The ‘Reserved’ Road To Istana: A Quick Guide

Singaporeans will go to the polls on 23 September to elect their 8th President and 4th Elected President.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has issued the writ of election on 28 August and has also scheduled the Nomination Day for 13 September, the Elections Department said in a statement.

The auditorium in the People’s Association HQ at King George Avenue has been listed as the nomination centre.

Incumbent President Tony Tan will end his term on the 31 August and after which, the chairman of the Council of the Presidential Advisors (CPA), J. Y. Pillay, will be appointed as the Acting President.

With less than a month to go, it is crucial for new voters or voters who have not been following the news and controversy surrounding this upcoming election to stay informed. So here’s a Quick Guide.

1. The Role of the Elected President

Tony Tan in parliament
(Image: Mothership)

Like many countries who were previously a British colony, Singapore practices a parliamentary system of government. Such system is relatively distinct from the presidential system of government, as practised in the US, Mexico and Russia, etc.

In the presidential system, the President acts as both the Head of Government and the Head of State. The Executive President is elected independently from the legislature (eg. the Congress), usually by the electorates. Although he/she has the power to veto the decision by the legislature, he/she is not accountable to the legislature and does not have the power to dismiss it either.

In a parliamentary system, the leader of the legislature (i.e. Prime Minister) is the Head of Government while the President is the Head of State. The Head of Government is the one who leads the government and oversees and execute the daily activities in the country while the Head of State is usually a figurehead and does not hold any type of legislative or executive role.

The Head of State, however, hold ceremonial roles and represents every citizen. He/she has the power to dissolve the legislature.

The office of the President in Singapore was created in 1965 upon independence. It was previously known as the Yang di-Pertuan Negara when Singapore was granted limited self-government in 1959. The role remained when Singapore joined Malaysia in 1963.

The President has a part to play in foreign relations by hosting and engaging visiting dignitaries and making State Visits overseas.

On top of that, all foreign ambassadors-designate and high commissioners-designate will present their credentials to the President before assuming office in Singapore. The President also presents letters of credence to ambassadors-designate and high commissioners-designate of Singapore before they leave to assume office overseas.

The President will also have to deliver a Presidential address during the opening of each Parliament session. He/she will lay out the key challenges for each term of government.

The President’s other key ceremonial duties also include:

  • officiating at swearing-in ceremonies of key appointment-holders such as the Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, the Chief Justice and Judges of the Supreme Court;
  • officiating the National Day Parade; and
  • confers awards, such as the National Day Awards, on the advice of the Cabinet.

The President also has a community role where he may use the influence of his position to support charitable and social causes. He/she can also play a unifying role by encouraging, articulating and representing those values that unite Singaporeans as a nation.

The Presidency was initially indirectly elected by the Parliament. It was until 3 January 1991 when the Parliament passed the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment) Act 1991 before an elected presidency is enacted.

When the amendment officially came into effect on 30 November 1991, the President was given additional custodial role in having the discretionary powers relating to the safeguarding of national reserves and the appointment of key personnel in the public sector and certain Government companies.

His/her veto powers also extended to detentions without trial, corruption investigations and restraining orders in order to maintain racial and religious harmony.

However, the Elected President cannot publicly challenge the government without acting against the Constitution and cannot weigh in publicly with social and political views. In other words, he/she are unable to initiate policies or make executive decisions.

2. PE 2017 is a ‘reserved’ election for candidates of the Malay community

On November 9 last year, the Parliament voted 77 to 6 to pass the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill. The idea was first brought up by the Prime Minister during the debate of the Presidential Address on 27 January 2016.

He mentioned that being the head of state, the President represents all Singaporeans in a multi-racial society.

He went on to point out that Singapore has not had a president from the Malay community since elected presidency was introduced. He cited an example where apart from the two uncontested Presidential Elections (1999 and 2005), where the late S R Nathan was the sole eligible candidates, the rest of elections were won by a Chinese.

He warned, “But in future, when Presidential Elections are more likely to be contested, even hotly contested, I believe it will become much harder for a minority President to get elected. It is the same problem with Parliamentary Elections which led us to create GRCs, to ensure a minimum representation of minority race MPs in Parliament. We should consider a similar mechanism for Presidential Elections, to ensure that minorities can be periodically elected if we have not had a particular minority as President for some time.”

This was reiterated during PM Lee’s National Day Rally the same year. He mentioned that despite the process the country has made regarding racial cohesion, we are not a homogenous society.

He cited a survey done by CNA and Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), “When it comes to personal choices for example whom you marry, whom your best friends are, who your business partners are – race still matters… Thus it is not surprising that in elections, race is still a factor and other things being equal, a minority candidate is at a disadvantage.”

