Friday, June 05, 2009

Watch this page for an 'a photo a day' blog coming up soon :)

Friday, August 01, 2008


The EOD badge is presented to those
who make the supreme sacrifice
taking the risk
by putting their own lives on the line
beyond the call of duty.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

1 litre of tears

Health is bliss. Being able to eat my favourite food, talk with friends and loved ones, and even just being able to move from one place to another by myself are experiences which I always neglect, or rather, be complacent about. Watching the show "1 litre of tears" gave me a totally new perspective of life. I used to complain about little things such as the gruelling physical training in army, failing to perform at a sport, or having to walk through the hot sun or wet weather. These just fade away after seeing how someone's life can just fall apart at the tender age of 15 without any warning. It leaves me thinking about what if the same thing happened to me, and how would I cope with it? Would I be able to stay as strong and positive as the girl striken with the diesease? Some things are just easier said than done. Many of us are easily depressed or distracted with setbacks in life, but always remember that these setbacks are usually temporal; they will not stay with you for life and it's always better to move on or start afresh. It is also important to make the extra effort to give hope and love to others, as you never know when the extra mile becomes a legacy left behind by you.

This is written by Aya Ikeuchi, the main character in the show "1 litre of tears" which was produced based on her life story. Her diary holds important and meaningful memories and thoughts written down by her until she could no longer hold a pen. Enjoy and reflect..

“If I were a flower, then now I would be a bud.
I shall treasure the beginning of my youth without any regrets.
This disease, why did it choose me?
Fate. It can't be put into words.
I want to make a time machine and go back in time.
If it wasn't for this disease,
not only I could enjoy falling in love but I also
wouldn’t have to rely on anyone and live by myself.
I really don't want to say things such as 'I want to go back to how things were before.'
I recognize how I am right now, and I will continue to live on.
Therefore I definitely won't run away.
That's what I’ll do. Definitely, always.
Even if it's like that, I still want to stay here.
because this is the place where I am.
If you look up at the sky after falling down the blue sky is also today
stretching limitlessly and smiles at me...I'm alive.
People shouldn’t dwell on the past. It's enough
to try your best in all that you're doing now.
Reality is too cruel, too brutal.
I don’t even have the right to dream.
As i think about the future, the tears will come out again."

“Mom, can I get married?”

So don't do things you will regret. Cherish life! :)

editor's note: click the title to watch the show on another website

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Simple Joys of Life

"To achieve happiness we must be rid love or desires, for we will then never be heartbroken." Discuss.

This GP-lookalike statement would probably raise a few eyebrows and kickstart a tirade of criticism or sympathy, depending on a person's perspective of life. I captured out this snippet from a show shown in cinemas recently, titled "The Forbidden Kingdom". It depicted mortals as fallible beings whose lives are constantly filled with problems generated by love and desire, whereas immortals achieve eternal life by ridding themselves of such worldly attributes and partaking of and elixir of life, the latter being a necessary additive to their way of thinking in order to achieve immortality.

Ponder to yourself - is it really worth the sacrifice of love and desires for one to be free of troubles affecting the heart and soul? Is it really better for one to pursue happiness in this manner? Theoratically speaking, the finite result of such a discipline is undoubtedly true. He who has no feelings can never feel pain and sorrow. However, realistically speaking, us homo sapiens will never be able to achieve such ignorance. We are all born into this world with a God-given soul and mind for us to make moral choices, and to be able to show an amazing feeling called love. We were born to love and not to hate, for hate will only result in the utter destruction of humans in no time to come.

Hence proving my point that it is impossible to neglect love and desire, we shall now look at the implication of both feelings. Love and desire can exist as a double-edged sword. On one hand, positive and genuine love, care and concern for others will make this world a happier place for us to live in. However, there exists morally incorrect reasons for love and desires. Love for money, desires for power and position, are common and straightforward examples of how beautiful words can mean unhealthy ideas. We should all learn towards being loving towards everyone regardless of differences, for people can change and will change, given the right conditions.

