Monday, 8 July 2019

Cryptopsy in Singapore: I wore a Hello Kitty shirt to a death metal concert and didn’t die

On March 7, the Singapore concert by Swedish black metal band Watain was cancelled by the authorities at the last minute.

I and presumably most of Singapore had never heard of Watain before. Only 150 were expected at the concert.

The cancellation was largely attributed to a petition by a Rachel Chan to “ban satanic music groups Watain and Soilwork from performing in Singapore”.

Soilwork’s concert is in October. I and presumably most of Singapore had never heard of Soilwork before.

But Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said: “The petition per se did not influence the decision.”

Even so, two months later, the petition was updated to include on the ban list the death metal bands Pestilence and Cryptopsy plus an event called Metal United World Wide.

I had never heard of Pestilence or Metal United World Wide before. The shows were last month.

But I have actually heard of Cryptopsy. I own one of their albums, The Best Of Us Bleed.

You know how we all go through a phase where we seek out music that would annoy our parents? I went through that last year. I was 51.

I wouldn’t say I “stan” for Cryptopsy, but I like their album.

After news spread that Cryptopsy was added to the petition, the Canadian band responded on their Facebook page to the “potential banning” in Singapore:
“We as a band have no say or opinions when it comes to any sort of religion. We believe that everyone should choose their own paths in life.

“The lyrical & visual content in our music is a parody of the extremity of our music. It is a theatrical representation of the brutality and has been created to shock and awe as much as the drumming, guitar & bass riffs.

“We are in no way encouraging our fans to act out any of the content our art depicts.

“For us, our music and visual imagery is in no way worse than most of the Hollywood movies that are available today.”

Way to throw Hollywood under the bus, guys. Could a petition to ban horror movies about killer dolls be next?

Annabelle and Chucky in the same week? Come on, Hollywood, space them out!

To show my support for Cryptopsy, I bought two tickets to their concert at The Substation last Friday night. I paid $75 each, which is still much less than a U2 ticket or so I keep telling myself.

I forced my 19-year-old daughter to go with me. She prefers Bastille and K-pop.

She sported a black Snoopy T-shirt while I rocked a white Hello Kitty Run T-shirt because wearing black to a metal concert is so basic – even though neither of us had been to one before.

There were more than 100 paying audience members in the small Substation theatre, mostly men in black T-shirts and only a few women. No seats. We all stood.

As expected, the music was very loud and the singing consisted mainly of growls without any discernible words. I couldn’t tell the songs apart. The repetitiveness made my daughter sleepy even though she used ear plugs.

But I enjoyed myself, watching the fans stage dive, crowdsurf and wince in pain when they crash to the floor. I just had to be careful not to let any metalhead land on me.

My daughter and I got violently jostled a few times by slam dancers as we were standing too close to the mosh pit, but we’re okay.

In between doing the windmill with his buttock-length hair, Cryptopsy frontman Matt McGachy alluded to the petition when he urged Singapore not to let anyone tell us what we can and cannot listen to. I’m giving you the censored version of what he said.

After the hour-long performance, I queued up for the meet-and-greet with the band to get a picture with them.

No one commented on my Hello Kitty T-shirt.

I asked if they were told not to play any songs like Watain were. Cryptopsy drummer Flo Mounier shook his head and joked that nobody can understand what they are singing anyway. So at least they have some self-awareness.

Asked whether they were worried that the concert could have been cancelled like Watain’s, Mounier said that Watain and Cryptopsy are very different bands.

He’s right. Watain is a black metal band while Cryptopsy is a death metal band.

You may ask, aren’t black metal and death metal the same thing?

That’s like asking if Katy Perry and Taylor Swift are the same person. In case you don’t know, they’re not.

Well, at least the concert wasn't cancelled.

The Rachel Chan petition has since been deleted. Could it be because of a petition asking Mr Shanmugam to “get Rachel Chan deported from Singapore”? Who knows?

I wonder whether I should go to the concert by Swedish death metal band Soilwork if it does not get banned.

My daughter says she never wants go to another metal concert. I’ll have to ask someone else. My mother may be free.

- Published in The New Paper, 8 July 2019

Monday, 24 June 2019

How I survived the $4.50 durian buffet

A durian buffet for $4.50?

That’s less than the price of a Mala Burger meal at Burger King.

Even though I’m not a durian lover (we’re just friends), it was an offer I couldn’t resist.

But, of course, there was a catch.

The buffet was at Plaza Singapura and you had to spend at least $45 in a single receipt at the mall to get one $4.50 durian buffet ticket for an appointed 45-minute session.

Why the recurring number 45? Because it’s Plaza Singapura’s 45th anniversary.

Yes, that’s how many years since Singaporeans first heard of Yaohan.

Anyway, a week before the durian buffet, my daughter managed to spend over $90 on a hoodie and too many T-shirts at the Uniqlo outlet so that I could get two tickets because I knew I couldn’t survive a durian buffet on my own.

But my daughter hates durian. My wife hates durian. My son hates spending time with me.

So I asked my mother. She is 78.

If she dies from eating too many durians, at least she would die happy – and fed.

She even came prepared with her own bottle of salt water because, you know, that’s what you’re supposed to drink when you eat durian.

