Posts Tagged ‘Singapore’

At the end of Singapore’s Circuit Breaker in 2020 (Singapore’s version of a lockdown), I found my conversations with my dad had become everything Covid-related. I felt we needed to change the conversation. So, I decided to write his life story.

I interviewed my dad over a series of scheduled interviews (although we live in the same house…LOL).  I recorded and transcribed each interview (my wannabe journalist instincts). Then, I sat down to put it together into a manuscript.

The project came to a pause earlier this year when my dad was diagnosed with cancer. For the next few months, we were in and out of hospitals for consultations, tests and scans. He’s just completed his last cycle of chemotherapy, in time for his 77th birthday. So, it’s been timely that I was able to publish his legacy book in time to celebrate both his birthday and end of chemotherapy treatment.

I blogged last year about how my grandparents moved from China to Singapore in search of a better life around 1940. After World War 2, my grandfather wanted to heed China’s call for their people to return to rebuild the country. He felt a strong sense of duty to his home country.

When my grandmother did not allow him to do so, it led to a heated argument which led to him taking a chopper and chopping off the last finger on his left hand to show his resolve to go back to China. Grandma gave in when he threatened to cut off another finger.

This was what happened next in my dad’s words:

“Father took my two elder brothers and me back to China. Unfortunately, the ship that we were on sank shortly after leaving Hong Kong harbour. I learnt that there were two ships at Hong Kong harbour at that time. There was a storm brewing and that other ship stayed in the harbour. But the ship that I was on set sail and sank shortly after.

According to records, on 19 July 1947, U.S. destroyer ‘Myles C Fox and Hawkins with British escort ship HMS Hart saved the crew and passengers of SS Hong Kheng after the passenger ship had run aground on Chilang Point some eight miles north of Hong Kong. Six motorboats, two from each warship, and two skiffs from Hong Kong made 76 trips to save some 1,800 survivors.’

I was about three years old then and too young to remember. Both my older brothers remembered that when the ship started to sink, my father used a rope to tie all three of us to him to keep us together. My first brother Poh Chan said it was so that we would not get lost.  My second brother Poh Chiew said that the real reason was that if one could not survive, it would ensure that we would go down together.

My family was rescued and brought back to Hong Kong. We subsequently made our way to Xiamen, Fujian and back to our village.

According to an old newspaper clip Straits Echo & Times of Malaya, dated 22 July 1947, “the ship ‘Hong Kheng’ had 1,800 passengers. After the passengers were removed, the ship caught fire spontaneously and all luggage on board was destroyed.””

Grandmother eventually brought my dad back to Singapore and my two uncles remained in China with Grandfather.

This and many more stories of my dad’s and grandparents’ generation are what we’ll pass down to our next generation.

It took the pandemic for me to pause and produce this legacy book. I’m glad that I did as I am richer for it in experience and memories.

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Today is Thank God Friday…on the other side of the world!

A day late but no less thankful for:

  1. Singapore’s 56th birthday

It was a quiet National Day on 9th August. Due to Covid19 restrictions, our annual big National Day parade has been postponed to 21st August, in step with the gradual loosening of measures.

Caleb and I did however have our little National Day songs sing-along, as we listened and sang National Day songs of past to present for over an hour. We agreed that this year’s National Day Parade 2021 song is definitely one of our favourites.

2. Poetic Friendship

Over a month back, I had scheduled brunch with my very dear friend Jamie for 10th August as she’s on leave this week. I was about to reschedule because dining-in was not then permitted as part of our Phase 2 Heightened Alert measures for a month or so. But as timing would have it, dining-in reopened on 10th August, the day after National Day.

I turned up in red and coincidentally and matchingly, my poetry-writing palliative doctor friend turned up in white. And our dining backdrop was red and white. So, we had our “We are Singapore” photo op. over our little National Day brunch.

I got to know Jamie two years ago, and only two weeks before my mum’s passing. She was the amazing palliative doctor who went over and beyond for our family. When she read me the poem that she wrote about her encounter with my parents in my mum’s last days, our faith-filled friendship was poetically sealed.

