Tuesday, December 20, 2011

MRT BREAKDOWNS: More concern, please

Raymond's letter is published in The New Paper today, Tuesday 20 December 2011, page 18.  Several other upset Singaporeans have also expressed their views on this matter.

The chaos was scary.  Passengers who were trapped must have been filled with anxiety, and several had breathing problems. 

Imagine how worried their family members must have been?

The train operators need to show more concern for their passengers.

I saw a video recently of a lady who suffers from motion sickness who was fined $30 by an MRT officer for eating a sweet.  The officer refused to accept her explanation. Giddiness can cause a person to collapse, so some flexibility is needed in such situations.

Diabetics, for instance, can collapse if their sugar levels fall too low and may urgently need a drink or sweet.

Those who depend on public transport are rightfully upset over the service disruptions coming so soon after the taxi fare increases.

Now we are left wondering if we should carry a torchlight when travelling on the MRT.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

“Staying committed in a marriage”

“What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined together to strengthen each other in all labour, to minister to each other in all sorrow, to share with each other in all gladness, to be one with each other in the silent unspoken memories?”
- George Eliot (
Mary Anne (Mary Ann, Marian) Evans,

English novelist & journalist -


                    Some friends who read my novel - “Loving a schizophrenic”, teased me into writing a book on how men could woo women.  Others, especially the bachelor boys, who know of my blissful union with my wife, Doris for more than 3 decades, joked that as a committed husband, I was “spoiling the market.”

 At first, I did not take them seriously. Then after reading many reports in the newspapers of how relationships have turned sour and even ugly, with some going to court, I decided to take up the challenge and share secrets on my successful married life in a book on marriage.  Aptly titled, “You by my side - How to stay committed in a marriage and how to value relationships", this book is a must -read not only for married couples but also for anyone who values human relationships.

               I am also concerned that our divorce rates are going up - from 6,904 in 2005 to 7,405 in 2010. 

              Mid-life crisis and Infidelity

             Loneliness, affirmation from another woman or man, and not getting enough attention from a spouse are contributing to sex outside marriage.

A friend of mine told me that every seven years our habits and lifestyle changes.  This is true.  For example, when you are 7 years old, you may craze about collecting dinky toys or wanting to read comic books.  When you reach the age of 14, you may want to start going to discos.  At 21, you may became very fashion conscious, wanting to purchase the latest designer shirts, and sporting the latest hairstyles.  This 7-year switch affects every one of us. 

             Infidelity has been a major factor in marriage break-ups.  It is estimated that roughly 30 to 60% of all married individuals in the U.S. will engage in infidelity at some point during their marriage. 

Infidelity appears to be spreading, even here in Singapore. 

In The New Paper report- “I can’t stop cheating”, published on Sunday11 December 2011; a married woman going by the name of “Nancy” has been cheating on her husband several times. Her husband, a religious man whose work keeps him busy does not know of her straying ways. Stricken by guilt, she would end the affairs after a short stint.  For Nancy, it’s her lovers that keep her occupied.

A tribute to my beloved wife

I have always wanted to write a book that pays a memorable tribute to my wife. I know that the 6 chronic illnesses that she has to cope with- including the dreaded schizophrenia and arthritis is going to shorten her life.  Just as I have made a lot of sacrifices for Doris, she has done likewise - for over more than 3 decades.  God bless you, Doris for inspiring me to write this book.  

Doris has often asked me this question which sometimes brings tears to my eyes: “Ray, do you think that you would have been better off if you had married someone else, someone who does not have mental illness?”

“Of course not, Doris!  I love you dearly and I accept you for what you are - illness or no illness,” I hug her and give her my assurances.

Patience- a must in a marriage

Patience is crucial in a marriage.  Sometimes, men unintentionally hurt the feelings of their wives by losing patience when they go shopping. Women, being meticulous tend to take extra time and effort to pick out items which they want to buy. But the husband becomes impatient and tends to hurry the wife.

It is believed that men speak 5,000 words a day; women 12,000 words. This is because women are by nature, more expressive, more articulate. But whatever we say, whether on the part of the wife or husband, we must be sensitive to each other’s feelings.  So let’s use words to uplift and bring joy to a partnership, not use words that destroy it. In a marriage, this is so important.

