Category Archives: Singapore

Theatre Review – Romeo & Juliet

While I had majored in Literature during my Junior College (High School) days, the text I read for my syllabus didn’t expose me much to Shakespeare. In fact, the only text I had read through and through was King Lear, with only excerpts from other masterpieces such as Hamlet, Othello and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. While Romeo and Juliet have now been typecast in the contemporary English language as archetypal young lovers, I had not read once the tragedy that told the tale of a sweet forbidden love. If there was any association at all with me and the brilliant text that the bard had written over four centuries ago, it would be that I had visited Verona once before, touring Juliet’s House, the site where the famous balcony scene was filmed for Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film adaptation of the tragedy starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in the leading roles.

Juliet's Balcony in Verona, Italy

Juliet’s Balcony in Verona, Italy

With news that this could be the last Shakespeare In The Park event for many years to come, I thought it will be worth taking some time out from my hectic schedule to go catch the play. Shakespeare In The Park is a term used for outdoor festivals featuring productions from none other than the bard himself. Before this year’s staging of Romeo & Juliet, this event had been presented in Singapore 8 times prior by the Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT), with Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing and The Merchant of Venice among its mainstage repertoire. The event is normally marketed with a carnival-like atmosphere, where one can bring in your own picnic basket and enjoy Shakespeare under the moonlight with your family, friends and loved ones.

Picnic Basket by Official Partner Providore - I did pretty well myself, making smoked salmon canapé, german sausages and a bottle of Malbec for me and my date

Picnic Basket by Official Partner Providore –
I did pretty well myself, making smoked salmon canapé, german sausages and a bottle of Malbec for me and my date

I picked up my lovely date at City Hall before making the short walk over to Fort Canning Park. Despite having arrived more than an hour before the opening, there was a long queue already at the park’s entrance waiting to enter the event premises. I was also worried about the dark clouds and faint whispers of thunder heard in the background as the show would be cancelled in the event of adverse weather. My worries were however unfounded as the skies soon cleared and the play commenced on time as members of the audience cosied up and settled down with their picnic essentials.

The audience settling down as the skies cleared

The audience settling down as the skies cleared

Gaurav Kripalani, SRT's Artistic Director, addresses the crowd before the start of the play

Gaurav Kripalani, SRT’s Artistic Director, addresses the crowd before the start of the play

With its contemporary take on the famous classical text, the first acts of the play may come off as confusing for the audience. Instead of expecting the cast to be in Elizabethan outfits, the cast are dressed instead in modern clothing such as hoodies, sweatshirts and tailored western suits. Modern modes of transport such as motorbikes are featured, while swordfights were replaced with tussles that involved batons, guns and kickboxing. While it is good that art moves along with the times, such modifications seek to cause more confusion than order. This is especially so when most of the dialogue used were kept true to the original text.

SRT's modern take on Romeo & Juliet

SRT’s modern take on Romeo & Juliet

While the production preserved the compelling plot and powerful script, me and my date can’t stop feeling that the cast were suffering from split personality or some form of identity disorder. The language used did not quite gel with the stage setting and avant-garde backdrop. Nonetheless, the cast did a pretty decent job at portraying their respective characters. The two stars of the show are no other than Thomas Pang and Cheryl Tan, both who are taking on a major production of Shakespeare for the very first time. Pang manages to depict the rash, impulsive, and at times foolish (but romantic) Romeo that Shakespeare had envisioned him to be, while Tan manages to personify the subtle wantonness that a young and hormone-raging Juliet possesses. Daniel Jenkins, as one of the most experienced member of the cast, also put in a credible shift as Friar Laurence, his self-flagellation scene perhaps being one of the darkest and outstanding moments of the play.

Cheryl Tan as Juliet

Cheryl Tan as Juliet

Despite my misgivings over the modern direction of the play, I must however admit that the set design is one of my favourite among the various stage performances I’ve seen thus far. The multiple sets of stairs, along with various secret entrances and light effects, makes this set a truly unique and memorable one that will etch in the minds of audiences for time to come. That said, I did experience somewhat of an internal struggle during Act II, Scene II, as they played out the now famous balcony scene without the set having any form of semblance of an actual balcony. As much as I liked this new set design, some things classic just cannot be changed.

SRT Presents - Romeo & Juliet

SRT Presents – Romeo & Juliet

Overall, SRT’s 2016’s edition of Shakespeare In The Park manages to tell the tragic story of Romeo and Juliet, two star-crossed lovers embroiled in a tale of sweet forbidden love, in what I would label as a modern dystopian Verona. For a truly Shakespearean experience, I would suggest catching a performance at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, or at the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-Upon-Avon – Shakespeare’s birthplace in the English Midlands. But if you are looking for an extravagant evening to impress your significant other, why not come to Fort Canning and spread your picnic blanket under the stars and relish in one of the greatest love stories ever told? Canapés, a bottle of red and Shakespeare for company would no doubt be a memorable and romantic evening for all lovebirds out there. Do catch it before Shakespeare In The Park’s final curtain call.