So yes, she read me new poetry over brunch and I shared my writing updates. And as with every conversation which we’ve had, we delved into issues of life and death. I’m thankful for this dearest, poetically spiritual sister.

3. Stepping out with my son

As it was a holiday for the primary school kids (except the P6 kids having exams), I spent half a day out yesterday out with Caleb, getting a few things done. It’s been a while since we have done that as mum and son. After a full week in school masked-up since the start of Covid19, he’s not been keen to follow me out on my errands-run. And I’ve also found it more practical to not bring him along as we flowed in and out of Heightened Alerts.

I’m thankful for our leisurely meal and conversation at Botanic Gardens, followed by a short walk around the park. It brought back memories of pre-Covid days. And a reminder that we need to be so much more deliberate, less hurried, and thankful about our daily living.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all those in authority—so that we may lead tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity.…1 Timothy 2:1-2

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Today is Thank God Friday.

It’s been quite two weeks for Singapore, with the sad tragedy at River Valley High School and Singapore returning to Phase 2 Heightened Alert due to the big Jurong Fishery Port Covid cluster.

Amidst this Heightened Alert climate, there is still much to be thankful for:

  1. Thank God for our Teachers and Educators

I’m grateful for our teachers and educators who have been holding fort in our schools for our children through these uncertain times.

Caleb’s school was one of several schools which had a student tested positive with Covid-19 in the past two weeks. As a result, the school switched to home-based learning for one day so they could do deep cleaning.

I can only imagine the stress levels of teachers who have had to switch from teaching in-person to preparing materials for teaching online at a day’s notice. With the recent tragedy at River Valley High School, it adds even more stressors on educators who also now need to do more to look out for students’ mental health.

I really hope that additional counsellors will be provided not only for students, but for our teachers navigating through this stressful ‘new-normal’ in school.

L: With Pauline in Dec 2019 at a Creatives’ event, R: With Hwee & Arlene today

2. Thank God for Girlfriends

I’ve reduced my social circles to a very teeny bubble through this Heightened Alert period, given Singapore’s current no-dining-out rule and two visitors per household per day limit.

But every girl needs her girlfriends through these safe-distancing times, be it ranting on WhatsApp chat groups or face-to-face.

This past week, I’m thankful for precious conversations with girlfriends. From catching up with writing buddy Pauline over breakfast last Friday to Hwee and I celebrating Arlene’s birthday today.

These girlfriend doses are such good boosters which pump me up for the next week of parenting, supermarketing and writing through this Stay-Home period.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour. If either of them falls, one can help the other up.Eccelesiastes 4:9-10

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Today is Thank God Friday.

Singapore goes from Phase 3 back to Phase 2 in a tightening of pandemic safety measures this weekend, a result of a growing cluster of Covid19 infections at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH). This is a cautious step back, but not like the two-month Circuit-Breaker measures last year which saw schools and workplaces shut.

Directly and indirectly due to this, I’ve cancelled four out of five socials over these two weeks:

  • We cancelled last Saturday’s dinner because the host had been to TTSH specialist clinic (not the infected ward). As the other dinner guest is a doctor at another public hospital, we decided to minimise co-mingling at this stage.
  • We cancelled this coming Saturday’s dinner because this 2nd friend cum host is on home quarantine. She had been to one of the TTSH wards to visit a dying relative. Now, she and her clan of 20 are all in quarantine.
  • We also decided to cancel our fellowship gathering this week and fellowship girls’ night out next week. A 3rd  friend, was also at TTSH last week. Though not under quarantine, she has decided to put herself on voluntary Stay Home Notice for two weeks. Another friend’s team of social workers were at TTSH for work, so she’s all hands on deck at work and can’t make this dinner.
  • The only social that I’ve kept is for a friend’s upcoming birthday celebration. That has now gone from 8 guests down to 5 guests, in keeping with the rule of 5 under tightened safety measures.

Yet, in the midst of this, there is a lot to be thankful for even as we scale back on our socials:

  1. Singapore

We have been very blessed to be able to stay relatively safe. I hope we will continue to keep our guard up and each other safe by staying vigilant with our masking, handwashing and safe-distancing, as well as keeping to smaller social bubbles at this time.