A speaker I heard recently mentioned about how a simple lily plant could bring a sparkle of joy to him during a particularly stressful period. The pretty red flower that bloomed from a plant coupled with his wife's delight gave him the strength to smile and appreciate simple yet elegant beauty, which he would not have noticed otherwise given his hectic schedule. Sometimes when we are obsessed, or rather, very occupied with someone or something, we tend to neglect things around us. People who could care for you, or things which could make u learn to appreciate natural beauty, are left untouched and dormant, never to be brought into our lives until we learn to share our singular joy with the world around us.

We should all learn to accept things as they come and look at the positive applications and implications of obstacles or difficulties which may arise. Never should we wreck others' lives in pursuit of our own selfish desires. It can never be a case of "I won't love so that I will never be heartbroken", because it is selfishness. People who could benefit from your love during their most difficult times would then be left to suffer and make their way through trials and tribulations on their own.

SO LOVE. And be loved in return.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Tribute: My teacher, guide and friend

They say that teaching is the profession that teaches other professions.

Learning has always been the milestone for mankind, for it is through learning that we have created such a world we have today, and it is through learning that we have only ourselves to blame for the mess we create. To learn, we must first teach. Much of the people we see today cannot deny that what they are enjoying today is the result of teaching. We owe our lives to teaching, or rather, our lives are the result of teaching. Even the most successful engineer or the most competent businessman must have been taught some way or another.

They say that a teacher's purpose is not to create students in his own image, but to develop students who can create their own image.

I would describe the teacher-student relationship as a reflection on the water's surface, where the water depicts the student. The distorted image of the teacher in the water variates with the formation of the reflection on the water's surface such that it is not consistently the same, and yet the image would always be recognised as that of the teacher. It is imperative that we gather our learnings from the teacher, but at the same time discerning and understanding aligns the values imparted to us so that it would be able to fit into our lives. Teachers will be able to make out the image of themselves in the student's lives, but this image would be uniquely associated and adapted to each individual.

They say that the best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book.

Personally, I am grateful to all my teachers who have been such a wonderful inspiration to my life. They were the ones who taught me valuable lessons in life, guided me through trial and tribulation, and acted as a friend by my side during times of distress. When you stop and wonder about the reason behind having such wonderful people in your life, think passion. Teaching is all about having a heart to go the extra step in shaping the lives of others and imparting valuable knowledge to students, which serves as a foundation for filling up the empty pieces in one's life. It is not about personal glory, and neither is it for the pay. With this, let me salute all the teachers out there who have given their lives for others to learn from, for when you teach your student, you teach your student's student.

They say that teaching is about moulding lives.

This entry is especially dedicated to my physics teacher, Mr. Lau Soo Yen, who has so carefully and dedicatedly moulded us into students of integrity and respect; students who have grown spiritually and mentally throughout the two years he has been teaching us. Most teachers take the extra step forward in helping students with their work as well as their lives. Mr. Lau took me through the extra mile. The lessons he taught us not only encompassed learning, but also living and believing in each other. He also left with us fond memories of our time with him and lessons in life in the form of delicate cards which he personally made as a graduation gift to each of us, and this we will keep by our side for the rest of our lives, for it is part of his reflection on us.

He gave us something to take home to think about everyday besides homework.
He taught us Physics. The Physics of Life.

Mr. Lau, if there were anything to say to you, it could all be summarised in 3 words:-
Never quit teaching.

With all sincerity,
Thank you, Mr. Lau. You made your teachers proud of you too.

"In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a day's work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years." ~ Jacques Barzun

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Not my problem

* A does a flying kick at B and misses and falls down *
* B delivers a punch and hard kick at the back of A's head *
* A retaliates with yet another flying kick, and misses yet again *

A: "He arttack me! I corr poolice!"
* A makes a break for it *
B: "You dun runn away! Dun runn awaaaay!"

(right then I was quite thoroughly amused by the gongfu display being put up, but as I was late meeting a friend, I had to make my way past them)

* A kick which nearly hit me flew across my face. Phew. *

To add on to the effects, there was a group of girls, presumably those 2 guys' friends, who were chanting "eh, stop la.." all the while, with the occasional "eh, dun fight la..".

Oh, and did I forget to mention, this was not some Ong-Bak movie in Thailand, but our very own Ah-Beng gangfight located right inside an MRT station. To be precise, the linkway between the North-East Line and North-South Line.

