Wednesday, February 7, 2018

It is a Celebration - A Lunar New Year Special




There are many traditional festivals celebrated by different dialect groups within the Chinese community. These include: The Lantern Festival, the Qingming Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival, the Moon Cake Festival, the Bak Chang or Rice Festival and the Spring Festival.


The Spring Festival otherwise known as the Lunar New Year is the grandest and most popular of all these festivals. It is celebrated for 15 days. Each year is related to a Chinese zodiac animal, and this year it’s the dog.


To many pet lovers this animal is man’s best friend. Thus, I am confident that in 2018, friendships and relationships will be further strengthened with new-found friends helping to forge a much wider community outreach.


The run-up to the Lunar New Year


During the run-up to the Lunar New Year, homes celebrating the Lunar New Year will be bustling with activity – spring cleaning, getting rid of unnecessary items and making various types of cookies.


There were many moments in my late wife’s (Doris) growing up years when doing things with her mother whom Doris had a special bond with, was so delightful. Moments when they were baking Chinese New Year cookies and snacks for the joyful and colorful festival.

 

It was always a fun time for Doris cracking and beating the eggs, spooning the flour and adding sugar to help her mother make some of her mouth-watering cookies. Doris and her eldest sister were really good at making love letters, kueh bahulu, bangkit cookies and pineapple tarts.


I recall during our courtship days how her late mother would smile away as Doris waited impatiently for the cookies and pineapple tarts to cool down. Pineapple tarts and love letters were Doris’ best -loved Chinese New Year snacks.


I learnt so much about the Chinese traditions during my frequent dates with Doris. The other plus was that our different cultures forged a unique bond.


According to Doris, for the Chinese, it is a tradition to thoroughly clean their homes to “sweep away” any ill fortune so as to make way for good luck.

“No one must sweep the house on the first day of the Lunar New Year because by doing so, you’ll be sweeping away good luck,” her father who was born in China cautioned his children. Being a traditional Chinese, he followed the Chinese customs faithfully.

 

In the spirit of family unity, Doris’ parents taught their children to love and serve one another. Everyone in the family would buy new clothes for use during this grand festival. New clothes are worn to signify the start of a brand-new year.


Her mother would bring Doris to Chinatown as the atmosphere there was electrifying!

Chinatown, a big tourist attraction, is always bustling with activity, but it will be ten times busier during the Lunar New Year season. The colourful lights, hanging red lanterns and all sorts of decorations would go up weeks before the Lunar New Year, with the climax of festivities going full swing on the eve of the big day.


The lively atmosphere that Chinatown offers – even in those early days, will get everyone in the mood to ring in this unique festival. There will be lion dancers; fire eaters and female dance troupes armed with giant paper fans and intricately patterned umbrellas delighting everyone with their splendid performances.


Food, food, glorious food


On the eve of the Lunar New Year, the whole family gathered around the dining table for the traditional, “Family Reunion Dinner.” Doris’ dad and mom would give separate Ang Pows* (*red packets filled with money) to the unmarried children in the family. The Ang Pow is supposed to bring good fortune throughout the year.


Her mother would then prepare a sumptuous spread that included chicken, prawns, fish, salted vegetable soup cooked with duck, ngo hiang and fried vegetables. Although making ngo hiang is rather tedious and time consuming due to the varieties of ingredients used, her mother loved making this Teochew specialty dish because she knew her children all craved for it.


Nian gao, a sticky rice pudding cake (dark brown in colour) is also given to people to help them "advance toward higher positions and prosperity step by step." Throughout our marriage, Doris will ‘insist’ I consume a piece of this cake during the Lunar New Year, although I didn’t quite like its taste. But I still ate it –anything to please my lovely wife.


After tucking in all the delicious dishes, the whole family got ready to welcomethe God of Fortune – staying late throughout the night, playing fire crackers and snacking on a variety of tidbits and cookies.


The relationship between myself and her parents blossomed after they discovered I did not neglect caring and loving Doris during periods when she suffered relapses of her mental illness. I was treated like a VIP during the Lunar New reunion dinner with her mother taking pains to make Sambal Balacan for me as she knew I am a ‘Chilli King.’

 

Let’s keep the traditions alive and in typical Chinese language, I wish one and all “Xin Nian Kuai Le.”



Raymond Anthony Fernando



Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Implement civil forfeiture laws to seize back money and assets obtained through criminal breach of trust (CBT): A public suggestion to the Law Ministry and the Singapore Government




Like many Singaporeans, I too was upset that City Harvest Church (CHC) got a light sentence for the millions which they have obtained improperly. 

