Sunday, November 07, 2010

Sorry for Being M-I-A!

First of all, if you are a follower of the Living Room blog, I want to apologise for being missing in action for a while. A few people have asked me how come we haven't been blogging lately, and although I feel terribly guilty about it, I smile inside because it means there are people reading our blog! *beams*

Wow. So much has happened in The Living Room! Where do I begin?

First of all, as you all know, Stanley has left us. He is now with the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), helming the New Media department there. So yes, he is still generating content, but as a new media journalist. We have pretty much switched roles in that respect, as I used to be the print journalist & Deputy Editor! *LOL*

Stan and I are still very much "in tune", I have to tell you! *LOL* Despite the (physical) distance between us, we are still scheduling pretty much the same interviews and approaching the same people to feature. Such is the connection I have with my buddy! *beams*

But joining me in The Living Room now is a good friend nonetheless, and my "new buddy" if you will. You would have heard him previous on Body & Soul (938LIVE, 3pm-5pm).

That's right, he's the very swave, man-with-the-voice-of-God, and the very bald, JOEL CHUA!!!

It's been good so far, and Joel has settled down very well as the new host of The Living Room. You can get to know us better on our brand new Facebook page. And that is another reason we've been MIA -- we are building up our little community there.

I guess Facebook is just so much faster & immediate, especially with Joel & I owning iPhones. We just snap pics of our guests on our iPhones and it's immediate uploads... with weblinks for listeners! How do you beat that, right?

So, if you are not yet a follower of our Facebook page, please go to Facebook now and search "938LIVE The Living Room" and join us there! For a direct link (oh, you lazy ones!), click here.

Our Living Room blog is still ALIVE, so don't disappear. We'll be trying to get more active here now that our Facebook page is up. Thanks for your support, guys!!!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Seasons of Love

Welcome to a new season in The Living Room!

Regeneration is important. As a recent guest on the show shared, fire is crucial in helping certain plant species germinate, hence changes are critical for survival, growth and development.

To me, The Living Room's never been about the host. Since being thrust to host the programme in 2002, I'd always wanted for the show to benefit the listener. Listeners were and continue to be THE stakeholders and they deserve the best in being kept informed, entertained and engaged - nothing more nothing less.

The Living Room's stood the test of time (and station rebranding) because of the value that's inherent in the conversations she hosts. It is within her that guests are made to feel like this was their own living room, and unless and until they felt that way, they weren't going to speak candidly and let their guard down like they have.

I've been asked who's been the most memorable or significant guest I've spoken with on the show, and as hard as I try, everyone has held his or her own. Not everyone's been easy to talk to, but the consolation is that everyone has a story to tell...even you. Yes you reading this blog entry. The Living Room has been where titles and trophies are set aside and humanity prevails - the unifying factor for host, guest and listener.

I'll miss the adrenalin rush of turning on the mike at 10.10am on weekdays and saying "Good morning!". I'll miss the interaction with those in public relations and corporate communications in arranging for interviews. I will miss connecting with our listeners and identifying with you on so many levels, your questions and concerns.

I will miss 'Pamster' (my nickname for dear Pamela). Since she began co-hosting with me, Pam's called me 'buddy' - a label I find difficult reciprocating because I find it inappropriate to call a lady 'buddy' although she probably can refer to a male colleague that way. But she truly has been a fabulous friend and....okay 'buddy'. Pam's so easy to excite and so personable to befriend that I ought to make it known that she's been a blessing to work with. It was Pam whose sharing of her own life experiences on air unlocked more of me to reveal more of the person I am.

How quickly the sands of time have emptied itself into the lower half of the hour glass. Change is eminent, though in all irony, change is the only constant.

'The Living Room' will always be a very special season for me. I hope it has been for you. Thanks for tuning in and it's been a joy, privilege and pleasure producing and hosting the programme these many years.