A 9-member Constitutional Commission was therefore appointed on 10 February 2016, with Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon at the helm. After receiving more than 100 public submissions and public hearings, a report was submitted to PM Lee on 17 August 2016. The initial recommendations from the commission include:

  • To reserve the Presidential Election for a racial group if it is not being represented for 5 terms, according to a hiatus-triggered model.
  • Limiting eligibility of candidates to individuals who are/have been in the most senior executive positions in companies with at least S$500 million in shareholder’s equity. (An upgrade from individuals who are/have been a Chairman/CEO in companies with at least S$100 million in paid-up capital)
  • Introduction of a ‘look-back’ duration to ensure the currency of an applicant’s experience: The entire qualifying tenure of the applicant’s experience must fall within the 15-year period immediately preceding the relevant Nomination Day.
  • Two (2) additional members to be appointed to the CPA, increasing the total number of CPA members to 10.
  • The President has to consult the CPA for all monetary issues related to reserves and all key public service appointments. Parliament can override the President’s veto if he acted against the advice of the CPA. (The President previously consults the CPA only on some matters relating to past reserves and key public service appointments.)
  • President should be appointed by the Parliament.

On 15 September, the government released a white paper to define its position on the issue. While accepting most of the suggestions laid out by the commission, the advice for the appointment to be made only via the Parliament were among some of the recommendations rejected. The ‘look-back’ duration was extended to 20 years, instead of the 15 years as recommended.

The proposed bill was eventually tabled in Parliament on 10 October by Deputy PM Teo Chee Hean.

During the debate on 8 November, PM Lee announced that the next PE will be reserved for a Malay candidate, based on the hiatus-triggered model.

A hiatus-triggered model means that the election will be open to all but if there is no President from a certain community after 5 terms, the next election will be reserved for that community. However, if there’s no eligible candidate from that community during that election, the criteria will be postponed to the subsequent elections until a candidate from that community is elected.

The government adopted the recommendations from the Attorney-General Chambers (AGC) that calculation will commence from the term of the 4th President Wee Kim Wee, who served between 1985 to 1992.

According to the AGC, President Wee was the first President to exercise the new functions when the Constitution was amended in 1991.

A Malay community sub-committee under the Presidential Elections Committee will be tasked to assess if the prospective candidates belong to the Malay community. The 5-member panel will be led by Imran Mohamed, the former chairman of the Association of Malay Professionals.

Potential candidates will have to submit a community declaration form on top of the other nomination forms to the sub-committee. The sub-committee will then issue the candidates with a Community Certificate if they recognise them to be from a certain community.

But in future, when Presidential Elections are more likely to be contested, even hotly contested, I believe it will become much harder for a minority President to get elected.

3. The Controversy

Tan Cheng Bock at a press conference.
(Image: Yahoo! News)

Despite the government’s narrative that the changes to the constitution were to safeguard racial harmony in Singapore, critics are quick to play down the benefits behind such amendments.

Some pointed out that a reserved election will defeat the idea of meritocracy that the government has been preaching for years.

Eugene Tan, an Associate Professor at the Singapore Management University (SMU) has warned that the amendments will, in turn, result in an allegation of tokenism towards the President.

He said, “This could even mean in which you say that, in certain years, the Presidential Election will only be open to minority candidates, because that undercuts the whole meritocratic ethos, it undercuts the multiracial ethos as well, because people could criticise the minority race President for being in office only because of his race.”

Nominated MP (NMP) Kok Keng Leun highlighted during the debates of the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill that the move to minority representation in the Presidency may exacerbate, instead of address issues of equality.

He said, “In fact, such a provision may exacerbate the issue, in that it provides a convenient argument for the majority to say this special provision already allows for a Malay, Indian, or Eurasian President, negating the need to really reach out, understand, appreciate, and support the best candidate regardless of race, language, or religion.”

Others are sceptical over the motivations behind the changes.

Former Presidential hopeful Dr. Tan Cheng Bock has initially announced that he will be running for the upcoming Presidential Election last March when the Constitution Commission were still working on their task.

When the recommendations were released, Dr. Tan’s eligibility was in doubt.

His eligibility became out of the question when the Government accepted the ACG’s recommendation to start the calculation for the hiatus-trigger model from the term of Wee Kim Wee.

He argues that although President Wee was the first President to exercise the rights under the 1991 amendments, it was President Ong Teng Cheong who was the first to be elected by the public to exercise such rights.

Dr. Tan previously contested in the 2011 PE, garnering 738,311 votes, just a mere 7,382 votes fewer than incumbent President Tony Tan. To put it in percentage, he lost narrowly with a 0.34% margin.

Dr. Tan remarked that, “But if the government simply accepts AGC’s advice without explaining why they accepted the accuracy of the opinion, I am concerned that our Elected Presidency will always be tainted with the suspicion that the reserved election of 2017, was introduced to prevent my candidacy.”

His concerns resonated with the Workers’ Party (WP) MP for Aljunied GRC Sylvia Lim.

Ms Lim, also WP’s Chairman, commented during the debates that if calculations started from President Ong’s term, only four terms would have passed by the next election.

She enquired, “Why not count from the first elected president, Mr Ong Teng Cheong? Is it because if President Ong was the first one to be counted, we would have to go through this year’s election as an open election and risk the contest by Chinese or Indian candidates who may not be to the government’s liking?

Minister in the PMO Chan Chun Sing responded that the amendments to the Bill were not for any short-term political gain, explaining that the “moving of this Bill carry with it high political risk with some political cost”.

