Monday, April 11, 2016

Celebrating Easter

Whilst everyone in Singapore is enjoying a lazy long weekend, observant Catholics, on the other hand, spend a lot of it in church. Starting with Maundy Thursday, what with the washing of the feet and the holy hour (I skipped it this year), then the Good Friday service (2 hours long) and Easter Vigil (3.5 hours) on Saturday night.  Then we have a big Easter lunch on Easter Sunday to celebrate.  What with cooking and eating (and sleeping off the lunch), that's the whole weekend gone.  And this year, I decided to further eat into my weekend by making Hot Cross Buns on Saturday afternoon (they took me 4.5 hours, including the time for proving and baking, and tidying up).

Hot Cross Buns have always been associated with Easter, what with the symbolism of the cross, the spices in the bun and the bread, to be broken and shared.  But its first mention, according to the BBC no less, was in 1733 in that famous old ditty, "One a penny, two a penny, Hot Cross Buns". Clearly the buns had staying power as they are still around today.

I made my buns from a Paul Hollywood recipe, from his book "How to Bake".  You can however find a similar recipe hereTo be honest, I had tried making them last year but they were not very pretty and looked more like rock buns.  Fortunately, appearances were deceptive as certainly the buns were fluffy and soft on the inside.  My buns still weren't that pretty this year (I decided against the apricot jam glaze) but the cross is nice and clear.  What I like about it - the inclusion of the apple - its tart flavour contrasts with the sweetness of the bun and the dried fruit peel and sultanas.  

I managed to finish the buns just in time for a quick shower and a hurried dinner before rushing to Easter Vigil.  Need to go early, to get a good seat and before the church is plunged into darkness.  

Indeed, it is a special moment, the hush (at least it would be a hush if people weren't still coming into the darkened church and others weren't talking) in the church, just before the start of the Vigil.  Outside, the great fire is being lit, and from the fire, the Pascal candle is lit before being brought into the church.  And from this one candle, all our little candles are lit.  It's really such a beautiful moment, when all the church is slowly coming alight, and each of us contributes to it.  Then, we have the glory of the Exultet (beautifully sung by our MEP priest).

Here at Holy Family, also celebrate the baptism of adults entering the church.  And we get another round of candle lighting as the newly baptised too get their own candles.  It's a joyous moment, alleluia.

P.S.  Yes, I'm late with this post.  Easter Sunday was on 27th March 2016, some two weeks ago.  I've been busy!  

Saturday, March 19, 2016

St Joseph's Church - the Portuguese Mission at Victoria Street

St Joseph's Church
St Joseph's Church at Victoria Street has played a rather unique role in the history of the Catholic Church in Singapore.  For many years, it was known as the "Portuguese Mission", where the Portuguese missionaries (headquartered then in Macau) had their base.  It served the "Portuguese" community - or the Eurasians of Portuguese origin in Singapore.  My friend and her family, for example, used to go there every Sunday for mass.  Not me and mine, though.  Being more of Scots origin, we did not have this tradition and so, as good Katong-ites, we went to Holy Family.

This being the season of Lent, Catholics normally go for Confession and the various parishes in Singapore will hold Penitential services to facilitate individual confessions for those who seek it.  I managed to miss the two sessions in the two churches nearest my home.  So I checked up the dates for the other sessions and noticed that the St Joseph's session was rather conveniently timed.  So, I decided that it was about time I stopped being so parochial about going to my home parish and instead take a trip to Waterloo Street and go to one of Singapore's historical churches for a change.
The Roll of Missionaries

I'd been to the church most recently about a year previously, soon after the famed stained glass windows were restored, and spent a quiet hour there, praying and (ahem) taking photos.  The old high alter, the ornate carved lectern, the statues of the saints around the church, old wooden pews, the tiled floor, the high vaulted ceiling - it is truly a beautiful, historical church reminiscent of European Churches.  A plaque near the entrance lists all the priests who have served in this community church, starting from Fr Francisco Maia in 1825, just 6 years after Sir Stamford Raffles founded modern Singapore.

But the windows were truly breath-taking, with their beautiful jewel colours, the workmanship and artistry which just shone through, inspired a feeling of awe within me.  

But when I went there for the Penitential service, it was night and so there was no light streaming through the stained glass, the statues of the saints were all shrouded in purple cloth.  I had therefore no distractions as I examined my conscience and prepared for Confession.

St Joseph's Church was completed in 1912, replacing an older building on the site.  It has been gazetted as a National Monument and as such, the National Library website has a most informative page  on it.  But to really experience the beauty, and rich history of this church, only a visit will serve.  

Baptism of Jesus

Stained Glass Window above the Altar

It's almost Easter!  So to all Catholics, may you have a holy Holy Week ahead!  Happy Easter!

(Note: St Joseph's church is the only one in Singapore which has a Latin Mass, every Sunday at 3pm. It's on my to-do list, so maybe another post is in the wings. :-) )

Monday, March 07, 2016

Almost there, after six years

I have been deliberately holding back this post, so that I could unveil in its full glory the one shoe I have finally completed!  After all, this is the sixth year I have been working on this one project.... .... If anything, I should get an award for perseverance ....