I don’t know whether she had been to a durian buffet before, but I hadn’t.

The Plaza Sing buffet sessions were spread out from last Friday to yesterday. I got tickets for the Saturday session at 2pm.

To get ready for D-Day, I went on Friday to recce a session and gathered some intelligence.

The buffet was held outdoors under a tent in front of the mall, presumably so as to not stink up the building. Queues had formed more than half an hour before the session started. Plastic gloves were provided.

Each person was given four or five pieces of freshly harvested durian of different varieties on a paper tray.

Once you finished eating, you had to leave the tent and queue again for another tray.

You could queue as many times as you wanted up until 15 minutes before the session ended, because by then you wouldn’t be able to get your durian in time anyway.

If you went early enough, you could easily get at least three trays of durian.

On Saturday, my strategy was to re-queue immediately after getting a tray, leaving my durian with my mother. Repeat until time was up. This way, I could maximise my haul and eat later.

Well, that was the plan anyway. After I got my second tray, my mother offered to re-queue in my place so that I could enjoy the fruits of my labour.

But after she returned with another tray, I realised there was such thing as too much of a good thing.

I didn’t want to eat any more durian and neither did she. Her salt water didn’t help.

I had to force myself to finish the last piece.

So even though there was still time to re-queue, I decided to throw in my yellow-stained gloves and surrender.

It had been only 25 minutes.

I fought the durian buffet and the durian buffet won.

We left the tent and went to Tim Ho Wan to recover with dim sum and Chinese tea.

My mother claimed this was the first time I had ever taken her out to eat. (I guess she didn’t count her birthday meals.)

And all it took was a $4.50 durian buffet. (Terms and conditions apply.)

Thank you, Plaza Sing. For your next anniversary, you should bring back Yaohan.

- Published in The New Paper, 24 June 2019

EARLIER: Forbidden fruit is smelliest: I was cast out because I wanted to eat durians

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Fact-checking The Alternative View's post about K F Seetoh, Jewel and me

So The Alternative View posted this yesterday:

Since my name appears in the post, I feel I need to fact-check it line by line.

First line:
In May, after F&B entrepreneur K.F. Seetoh shared a post showing the dwindling crowds at Jewel after the initial hype ... PAP trolls and cronies were quick to bark that it was "fake news" as he had gone on a weekday morning.
For the most part, this is true... except...

It's impossible to confirm whether it was "PAP trolls and cronies" who were "quick to bark". It could be just people wanting to get all the facts right.

Also, I want to point out that even quicker were the people who immediately derided Jewel as a "white elephant" in response to Seetoh's post.

It was only later when commenters started questioning what time Seetoh's photos were taken that he revealed that it was at 9.30am.

So while he did share a post "showing the dwindling crowds at Jewel after the initial hype", Seetoh subsequently amended his post to add that he was referring specifically to "pre-opening" hours.

He also added: "I see the usual crowds closer to opening and regular hours..."

Which contradicts the "dwindling crowds" claim in The Alternative View post.

Granted, Seetoh also added "The decline is slow and real", but this is stating the obvious because of course the crowds would decrease from opening day. At least "the decline is slow" rather than fast.

Finally, he added: "I feel for the tenants, esp the 24/7 ones."

So apparently, this was what his post was really about, not "dwindling crowds" per se. In a reply to a comment, Seetoh wrote: “If nobody at some hrs..why make them open 24/7 in these depressed manpower conditions.”

Which I guess is a fair point.

Here is Seetoh's post:

Second line:
One notorious IB even went on a weekend to "prove" him wrong.
This is accompanied by sceenshots of my column on The New Paper website with the headline: "S M Ong: Fake news? Explaining K.F. Seetoh's Jewel post".

I'm not an "IB" if it means what I think it means. As in I am not a member of the PAP Internet Brigade, paid to rebut anti-PAP views online.

I'm just a guy who every two weeks, has to come up with something to write about in 500-700 words for my column and that week, Seetoh's Jewel post was it.

In fact, I considered headlining the article: "Fake news? Defending K.F. Seetoh's Jewel post", but decided to go for something more neutral instead. If I had stuck with my orginal headline, I probably wouldn't have to write this blog post. People mostly just read headlines anyway.

You may argue that simply by writing for The New Paper, I’m an IB by default. If that is your perception, no amount of denial on my part is going to make a difference. I could point to some not so pro-establishment articles I have written, but who cares?

As for whether I'm "notorious", that's an opinion and I'm flattered that someone thinks I am.

And I didn't go to Jewel "on a weekend". As I wrote in my column, I went on a Friday afternoon, which is close to the weekend, but not technically the weekend yet.

Also, I went to Jewel not "to 'prove' him wrong".

As mentioned above, Seetoh already wrote in his post: "I see the usual crowds closer to opening and regular hours..."

So if anything, I went to Jewel to prove him right.

Third line:
But now PAP's own MSM are reporting that indeed the hype at Jewel appears to be dying down.
This is accompanied by screenshots of two Today reports:

Is Today "PAP's own MSM"? Not factual but I would call it a fair assertion. (See "Here Today, gone tomorrow: Remember the time Mr Brown's column got suspended?")