Well, as you all should know, security has severely tightened the noose around MRT stations due to our desire for a terrorist free Singapore. You won't even be surprised much if a policeman armed to the teeth walks past you in an MRT station. Vigilance is a key issue too, and all of us are trained to report anything suspicious, or anything that disturbs the peace. I'm very sure most Singaporeans practise this mentality, and true enough, one public-spirited gentleman took the initiative to forgo part of the wonderful performance to alert a security personnel at the North-South Line side of Dhoby Ghaut MRT.

Now, if you were thinking how interesting the fight sequence was, wait till you hear the response of the security guy.

Public-spirited man: "Hey there's 2 guys fighting over there could you do something about it"?
Security: * Shuffles a few steps to get a better view *

"Oh, that side ah, I think it is North-East Line's side, not our problem".

There you have it, our peacekeepers doing their best to avoid trouble. I mean, who wants to get into trouble? Surely we can pity the plight of these security personnel in drawing the line between their respective employers hor..

Rubbish. Total rubbish. I'm disappointed.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Helping Hand: The Akha Outreach Foundation

The Akha Outreach Foundation (AOF) is a non-profit organisation based in Chiangrai, Thailand, which provides shelter and love towards Akha children who are born into extreme circumstances. My first visit there was in December 2003, after which I have been visiting them each year around that period of time (Christmas). However, no plans have been made for this year's trip up, but I sincerely wish that I could make another trip there again.

Country Lifestyle

Recollecting my first visit there in 2003, I would describe it simply as a new definition of the word 'memorable'. Having been exposed to city life for the past 15 years at that point in time, learning to switch my bearings to the ragtag environment of country life was much of a challenge, for everything from hygeine, language, and way of life were a stark contrast to that of our bustling city. Basically, the lives of the hiltribe people are very much simpler than city people, and one important point to note is their ability to suit themselves to the situation, rather than make detailed preparations to acoomodate it, as we city-dwellers would normally do.

Who gets the ultimate 'scholarship'?

The children there have gone through much more than we can imagine, for before we made our trip up, an email was sent to everyone of us which had the life story of each child attached. Trust me, it was excruciating for me just to read what those young children had to go through, but the thought of them having been fortunate enough to end up in the AOF gave me a sigh of relief. According to Aje, director of the AOF, the limited amount of vacancies due to financial strain and lack of accomodation and staff at the AOF meant that only a few children could be brought out of their villages each time they went for that purpose. Even then, each child had to pass a series of tests including a HIV test to ensure they were suitable candidates. One of his remarks made an impact on me, for he said something along the lines of :-

"There are many children we would like to bring into the home, but we just cannot, and it always saddens me to reject a child. But it has to be done for now, for we cannot accomodate so many of them currently".

Practices and Atrocities

These children in the Akha Hilltribe have lives so twisted by the many practices of the hilltribe religion, which revolves around black magic and the supernatural. One of the practices I remember vividly was the culling of twins upon birth, as they believed that a woman could only give birth one child at a time, hence one of the twins is deemed a 'demon'. Since they cannot decide which is the 'demon', they kill both babies. Apart from religious practices, some of the children have parents who have been shot and killed, or are hopelessly addicted to drugs such as opium (note the close proximity of Chiangrai to the Golden Triangle, an area notorious for druglords). Drugs are expensive, and what better way could the adults think of but to use their children as pickpockets or drug smugglers to help support their addiction.

Life is a box of chocolates

During my 2005 trip, I got to know a orphan in the AOF brought in the year before. Paneeda was raised as a pickpocket by her uncle, who was an opium addict, and my was she violent. Seriously violent. Very warmly she greeted me with a flying kick, for which I am glad of my height, for she only managed to hit my legs. According to Aje, she was much worse when she was brought in, and we were fortunate to receive only a 'mild' reception from her. During the course of our stay, it was apparent that her only means of communication was through insults and fighting. Through her i learnt the meaning of "Ba Ba Bo Bo", which means stupid, and "Bai Gei Gai", which you can find out through me personally, for I wont disclose its meaning here. However, she was the child who touched my heart the most, for it was she, during our last day at the compound while we were saying our farewells, that ran up to me and shoved a cloth into my hand, on which was a cross-stitch delicately sewn which read, "Merry Christmas LOVE". Never have I experienced such sincerity. Never.

