Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Sorrier Sight We Are Than Death Stars

Orchard, Singapore, 26 May 2008

A Sorrier Sight We Are than Death Stars

I took a walk in Cathay
A picture house they called today
Didn't take me long to get away
From a horror house of decay...

What can I say?

Geity gay
Mindless play
Forever stay
Our spirit sold for a price to pay...

And lose sight of stars in Milky Way.

- Joseph Lai

I came across this sickening sight in an interior deco shop inside Cathay on 26 May 2008.

Friday, May 23, 2008

You Can Help Gabriel Save a Tree

Appeal to Save a Mango Tree, Simpang Bedok, 23 May 2008

The backyard of this row of terrace houses is baking hot. It is also the carpark of Bedok Shopping Complex run by Kenwood Property Consultants Pte Ltd on behalf of property owner Far East Organisation.

Look closer and see what Angie and I encountered when we visited Gabriel on Wednesday 21st of May. Gabriel is the man behind the appeal to save another tree - a mango tree - near his shop. He and other concerned residents and tenants want to save this tree from ending up like this ill-fated tree.

Yes, the contractor of Kenwood Property was disposing the stump of a recently felled tree! (photo of stump below taken on 19 May 2008)

The bobcat was shredding the stump to bits! What a sad end to a healthy shade-providing tree of 240cm girth size. Without it the carpark looks and feels like a sizzling desert of tarmac! It was destroyed for the sake of reclaiming one parking lot which the tree had invaded! Yes! For one parking lot - one income-earning parking lot - one magnificent tree was sacrificed!!

Now, do you know why the temperature is going up and up? Don't just blame the slashing and burning of plantations and deforestations in Indonesia. Don't just wonder why the inaction there. Start looking in your own country, your own neighbourhood, your own backyard! Are you doing your part to save some trees and mitigate climate change?

Well, at least, one man in Simpang Bedok is! Gabriel wants to help his fellow residents and tenants save the mango tree pictured below. See his clear and concise appeals (below the photo) and response from Far East Organisation.


Dear Sir,

I am looking to save a beautiful fruit bearing mango tree which is facing the threat of being cut down to serve the interests of the Management Committee here in Bedok Market Place in Simpang Bedok. I believe this estate belongs to your company and according to an NParks officer I spoke to, only the owner of the land can have a final say in the matter. Thus I am appealing for your assistance to prevent the unnecessary cutting down of a tree which provides much needed shade in a Singapore that is getting hotter by the day.I have attached a copy of the protest letter I wrote to the Management Committee, which will give you a quick understanding of the situation.

You can also refer to this web page for mor info and pictures.

Hoping to hear from you soon.
Gabriel Tan

FAR EAST ORGANISATION replied, saying it no longer manages Bedok Market Place (aka Bedok Shopping Complex) on its own. It will, however, forward Gabriel's concerns to its appointed estate management agency for response.


Thank you for your quick response. I know that the estate is runned by Kenwood Property which was appointed by your Corporation. However the chairman appointed by Kenwood practises a steam roller management style. This has created significant unhappiness on the part of owners and tenants here. My main and urgent mission is to save a mature tree from a totally unnecessary destruction.

The Management has already cut down one mature tree. This has even created unhappiness for the owner of a private house next to it. This tree was providing shade for the house owner for at least 15 years. The management claim that that tree was breaking up the tarmac of the car lot next to it. I have seen this to be true but the management could have save a car lot for the tree's roots to grow into. It would have taken at least another 20 years fot it to outgrow that. By then the lease on the land here would be near its end and it would be another chapter in that tree's life. Unfortunately for that tree, the management here wrote the last chapter for it. I understand that the management has the right to do what it wants on its own land. However it should for the sake of neighbourliness, a green environment and the fight against global warming do what is right.

It may be too late for one tree, but I will do whatever I can to prevent another tree from being cut down. All I am asking at this point is for a stay order on the cutting down of the tree until the next AGM which is within the next two months. I am hoping by then that there will be enough agitated tenants and owners to make a difference to the final outcome of that meeting. I believe that your Corporation being the employer of Kenwood Property would be able to make this happen. I am aware that one tree may seem insignificant.but I am hoping that Far East despite being a giant of a corporation can also be personal enough to make a difference to the many little people here who cares about their environment.