The cast taking in the plaudits at the Curtain Call

The cast taking in the plaudits at the Curtain Call

★★★☆☆Event Details


Theatre Review – Chinglish [Sold Out]

I first came across the term Chinglish during a business module class at NBS where my professor was trying to illustrate the importance of international business communication in a dynamic and fast changing business landscape. Since then, instances of Chinglish have been a source of amusement for me, with bad translation and incorrect usage of grammar causing me to break out in hilarious fits of laughter. When Pangdemonium announced that they will be doing David Henry Hwang’s critically acclaimed comedy, I must admit I was pretty hyped. Though I’ve yet to see the play, given the accolades it received at Broadway (where I’m assuming the audience would be less familiar with the East-West divide), I would believe that it should fare even better in a multicultural society like ours, where even our minority communities are able to understand basic phrases of Mandarin and dialects.

Chinglish - by David Henry Hwang

Chinglish – by David Henry Hwang

Just after the conclusion of The LKY Musical, I took advantage of the early bird offer to purchase a pair of tickets for Chinglish at a 15% discount. I had originally planned to ask a special somebody to catch the comedy together, hoping that it would provide her with some respite from her demanding workload back at school, while I might have an opportunity to improve my standing as a potential date candidate of hers one day. However, heaven’s will dictates that that was not to be, and I was left dateless for the afternoon matinée. I did however win two additional tickets later at a contest by Raffles City Singapore (lucky me), where I was helping out with SATS’ sales of Singapore Airlines Mooncakes at the Market Place. With four tickets now on hand, I decided to forgo any chance of a dreamy romantic date and bring my family for the play instead.

I won two extra tickets to Chinglish! Courtesy of Raffles City Singapore

I won two extra tickets to Chinglish!
Courtesy of Raffles City Singapore

Anyway, Chinglish serves as Pangdemonium’s concluding production for its 2015 Season. It is their first foray into a bilingual play, and Guo Liang’s Singapore theatre debut. The cast included theatre veterans such as Adrian Pang, Daniel Jenkins and Matt Grey, with Audrey Luo and Oon Shu An rounding up the remaining of the highly talented cast. The play opens with Daniel Jenkins’ character (Daniel Cavanaugh) giving a presentation to fellow businessmen about the perils of doing business in China, as well as conquering the differences in the English-Mandarin language barrier. The scene then changes to Cavanaugh’s first experience in China, where he is attempting to conduct business in Guiyang. There, he learns from his “consultant” (Matt Grey as Peter Timms) about guanxi, or forming a network of mutually beneficial relationships, and so begins his adventures in the capital of Guizhou province.

The cast of Chinglish - Making light of the Haze Situation

The cast of Chinglish – Making light of the Haze Situation

Daniel Jenkins and Matt Grey both put in credible efforts in their respective characters, with the latter having started his pre-production preparations by taking Mandarin lessons a whole year before the show opens. Pang also put in a fine performance as Minister Cai; his mannerisms of a typical Chinese businessman and his surprising accurate enunciation of Mandarin taking much of the plaudits. Audrey Luo was a hint of fresh air, playing three different bungling Chinese business translators, yet able to represent the same nucleus of incompetence and blundering features of each individual character.

A scene from Pangdemonium's production of Chinglish. (From left) Daniel Jenkins, Matt Grey, Audrey Luo and Adrian Pang. Photo - ST

A scene from Pangdemonium’s production of Chinglish. (From left) Daniel Jenkins, Matt Grey, Audrey Luo and Adrian Pang. Photo – ST

The shining star of the performance for me, was probably Oon Shu An’s portrayal of the femme fatale, Vice-Minister Xi Yan. Yes, her delivery in Mandarin wasn’t as spot on as the seasoned speakers of the language such as Guo Liang and Audrey Luo, but she more than makes up for it with her appeal and comedic timing. She also wowed audiences with the more sensual side of hers, disrobing to just a set of sexy black lingerie in the bedroom scene that she shared with Daniel Jenkins. A truly alluring stage seductress gifted with grace, elegance and poise, yet at the same time, showcases enough aloofness and jest required of a comedy.

Guo Liang, Daniel Jenkins and the multi-talented Oon Shu An

Guo Liang, Daniel Jenkins and the multi-talented Oon Shu An

Other than the performance of the cast, I would like to also praise the set design. The set of Chinglish is one of the best I’ve seen, with a revolving stage floor that allows for a smooth transition from scene to scene while the backdrop is enhanced by multimedia screens that supports the already very impressive stage set.

The Cast and Creative Team behind Chinglish

The Cast and Creative Team behind Chinglish

On a whole, while Pangdemonium’s adaptation of David Henry Hwang’s play would probably not win us a Tony Award, it is still nonetheless a commendable effort by the hardworking and charming cast. Never have I felt so good to be lost in translation.