Is Today "reporting that indeed the hype at appears to be dying down"? Well, no and sorta maybe.

The most recent article, which was published on Friday, is about how restaurants on level 5 of Jewel have little or no business after midnight. This jibes with Seetoh's point that tenants shouldn't be required to open 24/7.

But it has nothing to do with the hype dying down.

Yes, the other Today article can be loosely described as about the dying hype, but it's more specifically about how businesses in the other airport terminals are affected, not Jewel itself.

Moreover, the article was published on May 19, which was before my column (May 27) and before Seetoh's post (May 22).

So it's a bit disingenuous to claim that "now PAP's own MSM are reporting that indeed the hype at appears to be dying down". It’s not “now”. It was four weeks ago.

Also, I just want to say there's nothing scandalous about the hype dying down anyway. That's the nature of hype.

No one expects the crowds to be as big as when Jewel first opened.

But when I was there two days after Seetoh's post, it was still pretty damn crowded.

Some businesses will do better than others. Yes, opening 24 hours or till 3am is probably not a great idea.

And maybe one day, Jewel will become a ghost town which some are eagerly looking for signs for as proof of PAP's ineptitude.

But that day isn't here yet.

Elsewhere in The Alternative View post, there's this line:
One notorious but brainless IB even went on a weekend to join the queue for one of the restaurants and claim that Seetoh was putting out fake news.
I've already addressed the "Notorious" and "IB" part. As for "brainless", yeah, I wish I could be smarter and avoided this contretemps.

In my column, I didn't mention joining any queue. I just sort of said I saw a lot of people in Jewel. And I didn't "claim that Seetoh was putting out fake news". I just reported that one person commenting on Seetoh's post warned that the post may be considered fake news and I expanded on it.

I swear.

Take it from the Notorious S M Ong.

EARLIER: Fake news? Are there no more queues at Shake Shack in Jewel as K F Seetoh seems to claim?

Monday, 10 June 2019

I have reservations: Is Anti-Chope Movement a lost cause?

I have never been a guest of honour. Have you?

I imagine it must be pretty cool. People suck up to you. They want to take pictures with you. You get free food. Where’s the downside?

That was probably what Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu thought when she was the guest of honour at the Kindness Carnival on May 25.

After all, it was organised by the Singapore Kindness Movement. What could be controversial about kindness, right?

At the carnival in East Coast Park that day, new so-called Ground-Up Movements were “inducted” by the Singapore Kindness Movement.

As the guest of honour, Ms Fu took pictures with members of the Ground-Up Movements as well as many other people at the carnival.

That was last month.

Last week, people started making rather unkind comments online about Ms Fu for supposedly “endorsing” one of those Ground-Up Movements just because she took pictures with members of that movement.

That movement is the Anti-Chope Movement.

And let me tell you, people hate it, calling it “inconsiderate”, “thoughtless”, “pretentious”, “counter-productive”, “useless”, “silly”, “self-righteous”, “ridiculous” and “dumbest possible movement”.

If a movement could be cyberbullied, this would be it.

The Anti-Chope Movement was started last year by Ms Katelin Teo, the associate general secretary of partnerships at the Singapore Kindness Movement.

Sharing her origin story on Facebook, she wrote:
“What started out as a pet peeve, I have decided to take action and make a difference in hope to change social behavior, dissuading 'chope-rs' from 'chope-ing'.

“To ‘chope’ is not a life hack. In my opinion, it is an ungracious act carried out by individuals who are conforming to what everyone else is doing and taking to this advantage ‘ Singaporean-tradition’ of reserving a seat for selfish reasons. Reserving of seats are done at restaurants who take reservations - where you have to call or make one online.

“Seats at hawker centres, food courts, coffee shops, cafes and fast food restaurants are meant to be FREE-SEATING, free-for-all, it is a first-come-first get a seat (butt seated) basis.”
I think that means if you want to reserve a seat, reserve it with your butt, not anything else, although technically speaking, that’s not reserving your seat – that’s just sitting there.

To argue its case, the Anti-Chope Movement posted this scenario on its Facebook page:
“It's lunchtime, it's the peak lunch hour at the food court, hordes of hangry humans and you're carrying your tray of hot food... you see an empty seat you make your way there only to find it being "choped"... By tissue packs, lanyards, namecards, keys, water bottle, umbrella, newspaper... You thought it was a public and shared space!
😭😩😤🤯😵😡 .”

Ironically, many arguing for choping used the same scenario of someone carrying a tray of hot food – except to them, choping is the solution, not the problem.

Most of the comments on the Anti-Chope Movement Facebook page are anti-Anti-Chope Movement.

“Trying to understand the reason for labelling the behaviour ungracious. What is the basis for the assertion that tables at kopitiams are ‘first come first seated (BUTT SEATED)’ (emphasis added)? What’s so special about butts?”
Ask Sir Mix-a-Lot.

I suspect the movement is partly a consequence of the April 2017 Straits Times article, “Singapore’s food centre chope culture: Is it practical or plain rude?”, prompted by letters from readers “asking for something to be done about the ‘choping’ of seats at hawker centres”.