Returning to the plant analogy, taking root with Pam in The Living Room from 4th October will be Joel Chua from 938LIVE's only other weekday talkshow, 'Body & Soul'.

Sending you blessings and wishes that you will continue to learn, laugh and love lots!

Farewell and welcome to the start of a new season in The Living Room come next Monday!

God bless!


Friday, September 17, 2010

Go Fly A Kite!

Meet kite master Mikio Toki-san. He came into our studio in traditional Japanese kiting gear. Ooh, I love his wooden clogs!

Kite Master Mikio Toki.

Mikio-san is a kite maker and carries on the tradition of Edo kite making. "Edo" is the old name for Tokyo, and these kites are rectangular in shape, made of bamboo and washi paper, and all hand-painted.

This gentleman - who learnt the art from his master Katsuhisa Ota from observation - creates about 300 to 400 kites a year. Each kite is handmade & painted from scratch. His drawings are inspired by ancient Japanese tales.

Edo kites inspired by ancient Japanese tales.

These kites can go up to 2- to 6-metres high in size, and require up to 20 people to fly. Some of Mikio-san's Edo kites will be taking the skies at the Kite Festival Singapore 2010, which happens this weekend at The Promontory @ Marina Bay, 4pm to 8pm.

Aside from making Edo kites, Mikio-san also makes origami kites! In fact, he has even written an instructional book on how to fold origami kites. Mind you, these origami kites can fly!

The origami kite book & origami kite Mikio-san made. It's supposed to fly!

Here is Mikio Toki demonstrating how an origami kite is folded. He will be conducting workshops for kids at the Kite Festival Singapore this weekend, so watch out for him. Apparently, it takes just 10 mins to make one!

While Mikio-san teaches kids to make simple kites in his workshops, he often plays the Japanese flute ~ Kabuki style. We could not pass up on the opportunity to have him play for us in The Living Room. Check it out!

And of course, we had to put his origami kite to the test.

Well, MediaCorp isn't exactly Marina Bay or the beach where there's a natural breeze. We're pretty wind-less. But Mikio-san was game, and so we headed down to the basement carpark with him and his kite.

The moment of truth...

Kite Festival Singapore 2010
18 - 19 Sep
4pm - 8pm
The Promontory @ Marina Bay
FREE Admission

For more info, click here.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

In This Moment (in honour of TEACHERS!)

Years on from being a bespectacled boy in navy blue shorts with my imported school badge nicely aligned and pinned above my right shirt pocket, I still celebrate this day. Yes, teacher's day! I used to take advantage of my florist mum and get free stalks of roses to give away to all my teachers. Even my Chinese teacher (who didn't have much hope in me) had a stalk - it must have made her smile!

But I truly appreciate all my teachers who have tirelessly moulded and shaped me, taught me and trained me, challenged and disciplined me, praised me and spurred me. Among the dedicated that made an indelible mark in my life: Mrs Ponniah, Mrs Gladys Chia, Ms Chia Bee Teck, Mrs Lee Gek Kim, Ms Marianne Chong and Ms Caroline Rajaiah,

This Teacher's Day, I join many in honouring educators past and present for your dedication!

Composer of 'In This Moment', KC Gan and educator Ng Yeow Ling.

Our guests in The Living Room today Ng Yeow Ling (Principal of North View Primary School) and Creative Director KC Gan paid tribute to the contribution of teachers in Singapore. KC who's also composer, music arranger and musician, shared with listeners a song he'd written and composed in appreciation of teachers. It's titled "In This Moment". The lyrics go like this:

No matter where I go
Every time I look back on this road
You’ll always be a part of who I am
Everything I’ve known
Every seed of greatness you have sown
Through good and bad
Your love has watched me grow

You teach me right from wrong
Inspire me to be strong
You care in every way
In my heart you will always stay

In this moment let me say
How I’m grateful everyday,
You are here to guide my way
When I’m lost, beside me stay
In this moment let me say
You turn my little into great
There’s no fear, my dreams awake with you

All that I can be
Mean so much ‘coz you believe in me
You show me how to live with dignity
When the lessons end
I can share with you just like a friend
Your loving smiles and frowns keep me safe

In this moment let me say how I’m grateful
Everyday, you are here to guide my way
When I’m lost, beside me stay
In this moment let me say you turn my little into great
There’s no fear, my dreams awake with you
And I really want to say “Thank You”

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Interviews from Horqin Desert, Inner Mongolia!