Caleb is going through exams these couple of weeks. He asked me if Covid19 would still be around when he reaches the major primary school leaving exam (PSLE) in two years’ time.  

I told him I don’t know… and we’ll know when we get there.

2. Our Leadership and Healthcare workers

I thank God that our leaders have moved quickly to contain this new wave of infections through tightened measures and for our healthcare workers, who have been working hard at the forefront of keeping Singapore safe for over a year now.

3. Friends

I’ve been able to catch up with a couple of friends here and there in the past few weeks. Such fellowship is strengthening and brings us closer even as we live through this season with a whole new vocabulary which reminds us to safe-distance.

Marky Polo travelled for food fellowship a few weeks back

And as I thank God this Friday, I remind myself to pray for our city and our neighbouring cities.

Seek peace and well-being for the city…, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its peace (well-being) you will have peace.’ – Jeremiah 29:7

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I’ll delighted to see my 5th and last book in Wildlife Reserves’ Singapore’s (WRS) local wildlife series in print!

Writing Hornbills in our Neighbourhood has been the most eye-opening experience for me.

Firstly, we have a resident hornbill in our neighourhood. I’ve seen him every other day, seated on my neighbour’s roof, first alone and later with a mate. This hornbill always brings a smile to my face. It made writing this story come alive for me.

Secondly, I read up a whole book on hornbills and am simply blown away by this amazing bird.

Do you know that Mum Hornbill voluntarily seals herself into a crevice in the tree to birth her babies and voluntarily observes SHM (Stay-Home-Notice) for the next three months whilst nursing her young?

Dad Hornbill gathers food for his mate and their chicks, and can make up to 20 trips a day, bringing food back to their roost. He pushes the food in through the teeny opening left for this purpose.

At a time when we are going through this Covid19 pandemic, where SHMs and quarantines are imposed upon us humans, I’m learning that hornbills pioneered SHM before us and do it voluntarily!

It’s been such a learning experience for me writing this series. With the benefit of working with WRS’ Education department, I gained new knowledge on our local wildlife.

Get all 5 books and read with your child how animals are going wild in our city:

  • Hornbills in Our NeighbourHood
  • Macaques in the Estate
  • Python in the Playground
  • Little Otter, Litter Trouble
  • Why did the Pangolin cross the Road?

All five books in this local wildlife series is available for sale at Wildlife Reserves’ Singapore’s online store. This bilingual series is supported by the Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism.

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For World Voice Day on Sat 16 April, NSDA invited me to speak up, along with other voices around the world.

When I was going through my lowest with Spasmodic Dysphonia, a rare voice disorder, I found answers and support through the National Spasmodic Dysphonia’s online bulletin board.

So, I was very happy to be able to contribute my voice to NSDA’s One World-Many Voices theme for this year’s World Voice Day.

Hear more voices around the world at NSDA’s World Voice Day page.

World Voice Day

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Yesterday, I received a great big hug from a stack of books that arrived at my doorstep.

The words reached out to touch me.

The artwork gave me a warm embrace.

And the many friends who contributed to this book project made me proud to play a small part in this meaningful collection of stories and artful pictures.

A Book of Hugs is the brainchild of author Leila Boukarim, illustrator David Liew and Closetful of Books curator/bookseller Denise Tan. It brings together 45 of authors and illustrators in Singapore for a charitable and artful cause.

This collection of stories isn’t pandemic-themed at all. It ranges from fun stories of dragons and neon sharks to comforting letters of love, poems and artful comics, to keep children company and give them a great big hug before they take on this world.

I contributed my first published poem! Poetry has been a medium that helped me find a different artistic expression during this pandemic period when I struggled with writing-as-usual.  And since I could not get the pandemic out of my mind, I decided to put in on the page.

Whilst the idea for How do you Fight a Villainous Virus? was seeded by this Covid-19 virus, it is really more about how we can face things that we are fearful of. Here’s a peek into part of my poem!