Coping with chronic illnesses

Chronic illnesses can also see couples fall apart when a spouse who could be the primary caregiver, can no longer carry the responsibility of caring for his stricken loved one.  Besides the illness taking a toll on the caregiver, there are also money problems such as mounting medical bills and loss of key social support that can contribute to lower marital satisfaction.   The caregiver must not only slog to bring home the bacon, he must also do all the errands, the housework and whatever is necessary to care for his/her spouse.   It is an enormous burden and often both partners, isolated from the world, take out their frustrations on one another.  And when they can no longer deal with this extremely difficult situation, divorce seems the only solution.

The power of prayer

I have also discussed the power of prayer in my book, for it is through prayer and my faith that I have managed to overcome huge adversities in my life.  Adversities which I will continue to face in my life as my journey in taking care of Doris is going to get tougher and tougher as her advanced arthritis condition continues to deteriorate. 

Any psychiatrist in the world will tell you that if you practise a faith, your journey in caring for a sick relative will become lighter. This brings to mind what took place during the SARS outbreak in 2003 when my wife suffered a serious relapse of her schizophrenia.  Her psychiatrist, advised me to go back to church and to pray because I found that her recovery was slow.  During that time, I had given up on God and refused to go to church. It was only when I faced a crisis that I visited my priest and pleaded for help.  He advised me to return to church and prayed for both Doris & myself.  Indeed, prayer did help, but it was a long haul- 9 months before she fully recovered.  

Excerpt from the Foreword written by my Parish Priest

I have known Raymond Anthony Fernando and his wife, Doris Lau Siew Lang for more than 10 years, and I have always admired how Raymond has stuck by his wife through thick and thin despite the many adversities he faces in caring for her and loving her.  Even though Doris has struggled to cope with schizophrenia for 40 years, and over the last 5 years with advanced arthritis, Raymond has not given up on her - not once.  During their 37 years of marriage, Doris has suffered 12 relapses of her schizophrenia and as a devoted husband; Raymond has always been there to help lift her up during her most depressing moments.   The stress and demands of Raymond's caregiving responsibilities has many a time seen him suffer ‘caregiver burnout’ and the threat of his own health including depression and anxiety is not something to be taken lightly.  Thankfully, this has not in any way discouraged Raymond from fulfilling his duty as a dedicated and committed husband.   He candidly shares with me that he draws his strength from the Lord. 


The important things in a marriage

Marriage means you have allowed almost everything in your life to be shared with one person – your spouse.  This includes problems, decisions, joy, sorrow, and any amount of freedom you enjoy.  In a nutshell, a marriage means dividing the responsibilities and even the burden by two.

What is important in any marriage is the little things that couples neglect to do - like keeping in touch through the phone, sending emails when the couples are working overseas, etc.  During the period when we were both gainfully employed, Doris and I would keep in touch with each other through the telephone during the lunch hour.  Those phone calls, even if it was to chat for a few minutes, kept us closer together.  My wife still keeps in touch with me on the handphone when I am engaged in some part-time work or going about doing some errands.   Staying connected helps to keep the love burning bright. 

Love and sacrifices 

Doris is heavily dependent on me to provide her with unwavering emotional support that is vital in helping her to overcome illnesses, loneliness and adversities in her difficult life.  There are many occasions when I am out of the house; at times for just an  hour, and she would call me on the handphone and draw out her pent-up emotions: “Ray, I miss you, what time are you coming back, darling?”  And when I return home, she will hug me, saying: “I feel so safe in your arms, dear.”  So when one is caring for a loved one stricken with so many chronic illnesses, there is a dire need to make sacrifices.  This is why although I have skipped many social outings; I do not mind sacrificing my social life because Doris is more important to me than anything or anyone in this world. 

Coping with loss

Coping with the loss of a loved one is never easy.  What would Doris and I say to each other before we draw our last breath?  Generally, people do not like to talk about death.  Like mental illness, it is a taboo subject. “Let's not discuss it, let's avoid the subject,” many people would say.  Doris sees me as the most important person in her life.  She cherishes me as her soul mate, her whole world, someone whom she depends upon and relies on for most, if not her entire adult life.  But death is a destination that we all share and we can never escape from it. 


Although my wife's arthritis condition continues to deteriorate and will inevitably challenge her resolve, Doris still remains happy, optimistic and always positive.  That is because she's got me to care for her.