He said, “We are here to build systems for Singapore for the long haul. Not for short-term political advantage, not for the political advantage of any particular parties. We are but stewards for our nation.”

In May this year, Dr. Tan took the Government to court over the issue. He submitted an application to seek the Court’s determination on whether a piece of legislation counting President Wee Kim Wee as the first elected president for the purposes of the upcoming reserved election was consistent with the Constitution.

After his application was dismissed by the High Court on July 7, Dr Tan lodged an appeal against the dismissal on Jul 12, taking the case to Singapore’s highest court – the Court of Appeal.

The appeal was dismissed on 23 August. The judges stated that: “Even though it is true that the office changed quite dramatically in the midst of his last term, there is simply no doubt at all that he continued to hold the office with the enhanced powers and functions under the framework of the Elected Presidency introduced by the 1991 Amendment.”

Dr. Tan admitted defeat.

However, on August 28, before the writ of election was issued, the WP filed a parliamentary adjournment motion. They are looking to seek clarity on the basis for which the upcoming Presidential Election was declared reserved for Malays.

But if the government simply accepts AGC’s advice without explaining why they accepted the accuracy of the opinion, I am concerned that our Elected Presidency will always be tainted with the suspicion that the reserved election of 2017, was introduced to prevent my candidacy.

4. The Potential Candidates

Potential candidates for Presidential Election 2017

Three individuals, if we do not include private hire driver Shirwin Eu (he does not even fit in any of the eligibility criteria anyway), have expressed their interest in contesting since the application for the Certificate of Eligibility and Community Certificate opened in June.

They are: Mohamad Salleh Marican, Farid Khan and Halimah Yacob.

Salleh Marican

Mohamed Salleh Marican
(Image: Ernst & Young)

The CEO of Singapore Exchange-listed Second Chance Properties is the first potential candidate to express his interest. He was the first to pick up the set of nomination forms and was also the first to submit the forms.

Second Chance Properties was listed on the main board of the SGX since 2004 and has amounted between S$254.3 million to S$263.25 million in shareholders’ equity over the past three years.

Despite the shareholders’ equity is half of what is required under the new Constitution, Mr. Salleh has strong confidence that he will get his nomination.

He said, “I feel there has been too much emphasis on the S$500 million criteria, to the point that people think that if you don’t have it, then you’re not eligible and should not waste your time.”

The Victoria School alumni has previously rejected both chances to enter politics. It was until recently that his mind changes. In his interview with Mothership, he explained that he sensed an opening this time, with some of the public feeling wary about voting for a candidate perceived to be the establishment’s choice.

He said, “This is what the people are thinking. It’s safer that the President is not someone from the ruling party. To them, that is what they mean by independent.”

Mr. Salleh was one of the first Muslim Naval Officers during his National Service years. To add on to his political portfolio, he was head-hunted by J B Jeyaratnam to join the WP slate in 1984 before the PAP knocked on his door ahead of the 1991 General Election.

Despite relating himself to the Malay community, he was under scrutiny when he struggled with his Bahasa Melayu when speaking to the Malay media outside the Elections Department (ELD) when he collected the forms on June 6.

He has submitted his nomination forms on 23 August.

Read more about him in his interviews with Today and Mothership.sg.

Farid Khan

Farid Khan
(Image: Yahoo! News)

The 62 year-old chairman of marine services provider Bourbon Offshore Asia Pacific announced his intention to run at a press conference held at the Village Hotel Changi on 11 July.

He has been working for Bourbon Offshore for more than a decade, helping the French-based company to establish its Asia Pacific branch.

He left school at the age of 13 and had taken up several odd jobs, such as cleaning the toilet and cutting grass before ending up on a ship as its captain steward at age 21.

The father of two has unveiled his slogan ‘Together We Build Our Nation’, stating that he would like to step forward to “serve the nation” and “fulfil the people’s wish and trust”.

He has made five election promises:

  • Working closely with the Government and various organisations to deter the growing threats of radicalisation.
  • Strengthen the trust among the people regardless of race, language and religion.
  • Enhancing efforts to help the needy, including troubled youth.
  • Create more job opportunities, including in the maritime industry.
  • Strengthen families as building block of the society.

However, there would be some serious challenges that Mr. Farid has to overcome. Similar to Mr. Salleh’s Second Chance Properties, Bourbon Offshore Asia Pacific does not have an average of S$500 million in stakeholders’ equity over the past three years. According to TODAY, the company’s stakeholders’ equity is above S$350 million.

Furthermore, he has admitted that he is of a Pakistani descent which casts doubts over his eligibility as a ‘Malay’ candidate. However, he sees himself as a Malay of Pakistani descent.

He said, “I was born in the Malay village in Geylang Serai, the heart of the Malay community. And I adopted the Malay language, and when I studied in school, my second language was Malay… So, I’m very confident that I can be qualified as a Malay.”

Mr. Farid has submitted his nomination forms on 24 August.

Read more about him in his interview with Mothership.sg and The Middle Ground.

Halimah Yacob

Halimah Yacob
(Image: The Straits Times)

This lady needs no introduction.