I learnt so much from this trip from the conversations I had, things I witnessed, and the hands-on hard work to plant, water and prune plants in the desert. It's an experience I will never forget!

Here are the FACES behind the VOICES you hear on my Greening of the Horqin Desert series of interviews on 938LIVE.

Yoshio Kitaura, Executive Director of Green Network, a Japanese environment NGO that has been working to green the Horqin Desert for a decade.

Kitaura-san could not speak a word of English! But because I wanted the interview so badly, I got an interpreter from the Japanese team to help translate!

What has the local community witnessed? 52-year-old chief of Maninchu Village shares how he has seen the Horqin Grassland become desert.

Steward Whitney is the VP & MD of Timberland Asia Pacific but what a down-to-earth & funny man! He shares about Timberland's Earthkeepers Movement.


Me & Janet Hsieh, host of Discovery Travel & Living's 'Fun Taiwan' and 'Fun Asia'!

Catch that interview on 938LIVE this coming Friday 27 Aug, 10am-11am, with a repeat broadcast at 10pm-midnight, as well as on Channel NewsAsia, 2am-3am.

You can also listen to us online at,
or on your iPhone by downloading the free app, MeRadio!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Back from Horqin Desert!

For the past four days, I was away in Inner Mongolia to help green the Horqin Desert. This area, which covers 400,000 sq km (the size of Switzerland!) used to be a grassland - the way you'd imagine a Mongolian grassland to be - but due to climate change, over-cultivation, and over-grazing, Desertification has taken place. Today, the Horqin Desert is expanding at 6 million hectares a year - that's 1,900 sq km per second!

I studied Desertification as a Geography student for 6 years, but that was only a concept I understood in theory. Never in my wildest dreams would I imagine myself witnessing this process first-hand... and better yet, to do something within my capacity (albeit small) to help reverse it.

I feel really privileged to have the opportunity to join Green Network (Japanese environmental NGO) and Timberland's Earthkeepers movement to head to Horqin Desert to plant 1,400 trees over 2 days, to water them and prune them. Here's some background to the Earthkeepers initiative, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year:

And I have many stories to share now that I'm back, as well as four interviews to air on The Living Room in the coming week! Stay tuned to find out when we'll be airing this Greening of Horqin Desert series on 938LIVE!

For fast & regular updates, join us on our Facebook page. I'll be uploading lots of photos & videos there in the coming days! *wink*

But first, here's a vid to whet your appetite: Here we are arriving at Horqin Desert in "cattle transporter" vehicles, and the girl you see reporting is Discovery Travel & Living's Janet Hsieh, whom you will also hear me profile on our show this week! *grin*

Monday, August 09, 2010

At 45, Singapore You're Fabulous!

It's so easy to take Singapore for granted. Sometimes, I complain about our rules being too stringent, too many fines (carpark, speeding, littering), the standard of living being too high... the weather too hot, the education system too tough for our kids...

But at the end of the day, I am thankful that I live in such a safe, clean, peaceful & corruption-free country. Think about it, how many countries in the world are there like Singapore?

Pam's sheep Baaabara is originally from Hong Kong, but she considers herself whoolly Singaporean and is bent on celebrating National Day today.

So celebrate with Stan & me (and Baaabara!) today as Singapore turns 45! And don't forget to catch the National Day Parade this evening... Our colleague Bharati Jagdish will be commentating on TV!

At 45, Singapore you're fabulous!!!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

We are on Facebook!