However, it heartening to know that the Law Minister, Mr Shanmugam is taking concreate measures to ensure that legislation will provide for higher penalties for directors and other senior officers who commit criminal breach of trust

Although there has been much disquiet over the CHC case, I agree wholeheartedly with Mr Shanmugam that the ruling on the Apex court’s decision has to be respected and that there should be no personal attacks on the judges and the defence counsel (“Govt disagrees with court decision on City Harvest case, will amend CBT law: Shanmugam, 5 Feb, Today newspaper)  

Possibly, most people are upset because after Pastor Kong Hee and the five others who abused the trust given to them serve their sentences, they will be able to enjoy the money they took improperly and have luxurious homes to live in.

 

There are thousands of Singaporeans, mainly the marginalised who are struggling with daily living and the high cost of medical expenses.

 

Perhaps as a strong deterrent to prevent others from siphoning money, it would be timely for the law ministry to implement civil forfeiture laws whereby upon conviction, the authorities can seize the assets and money obtained through CBT.

 

Thus, the next step is for the government to study and consider whether the monies /assets obtained by CHC or anyone in the future who obtains money through improper means can be placed in a state general fund.  Through this state general fund, financial support could be offered to some of our needy Singaporeans and the voluntary welfare organisations who are in dire need of funds to carry out their various programmes and to support their clients.

 

It’s somewhat of a bold suggestion, but worth considering.

 

 

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO  

 

 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Love Story: Giving unconditional love even after wife passes away battling schizophrenia


Folks,

Do find time to read my love story and my caregiving journey 4 times over here on the STOMP Valentine’s Day Contest 2018. I celebrate my 68th birthday next month – on Valentine’s Day😊

Love Story: Giving unconditional love even after wife passes away battling schizophrenia

It's not easy to lose someone you love, but it is even harder to solider on and continue showing love to others.


67-year-old Raymond Anthony Fernando had to fill many hats and take on multiple caregiver roles ever since his wife had passed away.


He had loved and taken care of his wife, Doris Lau, who battled schizophrenia for four decades before passing on.


Despite this, he had to still on three other caregiving roles for his relatives, including his late sister Veronica who battle depression before her untimely passing in January of last year.


He said, " I am now simultaneously taking care and providing unconditional love to my twin brother Roy Peter who has to cope with depression and has severe mobility problems as well as my 95-year-old mother who resides in a nursing home, just like my twin brother."


"One thing I have learnt through the caregiving journeys is that when we give that much-needed support, love and care to another human being, the smiles on the care recipients is a joy that is indescribable," added Raymond.


To Raymond, he calls children "the biggest adventure on Earth".


His late wife and him had adored children and although they did not have any children of his own, it did not stop them from loving other parents' kids.


Raymond said:

"Doris and I played babysitter to Celia Chua (now 12 years-old) when she was born for a one-year period and we continued to give love and care to children of our friends. Kids are so adorable and just like pets are non-judgmental; they just know how to shower us with love.


"And when you are able to give love to children, they will come to you naturally."

To Raymond, providing unconditional love also means reaching out to the less fortunate in society, abandoned children, persons struggling with mental health issues and the elderly sick,


"I have always believed that when we have skills that can benefit society, share it. So, having gained much from taking care of my late wife who recovered from schizophrenia, I go all over Singapore conducting motivational talks on how to manage mental illness," said Raymond.


He intends to visit some of our ASEAN neighbours in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia to educate its citizens on schizophrenia and depression.  


He also plans to visit an orphanage in the Philippines to spend some time teaching English to the kids there as education is so important for children.


A recent video produced by a good friend of his – Fauzi, provides insightful peeks into his life as he celebrates my 68th birthday on 14th February 2018.

Poem: Across the bridge

 

My Dearest Doris,

 

40 years ago, I took you as my bride 

I have enjoyed looking after you – with much pride

I have always been by your side

In good times, and in bad

In happy times, and moments when you were sad

 

Your six chronic illnesses made you struggle through the years

You had so much fears and shed lots of tears

There were periods when you cried out – defeat

But I helped lift you up, even though it was no easy feat

 

Just when together, we won the battle with your schizophrenia

You lost out to the deadly pneumonia

You left me so suddenly, for death came furious and fast

But my undying love for you, Doris will forever last

 

Across the bridge, there will be sunshine and happiness

Across the bridge, my love for you will forever come first

In our home, I’ll treasure what you found comfort in – soft toy cute bears

Remember my family and close friends for you, we still care

I pledge to love you more and more each day, Doris

And that in every sense of the word is a documented promise

Where you are, my love, watch over me, as in my heart, in our home

You will always stay; you will always have a place

This Valentine’s Day as with many others

You are pictured in my mind, with so much grace

 

With all my love,

Ray

 


 

Footnote: There are a total of 11 photographs that accompanies my article

 

 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Raymond A Fernando’s press letter to The Sunday Times: Empower IMH to do more for mentally ill residents


Dear all,

Do find time from your busy schedule to read my press letter, but first let me raise some relevant points.

