Blog To Express

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Location: Singapore, Singapore

A "recycled teenager" learning to blog.

Dec 27, 2014

Home-bred Singaporean Movie Stars

The above juxtaposed photos of Zoe Tay as published recently by MediaCorp and when she was a young girl with her smaller sister in their father's farm in Lim Chu Kang.  She was born in 1968.

Zoe Tay with her wax figure at Madame Tussauds

MediaoCorp actress Zoe Tay finally unveiled her waxen droppelganger at the Madame Tussauds Singapore (MTS) in Sentosa.

I came across an article "A Farmer's Daughter Step Out" which a Facebook friend had posted it to share and I was intrigued.  Please find out as the blog unfold.

Please click on the photo to enlarge the image and read the article.

Zoe Tay was born to farming parents, their second-youngest child.  During her childhood, her family lived in Lim Chu Kang.  She entered the now defunct Kay Hua Primary School and later Yuan Ching Secondary School for her secondary education.  A tomboy in her youth, she enjoyed football, climbing trees, and bicycle racing.

Zoe became a model at the age of 16.  She was first groomed at IMP International and David Gan in 1986.  [Source:  Zoe's blog].

Xiang Yun is another Singaporean actress and contracted artiste under MediaCorp.  She is popularly referred to as MediaCorp's first "Ah Jie" (elder sister) as she was among the first locally-trained artistes and has been in the industry for over 30 years.

She began her career in children's drama in 1980 and proceeded to act in the Chinese drama series.

When I was 36 years old in 1984, I followed every episode on SBC TV to watch my favorite drama serial, "The Awakening" ( 雾锁南洋 ).

The Awakening is a 1984 television drama series produced by Singapore Broadcasting Corporation to celebrate the nation's 25th National Day celebrations. The series mainly covers the Chinese Singaporean experience in Singapore, from the first generation of Chinese immigrants, who arrived to a relatively undeveloped island, through the Japanese occupation periods, and to the Chinese Singaporeans at the present day (1984), who resides in a developed nation that is radically different from the land their ancestors arrived to.  

The story was realistic because my father was an immigrant from Quemoy in the 1940s, and the conditions and circumstances in the Colony of Singapore under the British ruler at that time.

Zoe Tay with Xiang Yun

Zoe Tay has participated in a number of television charity shows and enormous popular with the senior citizen Singaporean audiences.

In 1987, Zoe won "Model of the Year" and in 1988, she joined and won the first talent seach contest, "Star Search".  She also became Singapore's first ever "Lux Girl".

The following resources are extracted from "Zoe Tay Fan Club" on Facebook:

tayeileen said:
"This is Zoe Tay, our MediaCorp Ah-Jie.  Someone whom many of us grew up watching but no one has even gotten sick of watching.

Even now over 10 years on, she still looks gorgeous as ever.  I guess elegance is ageless.

Although I'm no longer as fanatic about her as I was in the past, I really do admire her as an idol".
christinetan said:
"In general, most people would nod their heads in agreement to the fact that this stunning actress deserves many accolades and awards she has received over the years, and has left behind a trail of brilliant performances in her acting history".  
How I wish, I could return on a time machine to those days where I squeezed onto the couch with my family to enjoy the wonderful shows she has devotedly put up for her audience."
Avril said:
"Watched a couple of her talk shows and I find her a very humble and genuine person, unlike some of other younger artistes.  Oh yes, and maybe because I kept staring at her, she looked at me and flashed me her small signature smile.  Not the drop dead pretty kind but she just has got this X-factor I guess and that probably is her godsend weapon to hold her reign'.
Purpose for this blog

Perhaps my blogger friends would be surprised that I have switched to something new for the first time on my blog to post about popular Mediacorp TV actresses.

What attracted me to feature popular Zoe Tay as a TV celebrity or other public personalities?  I do not know her personally and have never met her in person at local public performances or events.

These days, I do not watch TV drama serials or follow any particular actors or actresses on MediaCorp.

I am from a different era, different generation, I guess.

During my childhood days at Bukit Ho Swee,  I watched lots of Chinese "gongfu" movies at the Atlantic Theatre located inside the Great World Amusement Park.  The matinee movies were screened in the afternoon from 1.00 pm to 5.00 pm.  Special ticket charges of 50 cents for 2 show!

The names of the actors and actress I could remember are available here .