Hoping for some good news from you.
Gabriel Tan


The National Parks Board (Nparks) has informed us that their role is purely advisory where trees of private properties are concerned. In the case of Bedok Shopping Complex, Nparks can only advise Kenwood Property and Far East Organisation on the right thing to do but powerless if it choses to exercise its right to do whatever it wants within its own property.

As you can see from Gabriel's letters (above), he is trying very hard to convince Kenwood Property and Far East Organisation to see what is right - for the tree - for the environment - and for the people - residents, tenants and patrons. You and I can also help!!

What You can Do:

1) Write a simple appeal to Kenwood Property and Far East Organisation, and

2) Tell your family and friends about the issue at Bedok Shopping Complex.

Please find the email addresses and phone number below!

1) Shopping Complex Owner - Far East Organisation:

2) Property Management - Kenwood Property Consultants Pte Ltd: Tel 63372516 About Kenwood Property and its affiliation to Keng Soon Group

3) Write to The National Parks Board's Feedback to seek its assistance on this issue at Bedok Shopping Complex.

Don't let another tree end up like this... Please HELP... thank you! : )

Monday, May 19, 2008

Offering Help to a Tree on Vesak Day

Simpang Bedok, Vesak Day, 19 May 2008

While faithfuls by the tens of thousands made their way to offer their prayers at Buddhist temples all over the island on Vesak Day, I went about offering help to a mango tree growing along the perimeter of Bedok Shopping Complex in Simpang Bedok.

The previous day saw me taking up an SOS call from a distressed Gabriel Tan. A tree outside his audio equipment shop (ZENN) had apparently been earmarked for the chop by the shopping complex management. He wanted it saved and asked if I could help. I said yes as a matter of fact, of course. How could I turn him down on the eve of Vesak Day? Moreover, how could I not lend a helping hand to a courageous man such as he? His dharma was too hard to resist.

Days earlier, by a stroke of fate, he had parked his Toyota pick-up right under the mango tree. Not long after, to his dismay, he was summoned to move his vehicle away so that the tree-cutters can start cutting the tree. What he did next was truly admirable. He simply refused to barge an inch and stood his ground even when the Police were called in. The Police, to their credit, made no arrest nor reproach. Instead they decidedly turned the tree-cutting operation on its head for further deliberation by the opposing parties. That gave Gabriel precious time to query his shopping complex management about their decisions and to raise concerns amongst his fellow tenants. He also found me through Google and got me up and running as his trusted tree-inspector and advisor. So... in a nutshell, that was how it all came about... [Photo below: mango tree arching over narrow 1-laned road.]

Vesak Day: The first thing that strikes me as I arrive below the mango tree is its cooling shade; it is voluptuous and inviting to no degree of exaggeration. By mid-morning, the sun is already screaming down for boiling blood and running sweat on the brow. At 10 metres, and against the slanting light, its luxuriant head of leaves reflects the green vigor of health as any robust tree should be and it is fruiting by their dozens too.

I estimate it to be no more than 20 years old and this is promptly confirmed by Gabriel's father and mother who arrive at the scene within a heartbeat of mine.

Senior Tan enthuses, 'it is as old as our first grandchild and he is now 17 years old'. 'Look', pointing at the canopy above, 'it is always fruiting. People living and working around here enjoy harvesting the mangoes because they taste great. It has really been good to everyone here'.

Senior Tan is obviously at one with this giving tree. He is also hopeful that these same people would come forward to help save the tree in gratitude. He sums up his feelings by saying matter-of-factly, 'we can all save this generous tree together'.

Gabriel briefs me once again the accusations that have been levelled against the mango tree by the shopping complex management. All I have to do is to systematically debunk them one by one and add fresh insights on my part. It is that simple as the tree is in perfect health and has no signs of infestation or affliction of any kind.
No.1 Accusation: Tree damaged drain.
Findings: No damage to the drain whatsoever!
Fresh Insights: The drain is not an ordinary drain. In fact, the side of the drain which bolders the tree is a solid retaining wall of immeasurable strength. In other words, it is technically not a 'side' of the drain in the normal sense. See picture below.

No.2 Accusation: Tree damaged road.
Findings: No damage to the road whatsoever!

If you don't believe me, ask the cat below the van! : )

Hello Kitty-Kitty... nice flat road to sleep on, right?

