The Gift of a Lifetime

December 16th, 2007   •   24 comments   

Christmas is just around the corner. My wife Tina and I were cracking our heads thinking about an appropriate gift for our four year old Ethan. Should we get him yet another Power Rangers toy? Or maybe a pair of rollerblades?

Inspired by NParks’ Plant A Tree programme, Tina suggested that we give him a tree. This will be meaningful as trees help to beautify our environment, reduce our carbon footprint, and restore Singapore’s once lush tropical forest cover. More importantly, it could be a gift that will follow him for a lifetime as forest species do grow rather slowly. At $200 a piece, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to do our bit for our future generations.

Our ardour for arbor began at the foot of Mount Faber Park, just next to Marang Road. This route was named after the Marang trees which used to grow in the region.
Here’s Ethan and Tina listening intently as our intrepid guide from NParks explains how the forested Kent Ridge, Telok Blangah Hill, and Mount Faber regions used to be one continuous strip of tropical rainforest. Now they are dissected by roads that ply the region.

Our tree planting adventure started with the removal of the loose soil from the hole. The nice folks have already dug the hole for us with a changkol and spade. You can see the sapling in its potting mix ready to be planted.

Daddy jumped into the fray soon after and abandoned his camera. Many hands make light work.

Soon the pit was large enough for us to plant our newly leafed sapling. Ethan of course was all studied concentration, focusing on the task at hand.

The next step is to water the little tree – an important ceremony to give it a taste of its new home.

A Kodak moment for us, after the hard work of planting a tree. Notice the colour coordinated purple tops.

Our tree’s name? Marang or Artocarpus odoratissimus of course! With its characteristic three-pronged leaf, this plant bears edible fruits related to the jackfruit and breadfruit.

After our tree planting chores were done, we were treated to a guided tour by NParks’ Tan Aun Yee, who brought her son Yuh Yang. Together with us were Mr Steven Ong, who planted his first of 20o trees. Yes, he is a nature lover extraordinaire!

Yuh Yang and Ethan took the lead.

A red saga seed (Adenanthera pavonina), one of many treasures in the forest.

This unfortunate herbaceous plant was infected by galls. Apparently, it is nature’s way of removing the weak and maintaining the balance.

These low lying runners are actually medicinal in value, and are used to treat fevers. (Update: Aun Yee updated that these plants are actually used in ulam as raw vegetables to be eaten. Oops hope nobody swallowed these in a bid to cool their heads!)

The Singapore rhododendron or Melastoma malabathricum is a common species at secondary forests like these. I have especially fond memories of this plant because I conducted experiments on them 14 years ago when doing my honours in botany.

One of the few lovely black and white bungalows up on Mount Faber. Living in the lap of luxuriant vegetation beside nature’s splendour.

Park benches like these help to provide temporary respite for those un-accustomed to trekking in highly urbanised Singapore.

This huge and sprawling sugar palm tree (Arenga pinnata) is frequently sighted at the forest. It was once planted as a crop species decades ago.

Here’s the fruit of the sugar palm tree.

A shot of a massively magnificent Pulai tree (Alstonia angustiloba), one of the taller tree species which can be found in primary rainforests too. (Update: this is the species that can treat fevers….so desu ne)

Huffing and puffing our way up to the summit.

Finally, the top of Mount Faber can be seen. We never knew that walking through this boardwalk could be so much fun.

A shot of the tree planters cum trail trekkers looking smug after our forest adventures…

… and a friend made amidst caring for and appreciating nature.

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  1. Benjamin Koe
    posted on Dec 16, 2007 at 4:13 AM

    That’s an awesome story Walter. Here I am looking at bags, CDs, and electronics as gifts while here you gave your son a “life” that will follow his.

    Lovely. =)

  2. imp
    posted on Dec 16, 2007 at 4:38 AM

    a reallyreally cool gift for your son. and cultivating that appreciation for the environment in a young child is unrivalled. 🙂 *clap clap*

  3. Lam Chun See
    posted on Dec 16, 2007 at 1:20 PM

    Today you planted more than a tree. You planted in your son a love for trees. Well done man.