In those days, Shaw Brothers and Cathay Organisation were the two major film producers who owned their theatres in Singapore.

Why then was the movie industry dominated by the producers in Hong Kong, I have ever wondered.

The answers I now realised: Singapore has become a "nation of opportunities"!

The present new generation and future generations of home-bred Singaporean movie stars are groomed and offered by the opportunities by MediaCorp!


Dec 24, 2014

Kan Chia Chek Daughter's Marriage

I am inspired to blog a true life story which happened in 1963, about 2 years after living at a HDB 1-room "emergency flat" at Block 9, Jalan Bukit Ho Swee, Singapore.  I was then 15-years-old and have many new things to learn as an immature young urchin of Bukit Ho Swee.

I like to listen to elder neighbors and to learn useful stuff from them.  However, not everything we hear are true and helpful.  Thus reading good books at the library would increase our knowledge and are gleaned from our experiences to learn to discriminate and judge wisely from what people say.  Listen carefully and don't argue unnecessarily.

It was the first time I watched a Chinese wedding ceremony since my last time at the Bukit Ho Swee kampong after the fire in 1961.

This is a blog to share the first person collective childhood memories of a pioneer generation Singaporean and the observations of the way of life in Bukit Ho Swee over 50 years ago.

My former neighbor, "Kan Chia Chek" (Trishaw Uncle in Hokkien which "Kan Chia" refers to the century-old "jinrickshaw" puller. The modern-day term should refer to "sah lian chia", the three wheels rider). The previous blog about the Trishaw Riders posted here .

He lived with his wife, a teenage daughter who works at a factory and a young son who was still attending school.

My kind, humble neighbor was very hardworking and plied the trishaw on the roads in Singapore everyday, everywhere.  The longer distance he fetched his passengers, the more he earns for his livelihood.

He has a good sense of  humor and likes to laugh and joke alot.  He is a person with character, strength and perserverance in spite of  hazard of traffic accident on the road daily.  He communicate and spoke to me in Hokkien with a Henghua accent and we understand one another well.  I often visited him in the evening after work and we listened to the news on the Rediffusion.  

With his weather-beaten face, he was rugged and tough.  Under every weather condition, rain or shine, day and night. Uncle would still go to work when feeling a little tired. He told me that the best time to get passengers would be on raining days and night.  He doesn't work on a fixed 9 to 5 office hour routine.  At times when he returned home for dinner and there were passengers at certain places, he would still continue to work.

There are many successful Singaporeans today who were brought up by their fathers as trisha riders.  They are as proud and with gratitude of them as those from wealthy families. 

Uncle has self-respect and doesn't care if other neighbors knew that he was a trishaw rider.  It is a decent, honest, independent work serving the travelling public in Singapore.

Marriage of Ah Huay and Ah Kiat

Ah Huay is the 20-year-old daughter of "kan chia chek" and his wife.  This soft-spoken young girl was shy and gentle with primary school in Chinese.  She then left school in 13 to work in a factory in Redhill to help to support the family income.

A few months after moving to Jalan Bukit Ho Swee,  Ah Kiat was introduced by our neighbor to Ah Huay.

Ah Kiat was a dark-complexioned lanky 23-year-old young guy.  He was an orphan and completed his secondary Chinese education.  He worked at a factory in Jurong and a well-mannered good-looking guy with a good sense of humor.

Some months later, both youths' love blossomed and Ah Kiat was at the home every night after work.
On weekends, they went for "pak tor" (dating on courtship) with the blessings of both Ah Huay's parents.  The parents found that Ah Kiat is a well-behaved young man with good character and respected them.

About 2 years later,  Ah Huay and Ah Kiat wanted to ask for the permission of Kan Chia Chek and Ka Chia Soh for their daughter for marriage.

I happened to be in their house one evening when Ah Kiat was discussing with Kan Chia Chek.  Kan Chia Soh and Ah Huay were not at home.

As I was too young then to understand about their topic about marriage of Ah Kiak and Ah Huay,  I unintentionally eavesdropped into the adults' private conversation and I listened quietly without interruption or disruption to disturb them.

Although Kan Chia Chek did not attend formal school since a child in China,  I learned a lesson from a humble trishaw-rider with wisdom.   That lesson happened over 50 years ago which etched deeply in my mind to this day.  Not exactly in his words, but the gist of Uncle's explanation to Ah Kiat below:

"Ah Kiat, I have observed you for almost two years and found that you have treated Ah Huay very well.  The most important thing is for both of you to love one another.  I don't know anything about love because my marriage to Kan Chia Soh was followed with traditional Chinese matchmaker.  No "pak tor" or talk about love.