 

Mental illness is spreading – far and wide. In Malaysia, there are less than 400 psychiatrists to treat 4 million psychiatric patients. In the Philippines, a Senator there revealed that in 2015, everyday 7 Filipinos commit suicide. In Indonesia too, there are so many citizens suffering from mental illness and due to ignorance, some of their mentally ill citizens are caged up.  I intend to visit these ASEAN countries to  educate their citizens and the authorities on schizophrenia and depression.  

 

God has given me this mission to fulfil (Be of service to mankind) so even though I face huge obstacles in wanting to educate as many people as I can, I just can’t sit there and do nothing.

 

I tried very hard to educate the residents island-wide through the 5 Mayors in Singapore on the advice of ESM Goh Chok Tong, but was unsuccessful as none responded.

 

MSF Minister Desmond Lee has called on the public to report cases of abuse when he spoke in Parliament on the cruel treatment of the late Annie Ee. But the reality is that unlike the early years in Singapore, neighbours in the heartlands these days do not mix freely. Added to that no one wants to get involved with mental patients as they are shunned.

 

I urge MSF to work closely with MOH and its partners who include IMH and the VWOs in the mental healthcare industry and the grassroots leaders for the best results. It is far better for the residents to notify the grassroots leaders on abuse cases who should then bring the matter up to their respective MP who can then tie up with the authorities.

 

Raymond A Fernando’s press letter to The Sunday Times: Empower IMH to do more for mentally ill residents

 

My press letter to The Sunday Times on the above matter is published today, Sunday 14th January 2018.

It is perfectly understandable that residents at Block 55, Lorong 5 Toa Payoh are worried about the bizarre behaviour displayed by their neighbour (Woman’s antics spark fear among neighbours; Jan 7).

She has been splashing corrosive liquids, flinging burning items over the parapet and shouting loudly in the mornings.

I believe that the woman has a mental health issue which has gone untreated.

People with severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia mistakenly believe that they have been charmed or possessed.

For those struggling with schizophrenia, religious delusions or intense religious-based irrational thinking may be a component of their symptoms.

The most commonly reported form of hallucination is auditory; involving hearing voices when no one is there.

In order for mental illnesses to be properly managed and controlled, it is vital that early treatment is given. Long delays can only make it more difficult for professionals to stabilise the patient.

The current system does not allow the community psychiatric department of the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) to step in to help if the individual is not a patient of the hospital.

That needs to change, as we are bound to see more cases like the one in Toa Payoh, given our fast ageing population.

It may become necessary for the woman to be given involuntary or assisted treatment, and for IMH to be empowered, under the Mental Capacity Act, to handle such cases.

 

Raymond Anthony Fernando

 


 

For information as well: Trailer: Raymond on podcast gives some insights into his life story.  This is only a trailer; the full podcast will be coming out soon.


 

 

 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Raymond Anthony Fernando's letter to The Catholic News: Reaching out to the elderly sick




My letter to The Catholic News (Singapore) on the above matter, was published this weekend (in advance for 2st January 2018) on page. 

 There have been several reports of seniors dying all alone – both here in Singapore and in Japan in the Straits Times (ST).

That was followed by discussions, both in the media reports as well as in the ST’s Forum page as to whether assisted suicide or euthanasia should be an option given to caregivers of loved ones to end the suffering of their loved ones going through enormous pain from life-threatening illness.

One ST commentary (“A good life to the end, or a quick death” Saturday, December, 2017) mentioned that the Australian state of Victoria recently legalised assisted suicide that permitted a patient with a terminal illness with life expectancy of less than six months to obtain a lethal drug to commit suicide. 

The commentary also cited several other countries like Belgium, Netherlands, Canada, Columbia, Luxembourg and American states such as California, Washington, Vermont and Oregon that have passed laws that allowed assisted suicides.

As a born Catholic, I do not support assisted suicide or euthanasia, but am a firm believer in palliative care and the power of prayer which has been known to create miracles. 

