Ilo Ilo, a heartwarming bittersweet movie dredges up feelings from the 90’s

It was a weeknight fund-raising film screening for Crescent and my friend Oi Yee had proffered a few of us tickets. All I knew about Ilo Ilo was that it was a story about a Filipino maid working for a Singapore family.

Trepidation. Was it going to be tragic? A film award winner probably meant something moody, didn’t it?

And I slept in the last few movies I watched on a weeknight. In a restful dark room, sleep was inevitable.

Then the movie started. I was awake from the first second, not wanting to blink to miss a scene.

It was engaging, and as ordinary details unfolded in familiar lives, it was compelling and fascinating.

It resonated of an older Singapore, somehow projecting a familiar, restful feel. Layers which I now missed, like so many others in Singapore, which had come and gone.

I remembered a time when many talked about how Filipino maids were surrogate mums in busy Singaporean families.

Oh, this was 1997 recession-hit Singapore.

Gallery - ILO ILO - A Film By Anthony Chen

During the post-movie discussion, we revealed that we had all connected to the movie very well. And the “younger ones” who grew up in the 90’s loved it all the more. The reminiscent scenes will resonate with Singaporeans, they said.

However, a presumably international audience at Cannes had already received it with great enthusiasm, delivering a 15-minute standing ovation, despite three blackouts.

Everyone loves a good story. And this one also speaks of universal themes. Fuelled from his own memories, it turns out. How sweet.

Great job by Anthony Chen, and the cast and crew.

Antidote for a stressful week – thanks Oi Yee!

Our MacRitchie forest – a place to love and a place to keep, now and for our future

A feeling of betrayal

When the Land Transport Authority announced their new MRT lines, an inspection of the map revealed that the new 50-km Cross Island Line (CRL) would be built through the MacRitchie forest.

Impact was inevitable. And this was some of our oldest patches of forest. The foolhardiness I thought we were wise enough to avoid was upon us and I was filled with disbelief.

I did not expect this.

LTA would quickly suggest this was just a concept plan and route specifications were not firmed up as yet. They would also say they intended to minimise impact.

I wondered if they even knew how. Our nature reserves are already embattled due to their size and our use. To casually suggest building in or over this area felt no less like a betrayal.

Taking a Stand

Some friends reacted very quickly indeed, declaring that we needed to be “Chained to Our Roots“! Vilma, Teresa, Andrew and other friends were undaunted by a brief 400psi haze, itself an ironic and timely message about destruction of regional forests to support our lifestyles.

Thankfully the haze scattered in time and when I went down to visit, they were still breathing! And were sweaty, motivated and determined.

Alongside them to my surprise, were current and former students. If anything, they were even more upset about the suggestion to impact an old remnant forest patch.

Attitudes about Singapore are fostered by decisions like these. This is a very high, uncalculated cost.


2013-06-23 12.28.33

Do something!

In news intensive Singapore, it would take more than a single event to raise awareness. Various individuals and groups began planning walks, talks and statements to educate, inform and suggest alternatives.

During the fluster of the 12,000 visitors at the Festival of Biodiversity in July, volunteers discussed concerns with visitors who wanted to know more about our wildlife. We used museum specimens to convey news of a secret world right here in our city.

Decals were handed out and more importantly, promises about walks were made. Much better for them to see and appreciate a single living creature in its space and to awaken that connection with nature which is within us all. Love MacRitchie was a simple outcome.

308-festival of biodiversity-2013-vivocity-14-july-day2[Marcus Ng]

Fostering ignorance

For a long time the natural history community has realised we needed to accomplish much, much more with public education. Understanding the types of greenery which we have left and those which are emerging, the inter-connectedness of ecosystems, where these places are to be found and the vulnerability of fragments.

Against all that is the need to mitigate the heightened visitorship, improper behaviour and erosive use by increasing numbers of fascinated Singaporeans.

Formal education needs to bear most of this burden though, the numbers are too large to cope with and have increased.

In July, NSS published a marvellous position paper, and a further response will be submitted by the larger community in December, in response to dialogue with LTA.

How can I help?

Meanwhile, Raffles Museum Toddycats, have been meeting over HOWL, a private environment to facilitate “deep conversations”. At one session, we recognised the need to consolidate the various efforts of these hard-working and concerned people.

