Maybe I have a “talkable” face but I have many encounters with strangers on a regular basis. I thought I’ll record the more interesting and endearing ones. I recently wrote about the Patrician from the class of 1957. This encounter falls under the endearing category.

Two days ago, I had an early dinner at 115 Bukit Merah View Market and Hawker Centre. I had mee pok dry from this gentleman from Soon Heng Minced Meat Noodles stall.

OK, but this post is not about him – just posted it coz I had a snap. After getting our bowls of noodles, we wanted to sit at the breezier side of the hawker centre (the car park side, on that day). However, most of the tables were not cleared. We found one relatively clean and empty table just next to a porridge stall called Shi Fu A1 Rou Zhou.

Soon after we took our seats, this elderly lady who runs the porridge stall with her sister sat down on the same table in front of a pile of pei dan (century eggs) presumably to peel them in preparation for the dinner crowd. Sharing the same table, I naturally looked towards her, smiled and wished her Xin Nian Kuai Le (happy lunar new year in Mandarin). She beamed, thrilled.

She could only converse in Hokkien. I can’t speak Hokkien. Through my dinner companion who interpreted for me, she readily revealed that she was in her seventies. She started selling porridge in the same location around 1975 when she was in her thirties.

Perhaps it was a simple smile or perhaps it was an Indian guy wishing her happy lunar new year in Mandarin (or a combination) that made her so happy. She claimed (unsubstantiated, I must add) that I am a “good person” because most people “ignore the elderly.” She said it’s the way I took the initiative to acknowledge her and the way I smiled at her. I was a bit pai seh when she added again that I’m a “good person”.

She was animated, smily and jovial throughout the conversation. She happily posed for a picture with me. So sweet. She wished us Jing Bu (progress) many times.

This is the funny bit. As we continued eating, she told my companion in Hokkien, “Don’t mind me, I’m an old person so it should be ok for me to say this. He is very good-looking.” She then again repeated that I’m a kind and good person.

I’d by lying if I didn’t say that it made me feel good. I wish I could speak Hokkien. We could have had a longer conversation. Maybe I should learn some conversational Mandarin this year. See how.

We promised to come back to eat.

Bottom line is that we made each other’s evenings. Lesson learned – look at people and smile. It’s almost always a win-win.

What a lovely evening. I’m still smiling as I write this.

Last Sunday, 15th February 2015, the mood for a kopi-o gao came upon me. So I traipsed to one of my favourite uncle baristas in Telok Blangah.

Got my S$0.70 (US$0.56 as of 16/2/15) brew and sat at a vacant table. Shortly, the man in this picture came up from behind me and asked, “May I sit here?”

I was surprised. This elderly Chinese gentleman with tattoos on both his upper arms spoke in perfectly enunciated English.

Judge me not but I thought he looked “Hokkien Gangsterish” if you know what I mean.

I said, “Go ahead”, and motioned for him to sit down.

My curiosity was piqued. We were sitting at a table right opposite a fruit juice stall and next to it, a prata stall.

After a few moments, I asked him, “Are you waiting for juice?”

He said, “Prata”.

Eager to engage him further, I continued, “It’s crowded today.”

Understanding that I was open to engagement, he turned towards me.

His English was clipped. I noticed his crucifix and Mother Mary pendants.

I attended St. Patrick’s School as a teenager. I’m a proud Patrician. And I know Patricians. There is a certain je ne sais quoi about Patricians. You see, Patricians possess a counter-intuitive blend of gangster and gentleman, streetwise and refined, rough and smooth. Ask any Patrician and they’ll understand what I mean. This gentleman had it. I asked him if he was from a mission school. He said yes. I asked which. He said St. Patrick’s. I was vindicated.

A connection had been made.

OK, let me nutshell what I learned of Clarence during our chance encounter.

He was born in 1937.

He completed both primary and secondary school in St. Patrick’s (they had primary school until 1957 when the primary section of the school was separated and became Saint Stephen’s School, which I attended).

He graduated in 1957 (I enrolled in 1977).