The former Speaker of Parliament entered the fray when she made clear her intention to run on August 6. She tendered her resignation as both the Speaker and from the PAP, hence vacating her MP seat in Marsiling-Yew Tee Group Representative Constituency (GRC) as well.

Her 33 years experience with the National Trade Union Congress (NTUC) has provided her with a boost to her campaign. Trade unions across the country are fast to throw their support behind her, with the labour movement the first to do so.

Mdm Halimah joined politics in 2001. She contested Jurong GRC under the PAP banner and was elected MP for the constituency.

After the 2011 General Election, she was appointed as a Minister of State (MoS) at the then-Ministry of Community, Youth and Sports (MCYS). A cabinet reshuffle in 2012 saw her moving to the Ministry of Social & Family Development as MoS.

She succeeded Michael Palmer as Speaker of Parliament in 2013 after the latter resigned due to allegations of extra-marital affairs.

Mdm Halimah went on to contest in the newly-created Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC in the 2015 GE and was successfully elected.

Speaking at her latest press conference in NTUC Center on 29 August, Mdm Halimah revealed her campaign slogan ‘Do Good, Do Together’.

There were speculations that she’ll be one of the potential candidates when it was announced that the upcoming PE will be reserved for the Malay community. There has been an instance when, during one of the debate sessions on the Presidential Election (Amendment) Bill, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Chan Chun Sing inadvertently addresses Mdm Halimah as ‘Mdm President’ instead of ‘Mdm Speaker’.

Like the other two candidates, her race has been subjected to debates. Her father was an Indian-Muslim and critics have doubted whether she can be counted as part of the Malay community.

Read more about her in her interview with Channel NewsAsia and Mothership.

5. No designated rally sites but more air time for candidates on national TV

Candidates participating in the televised debates during PE 2011.
WAR OF WORDS: Candidates participating in the televised debates during PE 2011.(Image: TODAY)

It was announced early this year that no rally sites will be designated during the campaign period for the upcoming PE.

Minister in the PMO Chan spoke during the second reading of the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill on 6 February that the decision comes after the government accepted the recommendations by the Constitutional Commission.

The Commission questioned the need for a rally as, unlike the General Elections, the PE has no policy agenda to advance.

Minister Chan said, “This is in line with the Government’s and the Constitutional Commission’s position not to encourage rallies, which by their nature and format, may be divisive and not congruent with the unifying role of the Elected Presidency”.

“Campaign methods for PEs must not inflame emotions and must be in keeping with the decorum and dignity of the office of the President, given the important unifying and custodial roles of the President,” he added.

However, candidates who are interested in holding a rally can still apply a permit from the Police, which will be assessed based on public order considerations.

On the other hand, the Government will encourage candidates to use various platforms, like the social media, to reach out to the voters on a national level. More air-time on television could also be adopted.

Hence, don’t be surprised if you see too much of the Presidential hopefuls’ face on TV (if you actually still watching them).

Furthermore, candidates cal also hold indoor private sessions to engage specific groups of voters.

Campaign methods for PEs must not inflame emotions and must be in keeping with the decorum and dignity of the office of the President, given the important unifying and custodial roles of the President.

6. eRegistration pilot introduced in several constituencies

Voters queuing up outside a polling station.
(Image: Tan Lam Song)

The ELD announced on August 25 that they will be piloting the electronic registration of voters at polling stations across three constituencies during the upcoming PE.

The constituencies are: Chua Chu Kang GRC, Tanjong Pagar GRC and Yuhua Single Member Constituency (SMC).

Traditionally, an election officer will have to manually search and strike-off the voters name on a hard-copy register. With the e-registration in place, voters will have to scan the NRIC electronically for registration.

“This decreases the waiting time for voters at polling stations and reduces the number of election officials required to serve the same number of voters at a polling station,” the ELD said in their press release.

The ELD will organise roadshows in 11 Community Centers (CC) in the three constituencies to familiarise voters with the new procedure.

The voting process remains unchanged.

For first time voters, you might want to familarise yourself with the entire voting procedure:


Just vote for who you think is best suited for the role, no one knows who you voted for because your vote is secret. (Unless you go about telling others who you voted for.)

It’s Our Tampines Hub

It’s not difficult to miss out on the developments of Tampines, especially when I have Baey Yam Keng on my Facebook feed. Over the past few weeks, I got exposed to a brand new place called Our Tampines Hub. From Baey’s post on social media to referrals while I was taking part in the activities at the Padang during the GetActive! Singapore 2017 carnival, the hype of this new integrated building is real.

The only thing I’d know about the new facilities located far in the Eastern region of Singapore is that it was built on the old ground of Tampines Stadium. I didn’t expect myself to drop by there because IT IS IN THE EAST. It’s like do you know how far that is for someone staying near the centre of the island?

To put that into perspective, imagine trying to get there from Ang Mo Kio using the shortest route (as suggested by Google Maps) and then getting lost along the way.

 

Ok, maybe I should explain why I was on the way to OTH.