Sorry we've been MIA on this blog for a while.

Let you in on a secret...
We're on Facebook!

And we're currently working to build up a community there.
So give us a little time & we'll be back.

In the meantime, join us on Facebook at:
"938LIVE The Living Room"
or simply click here.

See you there!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Violence Against Afghan Women

Ignorance is bliss. Oh! There are countless times in my life I've felt this to be true. Because once I know, ignorance can no longer be an excuse. Then I have to face the question: Now that I know, what am I going to do about it?

I posted some videos of violence against Afghan women on my Facebook wall recently, and a few friends commented that they "can't bear" to watch it. I guess it's easy to not see, not know, and not feel. It's safer to hide behind a closed door and not let unpleasant things get into our system and stir up unwanted feelings within.

BUT YOU HAVE TO WATCH IT. And you must dare to open your heart wide to feel all the injustice, sadness, anger that arise naturally. Because only then, only then, will you be compelled to take action.

According to the United Nations, 87% of Afghan women have been victims of domestic violence.

Many girls in their teens are forced to marry men they do not know. When they are abused and try to run away, they are tortured or flogged publicly, some are even killed because they bring disgrace to their families. And the killers are often family members.

Because this is a fate they believe they can't escape from, many attempt suicide, some by setting themselves on fire. Read about it here.

Here is Sosan's story. She is just one Afghan woman, but we're told hers in not unique...

The plight of women in Afghanistan is horrifying. And so when I got word from Mellisa Chong of UNIFEM Singapore that the Country Director of UNIFEM Afghanistan, Wenny Kusuma, would be in Singapore for two days, I jumped at the opportunity to have an exclusive interview with her.

The interview was held at the Parkroyal hotel on Beach Road, after her day of training with the staff of the International Red Cross. It was almost 7pm when my best friend Ning (she came along to take photos) and I got to the hotel and met Mellisa and Camilla of UNIFEM Singapore. They had made arrangements for us to hold the interview on the 7th floor of the hotel, which was a private VIP floor, so that it was less noisy.

Me seated on the carpeted floor as I interview Wenny Kusuma on the executive floor lobby of Parkroyal @ Beach Road.

Still, you will hear the ambient noise during the recorded interview: Lifts going "ding!" or voices as hotel guests walk by... but I promise you Wenny's stories will keep you hooked.

Her voice was calm, measured and reflective, but there was a sadness that hinted at the many things she has seen, heard and witnessed that she carries perhaps as a burden upon her soul.

Wenny shares that her life has been threatened many times.

If you watched the Sosan video above, you will know that what UNIFEM and other human rights organisations are doing in Afghanistan to empower women to speak up & seek help is changing the World Order in the country. They are rocking the boat, ruffling feathers, and making many people angry.

Wenny reveals off-air that her life and her staff's have been threatened many times. She has even lost members of her staff to these death threats. It really touched a deep chord in me because it speaks volumes of the conviction they have.

I think if you have witnessed the brutality and injustice with your own eyes, it's impossible to turn away from helping another human being.

I will not reveal much more of that interview. You will just have to tune in to hear the full story. In the meantime, to find out more about the work of UNIFEM Afghanistan, click here.

Thanks to UNIFEM Singapore for arranging this exclusive interview: [L to R] Mellisa Chong, Wenny Kusuma, Camilla Adinda.

Thanks too to my best friend Ning for coming down to help take photos & videos for our blog & Facebook page. You can read her blog entry by clicking here.

Catch the airing of this pre-recorded interview on 938LIVE in mid-August.
Keep abreast of the latest by joining our Facebook page here.

C'mon & Tuck In!

Tuck out if you're tucking into the Singapore Food Festival 2010! You'll almost certainly be more comfortable because we doubt you can resist the gastro-cultural fare! Why 'cultural'? That's because this year's festival scoops up the specialty dishes of the five main Chinese dialect groups here - the Cantonese, Hainanese, Hakka, Hokkien and Teochew communities.