  4. Jason Ho
    posted on Dec 16, 2007 at 6:46 AM

    Fwah, I have always wanted to do something like this…Plant a tree that is…never really found out how much it costs.

    Its more of a carbon offset thing for me than anything else. Eh..You got any idea for the stats on this? Like one tree = xx no. of flights taken a year or something? 😉

  5. David
    posted on Dec 16, 2007 at 10:44 AM

    Truly a meaningful gift that keeps on giving, Walter. 🙂

  6. posted on Dec 16, 2007 at 10:52 AM

    A fabulous gift that is very meaningful. 🙂

  7. posted on Dec 16, 2007 at 2:52 PM


    Thanks for the encouragement. It was really my wife’s idea and something that we feel would make a difference. Going green makes one feel good too!

  8. posted on Dec 16, 2007 at 2:53 PM


    Thank you thank you. I believe we all have a role to play in making our planet better. And it starts from home!

  9. posted on Dec 16, 2007 at 2:54 PM


    Hmmm… I got to find out about this carbon offset thingy… Maybe you can blog about it next on I’ll definitely post more green adventures soon.

  10. posted on Dec 16, 2007 at 2:55 PM


    Thanks dude. As I highlighted before at a you know what meeting, we should encourage more people to be activists – albeit in a positive manner. “I like to teach the world to sing… in perfect harmony….”

  11. posted on Dec 16, 2007 at 2:56 PM


    Thanks for the encouragement! 😉

  12. posted on Dec 16, 2007 at 2:58 PM

    chun see,

    WEll said indeed. AS the saying goes, “Give him a fish and he eats for a day, teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”

    In this case, we can substitute fishing with planting trees. Because if I don’t do it, he WILL witness changes in the world in his lifetime – like climate change and the greenhouse effect.

  13. posted on Dec 16, 2007 at 6:14 PM

    You’ve a good heart, Walter. Your gift to your son is more than a tree. 🙂 And NParks really has a fine idea!

  14. posted on Dec 17, 2007 at 12:33 AM

    hey Walter, that gift is really meaningful!

    a few days ago I just visited nearby HortPark and Kent Ridge Park, looks like next on my list is walking up Mount Faber! =)

    I wonder will Ethan grow taller than the gift? =)

  15. posted on Dec 17, 2007 at 6:14 AM

    That’s a terrific gift, Walter. Thanks for pointing this out. =)

  16. posted on Dec 17, 2007 at 6:42 AM

    that’s really cool Walter. You don’t only help the environment to be more greener but you did some fun too with you love ones! Keep it up.

  17. posted on Dec 17, 2007 at 8:20 AM

    So sweet of you and your wife. I guess Ethan must be enjoying his ‘present’ too.

  18. posted on Dec 17, 2007 at 1:12 PM


    Thanks bro. I think I have my wonderful wife to thank for coming up with this ingenious idea. And I always enjoyed Singapore’s greenery too!

  19. posted on Dec 17, 2007 at 1:13 PM


    Hehe… hope he grows taller than the tree soon. Although I also wish sometimes that he doesn’t grow too fast because well… we treasure every moment with him now.

  20. posted on Dec 17, 2007 at 1:14 PM


    Not a prob dude. You should try to plant one too! 😉

  21. posted on Dec 17, 2007 at 1:15 PM

    business credit card (hmmm…),

    Thanks for your comments and encouragement. We certainly enjoyed doing it and Ethan is also a nature lover.

  22. posted on Dec 17, 2007 at 1:17 PM


    Yeah its the little that we can do for him and posterity too.

  23. posted on Dec 18, 2007 at 3:18 AM

    Hey, such a meaningful gift for Ethan. Does he like it and does he still want a Power Ranger toy? “P

  24. Lam Chun See
    posted on Dec 19, 2007 at 5:23 AM

    Kenneth’s priority now is to get hitched and plant a few saplings of the two-legged kind and then ….

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