Of course it would have been wonderful if I could have unveiled two completed shoes, but unfortunately didn't quite make the time to finish it over the usually quite productive December period.  

Anyway, here are a few shots of the critical last stages of the left shoe:

One corner done

Sewing the last few beads on the other corner

And that's the whole shoe finished! 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Old Bibik's Restaurant

It is a precarious business, reviewing restaurants.  The Singapore F&B scene is a highly competitive one and I have to admit that many of the restaurants covered in this blog have since closed.

But I do think that when I come across a nice restaurant, it is good to share the news.  It is in that spirit that I now embark upon this review of "Old Bibik's Restaurant".

Old Bibik's was formerly in the Lavender Street food market before the market was closed, and has now relocated to the MDIS building at 190 Changi Road  Famed for its rendang, the restaurant offers a range of nonya dishes and there's a handy list of one-dish meals which are good for take-aways.

We went there for lunch one Sunday afternoon - ate their famous rendang which indeed was tender and flavourful.  I really enjoyed the fried chicken wings - well fried, savoury.  Their "soy chendol" dessert, made up of a tau huay pudding-style base with the red beans and little green chendol "worms" on top, is also light and refreshing.    

Since then we have been back a few times and have always come away satisfied.  So, do give it a try.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Great Peranakans: Learning about the Grandfathers behind the roads

There is a odd little phrase we use in Singapore, typically directed at people who are taking their own sweet time to cross the road - "your grandfather's road is it"? For some people, the answer could be .... ... Yes!

Tan Tock Seng
Today, I visited the Peranakan Museum's exhibition on Great Peranakans: Fifty Remarkable Lives, featuring babas and nonyas who had contributed to Singapore's early economicdevelopment and nation-building, also to its cultural and social development.  Some are well-known, like Mr Tan Tock Seng, who endowed the Chinese Paupers' Hospital, which subsequently was named after him, but still following in his tradition of caring for all who enter its doors.  Or Lim Boon Keng, Tan Cheng Lock, etc, who at least I have heard of within more "modern" times!

Others are less well-known - maybe  remembered best for the roads named after them, such as Seah  Liang Seah of Liang Seah street,  Tan Kim Tian (Kim Tian Road in Tiong Bahru) or Tan Keong Saik of Keong Saik street.(I'm sure he's glad that his street is now a row of nice eateries rather than a row of brothels....).  And who knew that Koon Seng road (the one with pretty pastel houses, see my earlier post here - although I didn't mention the street's name) was known for the development of Malay theatre in Singapore?And of course, Mr Chew Joo Chiat, who owned the land on both sides of the road which bears his name today.

The majority of those mentioned are men, but I was glad to see a few ladies' names subsequently appear.
Painting of Mandalay Villa
Ladiies like Dr Lee Choo Neo, Singapore's first female physician (and Lee Kuan Yew's aunt), her good friend Mrs Tay Lian Teck (yes, there is another road named after her husband - he died during WWII), and Mrs Lee Choon Guan (Mdm Tan Teck Neo, daughter of Tan Keong Saik).  Mrs Lee was a well known socialite and famous hostess, who threw big parties at her mansion, Mandalay Villa on Amber Road (of course it has been long since torn down). It was at one of these parties that a certain Mr LKY asked a young Miss KGC to wait for him, till he came back from his studies in the UK. Back then, I suppose the Peranakan community was small and relatively close.

The other fascinating thread that runs through it - families.  Tan Tock Seng's oldest son Tan Kim Ching (apparently rumoured to be the head of some secret societies) but also a good friend of the Thai Royal family, due to his trading connections; Kim Ching's grandson, Tan Boo Liat; Tan Tock Seng's grandson by his third son, Tan Chay Yan (who started a rubber plantation here in Malaya), and Maggie Lim (nee Tan), a seventh generation descendent of Tan Tock Seng who started family planning in Singapore.

On the left, Kwa GC's wig and on the right, Lee KY's
The political leaders who contributed to modern Singapore are profiled too - Lim Yew Hock, the second Chief Minister of Singapore, and from the PAP - Goh Keng Swee, Toh Chin Chye, Lim Kim San, and of course Lee Kuan Yew are featured too. I did not know that Mr Lee never referred to himself as a Peranakan or a Baba, but of course if his mother is the author of one of the best known Nonya cookbooks it is a dead giveaway (to take just one small example).  Mrs Lee is also featured in the exhibition and hers and Mr Lee's lawyers' wigs share a prime spot.

In short, this exhibition, held as it is in Singapore's SG50 Jubilee year, is indeed timely for younger Singaporeans to remember and celebrate the roles and contributions the Peranakan community has played in the development of Singapore.  And find out what it takes to get a road named after you......

P.S. In case you can't make it down, there is an app!  The coolest thing.  Features some of the Peranakans profiled (not all), with a short profile, little audio recordings, etc.  Just search for "Great Peranakans" on your phone and check it out. There is also a book, "Great Peranakans: Fifty  Remarkable Lives" based on the exhibition and available at the National Library.  As at this moment of writing, it is sitting on the table beside me.
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