Snail mail on a slow boat
This article was originally published in The New Paper on May 20, 2014. TNP met Singapore's oldest postman, who at 73, braved Ubin’s elements to deliver letters to the islanders. Mr Haron Jomahat has since fully retired.
Rain or shine every weekday afternoon, you’ll find Mr Haron Jomahat sitting on the brown benches at Changi Point Ferry Terminal.
Like anyone else who wants to go to Pulau Ubin, Mr Haron has to wait for 11 others to fill the bumboat before it leaves the terminal.
Then it’s a 10-minute journey to the island.
But unlike other boat passengers, who might be going on a rustic adventure, the 73-year-old part-time postman makes the daily trips to deliver mail to the island’s last remaining residents.
A Singapore Post spokesman said Mr Haron is the oldest postman in Singapore.
On good days, he can be on his way within minutes of arriving at the ferry terminal.
But rainy days mean fewer people travelling to Pulau Ubin, and he may have to wait for hours.
Mr Haron, the only postman in Singapore to take a bumboat to deliver mail, said with a chuckle: “I spend the time reading newspapers or just relax on the benches.”
Yet there is a lot more to his job than having to rely on an irregular ferry service.
He knows each residential address on the island, and sorts the letters at the SingPost delivery base off Loyang Avenue, starting with houses nearest to the jetty.
And mind you, an address may be no more than a house number and the numbers are not in order along a street as it is on the mainland.
For instance, if you write to “12 Pulau Ubin”, Mr Haron would know exactly where it is and will be able to deliver the letter.
Relying on his 20 years of experience there, Mr Haron can usually finish his mail run in less then three hours.
When he is done, Mr Haron, who lives in Pasir Ris, waits for a boat back to the mainland.
While his mail runs are typically shorter than those of his colleagues on the mainland, he has to ride through some of the roughest terrain accessible by post.
Some houses have only a narrow dirt track leading to them and at times it is difficult to reach them, even by motorcycle.
Mr Haron said: “On rainy days, these tracks would be too muddy and slippery for me, so I’ll just keep the mail for delivery the next day.”
Still, Mr Haron does not complain about his job.
He grew up as an islander on Pulau Tekong, and the grandfather of 12 said Pulau Ubin reminds him of his formative years.
“If given another chance I’ll still want to be assigned to Pulau Ubin,” he said. “It is not as hectic as the mainland and I love the rustic feel of this place.”