SAIFULLAH KAMALUDIN: HERITAGE GUIDE MAKES BEING A HISTORY NERD COOL AT SENTOSA
If liking history makes you a nerd, we want to be nerds too. This award-winning history enthusiast brings Sentosa’s past to life through memorable heritage experiences..
“When Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un came to Singapore in 2018, Sentosa hosted the Trump-Kim Summit. That’s one world event I’ll never forget. As a gesture of peace, our team decorated the guns at Fort Siloso with flowers.
It went viral. Our tribute to both world leaders – and the significance of their meeting – was published in the New York Times. We were even featured on the North Korean subway! [Laughs] It was interesting to see pictures of our peace blossoms get circulated online.
I work in the Recreational Nodes Unit at Sentosa. We manage and promote Sentosa’s free attractions, including places of interest such as Fort Siloso. My love for history actually began in Fort Siloso when I was first posted there in 2007 as a part-timer.
Fort Siloso is the last preserved coastal fort in Singapore. Back in the day, the British used the fort to protect our shores and safeguard the entrances to Singapore’s harbour. It’s now a historical landmark that you can enter for free.
As the new kid on the block, I would tag along when other guides conducted their tours of Fort Siloso. I remember feeling so intrigued by the stories they shared. I wanted to know more! I was just so curious about Sentosa’s past.
Singapore history may sound dull, but when I come up with different tours, programmes and events, I’m always thinking about ways to make it livelier. How can we make history fun yet informative? How can we integrate other elements to present history differently?
For example, Sentosa partnered up with National Heritage Board for the Battle for Singapore programme. This annual event commemorates the Fall of Singapore in 1942. Together with historian Dr John Kwok, I came up with the Fort Siloso Rediscovery Tour.
During WWII, Fort Siloso was armed with guns to protect Singapore from invasion by sea. Today, it’s a highlight at the Battle for Singapore. And the cool part? Participants had special access to restricted sites like the Siloso Pier and Coastal Searchlight Stations.
With COVID-19, I did have to rethink many things. But I’ve never looked at the pandemic as a challenge. Instead, I look at it as an opportunity to create interesting tours, even with Safe Management Measures in place. The Fort Siloso Rediscovery Tour is a prime example.
In my opinion, the key to curating a successful tour – apart from knowing the objectives and desired outcomes – is sincerity. This sincerity also stems from understanding that my team and I work as a single unit under Sentosa. I’m less focused on ‘me’ and more on ‘we’. I’ve received many tourism and service excellence awards that I’m grateful for, but now, I want all of us at Sentosa to win.
Sentosa is like a ‘house’ and we are its stewards. So we know every part of our house better than anyone else. We know its history and all of its stories. Through the experiences we curate, we want to share what’s unique about our house so that guests will have an impactful experience.” - Saifullah Kamaludin, Recreational Nodes Unit, Sentosa Development Corporation.
By Arman Shah
Arman Shah is a former travel writer with fond memories of solo adventures in Southeast Asia. His work has appeared in print and online in publications such as Expat Living Singapore, AsiaRooms.com, SG Magazine, and HungryGoWhere.com among others. He now manages The Everyday People, a website featuring people stories and lifestyle content.