Clarke Quay's Read Bridge reads like it's the city's latest hawker centre, all 50 metres of it! You'll be spoilt for choice with 30 food stalls that line the entire length of the bridge on both sides.

My makan companion at the launch (officiated by Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Lim Boon Heng) was F-Cube's Levisha Kumar - a self-professed foodie like I am, even though we both don't look the part. Each armed with a special edition SFF2010 Kopitiam Card with a stored value of $20 each, we were spoilt for choice. Apart from the rojak and duck dish, we deliberately bought ourselves food that looked foreign to us. This must have been why a Thai national whom we shared the table with looked surprised when I confessed that the dishes laid out on the table were just as strange to me as they were to her. And to think I am a third generation Chinese Singaporean! That goes to show just how familiar (NOT!) we really are with the specialty dishes of the various Chinese dialects groups.

Visit The Living Room on Facebook for more photos of the foods we tucked into. By the end of the night, we were stuffed. Boy were were we glad we tucked out!

SINGAPORE FOOD FESTIVAL 2010 (16th - 25th July 2010)
Main Event: Clarke Quay Food Street at Read Bridge
Above and beyond Food Street, other appetitising highlights that will have you dribbling will be the Culinary Master Classes, the Singapore Chinese Dialect Heritage Feast and the Tingkat Cruise. Read more about them at

Thursday, July 15, 2010

You have Power Over Cervical Cancer!

A very close friend of mine recently fell prey to cancer. It shook my world because I distinctly remember having a conversation with her not too long ago -- while raising funds for a friend's (who passed away from ovarian cancer) foundation -- about how we think cancer is something that happens to other people. Well, it happened to her.

Visiting her this week hit home the fact that cancer can happen to anyone. It scares me to think that if it happened to me, my two little boys may have to grow up without a mum. And the sad fact is the cancer can't be prevented, in most cases. You just have to deal with it when it happens.

But our guest in The Living Room yesterday revealed that for at least one form of women's cancer, prevention is possible! And that's cervical cancer. Our medical expert was Dr Quek Swee Chong, a Council member of the Society of Colposcopy & Cervical Pathology of Singapore, as well as Senior Consultant & Head of the Pre-Invasive Disease & Screening Unit, at the Department of Gynaecological Oncology at the KK Women's & Children's Hospital

Yes, we have power over cervical cancer! Regular pap smear will help detect if there are abnormal cells in the cervix, and a simple vaccination will help prevent the HPV cancer-related cells from developing.

Hearing the story of Mrs May Tiong and her 19-year-old daughter Wen Ning was particularly moving. A mother of two, she broke down and wept when Dr Quek (her oncologist) first broke the news to her that she'd been diagnosed with cervical cancer. I would too... Wen Ning remembers being in school when her mum told her over the phone. She could not concentrate after that, worrying that cancer would take her mum away.

We have Power Over Cervical Cancer! Here to share with us were [L to R] Wen Ning, Mrs May Tiong and Dr Quek Swee Chong from POCC.

In Singapore, a woman is diagnosed with cervical cancer every two days. Every five days, a woman dies of cervical cancer. And the truth of the matter is, IT CAN BE PREVENTED!!! Yet only 3 percent of women in Singapore are vaccinated. Have you been?

I have to admit I fall into the 97 percent who have not been vaccinated. After today, I will make my appointment with my gynae for my pap smear and have my vaccination done. Join me because it matters to those we love. And if you're a man, please spread this message to the women in your life. It is within their power to protect themselves, and that's good news.

Also, do support POCC's Celebrate Life! Bazaar & Pink Party next Saturday. Here are the details:

Celebrate Life! Bazaar & Pink Party
Sat 24 July
12noon - 6pm (Bazaar)
8.30pm - 10.30pm (Pink Party)

Admission is FREE.
To register, visit

To find out more about the work of POCC, click here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Garden(s) of Eden Found!