★★★★☆

Chinglish runs from 9th to 25th of October. For more information, visit http://pangdemonium.com/productions/chinglish.


A Week in August

When I disembarked from my Singapore Airlines (SQ) flight from Copenhagen last June, never would I have expect that I’ll be so involved with the day to day operations of the airline just one month into my job at SATS. By a twist of fate, I was sent to SATS Inflight Catering Centre 1 for my attachment during the first phase of the Graduate Assimilation Programme (GAP) that I was accepted in. SATS Inflight Catering Centre 1 is the sole handler of all the catering functions for the national carrier – not just food, but the entire catering components ranging from replenishing dry stores/amenities to the servicing/washing of the in-flight service carts. Time seemed to have flashed past in the last month, as the GAPsters were placed on an intensive programme to understand the operations of the entire SATS Group (which includes inflight catering, gateway services, institutional catering and many more). It has been an eye-opener, looking at airport operations behind-the-scenes, the side that a typical passenger will never get to see. This is the first time I got to experience working shifts, as well as really getting down and dirty, working in garbage compactors and operating industrial warewashing equipment. It was also interesting, getting to cook at the production training kitchen, and tasting our own cooked food at the simulated aircraft cabin. And of course, not forgetting the cabin visit, where we toured the galleys, cockpit, as well as the first class suites of SQ’s A380s, marking a memorable first month anniversary at SATS thus far.

While I may not get to fly SQ again anytime soon, my job at SATS deals with the daily operations of our national carrier

While I may not get to fly SQ again anytime soon, my job at SATS deals with the daily operations of our national carrier

Other than celebrating my milestone at work, the past week also marked three other significant events of my life – convocation, my birthday, and the nation’s golden jubilee. Moving in chronological order, my convocation ceremony was held on the 3rd of August at NTU’s own Nanyang Auditorium. As the first university graduate from my household, it was unsurprising for my family to be proud of this moment. Though my first year’s results were not up to par, my subsequent scores in the later years helped pulled my grades up to a more respectable one. Going on stage to receive my scroll is a once in a lifetime moment which I savoured sweetly. Only regret was that my closest relatives like my grandparents and aunt were no longer around to witness this proud moment of our family.

Finally a university graduate

Finally a university graduate

Next, I celebrated my birthday by treating my extended family to dinner with my first paycheck at Mouth Restaurant. We initially had wanted to go for the buffet at TODAI at Marina Bay Sands, but decided otherwise as their promotion was only for the period between the 17th and 20th and 24th to 27th August only. It was nice having a gathering with everyone and I had a great time sharing about my experience at SATS so far with my relatives, with almost all of them in disbelief that I was travelling cross country daily to get from home at Jurong to the airport in Changi.

Celebrating my birthday and first paycheck at Mouth Restaurant

Celebrating my birthday and first paycheck at
Mouth Restaurant

Lastly, I come to the celebration of Singapore’s Golden Jubilee. I was lucky enough to get one night’s free stay at the Rendezvous Hotel after I accumulated enough nights on hotels.com during my graduation trip. Being located in the city, it was easy for us to make our way to the Civic District and the Downtown Core where most of the festivities were being held. We headed to the Marina Barrage, where we caught sight of the aerial display of the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) as well as the A380 flypast by Singapore Airlines (due to my work at SATS, I had known about the flypast ahead of SQ’s press release, so it was really hard to keep that information a secret!). The RSAF’s Black Knights were really impressive, especially when the pilots engaged the powerful afterburners of their F-16s during stunts such as barrel rolls and vertical climbs, while the fireworks display at the end of the parade marked an unforgettable end to an amazing week in August.

The Black Knights' impressive aerial display

The Black Knights’ impressive aerial display

Anyway, with my work at SATS now taking up much of my time, I no longer have the luxury to write as often as before. Hopefully it wouldn’t be too long before I’m back here writing again. Until next time!

Grad Photo at Changi with the GAPsters batch of 2015 - Until next time!

Grad Photo at Changi with the GAPsters batch of 2015 –
Until next time!


Theatre Review – The LKY Musical

A lot of people have voiced their disapproval at the making of The LKY Musical and the period film 1965 just months after the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founding Prime Minister. Many felt that doing so was an insult to the late Mr Lee, with entertainment companies accused of cashing in on his death. For me however, I felt that having such art productions is an honour and tribute to a great man that helped shaped modern Singapore. When the media first announced the production of the musical, I had set my mind to go catch it when it is released. However, some of the casting choices left me doubtful that the production would be a worthy one. While the cast includes theatre veterans such as Adrian Pang and Sebastian Tan, the casting of Sharon Au raised eyebrows due to her lack of experience in theatre as well as aptitude in singing. Many (including myself) felt that she did not have the necessary poise and finesse to pull off playing the late Mrs Lee née Kwa Geok Choo. So although I had bought tickets to the opening, I didn’t really have very high hopes for the production, especially when it is produced by a relative unknown theatre company – Metropolitan Productions.

