Monday, April 27, 2009

Brisk Walk & Sightseeing @ MacRitchie and Labrador Park

26 April 2009

It's been some time since I have gone sightseeing with Mother, so the trip organised by Eunos CC YEC, MAEC & IAEC came at the right time.

At 8am, the bus left for MacRitchie. It was two years ago that I last visited this place. I was with a team conducting a recce around the area, but there was no follow-up after the recce. Then, I covered the treetop walk. Today, we walked the MacRitchie Nature Trail.

After an hour of walking around MacRitchie, we left for Labrador Park. The main feature of Labrador Park are the ammunition dumps and underground tunnels which were discovered in 2002. There is even a tunnel that once linked to Sentosa.

Anyway, that was the last battle ground of British and Singapore's defence against the Japanese before Singapore fell.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Project Give

19 April 2009

As part of Kampong Spirit @ Eunos initiative, Eunos Grassroots Organisations have teamed together to help the needy in the neighbourhood, by distributing food packages, which are contributed by other friendly neighbours.

One week ago, students from Bedok North Secondary School and the members of Eunos Youth Group went door-to-door to collect food items from residents. The Residents' Committees Centres became the collection point for residents to deposit their food items as well.

On the eve of the presentation ceremony, students from Bedok North Secondary School Service Learning Club and members of Eunos Youth Group spent the morning and afternoon to pack the food items into attractive hampers. Each food hamper had a card designed individually by the students. The Principal, and teachers-in-charge of the SLC were also present for the whole packing session.

Handing over the food packages to the residents was a happy occasion. In our different ways, small but meaningful, we can touch other's lives.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Catching the Conman

16 April 2009

A casual chat turned out into becoming a thrilling experience in catching a conman.

Hock Rong and I were chatting at MacDonald's when I saw a familiar man walked in. He started to approach each table and begged for money. He would place a paper with 4 numbers on it and then go into a trance state, clasping both palms together, and started praying to the diners.

I highlighted to Hock Rong that I have seen that man before, begging in the same fashion at Toa Payoh. Back then, when my friend and I didn't give him money, he grabbed my friend's arm and kneeled down, embarrassing my friend into giving him money. Hock Rong had also seen this man begging before.

I suggested we should report such conman to the police. It was intended to be a casual remark. When the conman approached our table, Hock Rong mentioned about calling the cops and the conman retreated away from us. Hock Rong then called the Bedok Neighbourhood Police Centre.

Not to lose the conman, we tailed him as he completed begging in MacDonald's and a Malay foodstall. At one point, he turned and noticed us. Walking past him, we made sure he was within our vision. Looking at us suspiciously, he did an about turn and walked towards the Malay foodstall, and walked to the back of the shophouses. There, we lost him.

The police arrived and it was such a coincidence that one of the officers is the liaison officer of Hock Rong's RC. The police left to patrol the area, while we carried on our search. We combed the entire market and walked past all the coffeeshops in the area but to no avail.

Just as we were about to give up, we decided to return back to the place we lost chase of him. A surprise awaited us. He was hiding behind the shophouses a distance away from the foodstall. We hid behind a bush as Hock Rong monitored his movements and informed the police officers of the suitable approach route.

And yes, the police officer stopped him and interviewed him. His details were recorded and he was given a stern warning.

As grassroots volunteers, it is our duty to help keep our estate a safe and secure home to live in. The mission was accomplished with the conman's details recorded. This would hopefully deter him from coming to Eunos to con again.

At my void deck, we saw him walking to the coffeeshop to get a drink. Hock Rong said that if the conman were to use the cheated money to buy cigarettes, he would confront the conman and give him a good lecture.

We continued our discussion when suddenly I spotted him leaving and sounded off to Hock Rong. Through our eyes, we saw him taking out a lighter to light the cigarette at his mouth. I poked fun at Hock Rong, "Live up to your words."

Without second thought, he brisk walked towards the man. We tailed him until he boarded a cab. Hock Rong immediately dashed forward and knocked hard on the taxi as it was driving away. Fortunately the taxi stopped.

Opening the car door, Hock Rong reprimanded the conman who was scared out of his life and kept crying. The conman promised never to return back to this area to cheat people's money. Looking at the poor plight of the conman, Hock Rong didn't persist in getting him out of the taxi. I thought that would be a mistake, especially if the conman would run off later without paying the taxi fare.

Chilling off after the thrilling experience, Hock Rong then narrated how he helped the police catch a motorbike thief.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Easter Egg Colouring & Drawing (DIY) Contest

11 April 2009

The contest was organised by the Kg Chai Chee CC Women's Executive Committee (WEC) at Kg Chai Chee CC hall. It was open to children from Kindergarten to upper Primary level. I was glad to have the opportunity to emcee the event.