It was 13 August and was Viv’s birthday. So the whole lot of us from JCFC decided to bring her to OTH to play a game of Laser Quest. I rushed off after work to meet the rest of the girls at the venue. I searched for recommendations on Google Maps with the objective of finding the route that will take up the shortest time.

Mind you, I actually had a direct bus there from my area – but it will take me close to an hour. (I mean, I took close to an hour taking a different bus from the same bus stop down to Bedok before so it occurred to me that the time taken to travel should be there about or even longer.)

I took the recommended route – which I have to transfer a bus in the middle of the expressway at the outskirts of Yishun (oh that God-damned Yishun). I didn’t know that the bus that I was supposed to transfer to was on the opposite of the road. Now, how on Earth am I supposed to cross the busy expressway. Although I was still surprised at the number of cars heading into the untouchable land of Yishun. (Ok, enough of the Yishun joke)

I ended up venturing into a forest because a sign told me that there is an underpass to the opposite. But screw it, after making my way through the forested area, I came face to face with an ‘Under Construction’ signage. Walaoeh.

In the end, I took another bus down the street and transferred to the Tampines-bound bus at Upper Seletar Reservoir.

Upper Seletar Reservoir
Serenity At Its Best: I felt worth it even though I’ve made myself go through all these.

As the bus made its way eastwards through the light drizzle, I couldn’t help but to look forward to the series of events that would be happening till late night – all focused at OTH.

Our Tampines Hub
CONCRETE JUNGLE: The green architecture helps OTH to fit in perfectly to its surrounding.

I was late (not surprising) and they were already at OTH, hence I went straight to the newly erected building.

It is huge. It would still sound a little of an underestimation to say I am overwhelmed by the structure of the building and the facilities available. I was impressed by the architecture – the incorporation of green architecture into its designing concept makes it looks like a concrete jungle (literally!). Green architecture is my kind of thing, needless to be said.

There is an atrium where shoppers (basically anyone) can sit there and enjoy movies and *ahem* a repeat telecast of the National Day Parade on Channel 5. I was a little disappointed to realise that the middle finger kid’s footages were edited out.

via GIPHY

LASER TAG

Pre-Laser Quest Photo

Met up with Viv and the rest of the girls (Charmz, Peish and Yapz) before making our way up to the HomeTeamNS club house at Level 3. We got ourselves a little confused over the counter, got our tickets, got into more confusion.

Thank God we have someone with a tough character in Peish who managed to get us through it.

via GIPHY

Meanwhile, that was me throughout.

There was some time to spare (close to an hour) so we took the chance to explore OTH. Not sure if we were trying to relieve our stress or what but we went up to the sky garden. It was an Eco-Community Garden to be exact.

The Eco-Community Garden on the rooftop of Our Tampines Hub
A COMMUNITY GARDEN: The concept of bringing farming into an urban setting should expand to other buildings.

There are different kinds of plants, ranging from spices to vegetables. These are taken care of by a group of volunteers. Looking at how well these plants grow, I am certain that they must be a bunch of botany enthusiasts (not sure if there is such term but you get what I mean).

 

Just right outside the garden, on the pavement, there is an indoor running track. I think it should be the second public indoor running track after the one outside the National Stadium. There’s even a locker facility, something which is very difficult to find along major running routes in Singapore. There’s a reason why I preferred running around the Marina Bay/East Coast area.

Another running route added to my list. ✔

Apart from the sports facilities, we realised there are also bean bags located beside the lift landing of every level. The girls were a little excited over its existence.

 

via GIPHY

Though it was short lived because everyone else loves such cosy corner as well, including many teenage couples. Hope it doesn’t get too comfortable. ☺

We headed back to the clubhouse to chill out under the comfort of the air-conditioner while waiting for our turn. I had yet to play a single laser quest game prior to this, even though it has been on every other teenager’s ‘Done List’. I remembered the last time my Poly clique wanted to go and play at Bukit Batok but it was fully booked. Fast forward a year or two later, I finally get a chance to experience the hype personally.

Group photo taken before our Laser Quest game

We took a group photo a series of group photos before the start of our game. We had to be glad that the guy attending to us has so much patience. Then again, I think he might have experienced it worse.

The game started shortly after we went in. We played the full-for-all mode – that means we were each on our own. No teams or roles. It’s the simplest. The girls started shouting and screaming, while running around ‘shooting’ each other with their laser tag guns.

via GIPHY

I got myself out of these mess for a good minute before becoming one of the most prominent targets around. One thing I know for sure is that I ain’t a sharp shooter, I couldn’t really see where I was targeting and whether if I’ve hit the right spot (the sensors on their vests and guns). I had to spend some time aiming before releasing my trigger. The chaos around me was doing me no favour. I just have to give up.

There was once I hid at one corner waiting for a chance to strike but ended up being surrounded by a couple of them shooting me left, right, center. I could have been the first one to be killed if I were to be deployed on the front line in a battle.

10 minutes of game time felt forever, although I think I didn’t actually move that much.

We all couldn’t believe Charmz got first but the scoresheet wouldn’t lie. I like how I became ‘Player 3’ and how I was ranked right smack in the middle. The funny thing was that I managed the least number of shots. Damn I was slacking.

