Living on Borrowed Time.

17 01 2011

(This post is made as part of the Blog-a-Thon organised by the We-Believe-in-Second-Chances campaign effort)

It’s Yong Vui Kong’s 23rd birthday. The second birthday now, celebrated, which almost could not have been, if it weren’t for the tireless efforts of those us who love him, and those us who love life.

Though what had been achieved in this struggle for his life thus far is nothing short of miraculous, the Sword of Damocles still hangs over his head, the noose still tightening around his neck.

Indeed, living on borrowed time is no way for a young lad just barely out of his teens to celebrate a birthday. It is something that most of us will never be able to comprehend, much less experience.

It has been gut-wrenching to witness up close, him being caught up in the foul machinations of a system that would stop at nothing to render him as soon as possible, into yet another statistic, yet another piece of data.

All these clutching at straws, just to prove that the ends, justify their means, even if it meant the paying the ultimate price for the follies of one’s youth.

Herein lies the crux of the matter, that at what price, then, will it only be considered too high for the society to pay in pursuit of this false dichotomy that which the mandatory death penalty represents.

For those of us who love Vui Kong and those of us who love life though, the answer is clear.

For us, no price is too high to pay, if only that he might see one more birthday come to pass.

For us, we’ll gladly give of our days and weeks, if only that he might have one more minute of borrowed time.

Because for us, Life deserves at least this much.

Here’s wishing you a happy 23rd Birthday Vui Kong.


What has a man to fear from…

11 08 2010

when he has had everything taken away from him and has got nothing left to lose?

Max Payne - A man who lost everything he held dear

He only has himself to fear, the fear that he would be unable to surpass the man he was yesterday, today. The fear that he would no longer be able to achieve today, what he has already achieved yesterday.

And what powerful fear this is. Truly, the only fear that can change the world, and the only fear that all humans should harbour in their hearts.

In solidarity with Seelan Palay – colleague, brother-in-arms, fellow activist and most of all, friend.

He will be serving his first prison term on 11 August 2010 for his convictions that brought him into a headlong clash with the repressive and authoritarian regime of the day.

Stay strong in your convictions while you are there, I’m sure you will come out a stronger man than when you went in. Godspeed my friend, for much work is still required of us all.

“You only have power over people so long as you don’t take everything away from them. But when you’ve robbed a man of everything, he’s no longer in your power — he’s free again.”

– Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Food Feature – Balut

29 04 2010

Having recently come back from the Philippines, I’m beginning the miss the place badly already. Missing the interesting aspects of Manila life, the lively exuberance of the people in the city.

And the food. Oh the food… I’m ashamed to admit that I have piled up more than 3kg of emergency midriff rations after only being there just 5 days :(. I guess I’ll just settle for sating my longing by blogging about my food adventures there, starting with Balut.

It is said that one hasn’t really visited the Philippines one has tried eating Balut. A real national identity building food isn’t it? Singapore needs something just like that too, absolute and non-debatable, which would do wonders for our national identity(or lack thereof) but I digress…

Just what is Balut? I’ll let the pictures below speak for itself…

(Warning: pictures displayed below are extremely graphic and not for the squeamish…)

Yes, that came out from a duck egg.

I hope you guys made it down this far. And yes, its an egg product, all natural no less. Absolutely no additives or artificial processing! The secret ingredient is time… and a warm place… and an egg, fertilized of course. But not too much time, or you’ll end up with a newly-hatched pet chick(duckling in this case) ;).

Sold piping hot along the streets of Manila in the evening, served with a choice of a few condiments, including seasoned salt and flavoured vinegar. The vendors only appear at dusk, since the locals believe that the consumption of Balut will boost performance of the nocturnal sort, and would eat 1 before and 1 after(before and after what? Go ask your grandpa :p).

Since it was my first time trying it, I had it au naturel sans any condiments. To eat it, I was taught, I had to crack open the shell slightly, and peel a hole in the membrane lining the shell. Through this hole, I had to then, drain/drink/swallow the “soup”(basically amniotic fluid…) from the balut. It tasted nice enough, like a clear sweet broth laced with trace flavours of duck and egg.