ST reported:
“The practice, they said, has led to quarrels and created scenarios where elderly patrons carrying trays of food are deprived of a seat.

“Others argued that tourists who have been brushed away by locals defending their reserved seats come away with a tarnished image of Singaporeans, although the Singapore Tourism Board said it has not received any feedback about this.”

The Singapore Kindness Movement general secretary himself, Dr William Wan, sort of sidestepped the issue by saying:
“While there is nothing to stop people from sitting at tables waiting for their food to come, they should, in the spirit of give-and-take and empathy, offer their seats to those with food in hand.”
Does that mean he’s pro- or anti-chope? Who knows? Perhaps he is too kind to take a stand.

The Anti-Chope Movement doesn’t help its own cause by distributing cards with the “obnoxious” message, “Doing it for years doesn’t make it right.”

Well, it doesn’t make it wrong either. If I’m a choper, that’s not going to change my mind about choping.

As one Facebook commenter put it:
“I would expect an associate secretary-general of the Singapore Kindness Movement to be less self-entitled and privileged to be printing passive-aggressive card that target the wrong issue.

“What’s more worrying is that this exercise of self-entitlement that is the Anti-Chope Movement has received endorsements by senior ministers like Grace Fu.”
And all the minister did was take a few pictures with people at the Kindness Carnival.

I hope the free food was worth it.

- Published in The New Paper, 10 June 2019

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Getting free food with my Liverpool T-shirt

It started last month when Liverpool miraculously beat Barcelona 4-0 to overcome a 0-3 deficit in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final.

The win was such an incredible comeback that the day after, two Indian restaurant chains in Singapore, Casuarina Curry and Springleaf Prata Place, offered free prata for any customer wearing a Liverpool jersey.

I regretted not going for the free prata.

Even though I actually wore a Liverpool T-shirt that day, it didn't occur to me to get the free prata because I didn't own a Liverpool jersey. I had a T-shirt.

But then I realised later that I could have at least tried.

I mean, was the restaurant going to make a distiction between a jersey and a T-shirt? Probably any top with the word "Liverpool" would do.

I promised myeelf that if ever such an offer comes along again, I should try to get the free food, even with just the T-shirt.

So after Liverpool finally won the Champions League after 14 years two days ago, I was immediately on the look-out.

And I wasn't disappointed.

The Texas Chicken, An-Nur Shenton Way Famous and Gayatri Restaurant offers were for Sunday only. The Ah Lim Jalan Tua Kong and Casuarina Curry offers were for Monday.

An-Nur Shenton Way Famous and Gayatri Restaurant are too out of the way, so on Sunday, I just went for free two-piece combo meal at Texas Chicken in Nex.

But by the time I got there around 6.50pm, I was told the offer was for the first 100 customers only and I was too late.

I couldn't believe it. I felt so cheated. I checked the Texas Chicken offer on Facebook again.

Well, it did say "while stocks last". Just not that the "stocks" were only enough for 100 customers.

I was crushed.

Not wanting to waste my trip there, I bought the two-piece Sambal meal, which was not bad, actually.

Then as if to add insult to heartbreak, some time between 8pm and 9pm that night, Texas Chicken posted this on Facebook:

So if only I had gone to Nex two hours later than I did, I could've gotten my free meal!

I was upset enough that I commented on Texas Chicken's post:

And Texas Chicken actually replied:

So I messaged Texas Chicken the next morning:

So in a way, I got my free Texas Chicken meal after all.


But my quest for free Liverpool food wasn't over yet.

Ah Lim Jalan Tua Kong and Casuarina Curry's offers were for Monday, ie yesterday.

Ah Lim Jalan Tua Kong is in Joo Chiat, which was too out of the way for me. So I headed for the Thomson Road outlet of Casuarina Curry, wearing my unwashed Liverpool T-shirt for the second day in a row.

I went around 3.30pm to avoid the lunch and dinner crowd.

It was raining.

But I got my free chicken biryani.


Mission accomplished.

Ironically, I'm not even a Liverpool fan. I just bought the shirt to troll a colleague, a real hardcore Liverpool fan.

He owns an actual Liverpool jersey. Probably more than one.

And he didn't get any free food at all.

Maybe I'll give him my $10 Texas Chicken voucher since he went with me to Nex on Sunday.

Maybe I won't.

UPDATE: Got it. (Yes, I'm wearing a Man City shirt to troll my colleague as I gave him the voucher.)

Monday, 27 May 2019

Fake news? Are there no more queues at Shake Shack in Jewel as K F Seetoh seems to claim?

When I say “Jewel”, what is the first thing that comes to mind?

The waterfall? Shake Shack? A&W?

The song Foolish Games from the Batman And Robin soundtrack?

Well, the first thing that comes to my mind is long queues.

That’s why I avoided visiting the much hyped Changi Airport supermall since it opened last month.

If hell is other people, Jewel is nothing but hell.

Then last Wednesday morning, Makansutra founder and fellow TNP columnist K F Seetoh posted on Facebook photos showing a near-deserted Jewel with no queues outside Shake Shack and A&W.