A Helping Hand

In my previous post "A Musical Dialogue: The Music Behind Inspiration", I mentioned about the 'Heartstrings' series which was produced by me along with two other classmates. "Heartstrings - For you I will" was the first album released in conjunction with Valentine's Day at a price of SGD$5 per copy, of which all proceeds were donated to the AOF. Our final donated amount of SGD$1000 far surpassed our expectations and it really served as an inspiration to come up with our second album, Heartstrings 2, already ready to be released but at a time yet to be determined. This is one of the ways in which you can make a difference to the lives to those less fortunate, innocent children who have suffered at the expense of the atrocities of those related to them. Of course, the best way would be to give a direct donation which you can make through the AOF website.

An Afternote

Much of what was mentioned was just a brief macro view of what the Akha Outreach Foundation serves as, and what I did during my time there. Hopefully, I would be able to share more of my experiences with you readers in future entries, as they are too long to be included in this entry. There are many things that I have not mentioned, or have not come to my understanding of, which are also not included, hence it is important not to jump to any conclusions based merely on this entry. I would be more than willing to answer any questions you have to the best of my understanding, but it would be better if you could contact the AOF personally through their website regarding your queries.

"You will find, as you look back on your life, that the moments that stand out are the moments when you have done things for others".
~ Henry Drummond

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Fragility of Life

Life is the time phase that everyone of us have to go through. It is of utmost importance to all of us individuals who seek to ensure our life is what we want, and seek all means and ways to preserve it. When approached with the question of what is the most important to someone, it is very likely that someone would repond that it is being able to live that is most important. The average lifespan of a male in Singapore is 79 years, while that of a female here is 84 years. Living till the age of around 80 is indeed a long period of time, and yet people still complain that life is too short.

Life is precious. It is the voluntary ending of their lives when people who commit suicide that certainly irks me, as there are people out there who would be willing to switch their lives with these healthy individuals who give their lives to run away from trouble or despair. Having a healthy and working body is a blessing in itself, and one must never forget that every trouble can always be solved. It is only a matter of giving yourself another chance at life by correcting the mistakes you made.

Personally, I have had the misfortune of having to be there for a friend's funeral, something which I had never expected to happen that quickly. A handsome young man, still fresh in the prime of his life at the age of 18, doing well in his studies with straight A's for his subjects and a few Special Papers, with a girlfriend, good at sports, what could go wrong? Everything. The phone call came, and I was informed of his demise by jumping from a flat in Bedok. Fact was, he survived the impact, and only succumbed to his injuries in hospital. It was unfortunate as that moment of survival must have been a painful one for him, for the regret and the pain he managed to inflict on himself would have told him how stupid he was. For him, life was so meaningless. For us, life portrayed its fragility.

The Straits Times had two reports recently on what they termed as "sudden death". The first tells of Danil Shagimardanov, 16, a Broadrick Secondary School student, who was found dead in his bed by his family on his birthday when the family entered his room to wake him with a birthday song. He never woke (2006 ST, Thurs 26th Oct). Another relates of how a 35 year old docotr by the name of Dr Lai Siang Hui, a forensic pathologist at the Health Science Authority, died of an apparent seizure in the early hours of the morning (2006 ST, Sat 28th Oct). Both individuals were healthy people until their deaths, which was so sudden and unexpected, leaving behind confused and distraught family members and loved ones. Never did they expect such a tragedy to happen. Never did they expect life to be so fragile.

Life was cruel to these people, yet it serves as a timely reminder for us that our life is like a mirror. Who we are is what we reflect, for mirrors do not lie. If we do not take proper care of our life or treasure it, the mirror might fall and shatter.

Yesterday is history, Tomorrow is a mystery.

Today is a gift.

Treasure this gift and live life to its fullest while you can.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Musical Dialogue: The Music Behind Inspiration

Walking along the tunnel connecting City Hall MRT station and the Esplanade, I came across this phrase which left a lasting impression on me. "All it takes is inspiration". This led me to ponder about what it is that makes music ever so beautiful when composed from the heart of an individal. Is it inspiration? What kind of inspiration evokes such melodious thoughts and feelings which a composer pens down? Perhaps Beethoven's remark could enlighten us on this issue:-

"Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life".

