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Scholar, Banker, Gentleman Soldier

April 2, 2010

I had the privilege of reading a very old book that is no longer published on a very prominent person in Sg, who was basically one of the people that Singapore and Malaya looked up to from pre-war to post-war period. My father knew of him as well and as fate turns out, he got to know one of his family members who then decided to lend me a biography on him ie: Yap Pheng Gek, to brush up on my history.

Many people in our current generation would not heard of him because he was active in banking, politics, military and social responsibility before we were even born.

To be honest, I have never quite liked reading biographies for too long because I find them quite boring but the adventures, trials and turmoil that Dr Yap went through were things that I could identify with. It’s stirs up your emotions as he narrates about his experiences through the colonial days, the true gentlemen that existed, the real teachers that existed, the torture that people went through during the Japanese Occupation, the calmness of everyone’s spirits despite the changing circumstances of every minute, the gap between the English-speaking Chinese and Chinese-speaking Chinese etc. Finally, what really hit me was the patriotism that everyone had during the Jap Occupation. Sure there were people who were living off on others’ misery, but most of the time, everyone looked out for each other. Even a rickshaw puller on the street offered to send you home for free because he knew that you were frantically trying to get home. What’s the likelihood of that happening in modern day?

I shall leave a note here with some exercpts:

One of his experiences during the Japanese Occupation:

” I felt I could hold my own with the Japanese officials but with the sentries (a guard at the gate) on the streets, I was like the others ,completely at their mercy. The sentry was a law unto himself. Every Japanese sentry swaggered, enveloped in his self-imporatnce. But the lowest ranking sentry was the worst of the lot. Some of the military people at Oxley Rise and the civilian officials who used to call on me for one thing or another were not brutal.  The brutality was in the streets, at the hands of the ordinary soldier and inside the MP Headquarters.”

Meeting the Bandits:

” Another person who came to see me was Hock Chye. He was well-built, touch and athelectic……… He would, I thought when I first set eyes on him, appeal to many a young lady. I had heard a lot about him in Kota Tinggi where he was much wanted for armed robbery.

His coming to see me one night…..was not wholly unexpected. I had been informed he was looking for a chance to see me alone. His first words were he would never surrender. The thought of yielding to the Japanese was revolting to him.  I could see he was the type who would make it very costly for anybody to get him. He had a fighting temperant and seemed superior to the others in mentality…..”

” Let those who have money give of their money, those who have strength give of their strength and those who have niether give of their service.”- The Chinese newspapers who helped to publicize the Blue Cross activities.

One liner quotes:

“One touch of Nature makes the whole world akin.”

“China has only to endure to save her soul”–Winston Churchill prophesized about the Sino-Japanese war.


“The major part of my career was unplanned and unexpected. Although I cannot claim to have achieved anything of significance, my contentment lies in the knowledge that I had tried my best in whatever endeavour I found myself and am grateful for the chance to have taken part. I have always likened myself to a candle-light. If I can help to shed some light ona problem I would be pleased to do that. While thre are melancholy moments when I am weary of life’s journey, I find solace in the thought like a little flam I have conttinued to flicker to give light….”- The Reminiscences of Dr. Yap Pheng Geck, Scholar, Banker, Gentleman Soldier,Pg121

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kenneth permalink
    September 23, 2011 11:31 am

    Hi. My dad has been looking for a copy of this book. Apparently it was at a lunch organized by my great grandfather that Dr. Yap got into banking. I don’t suppose you might know where to get a copy would you?

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