Once the balut has been drained, we can finally proceed to peel the shell clean off the balut. After the balut has been undressed of its shell, there’s basically 2 ways to go about eating it:

1) Go into some dark corner of the street so that you can’t see clearly what will be going into your mouth, flood the thing with so much condiment that your tongue gets pickled upon contact, and then pop it quickly into your mouth, give it 3-4 fast chews before swallowing the mass, and ignoring the sneaking suspicion that your tongue could faintly detect the fibrous tickle of feathers… and the slight resistance of tiny bones before they give way under the relentless masticating action…

2) Refer to picture below.

The embryo disassembled into its component parts.

Naturally I did method 2). Carefully disassembling the balut yields me 3 components, each with its own distinct flavour, texture and appearance. If you look at the above picture carefully you could probably identify the half-formed duckling,  the yolk sack and the egg whites.

Savouring each component individually, the half-formed duckling tasted faintly of duck and easily disintegrated in my mouth upon a few chews, its half formed bones offering no real resistance, save for a few very fine chewy bits, much like gristle. Couldn’t detect any feather, duckling was probably still too young, since  the yolk sack is still occupying a large part of the balut.

The yolk tastes like… yolk. Only slightly less rich and flavourful than a hard-boiled egg yolk. Probably due to the duckling utilizing it partially to grow. The egg white is interesting texturally, but largely tasteless, like normal egg white. Texture-wise, it is hardly normal and feels more like chewing the cartilage of a stingray.

What an interesting combination of flavours and textures, all nicely packaged into an egg shell, served piping hot. That’s what balut is essentially. And going for 10 pesos (approx. 30cents) each, what more can someone craving for a snack ask for? Bon apetit!

Witnessing the Electoral Campaigns in the Philippines!

20 04 2010

Writers Note: Gosh! It’s been almost one month since I last blogged… Time just flew by so fast… Just so many things to do, so little time… 😦

I was in the Philippines two weeks ago to observe the campaigns for congressional elections in the Philippines due to take place in May 2010. The trip was organised by the Young Liberals and Democrats of Asia (YLDA) of which the SDP’s Young Democrats is a member.

Unlike Singapore, Filipinos do not have to play a guessing game on when the elections are to be held. This is because the date for the general elections is etched in stone in their Constitution, to be held on the 2nd Monday of May every 6 years.

And there’s another big difference. Their elections are run by the fiercely independent Commission on Elections (COMELEC). In Singapore, we have the Prime Minister’s Office effectively running the elections.

I also visited headquarters of the three major parties: Liberal Party, Nationalist Party, and the Lakas Kampi CMD alliance. For the presidential race, the most popular candidate, as far as polls go, is the Liberal Party’s Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, son of the late (assassinated) Benigno Aquino and the late president Corazon Aquino.

For a nation with over 91 million people spread out over more than 7000 islands throughout the whole archipelago, not forgetting 10 million Filipinos who work overseas, one can only begin imagine how much of a logistical challenge it is, to organise and conduct national elections on such a scale. With my first stop being the COMELEC headquarters, I was about to find out just how much.

Nestled in the heart of old Manila city’s Intramuros district, which in Spanish literally means “within the walls” as Manila city used to be a fortress erected by the Spanish conquistadores during their colonial era, the COMELEC lies just across the majestic Manila Cathedral.

It is nomination day and the whole promenade is bustling with activity and booming with the anthems, which played unceasingly from speakers mounted on a great assortment of vehicles, of the organizations that have arrived in force to submit their nominations.

A festive mood marks the beginning of the upcoming 45 exciting days of campaigning before polling day. Making our way through the throngs of people, and passing by an organisation’s protest rally against the disqualification of their nomination submission in front of the Palacio del Gobernador (Palace of the Governor), I finally entered the COMELEC building with my YLDA colleagues.

Browsing through the various bulletins that lined the walls, I couldn’t help but marvel at some of the information laid out before my eyes: 17,999 seats contested, over 50 million registered voters, and the fact that the Filipinos get to choose all their representatives, from the national level all the way down to their municipal level.