To be married is an important journey in life.  Never mind if the journey is travelling by big cars,  by bicycles or by trishaw.  You would reach the place (destination) you want to go safely with your wife and your children.  The elders said "nan chi gua,  gua chi nan.  Ho ho cho nan". (in Hokkien means "People raise me up, I raise others.  Live a good person").  [ 人人养我,我养人人。好好做人。]

Don't have to think too much because have faith and trust with Heaven.

Both of us are not wealthy but we need not compare with other people.  Whether they are rich with big houses and everyday eat big fish, big prawns.  Ah Huay is a simple girl and she did not complain about how much you are earning as a factory worker and did not have very high education.

Whether we are born rich and die poor or born poor and die rich are fated by Heaven (天公) ( Kan Chia Chek's family were from ancestral worship since    young). Everything in our life depends on affinity and live honestly.  If people look down on trishaw-riders, I earn a living honestly.   Don't feel bad (esteem)."

There were many wise advice by Kan Chia Chek which I could not remember everything in the conversation in Hokkien, some of which I could not understand in his Hockchia accent.

Ah Huay and Ah Kiat were married happily on an auspicious date which Kan Chia Soh went to the temple to consult from the medium.

The traditional Chinese wedding ceremony was simple in accordance of the custom and practice of the Hockchia dialect.  The neighbors helped in every ways as a community with "kampong spirit".

Their wedding dinner with close neighbors, family and relatives and friends was celebrated in a coffee shop with 3 tables.  The significance of the celebration happily and everyone cheered with "Yam Seng" for good health, good luck and prosperity.


 Chinese wedding in Singapore Theme Postage Stamp


Ah Huay and Ah Kiat did not go on holiday overseas after the marriage for honeymoon.

They started work 2 days after their wedding and happily lived in a new HDB 3-room flat in Queenstown.

Some years later, I heard from my former neighbors that Ah Huay and Ah Kiat had 3 children and two of them were university graduates and working in the civil service.

Kan Chia Chek and Kan Chia Soh were at a Chinese New Year reunion with Ah Huay, Ah Kiat and their grandchildren with a contented and happy life together in Singapore, a nation of opportunity with hope and aspirations for the future generations.

This is a short story of a former Bukit Ho Swee fire victim,  Kan Chia Chek.

Dec 2, 2014

Memories of Provision Shops in Singapore

The provision shop in the rural areas in 1960s.

The place where I was born in 1948 was located at No. 608A, Havelock Road in Bukit Ho Swee, Singapore.

In this intuitive blog to turn back the clock to 66 years ago when I was born, I now visualize what happened to me as a child.   This is for brain exercise.

From the day I was born until maybe 5 or 6 years old, I could not remember about anything.  My mind was a blank to try to recollect my memories as my baby years. Nothing to think about, no memories to blog.

At that age, I needed only to eat, drink, sleep daily and to grow bigger in a natural and normal way while my mother fed me as a baby in my growing up stage.

It was amazing for me to know that I was once a baby like everyone.   There was nothing special about me as I grew up as a human person.  I was told that I was an active, chubby baby and like to smile with everyone I meet.  Everything was new and curious to me when I came into this world.

It sounds like I was kinda funny but my mother was happy to hear complimentary remarks, such as "this baby is very chubby hor", "this baby likes to smile and laugh a lot", "very friendly, not afraid of strangers" blah, blah .....

When I watch my children and other babies, it must be how I behaved as a baby too.  Every generation recycles from babies to elderlies.

I was not a "cry-baby" who disliked strangers for no reasons. At other times I amuse others by giggling or laughing, I was told.  I am sure I must have cried and wailed as loud as I could to attract the attention of everyone when I was hungry, suffered pain, urinate or to shit.  The crying stopped when job is done.

As a toddler, my mother and my elder sisters would carry me around when I was awake at home or outside the house in the nearby kampong. There was a provision shop next to my birthplace.

Photo courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore

Unfortunately I do not have any photos of me as a baby in the olden days, long before smartphone cameras to post on Facebook in a popular way.  The above photo is not of me but of about 2-year-old child slung with a sarong at the back of his mother at the provision shop in the way which I was carried around by my mother.