Fancy a lush garden (above) that greets you when you return home? I don't see why not, especially when we've got award-winning landscape architects right here in our midst. Yes, the Singapore Garden Festival 2010 is back and bloomin'. The 8-day event that opens on Thursday, 15th July is poised to be Asia's premier garden and flower show.

I was among the first to view the showground at Suntec Singapore during the media preview this afternoon and am impressed by the effort that's gone into transforming empty space in a convention hall into plots of lush gardens. Right from when I entered the lift on the ground floor, I knew this show was going to be different and coming up roses. (lift interiors left & right)

The Landscape Gardens section features spectacular creations by local designers and top award-winning designers from renowned garden shows around the world. Standing tall and distinctive is the two-storey structure called Tree House by local designer and certified horticulturalist John Tan. Lush greenery including bamboo wrap around a warm wooden structure with a meandering stream complete with catfish. The ground floor's furnished with a bar and a couch and the staghorn fern as a a plant 'installation' in place of a regular wall painting. Neat! The upper deck's like a patio with even more space to lounge around and mingle with moss. It was perhaps the closest to feeling like you're in the Garden of Eden, only without fruit trees hanging their produce and friendly animals a whisker away. Oh and John, despite his ability in designing enchanting gardens (his garden by the way won 'Best of Show' award - the festival's top honours) whisks you back to reality and has you know he lives in a modest HDB flat.

Also on show and garnering a Gold award is Daintree, designed by Australian garden architect Jim Fogarty (left: with Kenny Eng of Nyee Phoe) who was our guest last week in The Living Room. His latest tie-up with Nyee Phoe Flower Garden as the implementing partner makes it a hat trick at this biennial festival since striking his first Gold in 2006.

Kenny, whom we've also hosted previously in The Living Room, wanted me to tell you that there's literally a 'green' message behind their garden and it's got to do with penning on pebbles. Click here to find out about Project Pebbles.

I'm also proud to report that another former guest also bagged a Gold for his entry (see below) in the Landscape Garden category. Congratulations to Peter Cheok from Far East Flora!

For more photos of Singapore Garden Festival 2010, visit The Living Room now on Facebook!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Ti(mor)e or Les(s)te - A Paradise of Promise!

It's paradise...more or less.

The imprint of Portugal, Timor Leste's colonial master, on the land lingers. If you don't hear it taught or spoken, the signboards on streets and signages of shops and property are visible representations of a language very much alive in this place. The old-world feel of this young nation (gaining independence only in 2002 after a shortlived 9-day stretch in 1975) has many scars to show for - holed out buildings, poverty, malnourished citizens and high unemployment attest to a nation finding its feet. Like a mother hen is to her chick, a strong United Nations presence is felt throughout Dili - exactly what a fledgling nation needs to attain some kind of social and political stability to get the economic engine going.

Leading the charge towards nation building is its President Jose-Ramos Horta, a Nobel laureate. The former foreign minister has encountered firsthand the atrocities during the Indonesian occupation, where four of eleven of his siblings were killed. Yet his focus is forward-looking. When Pam and I spoke with him in person during our visit to Dili, he singled out Singapore as a country whose successes ought to be emulated. He said in jest that if he had a nation made up of Chinese, Jews and Indians, they'd work hard to get the economy growing and the rest of his people could just sit back and watch. He was a president most candid and accessible to his own people.

Pam and I were honoured to have chatted with the president the day before we participated in the inaugural Dili 'City of Peace' Marathon. Pam chose the leisurely 5-kilometre run while I signed up for the punishing half marathon - my first and one I hadn't trained for. Together with about 20 other members who signed up with The Chain Reaction Project (TCRP), amongst them our ex-colleague Melanie Oliveiro, we were part of the small Singapore contingent of runners at the landmark event that saw international participants, mostly from Australia (just a 60-min flight away).