Being a bit of a rascal (which is the norm for Patricians), he was publicly caned (rather proudly, I must add) a number of times. One time he was caned for “waylaying” Katong Convent (KC) girls (he remembers the names of the three girls but I’m not publishing it). He said this rather proudly although he admitted that at that time he had no idea what “waylay” meant. I totally get it that he was proud (as will most Patricians).

Clarence got caned another time for stealing a papaya at a nearby hotel (now demolished). Although the property was protected with barbed wires, he threw a gunnysack over the wires, climbed over and stole the papaya. He was caught when he made his way back to school. He claimed that the papaya had fallen on the public side of the fence. It was a lie. And the disciplinarian didn’t buy it.

Updated on 20 February 2015 with the information of the name of the hotel – Ocean Park Hotel (thanks Larry Henson). 

Clarence described the experience of one of his public canings. The caning teacher presented a row canes the day before the public caning and ask him to choose one. He chose the seemingly most insipid one. On the following day of public caning, he wore two shorts and stuffed it with newspapers. Although the caner knew what was going on by the sound as the cane struck Clarence’s derrière, he let it go. Compassion.

I’m guessing that today, public caning is a no-no. When I was in St. Patrick’s from 1977 to 1980, public caning was still in force. I think it was and is a good thing for an all-boys school.

Although I enrolled in St. Pat’s in 1977, twenty years after Clarence graduated, I asked him about some of the older teachers during my time. One of my vice-principals was Mr Eu Wing Kee. Clarence remembered him to be a trainee teacher during his time. He remembered Brother Justinian (an avid tennis player well into his advanced years) and Brother Joseph McNally (principal during my era). The principal during his time was Brother Alban.

The St. Patrick School’s latin motto is Potest Qui Vult, which means “he can, who wills”. When I was at St. Pat’s (1977 – 1980) we would refer to our motto instead as “protest and revolt”. Apparently, it was the same during Clarence’s era. Perhaps even before.

He was brought up in Lorong K, Telok Kurau with his Grandmother. I didn’t ask him about his mom and dad. He earned money for his grandma by helping a Malay lady sell epok-epok, kueh-mueh and other delicacies. He would be paid ten cents a day for doing this, which was apparently a lot of money then. He would put this money into a “piggy-bank” his grandmother made from a coconut shell.

He worked at the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) but when he joined it was called Singapore Harbour Board (SHB).

He canvassed for Lee Kuan Yew in Tanjong Pagar in the 1957 Singapore City Council Elections. Incidentally, he is not pro-ruling party. In fact, he’s not a fan, by any stretch of the imagination, of the current overcrowding he feels in Singapore. After hearing his story, I can definitely sympathise. I recognise that Clarence and his peers are the ones who built the Singapore that we now enjoy. A simpler, quieter, and slower Singapore.

He’s got tattoos on both his upper arms in Chinese characters. I asked him about them. On the right side are the names of his mom and dad, and on the left the names of his wife and son.

He is a Catholic and attends the Carmelite Monastery in Singapore.

I left after half and hour as I had bought some raw produce from the wet market and needed to get home to refrigerate it.

I didn’t get Clarence’s number but I told him I’m going to look out for him to hear his stories.

He looked pleased.

I’m definitely going to look out for him to collect more stories. What a great Sunday tête-à-tête.

I live near Pasir Panjang Hawker Centre. About two months ago, if not before, I da bao’ed (take away) Hokkien Mee from Seng Huat Hokkien Mee from that very hawker centre.

This Tuesday afternoon (3rd February), about 2pm, I went back there to buy liang teh (cooling tea) as I was feeling yit hei (heaty). As I made my way to the liang teh stall, the man in the picture suddenly clasped my shoulder.

I didn’t recognise him from Adam. Motioning to his stall, he started off by saying in Singlish, “Do you remember you bought from me last time?” I confess, my first reaction was, “Oh no, I didn’t pay or didn’t pay enough?” You see, he was kinda tough-looking.