God gave us life, and only God can take life away from us. It is not for man to play God.

Although death is a subject which many feel uncomfortable to talk about– just like mental illness – death is very much a part of living. We all have to accept that.

As Christians, we all understand that life here on earth is only temporary, for the really good life is in heaven and that is why we must follow closely the teachings of Jesu Christ and show kindness and compassion to one another irrespective of our status in society.

When children are born, parents make so much preparations for them, that includes joyful celebrations, setting aside money for their education and even opening up bank accounts for them.

Yet when it comes to the elderly sick, many of whom live all alone, how much support and advance planning do we put in to help them lead more meaningful lives?

So, let’s not avoid discussing about end-life issues, but be open to talk about dying, and how as Christian brothers and sisters, we can rally around one another to provide that ray of light in uncertainties that can come our way.

 

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Singapore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Opinion: Mandatory treatment order fair, good chance for M Ravi to redeem himself




Going to jail can be traumatic. Thus, I am glad that the judge passed down the Mandatory Treatment Order (MOT) in lieu of a prison term to human rights lawyer M Ravi.

It was wise on the part of M Ravi who has bipolar to apologise to the lawyers whom he has abused – physical and emotionally and as long as he complies with the MOT, he has an excellent chance to redeem himself and reintegrate into society

 

Generally, there is a wrong perception that all persons with mental illness are violent and are trouble makers. But this can only happen when they do not seek treatment or have defaulted on their medications and treatment, which includes counselling.

 

But with proper treatment, M Ravi can prove to the world that he can be a useful member of society as he has a brilliant mind and is well respected worldwide for his work as a human rights lawyer.

 

Having a job will enable those grappling with mental health issues to have a meaningful purpose in life, and to this end I am pleased that M Ravi has managed to secure employment with Carson Law Chambers through the support of former National Solidarity Party Secretary General Lim Tean who is also a lawyer.

 

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Opinion: 4th generation leaders must stay connected to the ground to win support: An open proposal to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the cabinet




It is certainly not easy to select the next Prime Minister (PM) from the 4th generation of ministers, and I do agree with Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong that this is an urgent challenge that has to be met.

 

Unlike the first-generation leaders who had to tackle and manage several burning issues such as confrontation, communists, racial riots and union strikes, the present cohorts have not yet been fully tested nor have they experienced hardship.

 

With the immense global challenges and uncertainties that lie ahead, coupled with many social issues which Singapore has to grapple with, it is crucial that our 4th generation leaders make every effort to stay connected to the ground to fully understand valid concerns, anxieties and sentiments from all Singaporeans.  

 

It is not just selecting a new leader to spearhead the team, but what is equally or more important is for the people to be able to relate well to the next PM and his team.

 

Mingling with citizens from all walks of life on a regular basis will pave the way for constructive feedback and a healthy exchange of ideas.  For active citizenry will help the government of the day to resolve problems, sometimes with gems of ideas surfacing. It is a known fact that no government can solve all problems, but with a fair exchange of ideas and suggestions from its citizens, including those from the opposition wards, Singapore has an excellent chance of making our home the best home to live in.

 

Our leaders seem to focus too much on economic growth. While economic growth is important, too fast a growth for a small country like Singapore can soon lead to a saturation point– as history has taught us in the rise and fall of countries.

 

Leaders have to go down to the ground to fully understand the real difficulties people face that includes bread and butter issues and the high cost of living. Politicians meeting residents in their homes should not just be restricted during the run-up to the General Elections, but has to be on-going.  And all ministers and MPs must be approachable and humble and so for their grassroots leaders,

 

I still recall the wisdom of former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong who advised elected PAP MPs to ‘be humble in victory’. 

Let’s take a leaf from some of our ASEAN leaders who, while adopting a non-nonsense attitude, are still able to enjoy tremendous support as they have much love for their citizens and always stay closely connected to the man in the street.

In early January 2016, the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, made a surprise visit to Muar and joined the people there for breakfast at a restaurant where he spent an hour chatting with the people.

With Indonesia having a relatively large and rapidly growing youth population President Widodo has seized the opportunity to reach out to the youth through social media.  Seeing the importance of connecting with his people, the Indonesian President has even enjoyed a lunch with many of them.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte also makes it a point to meet up with his people, both within his country and outside the Philippines.

However, meeting residents should not just be another PR exercise, but it should be a concerted effort to ensure that the needs of the people who elected the MPs are met at all times.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Raymond Anthony Fernando