We also had the chance to discuss with the various party leaders and representatives their electoral message, campaign strategies, fund raising methods as well as recruitment matters. I, of course, shared with them our situation in Singapore. I brought back the various campaign materials and paraphernalia for future reference.

A highlight of the trip was the kick-off rally of Congresswoman Mary Mitzi “Mitch” Cajayon who is also president of the Liberal Party’s youth wing. Mitch shared about how majority of campaign expenses go to buying airtime for their campaign commercials.

On the policy front Mitch pointed out that while national politics are more ideologically based, their local politics tend to be more personality-based, as such it is not surprising to see the same family-clan feature prominently in a locality and administrating it for generations.

Mitch’s rally had a festive feel to it, with families bringing all their children, and the people adorning themselves with party paraphernalia. Bass drums and trumpets (manned by party members) accompany every applause, amplifying the crowd’s enthusiasm.

Mitch’s running mates’ speeches are short and to the point rarely exceeding 10 minutes. In between the speeches was a performance, usually a songs or a dance by youths or video clips to keep the crowd engaged.

Polls in the Philippines is an exciting and colourful occurence which draws the genuine participation of the electorate. I acknowledge that we should find our own way of doing things but I cannot help but feel that the elections in Singapore is something which the PAP wants to keep as boring as possible.

This is a shame because, as I witnessed during my visit to the Philippines, elections – whatever the issues maybe, whichever party a citizens supports – bring a people together. This is something that “rich” Singapore has something to learn from our poorer neighbour.

  • Article first posted up on:

    Censorship matters

    22 03 2010

    “Censorship is a reciprocal relationship between openness (candor) and respect, you cannot expect me to respect your opinion if you hide in a veil of anonymity.” – (Mun, 2010)

    A gem popped up while crossing (s)words with an anonymous troll. Thought I’d immortalize it in the an(n)als of cyberspace history here on my blog. 😀

  • P.S. I’m sorry my part 2 took so long… research, research, research… its one of the most time consuming yet non-visible phase in the writing process… Akan datang soon, I promise!

    Quote of the Day

    16 03 2010

    “Hang him if you must, but not in such an automated, robotoid(sic), spasmodic, reactionary manner.”
    – M Ravi, in defense of Yong Vui Kong, the boy who cheated death 3 times.

    A brief interlude…

    14 03 2010

    Taking a break from the article I’ve started just for today…

    On a related note, when I told my dear friend that the title of my upcoming article would be “Like moths drawn to a flame”, he came up with this witty rejoinder: “like (famous) men drawn to women?”  I laughed.

    Well, if you didn’t get that, the talk of the town recently has been pretty much the same thing: PBM Jack Neo and his extra-monogamous dalliances(I love how bombastic words add a certain euphemistic touch…). I didn’t bother myself with catching up with all the sordid details through the various media reports.

    Reports of a man’s fulfillment of his biological functions bore me after sometime, no thanks to the media (both stat mainstream and online) reporting of the same issue ad nauseum, seeking to milk the saga for what it is worth. What I can vaguely recall is the afternoon news flash on television on the day of PBM Jack Neo’s press conference.

    I wasn’t even watching the television directly but I could hear my mom watching it from my room. Apparently, Mrs Neo had a breakdown during the proceedings,  judging from the scuffles and panicked vocalizations that I could hear. At the point in time, the first thought that entered my mind as an uninvolved (and somewhat disinterested) party was: “Wow, that’s more dramatic than any of the movies he made…”

    Oh well, what to do, its happened. So lets move on, right? Shouldn’t there be more pressing issues for the people to be concerned about? The last I remembered, the world didn’t stop revolving when the saga broke. From all the chatter both online and off,  I cannot help but think that people enjoy a public persona’s fall from grace more than that person’s rise to prominence. Such twisted perversity.

  • P.S. In case you are wondering what on earth does PBM mean, it is an honorific used to address recipients of the Public Service Medal, or the Pingat Bakti Masyarakat in its original Bahasa Melayu rendering.