1965 & The LKY Musical were released just months after the death of Mr Lee

1965 & The LKY Musical were released just months after the death of Mr Lee

My first thought after I caught the opening was that it was a good, not great production. Having already lowered my expectations, I must say that the final product was better than I had anticipated. That said, it must be noted that much of the play was carried by the brilliance of Pang, who played Mr Lee with much flair and grace, capturing the man’s fears, infuriation and unwavering desire for a better Singapore during the tumultuous times of pre-independence.

Adrian Pang was brillant in his portrayal of Mr Lee

Adrian Pang was brillant in his portrayal of Mr Lee

Au, on the other hand, while valiant in her efforts, was the cast’s weakest link, with her singing capabilities falling well short of the rest from the team. Even secondary characters such as Toh Chin Chye (played by Tan Shou Chen) and Goh Keng Swee (played by Edward Choy) sang with more gusto and better musical harmony. As the play wore on, it kind of felt that the writers had rewritten parts of the musical to accommodate Au, as her musical numbers were comparatively lesser to Pang’s, despite both actors given equal star billing.

Sharon Au as Madam Kwa and Adrian Pang as Mr Lee in The LKY Musical

Sharon Au as Madam Kwa and Adrian Pang as Mr Lee in
The LKY Musical

Other than Pang’s stirring performance, new-to-the-scene Benjamin Chow, who recently graduated from LASALLE College of the Arts, also put in a worthy and laudable performance for his portrayal as the musical’s anti-hero, Barisan Sosialis’ Lim Chin Siong. Alongside Pang, the two shared a chemistry that riveted throughout the play – not easy, when you consider that they were playing characters that were often at loggerheads with one another. In the space of just over two hours, the two have transitioned from quintessential BFFs to BFFNs. That said, the role of Lim was notably not consigned to being the prototypical baddie of a story. Lim was portrayed as a charismatic leader of the left-wing party, whom like Lee, had great hopes for Singapore. However, difference in ideology had forced them apart, bringing an end to what might be a harmonious political matrimony.

From quintessential BFFs to BFFNs

From quintessential BFFs to BFFNs

As the score goes, I do have an issue with it. Written and composed by Dick Lee, the musical score although charming, it does not entrance one enough to stick in your minds. I’m talking scores from productions where the musical numbers strikes the hearts (and ears) of the audience, with something so outstanding that it becomes synonymous with the production (cue Memory from Cats, I Dreamed a Dream from Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera from The Phantom of the Opera, and many more). The LKY Musical however, while pleasant, it was filled with non-memorable tunes and was largely forgotten once I stepped out of the MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands.

Dick Lee was part of the creative team behind the production

Dick Lee was part of the creative team behind the production

On a whole, while the musical is a decent production, I wouldn’t give it a perfect score, though I would think it does enough justice to honour the legacy of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister. Personally, my favourite moment from the musical was Pang’s re-enactment of Mr Lee’s Proclamation of Singapore media conference in 1965. While the scene elicited some laughs from the audience (I honestly didn’t think that that was the intention of the production team – to create laughter in that scene), for me, it was an emotional and poignant reminder of a historic moment which Pang had managed to recreate. Playing such a multi-faceted character like Mr Lee is no mean feat, and Pang certainly did a commendable job. As for his co-star Au, while she bore the brunt of the criticisms, I do laud her effort and dedication to the role, having taking on method acting and staying on the set despite spraining her ankle on opening night.

Curtain Call (Photo Credits: METROPOLITAN PRODUCTIONS)

Curtain Call
(Photo Credits: METROPOLITAN PRODUCTIONS)

★★★☆☆


Celebrating SG 50 – 5 of Our Best NDP Songs

50 years ago, one of Singapore’s most endearing moments was caught on camera when a tearful Lee Kuan Yew announced on national television the separation of Singapore from the Federation of Malaya. Just like that, Singapore has become a sovereign, independent republic. With our independence gained so abruptly, Singapore faced a future of many uncertainties. However, we have tided through the hard times and against all odds, Singapore is now one of the world’s major commercial hubs, with a world class financial centre and port to boot. With just over one month to go to our Golden Jubilee to celebrate 50 years of independence, I shall look at some of the best NDP songs that we’ve sung over the years.

No. 5 Together (心连)

Written by Ken Lim and performed by Evelyn Tan and Dreamz FM, Together was the theme song for the National Day Parade of 1999. The music video (MV) features the lives of everyday Singaporeans and showcases the diversities of our nation, with different races intertwining with one another, making a difference to Singapore together, our hearts in harmony.

