Spice for Life

Meet one of the pioneers who helped cultivate Fort Canning Park into the lush green haven it is today.

Like the small but potent chilli padi, Mr Rahmat bin Adban gets fired up with passion for his job with a wealth of training and self-taught knowledge.

He had “zero knowledge about plants” when he applied for a job with the National Parks Board (then Parks and Recreation Department) more than 34 years ago. Asked to name three plants during the job interview, he said: “‘Ixora, hibiscus, uh, balsam’ – the standard plants you learn in school”.


But, determined to find better prospects, he bought books, memorised the names and properties of plants within a month, and got the job.

The 50-year-old Assistant Parks Officer has come a long way from having his schooling cut short due to poverty. Over the years, he has taken many courses to improve himself and uses every opportunity to learn.


Once, he even “hid in a corner” to observe Balinese artists invited to carve a mural wall. The artists guarded their craft so jealously that they stopped working if they noticed anyone standing around.

“I like to watch and learn... if there is any major damage on this mural wall, I can fix it,” says Mr Rahmat.

Zipping around the park in his buggy, he points out landmarks he is proud of. With a team of workers, he has transformed an empty pocket of land into a Spice Garden and a natural clay pond into a landscaped pond that attracts diverse insect species.


As a boy, he fancied carpentry and worked as a carpenter’s helper. Now, he uses his skills to make crafts from reusable materials found around the park. Look out for interactive learning stations about spices made from tree stumps.

The chatty, genial man is also a guide for walks and workshops, and enjoys sharing his knowledge with people he meets. He says: “If you don’t have a positive attitude, you won’t be happy.”

This is the fourth in a series to celebrate those working behind the scenes to keep our daily operations running smoothly. For previous stories, visit our Unsung Heroes section.
    Nov 8, 2011
    Siti Maziah Masramli
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