He wrote:
“The line at the Shake has slacked to kosong n A&W stands for Anybody Want? The 24 hr food hall is thr to serve some overpromised kpi n i did not even know thrs a food court hidden within the food hall. I think now Joo Chiat more happening than Jewel la. A stall manager said they, like else whr get the usual lunch crowd but picks up only on weekends.

“Did someone over rara on promises at Jewel.”
Okay, if you can comprehend all that, then maybe you can explain to me the ending to Game Of Thrones too. (Like why is there still a Night Watch?)

My takeaway from Seetoh’s post was, woohoo, no more crowds! I can go to Jewel now, just maybe not during lunch and the weekend.

And perhaps I should check out Joo Chiat too.

At first, people on Facebook agreed with Seetoh.

One commented:
“Well it’s a over rated mall with common shops found in other downtown and heartland malls. Food stores like Shake Shack and A&W taste horrible. Once you tasted the original, these are just pale in comparison. Furthermore if you don’t stay in the east, who would want to waste time and the hassle to travel all the way to jewel for a mediocre mall?”
Well, at least it doesn’t have an indoor cycling track.

Another commenter was more succinct: “White Jewel elephant!!!”

Then someone asked when the photos were taken.

Seetoh replied 9.15am.

Well, that changed things.

He was asked: “Why do u take pics at early in the morn and then deduce the ‘kosong’ queues? Who on earth goes to any shopping mall at 9 or even 10am at weekdays. Be fair in your conclusions lah.”

Also, I might add, while A&W is open 24 hours, Shake Shack opens only at 10am.

Someone else pointed out: “Joo Chiat got consistently long Qs on a weekday morning ah?”

Another warned: “This post may be covered under the fake news law if it goes viral.”

Well, it went viral enough that AsiaOne reported: “K F Seetoh posts photos of empty Jewel Changi Airport, internet disagrees.”

Oh no, will the Singapore hawker food champion have to run away to South Africa to escape prosecution under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act?

Or marry his boyfriend. Whatever, man. Follow your heart.

Ironically, he would probably have to go through Changi Airport. (Unless he flees by sampan.)

Backtracking a little, Seetoh later added to his post:
“i was there same time today, pre opening hrs at 930am, same as three weeks back and the lines then were ridiculous. But its all but disappeared now. I see the usual crowds closer to opening and regular hours, which is normal and i hope it continues. The decline is slow and real. I feel for the tenants, esp the 24/7 ones.”
So his point was that even at this early hour, there were long queues when Jewel first opened but not anymore. His concern is: “If nobody at some hrs..why make them open 24/7 in these depressed manpower conditions.”

Wait, wait, wait, so does this mean there are still long lines at Jewel or not?

I decided to find out for myself last Friday afternoon by travelling all the way from my home in Choa Chu Kang to Changi while listening to Jewel’s greatest hits on my non-Huawei phone.

It was hell.

Who will save your soul indeed.

To answer Seetoh’s A&W question, yes, a lot want.

- Published in The New Paper, 27 May 2019

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

NTUC Enterprise responds to my 50-cent teh column: 'We apologise for the confusion'

So my last column was about my confusion over the 50-cent teh deal at the NTUC Foodfare coffeeshop.

In response to the article published in The New Paper on May 13, a reader named Lilian Seah e-mailed me:

Good morning,

Thanks for the article in The New Paper this morning.

The discount is not applicable in NTUC hawker in Kampung Admiralty. I was really surprised as this location is specially opened by Mr Lee Hsien Loong. Kampung Admiralty, an integrated housing estate for senior citizens, is considered a model for future public housing.

The mixed vegetables rice prices in most NTUC food court has special concessions for senior citizens, student and NTUC union members. But it's also not applicable in Kampung Admiralty. Example: Khoo Teck Phuat Hospital food court and NTUC coffeeshop in Blk 361 Sembawang crescent.

NTUC privilege is not align and it's really confusing to consumers.

Hope to hear from you soon.

So last week, NTUC Enterprise wrote a letter to TNP responding to my column and the reader's e-mail:

Dear Editor,

We refer to the article by SM Ong – Confusion over 50-cent Teh deal at Foodfare dated 13 May 2019, and to the letter from your reader Ms Lilian Seah

We thank them for sharing their experiences.

The following ten hot beverages Kopi, Kopi-O, Kopi-O Kosong, Kopi-C, Kopi-C Kosong, Teh, Teh-O, Teh-O Kosong, Teh-C, Teh-C Kosong are offered at $0.50 to NTUC Union members every day for the month of May at over 90 NTUC Foodfare and Kopitiam food courts and coffee shops islandwide.

To ensure that every NTUC Union member gets to enjoy this promotion, each member can buy 1 cup of kopi/teh upon presenting one NTUC union membership card. That is to say, the same member is entitled to buy two cups at $0.50 each by presenting two NTUC union membership cards in a single transaction – in the event he is making the purchase on behalf of another member. We wish to highlight that there is no limit to the number of cups each member can buy per day. To minimise waiting times for other customers, an NTUC union member holding a single NTUC union membership card is encouraged to re-join the queue if he wishes to purchase an additional cup at $0.50.

We apologise for the confusion Mr Ong has experienced. We shall continue to reinforce our communication with the operations team to ensure consistency in the implementation of the promotion.