Next to my birthplace was an old grocery shop, a small wooden building in the Bukit Ho Swee kampong where I grew up for about 6 years and moved to another part of Bukit Ho Swee.  My birthplace and the old shop owned by Ah Bee and her father were destroyed in the Bukit Ho Swee fire in 1961.

 The shop was owned by our neighbors and family friends.It was a family business which Ah Bee, her father and her brother runs the shop for many years.

The shop was conveniently located at Havelock Road and the family lived at the back of the shop.  The kampong folks patronise the shop for decades and their customers became neighbors and friends.

My mother used to buy provision such as rice,  sugar, cooking oil and even salt from Ah Bee's shop.  We were trusted customers and able to supply us on credit without payment in cash for each purchase at the shop.  A small "555" note book was used as a record and produced at the end of the month when my father received his salary.

Other trusted neighbors like us were given a special service on credit terms.  Similar to "credit card system" of today's banks and other financial institutions ..... but no extra interest charged on the purchases.

In a way, I grew up as a child feeding "Lifeguard" condensed milk (not instant milk powder) on credit for many years until I was old enough to feed on porridge and non-solid food.

As my family was poor and I have grown up since young from "hands to mouth", we managed to survive with my father's job as a book-keeper at Kheng Seng Chan, a import export company at Telok Ayer Street.  He was the only breadwinner in the family then.

Without banks so commonly in the early days to provide loan services on credit, neighbors willingly bid tontines to use lump sum funds to tide over hard times for children's school fees to enter the university or to attend courses for their career future; or someone at home need emergency medical treatment in hospital.

I understand that Ah Bee and her father had helped my family and many poor neighbors in the kampong to offer credit for purchases of groceries from their shops and then return their payments from their salaries at a later date.

The "kampong spirit" relationship of the shopkeepers and customers in a tightly-knit community to help one another at times of hardship of the neighbors.  Mutual help, co-operation and honesty is the essence of the "kampong spirit" for a harmonious community.  The community bonding built a trust and loyalty to develop a long term relationship with gratitude.

Please watch the "Old Times - Singapore's Provision Shops" video on YouTube and spot the nostalgic stuff in the shop.

Did you notice the old "Milo" tin with a pulley and a rope used as a "money safe-box" container?

The shops in Singapore over a century were found by Singaporeans, mostly migrants from China, India, Indonesia and other neighboring countries.

To earn a living in the early days, the enterprising businessmen with some savings as capital to open shops to venture for profit as local traders.  For non-farming occupation and activities, the craftsmen with special skills would open shops for various businesses.

The shops at the kampong were few and wide apart. The village womenfolks were busy day and night with household chores - cleaning the house, laundry for the family, cooking the meals for the family, dish-washing after the meals.

We have to remember that electrical appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines, electric cookers, electronic ovens, water heaters for shower on cold days, fans or air-conditioners on hot days etc to save time and energy for convenience in every home were either not affordable except the wealthier families or because the invented appliances were not available in the market until in the mid-1980s or 1990s.

Lets take a look at the provision shops in the 1970s in the rural areas archived photos curated on this blog with the courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore to share our collective memories of traditional type of provision shops in Singapore in the old days.

The blinds with advertisements in front of the shop
Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew visited the kampong shopkeepers in 1970

With urban renewal to develop many parts of Singapore in the 1970s, the kampongs in the rural areas were resettled and replaced by HDB satellite towns and housing estates.

Dwindling business in old estates where many have moved out, or having no one in the family to take over the business, have forced some shops to close down.

The old-fashioned and traditional friendly neighbourhood provision shops were affected by the modernised Singaporean lifestyle.

During the transition of the shopping experience in the old days as the younger generations of Singaporeans prefer to shop at the air-conditioned supermarkets with comfort and convenience.

There are very few traditional "kampong-type" provision shops in the older HDB housing estates stll exist today.  The shop owners were the pioneer generation Singaporeans who inherited from their parents or grandparents.

The younger generation shop owners would modify their business management methods, styles and layout of the shops as supermarket-lookalike for arrangement of the products on shelves, air-conditioned, price-tagging and fixed prices without bargaining by the customers as was common in the olden days.  New ways are now done with electronic devices to computerize the business for efficiency and improved services for customers satisfaction and delivery.

The "kampong-type" provision shop at Teban Gardens, Singapore.