4 October 2015

Thanks to Juli Phang, I'm no longer the world’s worst wedding guest (dammit)

Today’s column was almost cancelled because of the haze.

I know reading this column often requires strenuous physical exertion. Just avoid doing it outdoors when the PSI is over 100, especially if you’re a child, elderly, pregnant, have a chronic lung or heart disease, or any combination of the above.

The reason I decided not to cancel is that something happened last week that I want to write about and I feel it is worth risking your health for.

A “beauty” blogger named Juli Phang made headlines when she live-blogged the wedding of her husband’s friend, posting negative comments about the bridal car, the bride’s bouquet and gown.

Ms Phang also took the opportunity to humblebrag on Dayre about how her husband made fun of her when she told him people were looking at her in the bridal car instead of the bride.

You know, because she was more beautiful than the bride.

Besides being narcissistic, Ms Phang also exhibited some mild xenophobia when she wrote: “Why the emcee role must use the restaurant staff?! One Pinoy and one PRC.”

As if she expected to be called out for her mild xenophobia, she added the disclaimer: “I’m not ethnocentric hor, but it’s not like the couple doesn’t have friends what.”

Well, if her point was that the bride and groom should have asked a friend to be the emcee, highlighting the nationalities of the restaurant staff members bolstered her argument not one whit.

Speaking of being “ethnocentric”, that reminds me of another woman who made the news after posting some comments about a wedding.

Almost exactly three years ago to the day, upset by the noise from a Malay wedding in the void deck, Ms Amy Cheong ranted on Facebook: “Void deck weddings should be banned. If u can’t afford a proper wedding, u shouldn’t be getting married.”

The rest, as they don’t say, is her story. Ms Cheong was fired from her job as an assistant director at NTUC and fled the country. She became the poster child for childish postings.

Sure, we’ve had Mr Anton Casey, Edz Ello and others since then, but Ms Cheong was a pioneer, although she doesn’t qualify for the Pioneer Generation Package.

Even Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong commented on her case on Facebook, saying:
“Let us all be more mindful of what we say, online and in person, and always uphold the mutual respect and sensitivity that holds our society together.”
So far, PM Lee has been too busy rearranging his cupboard to comment on Ms Phang’s case, but I think she is even bigger than Ms Cheong — at least globally.

Ms Phang’s infamy spread so far and wide that the New York Daily News said she has been dubbed the “world’s worst wedding guest”.

I was shocked. I thought I was the world’s worst wedding guest.

I have been dethroned.

True, there was never an official ceremony where I was conferred the title. It’s not like I was given a certificate or a tiara or anything.

But I’ve lost count of the number of wedding dinners I’ve attended where I didn’t give a hongbao.

For all her insensitive comments, my guess is that Ms Phang or her husband still handed the bride and groom a red packet containing cash.

That’s what most Singaporeans do.

Except me.

Because as an invited guest, I don’t believe it’s my duty to subsidise anybody’s nuptials. The other suckers can do so if they want.

I scoff at how Singaporeans are so bound by custom that they feel obligated not only to help foot the bill for the wedding dinner, they must also calculate and contribute an amount that commensurates with how expensive the restaurant is.

If that doesn’t make me the world’s worst wedding guest, it should at least make me Singapore’s worst wedding guest.

But then I’ve never live-blogged about how the bride was “drowning in her gown” on her wedding day.

Ms Phang has since removed the offending posts and apologised for them.

As she said on Dayre, the mobile blogging platform where it all started:
“I realise that what I wrote has caused the couple and their families great distress. I am really sorry for the pain and inconvenience I have unintentionally caused, and am doing my best to find ways to make it up to them.”
While she’s doing that, I should work on regaining the “worst wedding guest” title I lost to her. I may even start using Dayre. I just have to figure out how to pronounce it.

Then I need someone to invite me to a wedding.

No outdoor ceremonies please.

You know, haze.

So... anyone getting married soon?

(And can do without the hongbao?)

Send me a card.

- Published in The New Paper, 4 October 2015

28 September 2015

Recapping The Straits Times Run At The Hub 2015: Haze? What haze?

I ran the 10km instead of the half marathon in The Straits Times Run last year.

This year, there's no 21km half marathon. Instead, it's 18.45km, you know, because The Straits Times was supposedly founded in 1845. Yeah, that makes sense.

Since only 18.45km runners get the finisher's T-shirt, I of course had to join the 18.45km category even though the shirt is rather ugly.

Last week, it seemed the event would likely be cancelled because of the haze. It was quite suspenseful checking the PSI on Saturday night and waiting for the announcement.

But as if someone at SPH was controlling the haze, the PSI compliantly went below 100 for the first time in days just so the ST Run could go on. It was uncanny.

Flag-off was at 5am yesterday near the Sports Hub. My work ended at 1am. I decided to head for the Hub straight from the office, so I didn't get any sleep at all.

I reached the Hub way too early at around 3.40am. I almost fell asleep standing up while waiting for the flag-off at the starting line.

Runners (including myself) taking pictures of the starting line.

The Straits Times editor flagged off the run promptly at 5am. This punctuality surprisingly doesn't happen often enough at the races I've joined.

It was good that in the early part of the race, the route was very wide to accomodate the huge crowd of runners.

Running under the distinctive arches of the Flower Dome at Gardens By The Bay.

The same dome from across the bay many minutes later.