We are glad that the promotion has been well received and there have been suggestions to extend this offer to the hawker centres. We shall take this into consideration for our future campaigns. Customers may refer to Foodfare’s website ( or Kopitiam’s website ( for more information and the full listing of the participating outlets.

Meanwhile, NTUC union members continue to enjoy a host of member privileges at NTUC Foodfare food courts, coffee shops and new hawker centres.

At our Rice Garden stall, customers enjoy mixed rice meals at concessionary prices for senior citizens, students, NTUC union members and other concession card holders. Launched by NTUC Foodfare in 2009, Rice Garden is a social outreach programme to provide affordable meals to Singaporeans so as to help moderate their cost of living. To date, we have 47 Rice Garden stalls operating in coffee shops and hawker centres including Kampung Admiralty hawker centre (KAHC).

To bring greater value to the NTUC union members, we also extend the following benefits at NTUC Foodfare food courts and coffee shops,

  • Every stall offers an NTUC value meal which members may purchase at a discount of up to 15%
  • NTUC breakfast set sold at a member price of $1.80 ($2.20 for the public)
  • NTUC U Live members (aged 55 years and above) enjoy a 10% senior citizen discount every Tuesday
In addition, every stall at our coffee shops offers a budget meal priced from $2 - $3, which can be enjoyed by the public.

We have noted the feedback from Ms Seah and would like to gather more details of her experience at KAHC for follow-up action. We would appreciate if she may contact our service quality team at 6756 0266 or via email at

It is NTUC Foodfare’s social mission to provide value, quality cooked food at affordable prices and we intend to provide better value to our customers through initiatives such as the 50-cent kopi/ teh promotion.

It doesn't answer my question about when there's no queue, but ok.

I'm actually too paiseh to queue up twice. So I'm sacrificing 40 cents every time I buy drinks (one teh-o, one teh) for my wife and me for the rest of the month.

If only I were more thick-skinned.

EARLIER: Storm in a 50-cent tea cup? Confusion over May deal at NTUC Foodfare

Monday, 13 May 2019

Storm in a 50-cent tea cup? Confusion over May deal at NTUC Foodfare

Just half a dollar.

For the whole of this month, when you show your National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) membership card at NTUC Foodfare or Kopitiam, you can buy a cup of hot coffee or tea (or their various c, o, kosong, siew dai, ga dai, po, gau incarnation) for only 50 cents.

I believe it has something to do with May Day, celebrating workers and all that.

At least I don’t have to demean myself by wearing a Liverpool jersey to get the special price.

I was delighted to spot the “$0.50 kopi & teh” sign in my neighbourhood Foodfare coffee shop since I go there to buy a packet of teh for myself and a packet of teh-o for my wife to take home practically every morning.

It usually costs $1 for the teh and 90 cents for the teh-o, but this month, I need to pay only $1 for both. It’s like Thanos snapped half the price away.

That will save me $27.90, which I can spend on watching Avengers: Endgame in Imax 3D again with popcorn.

Or so I thought.

For the first few days of the month, I smiled like I had never smiled before at the drinks auntie as I showed her my NTUC card and paid only $1 for my daily beverages.

Then last week, things suddenly changed.

She told me she could charge me 50 cents for only one drink and I had to pay full price for the other.

Wait, what?

She explained that the rule is actually one cup per card.

So they had been doing it wrong all this time?

I asked, what if I queued up and ordered again? The auntie said, no, no, she still had to charge me full price for the second drink.

But what if I disguised myself such that she couldn’t recognise me? Josh damn it, I left my Thanos mask at home.

If I wanted to pay 50 cents for my wife’s teh-o, it seemed my only options were to go to another NTUC Foodfare or Kopitiam, or get someone else to order for me using my NTUC card (since they didn’t check who the card belonged to), or wait for the drink stall staff to change shift.

Or pay full price, which was, of course, unthinkable.

That’s like 40 cents more!

I looked around the coffee shop and considered asking a stranger to order the teh-o for me, but my skin wasn’t “gau” enough.

I was about to head home teh-o-less, but the fear of disappointing my wife made me turn around and accept the unthinkable – I would pay the full price of 90 cents for her drink.

The drinks auntie sighed when she saw me again. Half exasperated and half taking pity on me, she charged me 50 cents for the teh-o and said she wasn’t supposed to do this.

I smiled at her like I never smiled at anyone before.

Never mind the Avengers – she’s my hero.

But still confounded by the “one cup per card” rule, I looked it up online and found an April 25 Straits Times report that said:
“There is no limit to the number of cups of discounted kopi, kopi-o, kopi-c, teh, teh-o and teh-c - including sugarless varieties – customers can order in one day. They can order one discounted drink for each card presented at the counter and have to queue again to order each subsequent cup.”
Which contradicts what the drinks auntie told me.

Was my hero mistaken or should ST be prosecuted under the new Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act?

But even if ST is right, it seems kind of silly to force people to queue up each time for a 50-cent beverage.

What if there’s no queue? Can I just order multiple 50-cent cups? Or must I go through the motion of ordering one at a time?

And why was it different for the first few days of the month?

It appears NTUC hasn’t quite thought this through.

Oh yah, and do I need to bring my Thanos mask?