The run wasn't the sole purpose (no pun intended) of the trip. Rather, it was a trip with soul! Our particpation to be 'catalysts' through TCRP would benefit HIAM Health - a local NGO in Dili set up to alleviate the widespread problem of malnutrition and to raise awareness among parents on what they can do for their children. Our visit coincided with the official opening of a sponsored playground in the premises by Singapore company Playpoint. Director of HIAM Health Rosaria Martins da Cruz was most heartened by the contributions received. It was TCRP's founder Zhang Tingjun who'd helped raise the awareness of their work to the attention of President Horta. That was how he agreed to be the guest of honour who officiated at the ceremony to open the playground.

Timor Leste has much potential for economic progress and development. With hope in the eyes of a people wanting to move on from the its grim days of civil unrest, with natural resources and an untapped market that could bring in the tourist dollar, Timor Leste has a lot going for it, and it could do with international help to prop it up on its feet and prime it for the long run ahead.

> To keep tabs with more exciting projects planned by The Chain Reaction Project, sign up as a member with TCRP on Facebook!
> To support the good work at HIAM Health,
click here.
> To read our previous entry on TCRP, drop by this page.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


The first thing that struck me about Fan Yang is that his face does not match his name. I had envisioned a Chinese man, but he was obviously not. His father is Hungarian, and his mother Vietnamese. They met in Vietnam when his dad was fighting the Vietnam War. The couple fell in love, and moved back to Europe after the war, setting in present-day Yugoslavia.

Fan Yang came from a very poor family. His brother Jano and him grew up on a farm in the countryside. He had but 8 years of education. Before he discovered his love for bubbles, he was performing on the streets just to earn an extra penny. Juggling... whatever it took!

Fan Yang [right] with his elder brother Jano [left], who is involved in backstage work for the Gazillion Bubble Show.

His first encounter with bubbles was not the sort of bottled bubbles we find at Toys R Us. It was bubbles floating on the surface of a river. He thought to himself, how wonderful to be able to make these bubbles really, really big and to make them float in the air! The imagination of a young teenage boy... but it started him on a journey of no return.

For the first half of his 26-year career as a bubble artist, he invested in finding a special bubble solution that would make bubbles more "flexible". He did - after much blood, sweat & tears.

There are 7 secret ingredients in his special bubble solution, and with that, Fan Yang was able to create pure magic. In fact, he currently holds 16 Guinness World Records! The latest being to put a 8,800lb elephant in a bubble! *gasp*

Bubbles within bubbles! I blew gently on the surface of a bubble, and a baby one appeared inside miraculously!

This father of two says that the Fan Yang Gazillion Bubble Show is very much a family affair. As mentioned, his brother Jano helps backstage. His wife is a bubble artist as well, as are his children Deni, 20, and Melody, 19.

He tells us that he would do this for nothing. It's not about money.

The Gazillion Bubble Show is really about his true life story. And his journey is not without hardship and ridicule. For many years, people laughed in the face for wanting to do a bubble show. They could not understand or accept because they could not see what he saw.

But Fan Yang did not give up, and today, he's been welcomed with open arms on top-rated shows like The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The David Lettermen Show, LIVE! with Regis & Kelly etc.

Fan Yang on the Stan & Pam show! *LOL*

I did not expect, as I walked into the studio this morning, to be touched and inspired so deeply by The Bubble Man. But I was. Fan Yang's sharing touched me deeply.

He spoke in a low, calm voice tinged with an Eastern European accent, which told me that even though he now resides in Canada and New York, he spent most of his formative years in the poverty of Yugoslavia.

A country boy who today travels the world sharing his love for bubbles... I can only conclude that this is the result of following his heart. This is his life's calling.

So without further adieu, here is the one & only, amazing Fan Yang creating a SQUARE bubble for us. Check this out!

Fan Yang Gazillion Bubble Show
18 - 20 June
D'Marquee @ Downtown East
Tickets via SISTIC

For more info, visit the Gazillion Bubble Show website.
Or find out more about the science of bubbles here.