Fresh Insights: The 1.4m girth tree stands on a relatively wide and generous grass verge which, in fact, afforts a great deal more room for the roots of the tree to stretch out lengthwise parallel to the road and the drain. The roots of the tree have therefore no propensity for invading either structures. (See photo below)

Occasional trimming of the branches will keep the tree's branch-to-root ratio balanced equally for sustained growth. Present state shows no sign of root-girdling or eruption above the surface of the soil. The roots are very happy growing within the grass verge!

Now, here's the best part of my investigation...

No.3 Accusation: Tree is littering the adjacent terrace house with fallen leaves and the owners WANT the tree cut! [In other words, the shopping complex management is saying, 'Go blame the owners of the house next door but not us, OK!!]
Findings: Yes, indeed! The tree is littering the house with fallen leaves - and if I may add - fallen fruits too. But the owners only want the tree to be trimmed, NOT CUT!!
Fresh Insights: We spoke with the nice owners of the house and found out the truth ourselves. It turns out to be quite proverbial: to find out TRUTH and celebrate the LIGHT on Vesak Day! The owners do collect the mangoes to eat too, so they definitely do not want to cut the tree down. As the photo below shows, the tree juts ever so slightly into the compound of their house. Only minor and occasional trimming of the branches will be required to solve the problem.

Conclusion: The accusations levelled against the mango tree are all unfounded, untrue or exaggerated. It begs the next most important question: How authentic is their claim about Nparks giving them approval to fell the tree in the first place?

: In all eventuality, it would be in the best interest of the shopping complex management (Far East) to keep and value its trees as extensions of goodwill to its immediate neighbourhood where most of its regular customers come from. But beyond dollars and cents and customer services, it makes good sense to work actively with the community in bringing about an environment which is greener and healthier for all. Afterall, we all share the same air.

So keep the mango tree. Do not cut it down. It is the first step to winning hearts and dollars. Together we can teach our children the right attitude to loving both the community and the environment.

Epilogue: At the end of our investigation, Gabriel invited me to his audio lab to listen to some of his fabulous music. As I drifted with the music at length - meandering through my own thoughts and wonderings - I begun to understand the extra dimension ZENN (coined from Zen) had on my own existential experience with Vesak Day today. Music can be so so pure without words. It is the language of the heart. I am not a Buddhist, and I have no words of prayer at the temple's door, but I think I have responded to my heart and followed a path Buddhadasa Bhikku has taught... to enter momentarily a Time beyond Present. If this is a prayer, so be it. The joy and peace within my heart today cannot be taken away.

'Listen to the trees speak, hear the stones teach dharma.'

- Buddhadasa Bhikku of Phra Paisan's Temple School (Thailand)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Turtles in Cyrene

Happiness is drawing turtles in the sand

And seeing them return to the sea at high tide.

Joy is following them in my heart!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Intel Involved: Labour Day of Love for the Earth

Celebrating 40 Years of Changing the World
by David Chung 15 May 2008

2008 is the International Year of the Reef (IYOR), celebrated worldwide to raise awareness about the value and importance of coral reefs and threats to their sustainability. So, as part of Intel’s 40th anniversary celebrations, a group of Intel Singapore employees from CPLG, Finance & IT and their families turned our Labor Day holiday into a labor of love for the Earth. Together, we volunteered in a variety of activities at Chek Jawa – a wetlands nature reserve tucked away on Pulau Ubin, an island off the north-eastern coast of the main concrete jungle of Singapore (details below).

We teamed-up with a group of passionate nature enthusiasts, as well as a community of home-schooled children & their families, forming a contingent of over 100 volunteers. The naturalists that guided us inspired us with their love & respect for our natural environment. The home-schooled kids inspired us with their enthusiasm and abundant curiosity. And in return, Intel inspired them with our grand goal of one million volunteer hours.

Photos by Peggy Khoo
Photos by Ria Tan (WildSingapore)

The Details
So, what did we actually do?

1) We reached out to visitors as Dugong Ambassadors, sharing with them fun facts about this endangered creature (and learning for ourselves along the way). What’s a dugong? What do dugongs have to do with Singapore? (Click on these links to find out more) And thanks to professional artist/nature-guide Andrew Tay, each volunteer received a beautiful badge with a custom logo designed by him for this occasion.