All profits from the sale of this book will be divided equally between Child at Street 11 and Superhero Me, both non-profit organisations which support children in developing their potential through education and art. Buy your copies here: https://closetfulofbooks.com/products/a-book-of-hugs

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I thank God for Singapore’s Polling Day yesterday.

In 2011, I became a newly-minted mum. I made my decision quite quickly.

In 2015, we celebrated SG50 and mourned the loss of MM Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s Founding Father. It was a good-sentiments election.

In this very confounding 2020, there have been many issues to ponder amidst this Covid19 climate – for our country’s future and also what kind of Singapore I would like our children to grow up in. It’s been a full week of reading manifestos, watching online rallies and broadcasts and the like from various parties.

This is the 3rd time that I have voted in my life and the one with the most deliberation up till Polling Day itself.

To borrow the meme going around the past week about two much talked-about individuals, Singapore went for Polling and voted Wisely.

I thank God for:

  • Our leaders who have governed well and the Opposition teams who gave us a chance to vote.
  • Our frontliners who manned the Polling Stations under extenuating circumstances.
  • Our healthcare workers who continue to plough on through this challenging pandemic climate.
  • Singapore, where we can enjoy kopi with prata, and teh tarik with chicken rice at wee hours of the morning and into the night.

This is Home truly and I hope that we will always stay united as one people.


“I urge then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1- 4 


Related Link:

Pandemic Pause #7 – When a virus strikes, what becomes essential?


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An invisible enemy, covert as can be

Deadly, yet unseen to the eye

Lulled many to false security

Insidious, its spread

Wide-ranging, its reach

Asymptomatic, its touch

Its carnage and rampage, now visible to see

Till mankind became crippled, locked down

Isolated, knocked down

Masking deep fears

Cleansing unclean hands

Brought down to our knees


An invisible God, not seen by humanity

Of burning bush and blinding light

Speaking through creation plain to see

Majestic, His name

Sovereign, His power

Holy, His being

Till God gave us a Saviour we could see


A human child, of lowly birth

Invisible to the majority

A carpenter’s son, a seeming nobody

Humble, his life

Godly, his origin

Hidden, his purpose

Till the day he carried his cross to Calvary


Jesus, an exact image of our Heavenly Father

Made our invisible God clear to see

Wisdom-laced, his teachings

Spirit-filled, his healings

His Kingdom lasting till eternity


An empty cross, an empty grave

Shows our Saviour lives

Fear and Death can mask no more

That our Redeemer breathes


The thief only comes to steal, kill and destroy. [Jesus said:] I came so that they may have life and have it to the fullest John 10:10


Related Links:

Salt & Light: This Crisis Will Bring us Closer as Fellow Singaporeans

Pandemic Pause #1: Of Things Essential and non-Essential on Holy Week



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This Good Friday, we remember Jesus’ sacrifice when he died on the cross for the sins of the world.

With half the world in Lock-down, and Singapore in Circuit-Breaker month, we have been ‘attending’ live-stream church services from home for third weeks now.

Except for Essential Services, all other activities and services have been on standstill as the rest of us stay at home to safe-distance and help flatten community transmission.

Jesus died on the cross, isolated and alone. Most of his disciples had safe-distanced themselves from him, fearful for their own lives.

He bore all the viruses of sin, for our sake.

His sacrifice on the cross was an absolutely essential service to saving our lives.

By choice, he took on the deadliest scourge – death – and in conquering death, to live again, Jesus became the vaccine for the sins of our world.

Our world is very sick and headed towards death. A Covid-19 pandemic rages. Sea levels are rising. A hole in the ozone layer grows larger. And we cannot agree on basic humanitarian efforts, let alone save ourselves.

Jesus’ death on Good Friday, over 2,000 years ago, is an absolutely Essential Service to our world.

His message of love, peace and reconciliation with God is relevant for our divided and upturned world.

God knows that we need to be delivered from the sorry state that we, mankind, have gotten ourselves into. Today, we remember that God is in the ‘Good’ of Good Friday and anyone can find grace and mercy, through knowing Jesus – our Saviour, Healer and Deliverer.

Related links:

What’s so good about Good Friday?

This crisis will bring us closer together as fellow Singaporeans


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