And if you're still sitting on the fence, brace yourself for a sneak preview:

Friday, June 11, 2010

Transforming Slums in the Philippines

I have never been to the slums of the Philippines. But just browsing for images to upload in this blog entry gave me a brief glimpse of the squalid conditions and the lives of the slum dwellers. Makeshift houses made from whatever they can find (from cardboard to zinc sheets), alley ways filled with dirty sloshy water up to the ankles, litter everywhere, no sanitation, no electricity.

[From BBC News] Family living under a bridge in Manila. Mother sleeps on the table, oblivious to the traffic noise above & around her.

Even so, it's hard to miss the smiles on the children's faces! Perhaps this is all they know? And I suspect many of them don't know what can be beyond this. They don't imagine life will be any different, or that they will get out of these circumstances, according to some interview footage I watched on YouTube.

What I feel we must never do as outsiders is to impose our values & perceptions of what life should be on these people. While our intentions are good, it sometimes irks me that we descend upon places like Cambodia & the Philippines and try to help the people in a condescending sort of way, like we are modern day Saviours, and they are beneficiaries of our kindness.

What struck me about what our guest Aileen Ong, Chair of GK Hope Initiative (GKHi), said is that the slum dwellers they work with in the Philippines are partners. GK's approach is to work with them and to treat them as equals. The lingo & vocabulary is often so revealing!

Aileen was so convinced about the "GK way" that she gave up a 30-year career as a music teacher to commit to this cause full-time. She downgraded to a smaller home and chose to lead a more modest lifestyle ~ with the support of her husband Albert & four kids, of course. In fact, her daughter Lisa often accompanies her to the slums.

Aileen Ong, Chair of GK Hope Initiative (GKHi) shares with us about her work in the slums of the Philippines.

GK is an acronym for Gawad Kalinga or "give care" in Tagalog. Its Singapore branch, GK Hope initiative (GKHi) achieved 'international charity organisation' status last year, and is now working to make Singapore a hub for the coordination of efforts in the region.

GK's mission is to transform slums into communities of hope. The slum dwellers themselves spend months building their own homes. A decent home there costs about S$2,000 to build, the cost of a laptop or designer bag here! Their vision is to touch 5 million families by 2024.

GK Tripura Hope Town Village: Brand new homes built by the community.

From June 25 to 27, there will be GK Global Summit held right here in Singapore where we'll see experts & activists from around the world congregating here to discuss solutions to eradicating poverty.

The outgoing Vice-President of the Philippines will be here, and the Minister for Community, Youth & Sports, Vivian Balakrishnan, the Guest of Honour. The theme of this Global Summit is Icon of Hope Against Poverty. To find out more or to register, click here.

There will also be a choir that will be coming to Singapore next weekend that you will not want to miss! They come from a small church in the slums of Manila. Aileen stumbled upon them quite by chance, and was mesmorised by their voices. She issued them a challenge: If they can achieve a Gold Award, she will get sponsors to bring them to Singapore.

The choir members, all children & teens, took up her challenge. They were up at 5am to rehearse, often in the open courtyard, in the blazing sun. And within 3 months, these children achieved a Gold Award for their performance. Yes, a slum choir!

The children of the Gawad Kalinga Tatalon Performing Arts group at the ASEAN Festival of the Arts 2009.

And so Aileen is now keeping her end of the bargain! Come Saturday, 19 June, they will be performing at The Arts House (Chamber) to a Singapore audience! *grin* You can check out event details here.

Do you see what I mean about Aileen? Never look down on people, even if the rest of the world does! They are equal in God's eyes and gifted as you & I are. And if we see their potential, believe in them, and raise the bar for them, they will invariably rise up to touch that bar we hold up for them!

Find out more about about the Gawad Kalinga Tatalon Performing Arts group here. And please support them if you can!