No. 4 Count on Me Singapore

Count on Me Singapore, was released in 1986 after the success of Stand Up for Singapore in 1984. With its simple lyrics conveying the strong message that Singapore can count on every one of its citizen in times of trouble, the song echoed a sense of patriotism that is unrivalled by modern pop tunes. Hugh Harrison, who also penned the words for Stand Up for Singapore, was said to have written Count on Me Singapore over a single weekend after envisioning a group of young Singaporeans standing together and shouting to their leaders “You can count on us!” An updated version of the song was later produced by Ken Lim, featuring Dick Lee, Zoe Tay and other notable Singaporeans on the vocals.

No. 3 Where I Belong (属于)

Written and composed by Tanya Chua, Where I Belong was commissioned to be the theme song for the 36th National Day celebrations in 2001. Easily recognized by its rocky tune and smooth melody, the song became an immediate hit after its release. The MV, which depicts Tanya leaving Changi Airport and passing through the sights of everyday Singapore, was popular among the people as it captures the daily rhythm of Singaporeans going through their daily life.

No. 2 We Will Get There (一起走到)

The first of two National Day Songs performed by Stefanie Sun, We Will Get There is no stranger for all born in the year 1991 as all 11 year olds were given the chance to attend the National Education Preview for NDP 2002. The song, which was written by Dick Lee and produced by Li Si Song, was also included in Stefanie’s fourth Mandarin studio album, Leave, as a bonus track. The MV which featured the then newly opened Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, also included shots of Singapore icons, from the Merlion to Kenny Yap (MD of Qian Hu Corporation Limited). On a personal note, We Will Get There was most memorable for the fun dance, where I recall spending my PE lessons trying to get the steps right in order to prepare for the National Education Preview. I also remember seeing Annabelle Francis and Alaric Tay in the instructional video produced by SAF MDC (Music & Drama Company)! Those memories!

No. 1 Home ()

The undisputed winner of National Day Songs, Home (sung by Kit Chan & composed by Dick Lee), was the first in a series of yearly songs commissioned for Singapore’s National Day Parade. The song had struck a chord among Singaporeans young and old, coming in as the most popular NDP song in a poll by Straits Times in 2013. The song was so popular that after its debut in 1998, it was used once again in the 2004 edition. Though it was not initially written as an NDP theme song, the simple, lighthearted number had meaningful lyrics which resonated well with Singaporeans both at home and abroad. Even the title is so aptly named that it is hard to find any fault with this song at all. A heartfelt rendition of the number was also sung by the choir of St John’s College at the Lying in State of our late former Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew as a tribute to honour the Cambridge alumni’s achievements over the years.


Memories from NTU – Montage

(Should all goes as planned), this week marks the last week that I’ll have lessons at NTU as an undergraduate. It has been an unforgetable 3 years, learning from many mentors and making many new friends in the process. Here’s a collage of my memories from NTU, from Year 1 – Year 3.

Year 1 - Accounting I; Communication Fundamentals; Marketing; Organisational Behaviour; Business Operations; Writing and Reasoning & Quantitative Reasoning

Year 1 – Accounting I; Communication Fundamentals; Marketing; Organisational Behaviour; Business Operations; Writing and Reasoning & Quantitative Reasoning

Year 2 - Principles of Management; Marketing Channels; Accounting II; Planet Earth; Communication Management Strategies; International Trade; Market Relationships; Market Behaviour & Ethics

Year 2 – Principles of Management; Marketing Channels; Accounting II; Planet Earth; Communication Management Strategies; International Trade; Market Relationships; Market Behaviour & Ethics

Year 3 - Schooling and Culture; Fables, Folklore and Literature; Astronomy; Tourism and Hospitatlity Management & International Business Environment

Year 3 – Schooling and Culture; Fables, Folklore and Literature; Astronomy; Tourism and Hospitatlity Management & International Business Environment


Lee Kuan Yew – Founding Father of Modern Singapore

He was a visionary, an extraordinary leader, a charismatic speaker whose speeches were memorable and invoked respect and passion. Today, Singapore paid her last farewell to her first Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, as the seven-day period of national mourning comes to an end. The past week had been somewhat of a historic moment in Singapore’s political history, with an unprecedented number of citizens and non-Singaporeans alike, paying their respects to Lee Kuan Yew as his body lay inside Parliament House during the lying in state. Since news of his passing was announced to the public last Monday, there have been an outpouring of emotions amongst the public as well as the international scene. Tribute centres have been set up all across the island, while world leaders all across the globe also paid their respective tributes to the man revered as the nation’s father.

