Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.

    PSALMS 34:19

Honour thy father and mother

Posted: 09 July 2011

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I can't proceed without a tribute to mom and dad. Mom died when she was 72 in 1993 and Dad at 85 in 2002. They were baptized in Christian Baptism sometime in 1990 two years after my son, John was born.

I don't even know where Mom and Dad were born. Maybe Dad but not Mom. In 1994, I brought my Dad back to his ancestral home which by then was all broken up and needed to be restored with some foreign aid. My cousin in Hong Kong decided to take over that responsibility as the title deed had always been held by him through my step uncle, my dad was the rightful successor. My dad and step uncle were born of same father but not mothers. my dad being from the first wife making him the rightful successor.

Mom's birthplace was more obscure as my understanding of Chinese geography leaves much to be desired. All I knew was my father made contact with my mom's relatives, an uncle and a nephew who traveled to meet us in Guangzhou, a 4 hours hard drive from our ancestral home from Tai Shan. The encounter between my dad and I with my mom's brother was a shock to me, because the first thing he wanted was a share of Dad's, half of what he got, for they reasoned my mom had contributed to his present assets including the house we lived in. Yes, my first impression of Chinese thinking.

Believe it or not, Tai Shan is supposed to be a rich kid city as most of those migrant workers had made San Francisco as the goldern mountain of opportunity (In Cantonese, called Kam Shan) but ended up working as coolies in gold or copper mines or railroad workers laying the great American railroad for Amtrak. They remitted large sum of money back home to Tai Shan and what did their kids do with the easy flow of cash? They do drugs!
 
Dad told me how he had to cross the mountain range from his home in China to Guangzhou to catch the ship to Singapore. It was all of 48 hours foot work and empty stomach. Mom joined him about 10 years later which account of us being born so late in their marriage life. Those absent 10  years must be the hardest my dad went through but none could compare to what was to come, the 2nd World War and the Japanese occupation of Singapore in 1942,  or Sioanan as it was renamed by the Japanese. He was enlisted without choice into the reserves to fight the Japanese and was a prisoner of war shipped to work the railroad across Thailand to Burma or Myanmar in the infamous "Railway of death" now made famous by the film show "Bridge Over River Kuai". I believe the head of this bridge is located at the old Thai Capital Ayuthia where I ate a sumptous and memorable river seafood meal in a barge-restuarant few years back.  It is now part of a tourist attraction. Regular strifes by Allied airplanes during work, his life was in constant danger and it was worth not more than the next day meagre wages. How he managed to survive was beyond me and the only memoto of those days for him was a special hankerchief or scarf with some Japanese writing and a lot of useless banana money. The one photo I saw of him and his comrades of war was jaded with white spots, the print almost impossible to preserve.

Mom contributed the most to keep the family alive. She used all her abilities and skills of a country girl taught by aeons of folk wisdom and genetic pass ons, to survive in a largely male dominated society of brute strength and bully mentality. I realised the Chinese migrants to South East Asia came mainly from the Southern part of China. They were survivalist and don't get entangled in violence or political struggles. All they wanted was a better life from the one they were in. but steeped in the superstition of these provinces some of which were merely fables such as the Monkey King and the Goddess of Mercy, a fishing village girl who cared for the fishermen out at sea.

So consider how a young chinese couple of country side academia find themselves in the strange multiracial city of Singapore. Once my dad kind of repeated a joke to me from one of his colleague. Said a Chinaman came looking for his son whom he had not seen for the last 10 years. Landing at the wharf, he kind of bumped into an Indian coolie, who immediately exclaimed "apa?" Son, exclaimed the Chinaman, I have not seen you for such a short period and you became so dark!? You see, "APA" in Malay means "what" but in his Chinese dialect, it was "father"!

It was not easy for Dad. He worked in odd jobs, learned to drive a truck and was delivering pigs and farming tools and often dissappeared from days on ends so was seldom home. Mom had to fulfill dual roles looking after us kids and using her wisdom to befriend the neighbours in order to get that extra treats for the kids. She demonstrated her skills in making dumplings, colored pastries and all kinds of herbal soups. Mine when we could afford it we got the best of Cantonese soups double boiled, small or large. ..more to come

 


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