Like how they said, we will have a rematch in JB one of these days. (Sorry but laser tag games here in Singapore is way too pricey)

PHOTOTAKING

Mish came and find us after that, with a bouquet of flower for Viv. She arrived while we were halfway through the game so she sat outside like a mum waiting to fetch her kids after school. The six of us then find a place (and it had to be at a prominent location on a bridge HAHAHA) for phototaking.

Group Photo After Laser Quest

Damn I think I looked like some grassroots volunteer. How apt for such a location.

Photo with Viv, Charmz and Mish
TA-DAA: Who’s the birthday girl?

Photo with Viv

The kind of shit we do. We wanted to do a fun shot and a normal shot initially but we had no idea what kind of pose we should do for the fun shot. Someone suggested a running pose but it ended up becoming too much of a challenge. I think a normal shot is the best I can do. Either that or I should work harder for fun shots next time. Oops.

Viv's portrait

One of the 253489539453 portrait photos taken on a random bridge inside OTH on that day. I called that THE birthday portrait, how about that.

DINNER

Peish had to leave after thaat because she had something on. Meanwhile, the rest of us headed back to the town centre for dinner. We decided to settle our meal at Lenas in Tampines 1. Wanz and Nic joined us afterwards.

 

(P.S. Sorry Nic, you arrived too late to be inside this video. Oops)

Dinner at Lenas

My Chicken & Dory with a side (garden salad).

Football

I rushed off back to OTH after I was done with my food because I had a football match there. I was browsing through Stranger Soccer the other day when I came across two matches that would be held at OTH. It was an opportunity that I shouldn’t miss out on. I mean come on, how many people will get to play on a legitimate pitch inside the stadium?Since I would be there, I might as well go for it. I kept in mind that the birthday celebration wouldn’t stretch too late into the night hence I signed up for the 8-10PM slot.

Since I would be there, I might as well go for it. I kept in mind that the birthday celebration wouldn’t stretch too late into the night hence I signed up for the 8-10PM slot.

It has been 2 years since I put on my boots. The last time I did was during Sports & Wellness class back in Year 2. I miss playing football although I suck terribly at it. I used to imagine myself as Garrincha or Pele, dribbling past defenders and going one-on-one with the keeper before cheekily executing a chip over the keeper into the back of the net. I remembered how I kicked a mini-ball around the living room every Friday night while watching a ‘live’ telecast of a S. League match when I was young. (Yes, I am probably a handful of those rare species who followed local football).

Fantasy and reality are always contrasting. 2 years since I kicked a ball, I returned to the pitch as a center back (or what we always call, a CB). For a record, I usually play as a keeper but this time I planned on trying something new. God knows when will be the next time I’ll be on the pitch again.

It was a full match – 90 minutes, but divided into 4 quarters instead of the usual 45mins-halves. I started the match poorly, losing ball and allowing attackers to play through ball. But thank God we were 1-0 up when I subbed myself out for the 2nd quarter.

I went back out on the field for the remaining 45 minutes and it was disastrous. Mistakes after mistakes, losing my man, conceding more goals. I disappoint that Liverbird upon my chest. I felt I brought shame to the shirt I was wearing and the club I love. But I still think that I played a little better than how I used to, thanks to my improved stamina and speed amidst all the running trainings.

But it think at the end of the day, it’s the exposure and experience that will help with my improvement. I don’t play team sports like football so regularly because I don’t have the group of kakis who will want to play the game week in week out. But yet, I think with an initiative like Stranger Soccer, it wouldn’t be difficult for me to find random kakis to play a game with whenever I feel like it.

A group photo after the football match

Full Body Shot taken on the pitch of Our Tampines Hub

I am still living the dream.

I ain’t sure how long it’ll be before I joined another football match on Stranger Soccer, but I am certain that I’ll pay OTH another visit soon. Maybe this time to their hawker center or wellness center and health lab?

Yeah, I think I want to do another body composition analysis soon.

Mini Guide to Singapore Coffee Festival 2017

Coffee lovers rejoice! Singapore Coffee Festival (SCF) is finally back for the second year after a successful inaugural edition last year. This year’s edition – organised by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) and presented by DBS, will feature about 90 exhibitors, ranging from coffee purveyors to cafes and even equipment distributors.

Being a coffee lover myself, I would not want to miss the opportunity to learn more about my favourite beverage and to taste the different kinds of coffee the world has to offer. Kheng Yin joined me for this adventure as we indulge in the mystical world of caffeine.

So here’s a mini-guide we’ve collated after our visit so that you won’t get as lost as we did after coming face to face with a huge variety of choices.

1. Redeem your free drink samples with your stickers

Sorry, we’ve already gone all out to redeem our complimentary drink samples.

Basically, event-goers will be entitled to 2 drink samples. These stickers can be found inside your goodie bag – the first thing you’ll get once you exchanged your tickets at the counter.

KY definitely looked pleased with her goodie bag.