I decided to take my time to survive the long distance and slowed down to almost walking speed after the half-way mark.

Another selfie on the run with the Singapore Flyer in the background.

A runner (sitting in gurney) getting help from an ambulance crew.

One way the ST Run cheat your feelings is that you see the dome and you think you're almost near the finish line, but you actually still have more than 1km to go and you're already limping.

Finally, the tunnel into the dome

The finish line.

My target was to finish the race in under two and a half hours, and I just made it.

It was funny to hear the announcer inside the dome having to keep reminding runners not to take pictures before crossing the finish line.

The danger is if you stop to take photos, you're blocking the way and other runners could run into you.

I wonder how organisers will handle this problem in the future. Will they enforce stricter rules against picture-taking by runners near the finish line? Or will they accomodate this behaviour and find a way to make it safer?

I spotted Mr Teo Ser Luck (Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry and Mayor, North East District) among the runners. He is more bulked up than I thought. He's second from right in the picture above.

I also saw another minister, Mr Lawrence Wong. He is more petite than I thought.

Although the run was supposed to be 18.45k, my running app says it was more than 19k.

I've never felt more pain after a run despite having done two half marathons. I should just stick to 10k or below from now on.

But I've already signed up for the 13km run in The North Face 100 at MacRitchie in two weeks. I've even bought the shoes.

And worn the shirt.

Maybe it will be cancelled because of the haze.

Speaking of which, after the ST Run, the PSI went up again.


EARLIER: Recapping The Straits Times Run At The Hub 2014

27 September 2015

Feelings were cheated: Want a haze holiday? Only if you're not over 16

It was the one good thing that came out of the haze.

And then it wasn’t.

And I’m not talking about Friday being declared a “voluntary non-work day” by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

The announcement turned out to be a hoax. Did anyone even fall for it?

Just because we had two extra public holidays this year (Jubilee Weekend, Polling Day), do we assume that public holidays simply fall out of the sky now?

But what made the “voluntary non-work day” announcement so credible was that the Ministry of Education (MOE) had announced on Thursday night that school would be cancelled the next day because of the haze.

Are we so gullible to believe that MOM would care as much about the health of Singapore workers as much as MOE cares about the health of the Singapore school children?

Of course not. But then the “voluntary non-work day” wasn’t even an outright holiday.

According to the fake MOM announcement, civil servants got only half a day off and employers were merely “encouraged” to give their staff a “paid day off”.

I suspect the haze had already “encouraged” a few employees to get an MC anyway.

But you know who can’t get an MC? My wife.

That’s because she’s a stay-at-home mum.

And even though she’s a mum, she’s not under MOM.

But the haze has affected her too.

The one thing she hates most about being a stay-at-home mum is waking up early every morning to get our two teenage children ready for school.

If she doesn’t wake up, the kids don’t wake up. No non-human alarm clock can rouse my children from their coma-like slumber.

Because I work late regularly, I sleep through the whole thing, so I don’t care.

On Thursday night when MOE announced the school closures, no one was happier than my wife. She was going to sleep till noon the next day.

Finally, something good came out of the haze.

Then the other shoe dropped.

She found out that only primary and secondary schools were closed.

My daughter is in Secondary 4 and my son is in his second year of junior college.

So my wife still had to get up early for my son.

She felt like she was hit by a Formula One car driven by Sebastian Vettel near turn 13 at the Singapore Grand Prix.

Why, MOE? Why did you cheat my wife’s feelings like that?

Only I can do that.

Why didn’t you close junior colleges too? Is the haze rated NC16, suitable only for persons aged 16 and above?

It must be because of the obscene PSI readings.

It felt like 2013 all over again.

On Thursday, the PSI was so high that Pizza Hut, McDonald’s and KFC announced that they were suspending home delivery — just like in 2013.

[ SUSPENSION OF DELIVERY SERVICE ] Due to the hazardous conditions caused by the haze, we have temporarily suspended...
Posted by Pizza Hut on Thursday, September 24, 2015

That’s when you know the end is nigh — when you can’t go out to get food because of the haze, and the food can’t come to you.

On the Pizza Hut Facebook page, someone wrote: “No worries, I will order Canadian Pizza.”

Ironically, the next day, when MOE closed the schools, the haze situation apparently improved enough that the food companies resumed their delivery service.

[ RESUMPTION OF DELIVERY SERVICE ] As conditions with the haze have improved, we have resumed our delivery service. Thank you for your kind understanding.
Posted by Pizza Hut on Thursday, September 24, 2015

So did MOE jump the gun? Or Pizza Hut?

Ask the people queueing outdoors for the new iPhone 6s on Friday morning.

Wow, deja vu. I just flashed back to June 2013 when people were queuing for the black Hello Kitty doll at McDonald’s in the haze. I was one of them.

But unlike Friday, schools weren’t closed in 2013 because the haze happened during the June school holidays.

Surprisingly, my son didn’t feel any resentment that he had to go to school on Friday in the haze and his sister didn’t.

My daughter, on the other hand, resented that her chemistry teacher gave her more homework via WhatsApp.

Her teachers weren’t that happy they had to go school on Friday in the haze too. Her history teacher used not one but two crying face emojis in a WhatsApp message to the class.

My wife knows how he feels.

Can teachers complain to MOM?

- Published in The New Paper, 27 September 2015


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