2) We cleared bagsful of trash from the shore, and got a sobering reminder about waste and pollution – styrofoam and plastic bags really do stick around forever; nasty! You’d be amazed at the kinds of unexpected trash that wash up along our shores… just join one of these trash-clearing expeditions during low tide and you’ll see what we mean.

3) We painted a mural at House No. 1 – the visitor center at Chek Jawa. Why a mural? Good public art says something about the community. It says: this is who we are - this is what we think - this is where we came from - this is what we want. Murals show the concerns, hopes, values and memories of the community where the murals are painted. We hope this mural conveys to future visitors our pride and love for our environment and the wonderful biodiversity of the sea and shores around Singapore (video link).

Learn More

Read more about the event at these blogs:

This event was also featured in a newspaper report in the May 11th issue of the local Chinese daily《联合早报》

Thanks to the CPLG, Finance & IT leadership teams for funding this event out of our Q2 team building budget, and adopting it as our quarterly team event J

CPLG: Cai Ding Zheng and Mel Davies
· CPLG sponsored the painting materials

Finance: Kristin Lim, Ravi Rao and Jeffrey Phua
· Finance sponsored the transportation to Pulau Ubin and Chek Jawa, and the Dugong ambassador badges

IT: Satish Kumar and Chang Tsann
· IT paid for the snacks and drinks that fed more than 100 people

And a big thanks to Peggy Khoo & the Intel Involved Singapore team for making this possible!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Heartfelt Responses for May Day Outreach

13 May 2008

Below: a chorus of heartfelt responses from all over!
Thank you - one and all! : )

Peggy Khoo (Intel) says:
To many of us who spends more than 10 hours a day in the office, this May Day 2008 outreach event is an excellent opportunity for us to reach back out to nature, to contribute our little effort to make a difference and to reflect on what other things we can do to save the environment. Our employees had so much fun that day in exploring Chek Jawa whilst putting on their volunteer hats in carrying out their task they set out to do. The end results of a beautiful mural wall at House No.1, a cleaner coast at Chek Jawa and more informed visitors who are now aware of the dugongs, are just immeasurable and valueless!

For me, I have personally learnt a great deal from Joseph Lai, while working with him on this project. He has exposed me to a world of nature that I would have never been able to see by myself and has inspired me to want to do more with nature. I now know that there are also many people out there who are so passionate about conserving nature and would contribute selflessly to achieving this goal.

On behalf of Intel involved team, I would like to thank Joseph Lai for pulling everyone together to make this community project a success for us. Also thanks to Robert Teo and his NParks team for the excellent support rendered to us. Big thank you to the artist team lead by Pui San and the volunteer guides for making it such a great experience. Cheers!

Ria Tan (Wildfilms / WildSingapore) says:
It was wonderful to share a day on Chek Jawa with many 'old timer' volunteers who had worked on Chek Jawa before deferment. Even more special was the opportunity to share the love of Chek Jawa with a new generation of young adult volunteers and with the young children of the homeschool families. Pui San and his team of artists also added a fresh element to the conservation effort. With NParks and Intel involvement, it is an excellent example of meaningful 3P engagement and of active citizenry.

I hope this event can be an annual event. It is a powerful celebration of what Chek Jawa means to ordinary Singaporeans.

Puisan (Master Artist) says:
The idea of getting kids to have a field day at CJ to learn about the environment was well conceived. Not only were we well rewarded, it resulted in some very lasting and profound learning experiences for the kids and parents alike.

They got to know the environment better and their participation in the activities enriching enough to imbue a sense of belonging to this treasure spot in our beloved Chek Jawa. As Dugong Ambassadors they certainly did their part to help raise concern and awareness of living things around us, marine creatures included. Participation in the beach cleanup made them understand how trash could pollute our beaches and its effects on the environment.

Sharing their ideals of a healthy marine environment through artworks on the wall mural was very popular with many of the kids. Unfortunately we were not able to accommodate all the kids’ enthusiasm for more to be painted, due to the pressure of time and available space.

Comments from Homeschool Parents

Eileen Nathan says:
Since the blogging workshop organized by Mr Joe Lai in conjunction with the IYOR 08, I have never been so aware about animal conservation. Yes, we occasionally watch National Geographic and visit Underwater World, but it's just information. However, when the kids started blogging (another promise they made to Uncle Joe after the workshop) about the sea animals that they have learned, our family began a journey of discovery and learning.