 Many people have asked my wife this question: “It must be really hard on you and Raymond as you as you struggle to cope with so many health issues. Both your crosses are very heavy. How do you, cope, Doris?”  

"The one thing that has kept me going despite my turbulent health is, love - the love that my soul mate and husband Raymond has, and always showers upon me.  It is with his love that I challenge all odds of my arthritis and schizophrenia conditions - and I will conquer all adversities with You by my Side... Ray,” Doris smiles and declares stoically. (* This is the concluding statement in my book). 

I ‘d like to end of this write-up , in typical style, with a poem- one that is intended to uplift my wife should I pass on before her.

Poem:  “Memories are made of this”

A tribute to my lovely wife, Doris Lau

My Dearest Doris,

You need not worry

For my novel told of our story

Which many regard as one of the finest ever told

It was about you, Doris

My beloved wife

Who has a heart of gold

Movies that we watched together in the cinema

In our room, gazing at the shooting star

In the hall, listening to music on the radio

Dancing cheek to cheek as love flows

Decorating the Christmas tree in December

These are fond memories that we can always remember 

The fragrance of your soft hair

The sacrifices that you gave

With so much love and tender care

The poems that I wrote for you

My undying affection for you that I so often declare

The songs that I wrote for you

Lifted you up when you were feeling blue

I’m sure when anyone of us goes to a better place

With angels and the Lord in all His Grace

We can live in the beautiful memories that we once shared

And when we reminisce, you will not be so sad, but glad

I want you to know that memories are made of this

Can be much more, for there are so many on the list

For anytime we are apart

I can feel you so close

Deep in my heart

The fond memories will always last

These are beautiful memories I cherish

And my love for you, Doris will never diminish


Raymond Anthony Fernando

© copyrightraymondfernandoDec2011

Raymond’s book on marriage is expected to be out at the end of December 2011 or even earlier. There are some excerpts from his book that are used in this article. The book, running into more than 130 pages with 18 chapters, excluding mailing charges cost $16. If anyone wants to purchase this book, do drop me an email (rafcutie@singnet.com.sg ) with your contact details and I will arrange to mail the book to you. A postage fee of $2 per book will be charged to cover mailing costs if the reader request for the book to be mailed to him/her. 

Website of Raymond Anthony Fernando

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Welfare for taxi drivers, no welfare for needy Singaporeans

ComfortDelGRo- a government linked company has announced that it will revise taxi fares effective 12 December 2011. The changes involve:

Basic fares: Flagdown fares will go up by 20 cents for most taxis. Meter fares will go up by two cents per fare band, over a slightly longer distance.

Peak hour surcharge: The peak period will be lengthened in the morning from 6am to 9.30am from the earlier one – 7am to 9.30am. Evening peak hour surcharges will now also apply on Sundays and all public holidays. It will run from 6pm to midnight, compared to 5pm to 8pm from Monday to Saturday at present.

The peak hour charges will be reduced from 35% to 25%.

 City surcharge: The current $3 city surcharge from 5pm to midnight will      apply on Sundays and public holidays as well.

Call cab booking fees: Those booking a taxi in advance will be required to pay much more - $8 compared to the current one of $5.20.

These taxi fare adjustment, according to the National Taxi Association (NTA) President Wee Boon Kim is aimed at improving the take-home income for taxi drivers and their families.

Really, Mr Wee Boon Kim?

But has the NTA ever considered what these increased taxi fares will mean for needy Singaporeans such as those with mobility problems, the disabled, the elderly sick, those with special needs and others who for one reason or the other cannot take the MRT or the buses? 

Has the NTA taken into account that many of those who are sick are asked to see specialists at public hospitals and polyclinics during these peak hour periods because they are “not allowed” to choose their time slots to see the doctors.

Has the NTA considered that by imposing these excessive charges, they are depriving families from meeting up with one another during the weekends or public holidays because given the hectic pace of the Singapore lifestyle, many Singaporeans can only meet up during weekends/public holidays?

Has the NTA considered that with these taxi fares increases, companies & agencies that allow for taxi claims, will incur higher operating costs?