The things I do to save 40 cents.

- Published in The New Paper, 13 May 2019

Good morning,

Thanks for the article in The New Paper this morning.

The discount is not applicable in NTUC hawker in Kampung Admiralty. I was really surprised as this location is specially opened by Mr Lee Hsien Loong. Kampung Admiralty, an integrated housing estate for senior citizens, is considered a model for future public housing.

The mixed vegetables rice prices in most NTUC food court has special concessions for senior citizens, student and NTUC union members. But it's also not applicable in Kampung Admiralty. Example: Khoo Teck Phuat Hospital food court and NTUC coffeeshop in Blk 361 Sembawang crescent.

NTUC privilege is not align and it's really confusing to consumers.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Thank you,

Hello S Mong

I read with amusement, your article in TNP today. I have not tried purchasing the 50 cents kopi but another deal caught my attention - free ferry ticket to batam (need to pay $20 for fees and surcharges). I am planning to make good use of it this long weekend for my family but now i am not sure if i can buy their tickets too.

Perhaps it's not about the organiser not thinking through all possibilities, but really Singaporeans are always very creative in finding loop holes or getting around the rules. You have pointed out a few in the article. Another good example is the recent HPB QR code incident. Some Singaporeans see the goodwill perks/deals as an entitlement and demanded beyond what is logical, causing happiness and ranting.

I guess if i can get discounted ferry tickets for my family, that would be great but if i can't, then at least i have some savings on my ticket.

When we show gratitude for the little things in life, we can lead happier lives.

UPDATE: NTUC Enterprise responds: 'We apologise for the confusion'

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Safety advisory sent to NUS students: Female resident was filmed in bathroom at Raffles Hall

So my daughter, a National University of Singapore student, just received another e-mail from the school:
From: Office of Campus Security
Sent: Saturday, May 11, 2019 7:13:48 PM

Dear NUS Student

Safety advisory from NUS Campus Security

This morning, the Office of Campus Security (OCS) was alerted to an incident in which a female resident was filmed in one of the bathrooms at Raffles Hall. The matter has been reported to the police and we are assisting in their investigation.

The University is providing the female student with dedicated support and assistance.

Since April, the University has been enhancing security on our campuses through the introduction of enhanced CCTV coverage, secure shower cubicles, restroom locks and increased patrols by campus security officers.

All of these measures are in the midst of being implemented at Raffles Hall, including the secure shower cubicles which will be installed in the coming weeks. One of the newly installed CCTV cameras at the hall had enabled us to capture footage of the male suspect, who has been apprehended by the police for further investigation.

Your safety is important to us. While NUS accelerates the implementation of these security enhancements, we urge all students and staff to remain vigilant, and to immediately report any suspicious activity to OCS at our 24-hour hotline: 6874 1616 and email:

Let's work together to keep our campuses safe for everyone.

Thank you.

Keith It
Office of Campus Security

This is getting out of hand.

EARLIER: After Monica Baey: My daughter is in NUS, should I be worried?

Monday, 29 April 2019

After Monica Baey: My daughter is in NUS, should I be worried?

My daughter, a first-year National University of Singapore (NUS) student, once told me a joke:

What do NUS and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) students have in common?

Answer: They all applied to NUS.

I think she read it in NUSWhispers.

After last week, there is another answer: They may be secretly filmed showering on campus.

Singapore Management University doesn’t look so bad now.

Last week, besides Avengers: Endgame spoilers, all anyone could talk about was NUS student Monica Baey.

She posted an Instagram Story about catching another student filming her in the shower, which resulted in Facebook posts by two ministers and a disappointing NUS town hall meeting on Thursday.

We also learnt that 26 sexual offence cases (update: police say 25) had been brought before the NUS disciplinary board over the past three years. That works out to be approximately one sexual offence every six weeks (even if it was 25 cases over three years).

NTU: “Hold my beer.”

Also last week, two cases of an NTU student being filmed in the shower were reported within days of each other.

And all these are just incidents that have been reported. There could be more perpetrators who were not caught.

Who knew local university campuses are such popular locations for illicit amateur voyeur porn production?

I certainly didn’t read about it in the university prospectuses when my daughter and I were deciding which school to apply to after she got her A-level results last year.

There is apparently no global ranking of universities based on the number of perverts matriculating in the school.

By the way, it’s not true that matriculation causes blindness.

In any case, a bigger factor in picking a university is the school’s remoteness from civilisation, which was why NTU wasn’t our first choice.

After all, we chose NUS even though we were aware of the sexualised freshmen orientation games scandal of 2016.

That was when then Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung felt it was necessary to point out on Facebook that “pretending to ejaculate into the face of a fellow student” is a “reprehensible act that cannot be tolerated”.

I’m happy (and relieved) to report that my daughter attended an NUS freshmen orientation camp last year and did not witness anyone pretending to ejaculate into anyone’s face or she would have told me.

However, in the wake of the Monica Baey revelations, my daughter received a series of e-mails from NUS last week that were more concerning than reassuring.

The first was an April 21 e-mail from the NUS Students’ Union Exco, saying that sexual harassment “is a serious community problem” and victims should report such matters to the school. The Exco added that if victims are told not to report, they should report that too.

Later that day, the Dean of Students sent an e-mail about how NUS “does not tolerate sexual misconduct” and that a committee will be convened “to review the current student disciplinary and support frameworks”.

Then on Friday after the town hall, the Students’ Union Exco sent an e-mail to express “extreme” disappointment in how the town hall was run.

Later that day, the NUS Provost sent an e-mail regarding the town hall to “acknowledge that there was some disappointment”, which makes you wonder, if NUS couldn’t even organise a town hall competently, how is it going to do all the things it said it was going to do?

And it isn’t like the university doesn’t have enough problems. Earlier this month, it was reported that NUS and the Singapore Food Agency are investigating after two outbreaks of food poisoning on campus.

So not only does my daughter have to watch out for the perverts in NUS, she has to be careful of the food too?

Academics, schmacademics.

Just three more years to go.




I must make sure she never takes a shower in school.

- Published in The New Paper, 29 April 2019

Friday, 26 April 2019

Sent to NUS students: [NUSSU EXCO] Statement on NUS Town Hall

So my daughter, an NUS student, received another e-mail from the students' union this afternoon:

Dear Students,

NUSSU EXCO would like to thank all the students who attended and participated in the town hall organised by NUS on Thursday, 25th April 2019. While we appreciate that the University promptly responded to the students’ call for a town hall, we are extremely disappointed in the way the meeting was run.

  • We regret that the town hall was planned in a manner that did not allow for an extension. The town hall should have been the administration’s top priority in light of the various concerns raised by the students over the past week. This was also a huge letdown for students who cleared their schedules prior to finals but were unable to voice their concerns.
  • NUSSU EXCO is disheartened to observe that the panelists were unable to answer students’ questions adequately as they are not on the Review Committee and therefore could not make any commitment on their behalf.
  • Furthermore, the town hall did not meet its original intentions of sharing its investigative and disciplinary procedures and the sanctions framework for sexual misconduct.
  • Despite the aforementioned concerns, we welcome the NUS administration’s plans to establish a centralised victim support unit and improve security infrastructure in halls and residential colleges.
  • We also appreciate the University for following through on our suggestions to enforce anonymity and include counsellors on standby.
  • Moving forward, we have submitted two requests formally to the NUS President, Prof Tan Eng Chye. The first is to increase the diversity and quantity of student representation in the Review Committee. The second is to convene another town hall with members of the Review Committee on the panel as part of their report crafting methodology. This is to ensure that students can receive committal answers from individuals who have decision-making power in the committee, and that their voices are heard.
  • Last but not least, we applaud the students who mustered the courage to share with the NUS administration their experiences and feedback with the purpose of creating a safer and more empowering environment for all.
  • The notes of the town hall and the remaining unasked questions can be found at We have forwarded them to and we encourage students to submit their concerns, queries and feedback to the aforementioned email address. Students who wish to reach out to NUSSU EXCO can contact us at

It's also posted on the NUSSU Facebook page:

Later that night, my daughter received this e-mail from the NUS Provost:

Dear Students,

Yesterday afternoon, the Office of Student Affairs and NUSSU held a town hall to discuss how we can improve campus safety and offer better support to victims of sexual misconduct. I would like to thank those who attended and contributed.

I acknowledge that there was some disappointment that the session could not be extended to allow more of you to speak. After the session, NUSSU collated the remaining questions and submitted them to, the e-mail address we created to hear from you directly. I assure you that your comments and questions will be carefully reviewed and considered.

The town hall is just the first step in a broad consultation with the NUS community to hear from our students, faculty and staff. We are committed to providing further opportunities for consultation and feedback in the coming weeks, including more town hall sessions.

As you may know, the NUS Board of Trustees has convened a review committee on sexual misconduct. The points raised at the town hall will be shared in full with the committee, in addition to any submissions sent to

I would like to state emphatically that we take our responsibilities very seriously when it comes to protecting everyone in our community from harm. We hear your forceful voices on the need to strengthen our disciplinary framework, to improve victim care support and physical safety, and to redouble our efforts to create a culture that allows everyone to feel safe on campus.

As immediate actions, the University will:

  1. Establish a dedicated office where victims of sexual misconduct can receive specialised, professional support and care. This office will support victims from the point they make a report, and ensure privacy and sensitivity in handling their cases. It will also have counsellors to provide aftercare support and address other concerns and needs that victims may have. This office will be in place before the start of the new academic year.
  2. Accelerate the enhancement of physical security on campus, including broader CCTV coverage, more security staff and better sexual misconduct-specific training for security staff.
  3. Work with student representatives to implement heightened security and privacy tools in bathrooms in all student residences.
  4. Deliver educational seminars on respect, consent and awareness for all students, faculty and staff from the start of the new academic year.

We are committed to a transparent and consultative process, and our proposed actions will continue to be published for your feedback before they are implemented by the start of the new academic year.

Please do reach out to, with your suggestions and feedback.

Thank you for taking the time to voice your concerns. I assure you that we are listening.

Professor Ho Teck Hua

EARLIER: Sent to NUS students: [NUSSU EXCO] Statement on Sexual Harassment in NUS