Now when we go to the beach - we look at the sea and the creatures along the beach with a different that is filled with more compassion about the sorry plight of Mother Nature because of human invasion. I remembered my son crying after watching an internet presentation about a terrible decision of human housing development which will cause a certain kind of sawfish to be extinct!

Our involvement on 1 May is a natural follow-up. We certainly want to do our best to be a voice to the helpless creatures sent by God to help us...but mankind has foolishly plundered Mother Nature. We want the next generation to see the animals that still exist today.

When the purpose of something is not understood or ignored, ABUSE is inevitable!

Jacqueline Thng says:
My family spends most of our free time in the Nature, and i hope we could do our parts to take care of Mother Nature, so that our future generations would continue to enjoy the beauty of nature. ... May Day Outreach is one rare opportunity that allows my children to start their baby steps in taking care of the environment and be more aware of the environment calling.

And I would like to share a quote from Daisaku Ikeda, "Life is a chain. All things are related. When any link is harmed, the other links are affected. We should think of the environment as our mother -- Mother Soil, Mother Sea, Mother Earth. There is no crime worse than harming one's mother. ". so let do our parts... taking action.. & ... also educating the young ones.

Po Ting says:
I am glad that my family gets close to the nature once again. We appreciate and would like to preserve it in our little way.

Wei Lin says:
I think the May Day Outreach will be a wonderful experience to teach our children, the next generation about preserving the sea creatures for a good cause.

Pui Yee says:
Our Precious Gem: I always thought that we have to travel very far to see 'live' underwater creatures in Tioman or somewhere in Malaysia or in other further shores. I remember when we paid our first visit to Chek Jewa few years back, we were so thrilled to see that we have these little beautiful creatures moving around in Singapore shore. A long, hot day passed in our exploration like breeze. How much more we love to see our future generation in Singapore will be able to explore this for themselves in our own shore! I hope this May Day Outreach will bring more awareness and public interest in protecting this very precious gem!

Kay Hoon says:
It's a privilege to be part of this unique project that will bring art into the public sphere. We're proud to be making a statement about the nature around us!

Jin Hua says:
As a parent, I could not wish for a better project for my child to undertake. He learns more about environment and social responsibility, science and art, community and humanity, from people who are passionate about them.

Jean Law says:
Our children are city children; they live in the concrete jungle. I appreciate all these activities and outings, which bring them closer to the Mother Nature and appreciate its wonders. We learn together to love our earth more and become more environmental friendly.

Littly says:
This is a chance for our children to stand up and be counted as caretakers of our planet.

This is a chance for our children to crystallize the reasons they enjoy, and should be respectful of, our natural world.

This is a chance for our children to feel the responsibility of imparting a love of nature to others.

Mei Sie says:
It is a great opportunity for my boys to be involved - to understand and care for their environment and not to take it for granted. I think it will be quite exciting to work together in this project involving a diverse group - homeschooling kids, naturalists and Intel staff.

Queenie says:
I count it a privilege for my son to be able to participate in the May Day activities at Chek Jawa, thanks to Joe Lai. I hope that in getting our children involved in nature activities, they will learn to respect and care for the animals and plants that we share this earth with.

So Mei says:
From the sea;
I find my peace,
The sea has so much to offer;

I will want to conserve with all the others.

8-year-old Shanil says:
... I was very sad about the pollution.

Read Shanil's account of his experience in Shanil-The-Great Blog and Auntie Jenny's absolutely beautiful encouragement for him, his writing and his fabulous artwork (in the Comment).

10-year-old Luke Tay says:
Dugongs are cute lovable things and they should be saved.

9-year-old Vere Nathan says:
It's fun! It's good for the environment and should be done more often.

Guest (Prof) Yap Von Bing says:
Good Activity... good for environment and family bonding.

See other postings / photos of May Day Outreach below:
Pulau Ubin Stories Blog
Wildfilms Blog
FlyingFishFriends Blog
Naked Hermit Crabs Blog
Art in Wetlands Blog
TeamSeagrass Blog
Lazy Lizard's Tales Blog

Photo Galleries at:
Wildfilms' and Peggy Khoo's