At 1.30pm, parents lined up to register their children for the contest. There were 3 groups - Group A (K1 and K2): to colour on the given drawing; Group B (P1 and P2): to colour as well as design easter eggs on the given drawing; Group C (P3 to P6): to design their easter eggs.

After registration, parents helped their children lay out their drawing materials. Some even brought small tables.

When I was young, I loved colouring. My parents always accompany me to colouring contests organised by various organisations. I once won a top prize for my colouring of a bowling alley at a family day event organised by my Mother's company.

As the emcee, I kept having to request for parents to return to their seats and not to communicate with their children. They were so anxious to pass comments to their children, so I asked them to have faith in their children's artistic talents.

After the submission, there was a balloon display by "Mr Lightning Finger", who was lightning fast in sculpturing balloons, most of the time without looking at the balloons as he folds them. His works include Elmo, Donald Duck, Bear with heart, Bugs Bunny, etc.

And the winning pieces:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My Father, James Fong Kim Foo [1958 - 2009]

The Beginnings...

Something magical happened on 6 June 1958 in a kampong (village) at Pulau Tekong, an island North East of mainland Singapore. My Grandmother had given birth to her 7th child or 5th son. He was named 洪金福 (Fong Kim Foo).

His family worked at rubber tree plantations, vegetable farms as well as fishing to make ends meet.

When he was very young, his elder brother accidentally hit his head with a chankol while loosening the soil in the vegetable farm. The injury was tended by his mother but the scar remained. He would always show it to my brother and me and said how his academic performance was affected by it.

At age 10, his father passed away at the age of 61. His father was a heavy smoker and died with blackened lungs. My father would always warn us the harm of smoking and we never touched cigarettes.

He wasn't a very bright student when he was schooling at Pulau Tekong Primary School. At one year, he retained and became classmates with his younger sister. We knew the head injury didn't contribute to the poor academic performance, because his sister didn't perform well too. That was due to all the work back at home that consumed most of the time needed for studies.

My Father wasn't apt at doing labour work. His siblings confirmed this point and said he was more of a gentleman, than a labourer. After passing Primary school, he was lucky to find a job in a watch shop, doing repairs for watches.

A Family Man

His employer provided accomodation for him in mainland Singapore. He was extremely thrifty and preferred to save money by staying at his allocated accomodation. He stayed there even after he bought an apartment with his mother. In that apartment, his mother was staying with his younger brother and sister. During this period, on 9 April 1983, he met my Mother, an arrangement made between my Mother's colleague (who happened to had married my Father's elder Brother).

Through his eldest brother, he found himself a better paying job working as a salesman in a jewellery shop 美金珠宝行 in People's Park Complex. The original employer was bankrupted and sold the business, but he recommended the new employer (Mr Yeah) to retain my Father as he was a great worker. My Father continued to work under the same boss till his death.

Mother shared that Father had bought her flowers on the first date but was reprimanded by Mother who didn't like flowers. During their courtship, they walked a lot.

After 2 years of courtship, my Father married my Mother on 10 April 1985. He didn't ask for a cent from his mother for the wedding banquet held on 4 October 1985. He settled it all himself. He worked long hours, opting for overtime allowance and forgoing offdays and leave for more pay. They went to Hong Kong for their honeymoon.

They stayed with my Grandmother, Uncle and Aunt in a 3-room flat. I joined in the family in 1986 and my Brother came along in 1989. As it was getting too crowded, my Father bought a 5-room apartment. My Grandmother and Uncle stayed with us. My Aunt married and moved out.

My Father had his fair bit of experience in business. Together with his friends, he invested in a canteen business, KTV and Pub business, which all did not work up. He was even cheated of a branded watch by his friends. From all this experience, he had always asked us not to easily trust other people. I remember this dearly.

When I was 3, my Father carried me to the childcare centre everyday. My Brother was cared for by a nanny. About a year later, a domestic maid took care of my Brother and me at home. However busy my Father was, he would still make time for Family day events organised by Mother's company.

My Father worked from 10am to 10pm. I remember watching Crime Watch on one occasion, and got so worried when he came back late.

As a parent, he was very different from his siblings. He was stern when my Brother and I committed wrong doings but most of the time, he became our friend and listened to our achievements in school. He loved to kiss us and hug us. He was very encouraging. He would tell us how we would grow up to become President Scholars and earn big bucks. He was also very supportive of what we were doing. After his death, I looked at his wallet and found all my namecards in it.

He was a filial son too. He instilled that in us and asked us to be filial to Grandmother and Mother. Sometimes, he would ask us to hand allowances for Grandmother, who would be so happy to receive them. In recent years, when Grandmother had to stay with my Aunt, he was the one who paid for the domestic maid and prepared the red packets so she could give to her descendents during Chinese New Year. When he received a bonus, he would contribute more.