Crowds paying their final respects to the late Lee Kuan Yew

Crowds paying their final respects to the late Lee Kuan Yew

Due to work and school commitments, I wasn’t able to join the queue at Parliament House to express my condolences for the late former Prime Minister, but that hadn’t stopped me from reading up on his life while in between classes or when commuting to work. I remember reading his memoirs, The Singapore Story, when I was still a teenager and was fascinated by his stories on his fight for independence and his vision for Singapore. With his astute leadership and capable comrades in his cabinet, Lee was able to transform Singapore into a bustling metropolis within 10 years after her separation from Malaysia. I was born at a time where Singapore was already an economic giant, a first world nation. Hence, it is hard for me to imagine what life was then for our forefathers. Those who belong to the pioneer generation, struck a deep chord with Lee, as they lived through the crucial transformative years, making Singapore what it is today. For us, the younger generation, it is important that we know where our roots belong. Dr. Mahathir, former Malaysia Prime Minister and Mr Lee’s long-time political adversary wrote on his blog that “his (Mr Lee) passage marks the end of a period when those who fought for independence led their countries and knew the value of independence”, and I couldn’t agree more. Many of those born after the 1980s (including myself) came into the world taking many things for granted. I can attest that a number of us have taken the notion of Independence as a natural right, and many of us would not be able to go through the hardships that the pioneer generation underwent. Singapore will not continue to prosper if we lose our instinct to what makes us tick, and history plays a big part in shaping such a bond. I hate to admit, but I see many my age being ignorant about many things about Singapore, past or present. Just a few days ago, I was at a job interview where I overheard a fellow applicant (who was a few years younger than me) remark that she didn’t know who Singapore’s second Prime Minister, Mr. Goh Chok Tong was. That comment really took me by surprise as I would have thought that certainly the social studies syllabus taught in secondary school would have at least namedropped Mr. Goh at some point in time. On the way to school after the interview, I could not stop but wonder if the new generation of Singapore can ensure its sustainability if pop stars and celebrities become more recognisable than your country’s own cabinet ministers. Not understanding the severities of your own history is akin to not knowing your own identity and I fear for my future if this was to be the new norm.

Members of the public waiting to enter Parliament House with the bustling metropolis skyline of Singapore that Mr Lee once envisioned in the background

Members of the public waiting to enter Parliament House with the bustling metropolis skyline of Singapore that Mr Lee once envisioned in the background

That said, Mr Lee have more than done his share into making sure that the new generation of Singapore have at least something to learn from, with his books that shared his experience and helping us understand what our security, prosperity and future depended on. He was a very forward thinking man and had great foresight. I believe that many of his insights from his books will be used as a basis for many policies in the future. Though many policies will be unpopular, I cannot deny that they are mostly for the greater good for Singapore. One of Mr Lee’s quotes from former Senior Minister of State Sidek Saniff’s eulogy struck me the most, and I quote: “If you want to be popular all the time, you will misgovern”. As a pragmatist like Mr Lee, I couldn’t agree otherwise.

Then Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew at a press conference with (from left) Mr George Yeo, Mr Sidek Saniff and Mr David Lim in 1996. Mr Sidek gave an especially heartfelt eulogy at Mr Lee's funeral service today. PHOTO: BUSINESS TIMES

Then Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew at a press conference with (from left) Mr George Yeo, Mr Sidek Saniff and Mr David Lim in 1996. Mr Sidek gave an especially heartfelt eulogy at Mr Lee’s funeral service today. PHOTO: BUSINESS TIMES

Four Friends

One of the articles I read during the past week was about the story of a friendship between four persons. They are: Lee Kuan Yew, Helmut Schmidt (Former Chancellor of Germany), Henry Kissinger and George Shultz (both of whom are former Secretaries of State of the United States). The four of them were once dreaded yet admired by many. They were seen as cold and power-hungry politicians, but for the last 40 years or so, had maintained a close and intimate friendship.

Mr Lee and Mr Kissinger's friendship spanned over 4 decades and one that both men felt was rewards of their lives

Mr Lee and Mr Kissinger’s friendship spanned over 4 decades and one that both men felt was rewards of their lives

In 2012, Helmut Schmidt travelled to Singapore to reunite with Lee for the last time. They met up for three days where they reminisced about the past and discussed world politics. I was reading excerpts of their conversation and it surprised me on how quick-witted and knowledgeable Lee was, many of his quips left me thinking about more. It’s an interesting read, and it makes you cherish the importance of friendship – true friendship, where one does not befriend another for something in return, but rather a relationship that was earnest and sincere. A truly exclusive and rare friendship in the complex world of politics.

Helmut Schmidt and Mr Lee at the Shangri-La Hotel in 2012 (Photo Credits: Straits Times)

Helmut Schmidt and Mr Lee at the Shangri-La Hotel in 2012 (Photo Credits: Straits Times)

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Mr Lee’s demise have brought about The Good, The Bad and The Ugly side of Singaporeans. The good is for all to see, and deserves to be applauded upon. It was comforting to see Singaporeans from all races, gender, religion and political background come together to pay their respects to Mr Lee. While the congregation of masses have led to a logistical nightmare for transport facilities and affected the business operations of many, it was really heart-warming to see how Singaporeans came united as one, just like how Mr Lee believed in multiculturalism, envisioning a Singapore today that is united regardless of race, language and religion. It was also heart-warming to see Mr Chiam See Tong, a veteran opposition figure and one-time adversary of Mr Lee in parliament, adamant that he climbed the steps to view Mr Lee’s casket despite his frail health, showing that despite their political differences, the two had mutual respect for each other’s integrity and passion for Singapore.

