Pulau Ubin Superstitious
We all are familiar with haunted stories at Pulau Ubin. To go there, we need to take the bumboat right?However there is one rule, untold to many people. The boat drivers would agree to transport anything, except dead bodies. This is their superstition that they cannot mix the live and the dead passengers. If ever they break this rule, they will invite mishaps to their water journeys. But it is true that many people besides tourists are merchants or traders going to and from Pulau Ubin. For example, they have a business or a job at Pulau Ubin but their home is in the mainland. If they unfortunately died away from home, their bodies could not be taken back to the mainland but to bury in Pulau Ubin. This was quite difficult for most people to accept because every family would prefer to have the soul of the lost one return home.
Although their bodies cannot be taken back to the mainland they require the ‘spirit’ to come home. One method is to invite along the shaman to the burial location in Pulai Ubin, have some chanting, and summon the spirit to ‘live’ in a ancestor tablet (that is a wooden altar with the dead’s name written on). They believe using the wood tablet as a medium, at least they can carry back the soul to the mainland.
But there is one taboo for the boat people. They wouldn’t allow a tablet altar to be brought on the boat just as it is. They will lend you a paper umbrella – a traditional old Chinese style umbrella that is made of paper and bamboo, and the surface of the umbrella is usually waxed and painted. The umbrella is used to cover the tablet together with the joss-stick, throughout the whole boat journey, regardless of a sunny or rainy day, day or night. They believe that it is a must to keep the spirit contained under this paper umbrella. So that the spirit will not flee to elsewhere especially they are afraid the spirit will choose to stay in their boat.
Next time when you take a gumboat ride to Ubin, take a look at the roof structure of the jetty shelter you will see a paper umbrella is placed there. But don’t try to touch it or open it for fun. It is a serious tool used by the boat men to transport spirits.