What a terrible and suspicious reaction. I felt so bad after.

He said, “You ordered $6 Hokkien Mee but I gave you $4 pack by mistake.” He thrust $2 into my hands. Mind you, he had to walk half-across the hawker centre to do this. Remember, this was over 2 months ago. I was shocked and couldn’t react. I thanked him, took the money and walked away.

A few seconds later, I was like, “What am I doing?”

I walked back to him, gave him a semi-hug (I couldn’t deal with a bear hug in a hawker centre with a sweaty dude I don’t know) and thanked him again. I told him that he was totally amazing for doing this. I mean he must have been waiting to spot me for two months. I would have never known I was given a smaller pack. Even if I knew, I wouldn’t have remembered.

I asked him if I could snap a picture of him in front of the stall.

An act like this is enough to blot out a thousand dark acts.

The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:5 NASB)

It reminded me to have hope in humanity and to guard my own heart.

Thank you sir. Thank you.

I first heard about this song from my sister (who has a 10 year-old girl) a few months ago. This has apparently gone big among the younger set. It’s also set on fire remakes and parodies. I’m always fascinated by stuff that goes viral (think, Gangnam Style). So, last night, I hustled around YouTube looking at those. Here are my top five favourites.

But first, credit to the original.

Now the covers.
First, probably my fave:

Love the lady’s ring, by the way.

Country Version:

For class:

For Humour:

Finally, coz it’s that time of the year:

Last night, I watched the movie, “Untouchable: Children of God.” The documentary highlights the absolute and total atrocity of human trafficking that happens right under our nose – under our watch. Yeah, by doing nothing, we let it happen.


This documentary, which won the 2014 Newport Beach Film Festival Humanitarian Prize, highlights the depravity that we have allowed to thrive in India and Nepal (in other countries too – but the focus of the documentary was on these two countries). The movie is raising awareness of the sex trade or more accurately, modern-day slavery, and galvanising people to action.

Men are the biggest problem – not man as in humanity – but men as in male, boy, guy. I like what the director/producer said in the movie. I paraphrase because I didn’t copy it down so apologies, Grant. Addressing the men, he said something along the lines of:

“If you’ve ever trafficked women, you’re part of the problem. If you’ve ever paid for sex, you’re part of the problem. If you’ve ever viewed pornography, you’re part of the problem. If you’ve supported or played games that denigrates and desecrates the sanctity of women, you’re part of the problem.”

Present at the screening were the director, Grant Knisely, Pastor Raju Sundas from the Lighthouse Foundation Nepal (LHFN) and two girls who were rescued out of the dark pit hell of whorehouses (pictured below). LHFN rescues girls from this dastardly business, heals them, educates them, trains them – but most importantly, accepts and loves them unconditionally – and gives them hope for their futures.

untouchable2 While the rescue work must continue, prevention is the main aim. As Pastor Raju shared, when they rescue a girl, they have to work with her for 5 to 7 years, sometimes more, to restore her emotionally, spiritually and physically.

A mere 1% of the enslaved girls are rescued. They are often sold into the sex trade by their families – fathers, brothers, relatives – men who are supposed to love and protect them. Some as young as five years old – yes, five.



But I want to end with the sharing of the two girls who were at the screening. They moved me to tears – really. Rather than being defeated and cowered, they want to make a difference. They want to rescue their “sisters” still caught in the brothels to be abused and humiliated by men.

They want to be light in the dark places. They want to shine the light of God into the pit of hell.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” John 1:5 (NLT)

To help the girls, go to Out of Ashes which is a charitable non-profit organisation dedicated to fight human trafficking and sex-slavery especially on the Indian sub-continent and in South East Asia:

Their Facebook:



Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: “I seek God! I seek God!” — As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated? — Thus they yelled and laughed.

The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. “Whither is God?” he cried; “I will tell you. We have killed him — you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.

“How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us — for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto.”

Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. “I have come too early,” he said then; “my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars — and yet they have done it themselves.

It has been related further that on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: “What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?”


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