Mr Chiam paying his last respects to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew at the Parliament House - ST PHOTO

Mr Chiam paying his last respects to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew at the Parliament House – ST PHOTO

Also, kudos to the Armed Forces and the Police Force for their efforts during the Vigil Guards where the overwhelming response from the public resulted in a round the clock vigil at the Parliament House. Despite not having joined the queue there, I have read and heard enough testimonies to applaud the numerous volunteers and organizations who gave out refreshments and survival kits for those in line as the waiting time to enter Parliament House peaked to over 8 hours during certain times of the day. Lastly, a final mention to the cleaners who had to ensure that the civil district was ready for the state funeral procession despite the short time frame and having to endure the elements. While I think a part of Mr Lee might have found such acts to be overly sumptuous and a waste of man-hours and resources (such was his frugality), I also think that Mr Lee would have been proud of the Singapore that he and the Old Guard had built and nurtured.

Volunteers giving out water and other survival kits to those who were in line at Parliament House

Volunteers giving out water and other survival kits to those who were in line at Parliament House

The death of Mr Lee have (sadly) also brought about the Bad & Ugly side of Singaporeans. Small squabbles aside (most of which were misunderstandings and resolved instantly), the queues to Parliament House was otherwise orderly and organized. Outside of the queue however, a faux pas committed by a certain bakery chain in light of Mr Lee’s demise as well as the ugly side of some of the comments by a number of Singapore netizens on forums and social media tainted the solemn atmosphere which surrounded the nation. BreadTalk was met with lots of flak just hours after launching a Lee Kuan Yew commemorative bun soon after news of Mr Lee’s demise, forcing the chain to pull the buns from its shelves the very same day. The bun, named 李不开你, a wordplay on Lee’s Mandarin name, was deemed to be in poor taste among Singaporeans and myself alike. While BreadTalk have moved to remedy the situation by giving out free cake to those who were in queue at Parliament House as well as pledging a donation of $30,000 to Community Chest, the damage have already been done, with the company being labelled “insensitive”, “a profiteering firm” and “an opportunist”.

BreadTalk received flak for its "insensitive" release of a commerative bun of LKY

BreadTalk received flak for its “insensitive” release of a commerative bun of LKY

However, BreadTalk’s action still didn’t irked me as much as some of the comments circulating the internet. Though I agree that free speech is a right of any persons, I believe that respect is also a fundamental character that defines a person. Some of the content mentioned online were downright demeaning, insulting Mr Lee’s character even after his death. While I can understand that that are people who are unhappy with some of his policies or the iron fisted approach that he adopted in running the country, I see no point in making undignified attacks on a person as he lay on his deathbed. For those who were rejoicing at Mr Lee’s death (cue a certain A*** Y**), it simply shows how shallow one is. Though he might be misguided, his actions and words are condescending and reflects immaturity, a clear indication of someone who have not experienced adversity. Words cannot express my disgust at such behaviour and I worry for the future of Singapore should such behaviour start to plague the society. A*** Y**’s video have created an uproar with many comments circulating the social mediascape. My dear friend and former debating partner Iris, summed her thoughts in regards to the future of Singapore perfectly, and I quote “Hopefully the next generation of kids aren’t as gullible and is more discerning to what appears on the internet”. My exact sentiments, Iris.

The Other Side of Mr Lee

Mr Lee was probably known to be a no-nonsense leader while he was in office. However, he did have a soft side inside him as well, and his love for his soul mate and confidant, the late Madam Kwa Geok Choo shows this softer side of Mr Lee. The lovers wed in secret while they were in the United Kingdom, a showcase of how modern the Lees were, even in the 1940s. Despite being together for over 60 years, the couple never got tired of each other. Her life revolved around him, and Mr Lee lived his life around her. Madam Kwa took care of every needs of Mr Lee, even to the minute details; she most famously interrupted a taping of an interview to touch up Mr Lee’s hair and makeup – such was her attention to detail.

Madam Kwa Geok Choo, watched as a makeup artist prepared Mr Lee for his public appearance at the 2001 National Day Rally - PHOTO: GEORGE GASCON

Madam Kwa Geok Choo, watched as a makeup artist prepared Mr Lee for his public appearance at the 2001 National Day Rally – PHOTO: GEORGE GASCON

In the past week, I’ve read numerous accounts documenting the love between the couple. The two that stood out were Raul Dancel’s feature on Mr Lee’s photographer George Gason published on the Straits Times and the essay by Dr Lee Wei Ling (daughter of Mr Lee Kuan Yew) entitled A Love Story. Raul’s feature, sees Gason witness unguarded moments of tenderness between Mr and Mrs Lee; How Mrs Lee would lovingly comb Mr Lee’s hair before a photo shoot, how she would always be by his side when Mr Lee hosted important world figures, and how she would help Mr Lee go over drafts of his memoirs, correcting and critiquing his writings. She was fully committed to the relationship and he loved her deeply for that.