With over 90 merchants and hundreds over types of coffee to choose from (although not all types of coffees are available for sampling, do check out the full list here), I know it’s a bit difficult to make a decision. Hence, we’ve shortlisted a few of our favourites:

Chye Seng Huat Hardware (CSHH)

CSHH is no stranger to most youngsters here. It’s posh and contemporary interior packaged as a traditional shophouse on the outside raises a few eyebrows when it was first established.

For this exhibition, they have in store several kinds of premium coffee, including Kayon Mountain from Ethiopia, Javanero Pasundan from Indonesia and Maragogype from Panama. Each kind of coffee has its unique and distinguishable taste so it will spare your taste buds some confusion.

Damage: around SGD5-8

Hook Coffee

There were so many varieties of coffee beans to choose from: Madame Lychee, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Eternally Grapeful and so on and so forth. I know how these names don’t sound like those of the traditional coffee beans but the strong aroma diffusing out of every bean will eradicate any doubts you have.

Apart from having your coffee freshly brewed upon order, you can also buy the beans back and brew them yourself.

Damage: SGD7 (per 100g of beans)

For those who are looking for some more out-of-this-world and hipster kind of coffee, check out this list.

3. When you are tired of coffee…

If coffee ain’t your thing, don’t worry.

If your taste buds have been overwhelmed by the amount of coffee you’ve tasted at the festival, don’t worry too.

There are always different kinds of tea to your rescue.

Here are our favourites:

Prana Chai

The masala blend is the highlight. The moment when you swallowed it down your throat, you will taste that strong cinnamon aftertaste. It could not have been stronger, yet it fits perfectly with black Ceylon tea.

The addition of organic honey and freshly diced ginger, coupled with other spices scouted from the whole of India, Sri Lanka and Guatemala, will help make you feel relaxed

Do pick up their pamphlet because there is a recipe to teach you how to make a delicious banana cake using Prana Chai.

Damage: SGD28 (per 250g retail pack)

Gryphon Tea

One of the best sparkling juices we’ve ever tasted. I am not even kidding. For a person who isn’t fond of gassy drinks, I find that this series of sparkling juice produced by Gryphon Tea Co. is especially smooth. You will not taste the carbon dioxide that tends to give your tongue that unpleasant sharp feeling. I am particularly surprised at how natural it tasted. It was as if I was savouring a cup of freshly brewed tea in the forest.

The newly launched Botanically Cold Brewed Sparkling Teas series can be boasted as the first of its kind in Singapore. It comes in three flavours – Pearl of the Orient with Lychee, Earl Grey Lavender with Strawberry and Osmanthus Sencha with Passionfruit. Each artisanal batch is said to cold-brewed at 4˚C for a total of 12 hours using a proprietary extraction method.

Damage: SGD3.75 (per bottle – non-chilled), SGD34 (per carton of bottles – non-chilled), SGD7.50 (per cup), SGD12 (per 2 cups)

HIC Juice

Oh right. HIC Juice doesn’t sell tea. Neither do they sell coffee. They are probably one of the few participating exhibitors there that allow you to take a break from caffeine. With cold press juices, juices popsicles, acai bowls and smoothies, event-goers can ‘revitalise, refresh and recharge’ before continue their coffee adventure.

Damage: SGD6 – SGD12 (cold press juices), SGD6.90 (acai bowl), SGD8 (superfood smoothies)

3. Have some crispy cream muffins to go with your drinks

It might be a ‘coffee’ exhibition, but surely we must have some food to go with it. Famous Japanese cream bun maker Hattendo has just introduced a new brand called ‘cream muffin’, specially for the Singapore market.

Unlike other muffins, cream muffin has a rather crispy outer layer due to it being covered by a layer of biscuit mixed with crunchy almonds, pearl sugar and chocolate chips. The interior, in contrast, is made up of a fluffiest, pillowy soft dough which will melt in your mouth. The combination is just match made in heaven.

There are currently three flavours of muffin available: matcha and chocolate cream muffins, and Singapore muffin filled with a combination of kaya and custard.

After the SCF, cream muffins will be only available exclusively at the Hattendo Cafe from 7 to 13 August 2017. Be one of the first to try it.

Damage: SGD3 each (muffins), SGD5 per cup (Hattendo/Singapore/Hiroshima Blend)

4. Grab your passport to rewards

The Live Kind Passport initiated by DBS will allow event-goers to participate in four social conscious task in order to redeem rewards like an eco-friendly reusable coffee tumbler or even a cup of free coffee.

One of the tasks includes dropping off a used plastic bottle at the designated recycling machine. On top of the stamp for our Live Kind Passport, we’ve also managed to redeem a snack with the plastic bottle we’ve recycled.

Apart from the activities, there are also workshops for event goers who are interested in gaining insight into everything from coffee brewing or edible art. For those who are into healthy living, there will also be a healthy snack making workshop by Boxgreen, one of the social enterprises that set up a booth at the exhibition.

Check out the full schedule here.

5. Chillax and take OOTD

Make full use of the venue while you are in it. The Sunrise Wharf on both sides of the exhibition venue provides a phenomenal view of the open sea which gave us the idea of photo shoot session. You don’t always get the chance of being by the sea side often so seize the opportunity!