He would sometimes joke to us and asked us not to leave him in the drain when he is old, that he would be happy to just stay with us and that he could help us look after our children. It is sad that we could never repay his care for us.

A Good Worker

My Father was a great worker. He first worked at a watch shop, repairing damaged watches. Later, he worked as a salesman in a jewellery shop. About 5 years ago, he followed his boss, Mr Yeah, and worked as an appraiser at a pawnshop.

When he was diagnosed with cancer, he hid the news from his boss in fear of losing his job. He took off and leave for all the check-ups. However, after the first chemotherapy treatment, he told his boss about his condition and requested for no-paid leave. Mr Yeah told him to rest well and that the leave was no issue. He would be welcome to return to work after recovery. We were very thankful of Mr Yeah of ValueMax Group for his understanding.

As the months go by, Mr Yeah continued to issue salary to Father. He even received a considerable amount of bonus from the company.

We understood from Mr Yeah that a few days before his demise, Father called him to say that he would be returning to work soon. Mr Yeah then asked him not to worry.

His colleagues were very supportive too. They bought expensive tonics for Father. His Manager knew of his condition much earlier than the rest, so he introduced Buddhism to Father. During the weekends, Father would release fishes with monks. Father had gotten himself a Buddhist name as well, called 寂愧.

Mr Yeah helped us a great deal financially. We are indebted to him and happy that Father had worked for the right guy.

A Well-Liked Man

Father was able to blend well with anyone and everyone. When we took the cab out, he would chat with the cabbie and win over the cabbie. Around the neighbourhood, Father was friendly and greeted everyone with a powerful smile. Even before I joined the RC, Father had already known many of the RC members. To support my involvement in grassroots, he joined the Civil Defence Executive Committee.

Father did not like the idea of everyone knowing his condition and we hid it very well. When news finally spread, many people were shocked and saddened. RC member, Mdm Han was one of them. I heard that Father would always hold her hand and help her cross the road when he bumped into her. I have also seen many people who sent their regards with teary eyes.

I remember there was a community event in 2007, called Eunos Heights Family Day. As I just joined grassroots, Father showed his support by helping to man a booth selling durians. He spotted an old lady sitting and staring over to the event location. He passed me a ticket and asked me to invite the old lady to join in the event.

A Charitable Man

Father always asked us to donate generously. He would respond to every letter seeking for donation with a generous amount of donation. When the boy scouts come by our place and asked for donations in return of some form of service they could do for us, Father invited them all in and treated them to drinks and food, before donating.

A Great Father

I remember being very fearful when I wanted to confess to Father that I am having a girlfriend in school. It was past midnight and Father had just finished praying. Then, I said it. To my surprise, he smiled and said it was okay as long as it did not affect studies.

Even though I stopped asking for weekly allowance after NS, Father would routinely check my wallet and stuff in notes when it was empty. My spectacles would always be crystal clear as he cleans it every day so that I could see things clearly.

If Father bought some snacks back and we expressed our liking for them, he would continue to buy them until we got sick of it. He never dug into the tidbits and always reserved them for us.

Other than work, he spent most of his time at home.

When the tumour was confirmed to be carcinogenic in nature, I was with Baohui. I excused myself and weeped my life out in the toilet. Lin Qiang burst out in tears when he reached home and heard it from Father.

An Entertaining Figure

Father was very entertaining, always narrating real-life personal ecnounters. Grandmother never managed to contain her laughter when Father talks to her. To my relatives, Father was jovial and made everyone smiling and happy. My friends would all agree that Father was a cheerful and happy person.

Sending Father Off...

Uncle gasped in surprise to see the large crowd that came on the last night to send Father off.

Among the people that came were Mayor Zainul Abidin Rasheed, Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, together with Eunos Grassroots Leaders; BG (NS) Winston Toh, General Manager of ST Electronics (e-Services) Pte Ltd; Colonel Karen Tan, highest ranking female officer in SAF; Brother's Warrant Officer, Master Sergeant and fellow recruits from NDU; Mr Yeah with his family and colleagues; and many others whose lives were touched by Father.

Many neighbours came and payed their respect, without us informing them. Even the coffeeshop Auntie came by.

Visions of the future with Father and Mother and my family had always been the drive and motivating force for everything I do. How I wish Father could share his stories with my children. They would have loved their Grandfather so much...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Saddest Moment in My Life II

27 March 2009

Today is Mother's birthday. 4 Uncles and 2 Aunts waited with Mother and I worriedly outside the ICU. With us were also another worried family.

Mother and I were chanting and praying.

I finally decided to contact my Brother. It was a daunting task. We didn't expect the hospital visit to be a serious one so we didn't bring along the contact information of his Unit. First, I called the "100" Phone directory service. They do not have the number. Next, I called e-NS. They do not have the number.