City Cab and Comfordelgro taxi drivers have told me that for the first 7 hours that they drive the taxi, all their earnings go straight to the taxi companies. Many lament to me that if the taxi rental charges are reduced, taxi drivers can earn more, have sufficient rest and be motivated to drive. Why is it that the taxi companies do not want to consider this route?  All they are concerned about in reaping in BIG profits, and they have been doing that.  If the NTA is so concerned about the welfare of taxi drivers, why aren’t they considering reducing the taxi rental charges for their staff?

I, like many Singaporeans, would like to know who owns the taxi companies. Name the key shareholders.

Last Sunday, 27th November 2011, at my church, the priest mentioned that with the coming of Advent, we need to reach out to those who are isolated and lonely.  He mentioned that in a housing estate, an elderly lady wanted so badly to go to hospital because she was sick, but none of the neighbours wanted to help. Finally a catholic who saw what took place decided to call an ambulance and she was sent to hospital for treatment. 

The priest also mentioned that he has seen many of our elderly folks sitting in coffee shops all alone.  He said that they are lonely and have no one to care for them.  He called on the congregation to reach out to them- even if it was to simply chat with them. Social interaction that includes outings for the elderly is vital for their well being? But with these exorbitant taxi charges, NTA would be indirectly depriving the elderly of the much-needed social and recreational needs.

Is Comfortdelgro doing its part as a corporate citizen?

Singapore is becoming unbearable to live in. Escalating costs in Singapore is causing many to fall into depression and divorce cases are on the rise- often over money issues.   Despite assurances by the government that it will listen to feedback, the voices of those in need go unheard.

The proposed hikes by Comfort Delgro allows for taxi drivers to earn more.  But it places a heavy financial burden on the immobile, the disabled and our elderly poor citizens who are heavily dependent on taxis for their medical appointments and other social needs that is so important to their well-being. Many in this group are retired, have little savings and are struggling to cope with health and money issues. 

Earlier this year, despite so many appeals from the public not to increase fares on the MRT and buses, the public transport council went ahead and raised the fares. 

Now we see yet another fare hike. And it is always the same old excuse - rapidly rising operating costs, especially diesel prices. 

My wife who has mobility issues because of her advanced arthritis conditions and other health issues has an average of 8-9 medical appointments in a month. Based on the current taxi fare charges, I would have to spend about $160 to 180 per month, and mind you, I don’t have a full-time job.  There is little or no consideration for the sick and those with special needs. These revised taxi charges are going to dip a deeper hole in my pocket.

Often, to avoid paying the peak hour charges, which current kicks off at 7am in the morning, my wife and I have to leave the house at 6am for her medical appointments at public hospitals. She is on heavy tranquilizers to mange her schizophrenia and depression.

This total lack of consideration for the sick, especially those who are marginalized clearly demonstrates how money has become the “do all and end all.” On top of that, you leave those who are neglected in society to feel that Singapore is not the best home to live in.

In closing, I leave you with this letter which I wrote to the press in August this year. This letter and more than a hundred letters that I wrote to the press over 6 years, pleading for support for the mentally ill and the needy, has gone unanswered. Tells a story, doesn’t it?

Letter to The New Paper: Better subsidy for the disabled, please

My letter on the above matter is published in The New Paper today, Friday 5 August 2011.

Going by what has been aired in the media – online, the airwaves and in print, there is clearly much unhappiness about the impending fare hike in public transport fares.

People with disabilities face huge roadblocks in their lives and the lack of support makes it difficult for these marginalised citizens to move on in life.

Family members who are the backbone for such needy citizens could certainly do with financial support, improved access to support and services in their communities.

I am disappointed that the National Council of Social Services' taxi subsidies for disabled people apply only to the trips made in work or school.

Why are subsidies not extended for trips to hospitals and clinics? Perhaps, even to recreational trips which are crucial in helping the disabled reintegrate into society?

For people who have to make many trips to various clinics and hospitals, like my wife, cab fare can be about $160 per month, not counting peak-hour surcharges.

I hope the Government can look into this area. If Singapore is moving towards becoming an inclusive society, it is only logical to show compassion, understanding and support for these needy citizens.


Raymond Anthony Fernando, a part-time writer and motivational speaker, writes on social issues and mental health matters. He runs a website at: www.rayofhope.per.sg/
Check out my latest radio interview on 938 LIVE- Here on podcast: