Retro Volkswagen – Hands Off

I would like to share some of my experiences in Tekong as a SISPEC instructor and later on BMTC instructor. I was in SAF for 5 years, being naive enough to sign the dotted line. My first posting after my SISPEC training was as an instructor in SISPEC, which demoralised me as I expected to join 1 ADF, anyways Army has a way to screw with soldiers and i guess I learnt that at 19 years old and opened my eyes to SAF life.

Back in 2005, I had taken 3 batches of Basic and Advanced Section Leader courses and was confident of my skills as an Infantry Leader. I was due to post out later in the year and has requested for ADF again which was approved. This would be my 2nd last batch of trainees before moving on. I was leading my section of trainees on a 4 day exercise called Grandslam. The particular mission that day was to be an deliberate ambush. After hearing the section’s ops order and rehearsals, we finally move out. The trainee Section Commander gave the signal and we took a bearing and went tearing away in the jungle.

Tekong was originally inhabited by villagers, while the people and kampungs were no longer there, the trails were present and to a certain extent we used them as guidelines to figure out our location. Its very easy to navigate in Tekong. During our movement to the ambush site, apparently the SC(Section Commander) has taken a direct bearing towards the location, while easy to keep track of location based on time taken, it meant we have to bash deep into the jungle. Timing is also important as we have to reach the site before a certain timing to ambush a convoy scheduled to move along the road.

At about 3pm, the SC signaled to take a 5 min breather to the exhausted guys. Being an inquisitive guy, I was looking around for interesting stuff. You never know what interesting stuff could be found dropped by the countless of soldiers training in Tekong over the years. So in that location, I spotted an abandoned Volkswagen Beetle, a real retro version, covered in moss and growth. Being an itchy handed moron, I grabbed the licence plate and stuffed it in my webbing, you know as memento. I then went back to the guys and we moved off again.

Reached location, ambush sprung, throw in some surprises to the trainees and we left to return back to the patrol base, this time I gave guidance to a faster way of getting back, damn I was hungry. Arrived back and gave the men my critique of the mission and its positives and negatives. That was the last section mission and after a platoon dawn attack tomorrow morning we will be back in camp and finally I can catch up with my then girlfriend during nights off. The rest of the exercise was uneventful, and we sprung an excellent platoon assault on objective which was praised by the CO who was observing. After an exhausting evacuation drill running back to camp for at least 5 km. we were done. Time for a clean up and equipment maintenance. I had forgotten all about the licence plate.

That night, after cleaning up and accounting for equipment, I finally crashed in my bed at about 0100 hours. As the next day was Sat, I was feeling pumped as I can finally book-out. 5 days of staying in can really affect a man’s mental state, I tell ya.

That night, I dreamt that I was a villager, back in the 60s era. It was like I was living in a man’s life and encountering the daily life as a villager in those days. But somehow it doesn’t feel right and it was as if the village was like a place I can’t leave. I was served drinks and lunch and I remembered an elder talking about some marriage with a lady. Pretty I must add. After such a vivid dream, i awakened feeling puzzled. The dreams continued for a few days, even at home, ending with a Malay village elder asking whether I agree to marry the daughter and stay in the village.

Being a modern dude and not knowledgeable of these stuff, the next book out I turned to an old friend of mine from school, his dad was very learnt in the spiritual world and I asked his opinion of the dreams. He invited me back to his house and to speak with his dad. So I obliged and after a round of coffee and mindless banter, the dad told me of his opinion.

He told me that I had encountered a “Bunian” community. From the term, i understood it as a type of being other than human. A form of Jinn. The elder of the community has taken a liking towards me and wanted me to be part of them. It was strengthened hanging around the Volkswagen, as their elder or chief home was near to it, spiritually we cant see it. He then asked whether they made any request from me, I told them about the marriage proposal. Uncle nodded and asked whether I was willing to accept. I told him no and said I prefer living in the real world! He then told me a story from his time in the 50s living in what is now the Sentosa island. A boy was missing and the mom approached a bomoh for help. The mom was told that he was taken by a group of Bunian and brought in their spiritual world. He was able to see the living, but we cant see them or talk to them. In the end the mom was advised to go to the beach at a certain time with the bomoh but NOT to call his name when he materialized. At the given time, the boy’s voice was heard and he was seen approaching them from a distance, the mom, distraught from missing her child, forgot of the bomoh’s advice. She called out his name and the boy disappeared from view. He remains missing till this day.

After that chilling tale, boy was I scared. I asked Uncle how to reject their offer. He knowingly asked whether I had taken anything from the site I encountered during training. I said I had taken a licence plate. He advised me to return the plate and apologize and state my intention not to join them. God willing, they will not come in my dreams again. I thank him and left for camp to book in, as I have duty in that Sunday.

That weekend, I was the BOS in duty. Thankfully the DO was an Indian WO which was quite a nice guy. I was too worried about when to return the licence plate. Then I remembered that the camp has a duty land rover and I could ask the WO to drive me near to the location and assist me. I had no idea how to broach the subject but what the hell. During lunch I brought up topics of the supernatural and found that the WO was quite a believer. I told him of my intention and he agreed to assist me, at about 3 pm, we drove up to the location, somewhere near to the Eastern part of Tekong.

On the whim, during lunch I had taken 3 apples with me. I had it with them on the drive up to the location, I had brought the apples with me. Anyway, once we reached the location, me and the WO made a short walk to where the abandoned Volkswagen lies. I placed the licence plate on the bonnet and stated my intention not to accept the offer, but was honored to be asked to join them. After stating this, a squirrel came out of nowhere and stood right in front of me and the WO. Somehow I reached inside my cargo pants pocket and gave it my apple. It took the apple and scurried back to the trees. I then left the other two apples and walked back to the vehicle.

That night, after inspecting the Guard duty personnel, I went to sleep in my bunk, having to wake up about 430pm to start the cook house. I dreamt that I was back in the village, talking to the elder. He said he understood the reason for me declining the marriage. He then said he was thankful I gave the apples to the squirrel, which actually was one of his people! After letting me know to come back if I need help, I woke up.

I never went back to the place again. After another tour of trainees I finally got posted out. Brunei, Taiwan, Australia and an Aircraft Carrier on the Pacific Ocean, my career was an adventure. But to this day, I always advise anyone not to pick up any unique items anywhere, lest if he or she don’t mind a trip into the spiritual world!

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