Mr Lee's love for Madam Kwa was evident as he placed a kiss on his wife lying in her casket - Photo Credits: ST

Mr Lee’s love for Madam Kwa was evident as he placed a kiss on his wife lying in her casket – Photo Credits: ST

In A Love Story, it wasn’t much of the content that was striking, but rather the picture that Dr Lee chose to accompany the essay with. The picture, which was taken on Valentine’s Day in 2008 sees Mr and Mrs Lee, arm in arm, in front of a twin-heart arrangement. The look of bliss truly permeated from within the couple, a testament to everlasting love. Their love story is one that lasted the test of time, and provides a learning curve to young budding relationships of today.

A Love Story and a picture that speaks a thousand words.

A Love Story and a picture that speaks a thousand words.

Final Thoughts

I admit that I did not live through the years where Mr Lee was Prime Minister of Singapore. I also admit to not having met the man at all. It is not wrong to say I did not know the great man, but yet again, with so many historical and academic accounts available for me to read and understand Mr Lee’s struggles into making Singapore what it is today, one could say I know well enough to comment on his legacy and life’s work.

While I was unable to make the queue at Parliament House, I did make a detour to the Istana after work last Friday, to view the tribute wall set up outside the palace gates. It was a poignant moment, as I wrote my condolences while observing the various tributes that were placed in honour of Mr Lee. I also attended the memorial service in school, where clips of Mr Lee’s engagement with students during NTU’s ministerial forums were broadcasted. Our Provost, Professor Freddy Boey, also delivered an emotional eulogy as he fought to hold back his tears.

I took time out from my busy schedule to attend NTU's memorial service. Here, the 2,500 strong crowd observed a minute of silence as a gesture of respect to Mr Lee.

I took time out from my busy schedule to attend NTU’s memorial service. Here, the 2,500 strong crowd observed a minute of silence as a gesture of respect to Mr Lee.

The biggest takeaway I had was from watching Mr Lee’s many memorable speeches, many of which are inspiring and conveyed with confidence and aplomb. His speeches in Parliament were well argued and substantiated, his rally speeches were strong and passionate. Yet the one speech and perhaps the most significant one of all, would probably be the one where he addressed Singapore on 9 August 1965 on our unexpected expulsion from the Federation of Malaysia. In what was a shock to many, Mr Lee’s emotional outburst clearly showed the anguish he had over the separation from Malaysia. His tears were a poignant reminder of what he strived for Singapore. How many of today’s leaders will give it their all to strive for something they truly aspire for? From listening to his speeches, it gave me new vigour to improve on my communicating skills, even as a former school debater, I’m nowhere near his stature when it comes to public speaking.

Mr Lee struggled to control his emotions as he announced, at a press conference, Singapore's separation from Malaysia

Mr Lee struggled to control his emotions as he announced, at a press conference, Singapore’s separation from Malaysia

At this juncture, I do however want to pay tribute to a group of others other than Mr Lee. The rest of the founding fathers – The Old Guard, of modern Singapore. I believe that while Mr Lee was the central and most important figure in modern Singapore’s history, Singapore would not be what it is today if not for the efforts of the key men he had around him during our founding years. Capable figures such as Goh Keng Swee, Ong Pang Boon, Othman Wok, Toh Chin Chye, S. Rajaratnam and other members of the Old Guard also gave it their all for this nation. With only a few of them outliving Mr Lee, it is important that we continue to cherish what the first generation of leaders of independent Singapore have done for our nation.

Mr Lee and members of the Old Guard photographed outside the City Hall after the swearing-n ceremony in 1959

Mr Lee and members of the Old Guard photographed outside the City Hall after the swearing-n ceremony in 1959

I end this tribute with some of Mr Lee’s greatest quotes:

I always tried to be correct, not politically correct.”

Rest on your laurels? I wish I could do that. No, you rest when you’re dead.

At the end of the day, what have I got? A successful Singapore. What have I given up? My life.

These quotes truly reflects his dedication and love for Singapore. He was a one of a kind statesmen, he was our Winston Churchill, our Margaret Thatcher. He did what was needed to be done at the point of time, and did so without regret. Mr Lee’s leadership have shaped Singapore’s history to become one that is marvelled upon, his views being sought after by even the most powerful of world leaders.

Mr Lee, Singapore is truly blessed and privileged to have you as our leader. While we will miss your presence, your legacy will forever live on in our hearts. I’m however comforted by the fact that you’re now reunited with the love of your life in the hereafter, so do rest in peace. Goodbye and Farewell.

Mr Lee at what would be his final NDP in 2014, similing as he takes a photo with fellow MPs

Mr Lee at what would be his final NDP in 2014, similing as he takes a photo with fellow MPs