On a patch of open grassland behind Villa Marina, a low-rise private condominium, lies the grave of Penghulu Lasam. “Penghulu” is the Malay term for “headman” or “chief”.
The plot consists of three Muslim graves or six ‘corresponding’ markers that are located within two separate plots. On the first plot, one will find the graves of Tok Lasam and his wife. The second plot contains the grave of Tok Lasam’s Panglima, or commander-in-chief.
These are the only remaining graves from a former cemetery that was located at the site. When redevelopment of the area occurred in the 1990s, community leaders petitioned successfully to retain the graves, while others were exhumed and reinterred in the Muslim cemetery in Lim Chu Kang.
Legends surrounding Tok Lasam
There are a few versions of Tok Lasam's legends. On one account, it is believed that he was a prince from Sumatra known as Raja Sufian of Pagaruyung. According to this legend, he arrived in Singapore with his followers during the time of Sultan Husain Mohammed Shah in the early 1800s.
They settled on an uninhabited spot near the shoreline where they established what was to become Kampong Siglap. The men cleared the area, built houses and soon, a village grew. To protect his identity, Raja Sufian became known as Lasam or Tok Lasam.
After his arrival, Tok Lasam was made “Penghulu” or “Headman” of Kampung Siglap. His grave at Jalan Sempadan corresponds to where Kampung Siglap used to be located.
In another version of the legend, Tok Lasam came from the Indonesian province of Gowa, on Sulawesi Island. He was evacuated from Gowa when the Dutch invaded and decided to come to Temasek (Singapore) where he disguised as an ordinary person and was known as Lasam. He brought his followers, moved east and witnessed the total eclipse of the sun. Lasam then plunged his keris into the ground and declared that the village was to be named Kampung Si Gelap.
Death of Tok Lasam
It was believed that Tok Lasam passed away at the end of the 18th century. His body was buried beside the grave of his wife under a tree at the end of Jalan Sempadan.
Buildings and sites featured on Roots.SG are part of our efforts to raise awareness of our heritage; a listing on Roots.gov.sg does not imply any form of preservation or conservation status, unless it is mentioned in the article. The information in this article is valid as of April 2021 and is not intended to be an exhaustive history of the site/building.