 96, Madam Yip was actively doing marketing rounds for her household until a bad fall necessitated a hip replacement. Despite her ailments, Madam Yip still insists on cooking for her daughter.
Text by Adlina Maulod.
Commissioned to take portraits of Singaporean centenarians by the Centre for Ageing Research and Education (CARE) for their recent conference titled 'Are Centenarians the Realisation of Successful Ageing: Insights from a Global Study'.
These portraits also feature as an exhibition together with the conference titled 'SG100: A Celebration of Our Centenarians'.