 

SCF2017 will be held from today (4 August) till this Sunday (6 August) at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre. Tickets are on sale at $22 each, $18 if you are a DBS cardholder or an ST subscriber.

Do visit its official website for more information.

Just a little caution to those who are planning to head down: the second level is not accessible from within the first level of the exhibition. Event-goers are required to take the escalator from the outside of the exhibition in order to go up to level 2. The need to go through two rounds of security checks would certainly discourage lazy people like us to check out on the other exhibitors up there.

National Day Parade Preview 2

I didn’t believe that I’ll get the chance to sit in the audience to watch the annual National Day Parade after all these years. The previous few times where I get to have a glimpse of the parade were during the NE Shows. The last time I watched NDP live was back in 2015, I was there during every show but as a Heartware volunteer. I got a chance to view one of the NE Shows in full since I was attached to Ang Mo Kio Primary.

I haven’t really had a chance to watch NDP Preview and Actual Parade on site as an audience before – as far as I could remember. Ok, maybe in 2006, when my mum and I tagged along my god-parents for the last show at the old National Stadium. I couldn’t remember clearly if it was NE Show or Preview or the actual day — but it felt like the actual day anyway.

This year, I didn’t get the tickets through balloting – again. I’ve already succumbed to the reality that I wouldn’t get the chance see the preview or actual parade again.

But then, surprisingly, I took part in a Straits Times’ competition and won.

Till now, I still couldn’t remember which competition helped me to gain an entry to one of the most important local events.

And so, I attended the second preview show with my mum on the 29th of July.

After surviving the queue under the scorching sun, we managed to receive our NDP Fun Pack and get to our seat at the Blue Sector of the Marina Bay Floating Platform.

We couldn’t really see the stage from where we were sitting but we had a great view of the bay.

But thankfully my EF-S55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM lens did me some justice. It is no doubt that that is my favourite lens out of the two lenses I owned.

After I set up my camera, my mum and I started looking through the fun pack. There were the usual stuffs – flags, tissue, discount coupons, 2 bottles of drinks. One thing caught my eyes actually – the Salted Egg Yolk Fish Skin by The Golden Duck. I didn’t get to try it on site, but it tasted damn good when I had it at home later that night.

You know it must be delicious when kids just gobble the entire packet down their throat.

Alright. Enough of food, because the parade is about to start.

Dynamic Defence Display

My favourite of the entire parade is the Parade & Command (P&C) and the Dynamic Defence Display (D3). I must give all the uniform personnels the credit for having to endure the blazing sun and trying hard not to ‘peng san’. I always wanted to be one of those marching in the parade, but guess I won’t be able to do that in my army uniform over the next two years because I think it’s only for the combat fit military men.

There was aerial display by 5 F-15SG fighter jets. This is the first time in NDP where the signature bomb burst manoeuvre is performed by the F-15SG. The F-16s were used in previous years.

There was also the Red Lions, who are making a return to the NDP after a two-year absence.

Apart from the parachute team making their appearance, more than 50 military assets are also making their appearance during the parade – some of which are introduced to the audiences during a multi-agency counter-terrorism display.

If I were to choose my favourite moment out of this year’s parade, it would be the part when the RSAF Chinook carrying the National Flag and flew past the sky with two AH-64D Apache helicopters in escort.

It has in fact been my favourite and proudest moment during every NDP because it reminded me what is it to be a Singaporean. It reminded me of my duty to the country and that our success today is by no means fortuitous. Our forefathers and the generations before us had given their all and strive for excellence. They fought hard – either in the battlefield, the training grounds or in their respective field – to make sure that our flag continues to fly high up in the sky.

We shouldn’t take whatever we have now for granted. Instead, we should continue to strive for greater heights – like how we want our flag to fly.

Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob was present that day as a reviewing officer.

Although she has been reprising the role she has been taking every NDP since 2013, the internet went wild after photos were ‘leaked’. Some said this is a ‘rehearsal’ for her upcoming role. Some said everything is an inside job.

Well. Then we might have Teo Chee Hean – the defence minister – as the next Prime Minister since he appeared during Preview 1, in a similar role. We leave speculations to those who speculate.

As usual when the reviewing officer or President inspect the military parade, there will be the 21-Gun presidential salute happening from the M3G Military Raft floating on the left side of the Floating Platform.

Drones Display

After the parade marched off, there comes the second segment of NDP. There comes the more artistic part. There are 6 acts to it and it showcases the Singapore spirit through arts, dance, music and lights.

This is the first time that NDP will feature 300 unmanned drones – the biggest drone display in Southeast Asia. My mum was like, “How did they manage to project the lights up into the sky like this.”

Nope mum, there are drones.

I must say I am impressed by the choreography. Having to control one drone is a problem, having to bring 300 drones together to form a figure is another.

Fireworks Display

At the end of the two-and-a-half hours of parade and shows, the event ended with everyone’s favourite: fireworks display.

The fireworks might be spectacular but the pungant strong smell from the leftover smoke just got me struggling a bit.

So my mum and I took a selfie because we were waiting for the crowd to disperse before we depart the area.

Check out the full photo gallery.