I was frantic. My relatives and Mother told me it would be okay and said it was late and my Brother would be asleep. I persevered as I prepared for the worst. I called my cousin who was previously from the same Unit as my Brother. He woke up and logged onto the NS Portal to see hi Unit's contact number. It was not updated.

Finally, I tried the NS hotline. I have to thank the duty personnel who picked up my call. Although he took a long time to get back to me, the important thing was he did get back to me. Moments later, Brother called me. I remember myself breaking down when I spoke to his Sergeant. Brother dashed out from Camp.

At about 3am, the doctor finally allowed Mother and I to visit my Father. The chill in the ICU was horrifying. Father was connected to a whole lot of machines that were sustaining his life. I held my Father's cold hand. Despite our repeated call, he didn't respond. However, I noticed tears in his eyes. We were ushered out minutes later. The Doctor told us that he would be administering the final dosage of antibiotics and that it would be up to Father's will to live.

Outside the ICU, I stared at the empty carpark and the silent road. Lin Qiang, you have to be here real quick, I thought to myself. I regretted not telling him the truth when I was in the ambulance.

At about 3.30am, the Doctor called for us again. His look gave him away. He told us he tried his best.

I went out and signalled the rest to come in. My Aunts burst out in tears as they walked briskly into the room. Everyone called for Father, but he just lay there. Then, one of my Uncle asked me to check if Brother had reached. True enough, at the ICU door, I saw my Brother. He had just arrived, in his PT attire and his newly shaven head. I pressed open the door for him. Without a word, he knew, and he dashed into the room.

For the next hour and more, we were in the room. My Father used to kiss us very frequently. We kissed him for the last time. My Uncle asked him not to fear, and that he could now see my Grandfather. There was a gentle smile on Father's handsome face.

This was out of our expectation. We had no chance to hear Father's last words.

Mother quipped that Father loved her deeply and wanted her to forever my Father by leaving us on her birthday.

At about 5am, the tubes were removed from Father. Father looked relieved from all the sufferings he have had for the past few months. Pulling down the blanket, we saw the scars on his chest, as a result of the electric pumping of the heart.

At 6am, Mother, Brother and I walked to the mortuary and collected the body. The casket loaded him up onto a lorry.

How I hope this was all a nightmare. I slept, thinking that Father was just going on a holiday...

The Saddest Moment in My Life

26 March 2009

Returned to home from a tutorial. The long travelling makes me exhausted. When I returned home, I felt something was not right. There was a stench that greeted me.

Father had been down with Cancer for about a year. For the past few days, he had become very weak from the 4th round of chemotherapy. 2 days ago, he fell in the kitchen and woke me up from my sleep. After helping him onto bed, I realised that the gas was accidentally turned on. I couldn't imagine what would happen if I wasn't at home. I immediately called Mother who took half day leave from work.

I went into the master bedroom to find that my Father had defaecated at the bed as he was too weak to walk. He insisted that I wait for Mother to return to clean up the mess. I couldn't wait as it was unhygienic. After cleaning up, I bathed my Father for the first and last time in my life.

I was completely exhausted, so I desperately called my Uncle, who came promptly, to help carry my Father back to the bed. My Uncle had ferried my Father to the hospital for every radiotherapy and chemotherapy sessions. Today, he felt that things were not right. But then, Father jerked himself to sit upright when my Uncle talked to him. Before my Uncle left, he called my Aunt to come and cook something nutritious for my Father. He also suggested to hospitalise Father the next day.

Mother and Aunt came back to tend to Father. Seeing that things are alright, I went to attend a meeting and jogged. I was notified that Father would be going to the hospital when I was doing my cooldown. I dashed back home and changed up.

The paramedics came and noted that oxygen level and blood pressure were low. They gave him the oxygen mask. My Father had a fever which lasted about 2 days. Mother and I helped the paramedics carry Father out to the stretcher. Father gripped my hand and I could see his worry, or fear.

I returned my Brother's call when I was in the ambulance. It was his usual call to reassure the family that he's doing well in the Navy. I didn't want him to be distracted from his military training, so I hid it from him that we were sending Father to hospital. As he asked about the beeping sound in the background, I had to tell a white lie, which I deeply regretted.

When we hit the PIE, the paramedic seated beside me asked the driver to "on siren and go". Mother and I were shocked, but the paramedic calmly told us that it was because of the low blood pressure. I was crying and didn't want Father to know. I regretted not chatting with him throughout the journey.

We reached SGH. When Father was pushed into the A&E, he was staring into blank space. A while later, a pregnant doctor called us to a room and updated us that Father was in a critical condition and that the medical team was trying to stabilise his condition. The second time she updated us, I could see her wet eyes. And she asked us to inform any family members that were not present to come.

Near midnight, Father was transferred to the ICU. With all the machines and tubes attached to him, he showed no response as Uncle, Aunt and I followed behind...