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Unusual Ceremony
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Unusual Temple Ceremony in Sims Ave

‘Deep down, I never stopped feeling guilty’
1,200 couples offer prayers to aborted foetuses
By Maureen Koh

November 04, 2006

She wasn’t alone.

With her in the second floor hall of the Cai Shen (Fortune God) temple were other mostly young Singaporean couples at a ceremony to put their past behind them. More than 1,200 couples had registered.

The day-long mass ritual was held after an auspicious date and time were selected by the Yuan Zhong Xiu Geomancy Centre, which conducted the ceremony.

Last Monday fell on Chong Yang (Double Ninth) Festival, the ninth day of the ninth lunar month.

Mr Lim Dechang spending a quiet moment in front of the urn he and his wife placed for the child they aborted 18 years ago. — MOHD ISHAK

It is the day when believers of the deities Kew Ong Yah (nine emperors of Chinese legend) hold a ceremony to celebrate their birthdays.

Said Madam Ng, 30: ‘I told myself it was the last thing I could ever do for my unborn baby.

‘He had suffered long enough. It was also a way of making peace with myself, and to bid him farewell.’

Madam Ng, a teacher, recalled how she had to terminate her pregnancy.

Then she was doing her final year degree in English at the National University of Singapore.

She was two months’ pregnant.

Dressed in a beige blouse and dark pants, the slender woman said in English: ‘I didn’t have a choice, it was that or risk not graduating. I had to concentrate on my studies.’

After a discussion with her then boyfriend, and with her parents’ approval, she opted for abortion.

She eventually broke off with her boyfriend, but no one except her family members knew about the abortion.

Only one other person let into the secret – her husband, Mr Ricky Foo, 32, a property agent.

She told him about it before their marriage in 2002. Life was blissful for the couple, especially with the addition of a baby boy a year later.

Until sometime in December last year.

‘My son had started to babble a little and he’d always mumble ‘Kor Kor’ (Hokkien for elder brother) while staring into blank space,’ recalled Madam Ng.

‘At first I ignored it, thinking he was just learning how to talk, but it became more frequent.

‘Then one of Ricky’s colleagues passed him a newspaper article in August.’

‘I told myself it was the last thing I could ever do for my unborn baby. He had suffered long enough. It was also a way of making peace with myself, and to bid him farewell.’ said, Madam Diana Ng, 30, at above (in pale jacket) observing the prayer ceremony

That was when they first learned of how the spirits of miscarried or aborted foetuses are laid to rest in urns nestled in columbarium niches.

CLOSURE
While some may brush it off as superstitious, others interviewed by The New Paper said that the ceremony served as an act of closure for the parents.

Five priests performed the mass ritual that will lead the infant spirits to rest and give them a chance for reincarnation.

A full bottle of milk is placed in front of each urn, and biscuits, sweets and small toys scattered around them on the table.

The surnames of both parents are carved on the outside for identification, but they are discouraged from paying respects after the ritual.

‘This to prevent the infant spirit from holding on and refusing to leave,’ said Mr Hillary Phang, 40, managing director of the centre.

It costs $1,388 for one urn, which is placed after the ceremony in one of the rooms in the Sims Avenue temple for five years.

The centre will then perform another ceremony where the urns will be ‘cremated’.

Mr Phang said they believe they are the only ones in Singapore providing such a service.

Mr Ang Boon Soon, 42, a geomancy master from the centre, added that there was an increasing demand for the niches, especially as it was not only for those who had lost their babies recently.

‘We have couples who tell us that the abortion or miscarriage took place more than 10 years ago,’ he said.

Like Mr Lim Dechang, 39, a sales manager.

He said in Mandarin: ‘I had just finished national service, and had not found a job yet.

‘We felt we were not ready to start a family then. That was about 18 years ago.’

His wife, Mrs Lim, 34, said: ‘Deep in my heart, I’ve never stopped feeling guilty about it.’ The couple has a 10-year-old daughter.

(Above) Prayers being chanted for the infant spirits in front of rows of memorial tablets. — MOHD ISHAK

UNEASINESS

Mr Lim said: ‘Somehow there was this niggling uneasiness that we couldn’t explain.’

Parents may attend the ceremony, but they are discouraged from joining in the prayers as they are the ‘elder’ of the infant spirit, said Mr Ang.

The centre also manages the top floor of the An Le Memorial Park columbarium at Choa Chu Kang, where the niches house the spirits of miscarried or aborted niches in small urns.

There are more than 800 urns placed at An Le since it was opened last year.

Each urn contains the hair and nails of the parents and houses one baby spirit.

Mr Phang explained: ‘When everything’s done, it’s like unloading a burden. Our clients tell us they feel peaceful. Often, it’s like closing the final chapter of a book.’

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