Music has always been another part of my life, serving the purpose of life fulfilment in my everyday doings and washing away the dust particles shrouding my eyes. It has been a comfort in distress, an outlet for which to relase pent up emotions, as well as a means of communication for me. For Gustav Mahlet once quoted:-

"If a composer could say what he had to say in words he would not bother trying to say it in music".

Music is what feelings sound like. I have been exposed to music since the tender age of 4, from Junior Music Course in Yamaha Music School, to my current (albeit stagnant) level of Grade 8 (ABRSM). I have heard of things such as physical age and mental age, but let me now introduce you to something I would call "musical age".

"The years teach much which the days never knew". ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

From my years of exposure to music, I can safely say that music is something that needs to be grown in oneself. Witness those so-called musical 'prodigies' which garner so much attention, and whom people claim are musical geniuses at a mere age of, let's say, 5? How is it possible that a 5-year-old is able to have experienced enough about life and music to evoke the thoughts of others? I'm not saying it's entirely impossible, but the chances are low. Personally, I would define their new found talents as "technically superb", not 'magic'.

"Play the music, not the instrument".

Music has always been of a different pedestal from the instrument to me, for I believe that it is the instrument which serves the purpose of enhancing music which already contains its emotion. I have seen people who profess their love for music based on their ability to play an instrument, and also people who seek to impress other with their instrument-playing capabilities. Who cares if you can produce the most wonderful quality of music using the latest sound engineering technology, and who cares if u can play practically any song by heart or from score? The music is not there for our personal desires of attaining fame or praise, but rather, it is for the understanding of the feelings of the individual who played or composed it. Considering the former, music would then be merely an organisation of sound.

"The pleasure we obtain from music comes from counting, but counting unconsciously. Music is nothing but unconscious arithmetic"
~Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

For my part, I have had the wonderful opportunity to share my music through 2 albums, Heartstrings 1 and Heartstrings 2 (part of a serial collection of piano instrumental CDs entitled 'Heartstrings'). Those two albums have a combined collection of 22 original songs composed by me, or rather, played by me. Yes, I am implying that composition was not part of the recording process, for each song was an in situ expression of me which did not require any prior preparation. Being able to improvise has been a blessing for me as I am able to truly express myself at any point in time through the piano.

"The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes - ah, that is where the art resides"
~Artur Schnabel

Though I consider my musical capabilities as mediocre compared to that of many others whom I have come to know, I feel that the magic is in the reason behind the performance of the piece, for each little pause, each sudden change in tempo, or each wonderful chord that appears in my playing tells of my emotion at that very moment, and this is very magical to me.

As a final remark, music has made me really question myself about how much I know about life when I think about the difficulties I experienced in trying to play out what I have in mind. Such are the many complexities and wonders of life that should be experienced, have been collected, and are waiting to be gathered, that my music has not been able to keep up with it. Being a mild perfectionist myself, each piece of my playing encourages a greater desire to explore life, although it is the result of a feeling of voidness due to lack of understanding of what I am trying to play. I'll leave you with a final quote to ponder upon:-

Are we not formed, as notes of music are; For one another, though dissimilar?
~Percy Bysshe Shelley

Music can never be perfect replicas between two different individuals.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Passage on Love

Many a time we stumble upon the question of what is Love. Is it a feeling? A gift? Or is it merely a fantasy? Such qustions differ from various individuals, and this arises due to the different opinions of people about love.

Here I am talking of Love in the context of interpersonal relationships in general, and I am not catering to those who have suffered heartbreaks or such stuff. I came across this definition of Love from which gave 28 definitions of Love, for which I am very sure it was because there is no proper way to define it, hence they had to cover as much as they could.

However, for those who seek to find meaning in this wonderful thing called Love, here is an extract from the Bible which I feel truly defines the little thing we call Love:-

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

For we know in part and we prophesy in part,

But when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; Then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

This extract is a famous passage on Love which is reiterated commonly at weddings, for it gives an undisputed viewpoint on what constitutes Love. Many times when I question myself on my doings, my thoughts never fail to drift back to this passage, and it is very often I find myself doing the wrong things which hurt other people. Love is so clearly and beautifully defined here, that I hope it serves its purpose of helping those who are searching for some meaning in life to clear their doubts about Love.

There is always a reason for living, and that is to Love others,

for Love Never Fails.