food

Wheretodapao is an Instagram account that brings to light hidden hawker stalls of elderly owners

Last Updated: May 25, 2021

Written by Natalie Tan

The waves of Covid-19 have rushed in again in May 2021, sweeping Singapore’s hawker scene to the shores. While we lament over the recent cessation of dining-in across all F&B outlets, hawker stall owners are struggling to plough their way back to the coasts. As digital technology and social media become core advertising platforms, we inevitably see the left-behinds—our elderly hawker stall owners. Engaging with delivery platforms for hawker businesses to continue is another privilege that these hawkers, who may be illiterate and foreign to technology, do not have.

Thus, in the past year, we have seen many owners succumbing to the regrettable Hobson’s choice—shuttering their stalls. Herein lies the purpose of @wheretodapao, an Instagram account dedicated to shining light on elderly hawker stalls that are unfeatured on social media, to aid them through this trying time.

The kind owner behind this account travels to three hawker centres every day to support these elderly hawkers, getting to know the stories behind their stalls and understanding their situation during this precarious time. Photographs of the stall owners and their stalls, write-ups about them, and details about the stall (stall location, opening hours) are compiled into posts on the account. And so far, posts on stalls selling Hainanese curry rice, traditional snacks and paus, satay and chicken wings, and more, have been featured.

While this is a heartening movement sparked by an individual who cares for the elderly hawkers, it needs a cohesive effort to tide them through these waves of uncertainty. Through submissions, members of the public can introduce more stalls by following the same format of the posts and submitting them through their google form. So far, the account has already amassed a following of 19K followers, with many more submissions flooding in.

Behind the national pride and glory that lies in our hawker culture, is the sweat and tears of many elderly hawker stall owners. They are not just forgettable faces that serve you your daily lunch fix, but those who are tussling and toiling to stay afloat during this arduous time.

The pandemic may be an unfeeling and cruel blow to these owners, but with much of the public reaching out to help, there is enough warmth to go around. So, whenever you decide to head out to grab lunch, why not feature a stall on the @wheretodapao account, or get recommendations from there?

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