The Teochew Catholics of Aukang – A non-Catholic

Frankie Choo – Non-Catholic

Frankie Choo is a non-Catholic who stayed at Kampong Sireh, along the outskirts of the Hougang where a Taoist community had settled. A staunch Taoist, Choo presents an outsider’s view of the faith community in Hougang, especially since he frequented the Nativity Church and its surroundings as a non-believer.

His grandmother ran a Taoist temple named Mah Cho Keng, but that did not stop Choo from making friends with many of the Catholics of Hougang. Choo recalls that “staying in Hougang means you will meet many Teochews, and many of them were Christians that went to that church near Kangkar, now it is near Punggol Park.” Choo referred to the church as “Montfort Church, because many of [his] friends from Montfort went to that church.” He cheekily remembers that his Christian friends were very good at studying, “because they always go to church and God helps them”.

According to Choo, “Montfort School and Montfort Church were very big, my friends and I used to play catching at the cemetery at the church. Last time, we were not scared of ghosts – we were more excited if we saw one! I remember the statue of Mary the most, because my friends would always go and say prayers at the statue when they reach, and before they go home. At first, I made fun of them saying they were scared of ghosts and were asking Mary for protection and thanking her after that. Later on, they told me they were just praying for their families and friends. I was very surprised because most people who came to my grandmother’s temple only prayed for themselves. I even asked them to pray for me.”

Choo’s home was located at the intersection between dialect communities – “From where I stayed, one side would be mostly Teochews, all the way to the river. On the other side down the road were all the Hainans and Hokkiens”. He recalls the attraction of Aukang, “I always preferred to go towards the river with my Montfort friends. We used to catch fishes and frogs in the river and they would tell me about what they did in school. I was always jealous of them, but they never made me feel bad, that’s why we are all good friends!”. To this day, Choo boasts of having many Christian friends and fondly recalls the good times he spent with them. He was never allowed to convert due to his family constraints, but he remembers, “When my sister said she was going to marry a Christian, I was very happy for her, I know she will be in good hands.”

Excerpts from interview conducted on 11 Jan 2017 by Bryan Benjamin Goh for his thesis “The Rhythms of a Catholic-Teochew Community: Church, Family and School in Hougang (1945 – 1981)”, Department of History, National University of Singapore, AY2016-2017



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Angeline Yeo: Catholic convert