So volunteers stepped forward to produce the Love Our MacRitchie Forest webpage, in the original spirit of the theme suggested by Teresa, Vilma and friends with contributions from a wide group of people.

This page is now a one-stop directory and with lovely graphics, is also seeking to explain the complex issues further. Toddycats are actively sharing the page and promoting the effort to teach and learn.

Announcements will follow about opportunities to listen, learn and enjoy the forest. Keep a lookout at

Love our MacRitchie Forest | A precious primeval heritage in a bustling city

Help teachers share

In the meantime, Tan Beng Chiak, who threw up the first webpage on Chek Jawa back in the day (2001), has been working along similar lines. A veteran educator, she intends to provide resources for teachers to educate students.

Many issues are absent or scarce in our syllabus, even for science and biology students. This understanding is only truly achieved with an extremely small group, very late in life, usually in specific university courses.

Relevant information, concisely provided can help to address this.

Her webpage was announced yesterday at

Chope 4 Nature | Please don t cut through me 1

There is a wealth of knowledge out there, which has not been embraced, or even noticed. While an urban populace stumbles through the issues, the cost of this ignorance will be very high. It will take centuries to recover from this impact.

So we will have to engage, teach, share, and hope that enough will learn that our remnant forests are a place to love and a place to keep, now and for our future.

Love MacRitchie training

Posts and sites I referred to:

  • Love our MacRitchie Forest webpagefacebook page
  • Chope 4 Nature webpage
  • “LTA: “Two new rail lines and three new extensions by 2030″.” Otterman speaks, 17 Jan 2013.
  • “LTA’s proposed Cross Island Line (CRL) cuts through the Central Catchment Forest Reserve,” by N. Sivasothi. Habitatnews, 22 Jan 2013.
  • “Holy cow! The 2030 Central Line cuts through the forest!” By N. Siavsothi. Otterman speaks, 22 Jan 2013.
  • “MRT through the Nature Reserve: “the line goes ‘through’ primary forest and good secondary forest.” By N. Sivasothi. Habitatnews, 04 Feb 2013 – reporting Tony O’Dempsey’s georeferenced map.
  • “Chained to Our Roots petition & picnic: “Reroute the Cross Island Line to protect our oldest forests” – Sat 22 Jun 2013: 3.00pm @ Hong Lim Park.” Habitatnews, 21 Jun 2013 – announce the petition and event.
  • “Soil investigation works for the Cross Island Line (Tampines-Jurong MRT) will cause irreparable damage, fragmentation and wildlife loss in our Central Catchment Nature Reserve.” Habitatnews, 09 May 2013 – reporting Tony O’Dempsey’s comments at the time.
  • “Nature Society (Singapore) Cross Island Line: Discussion and Position Paper.” Habitatnews, 18 Jul 2013 – reporting the publication of NSS’ position paper complete with excellent maps, edited by Tony O’Dempsey.
  • More news at WildSingapore

Thanks to photos from Toddycats!

Find that message on your iPhone – with CloudMagic!

CloudMagic for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad on the iTunes App Store

I’m at a shop looking at printer ink, but I can’t remember my printer model. I know it’s a Photosmart. It’s useless searching the on my iPhone for anything beyond a couple of weeks – I have engorged inboxes!

Then I remember I am trying out CloudMagic, and lo and behold, it conjures up emails from 2007 and 2008. These last contained the word “photosmart”.

It was lightning fast and I was ever so pleased!

2013-08-20 23.29.28

There is a comprehensive review of CloudMagic on appadvice, but I’ll say it’s an essential tool when I dive into archives on my iPhone. Now that I know it’ll find things quickly, I shall be more venturesome.

CLoudMagic also enables searches across devices and accounts. The latter is impressive when viewed like this:

Cloud Magic searches

You get the idea!

Cloud Magic provides 50 previews every month. For more, the pro version costs $5/month.

Well, I realised from the emails that my printer is five years old – I shall not mutter a word the next time it coughs and splutters before printing; it has a right to complain!

Ironically the shop did not have enough printer ink cartridges for the HP Photosmart C7280. I’ll have to search for a store!

Leaf Monkey blogs again!

Leaf Monkey, also variously known as comment monkey, pesky monkey, rabid monkey, recycling monkey and wailing monkey, is blogging again at Leaf Monkey Monitor.


Leaf Monkey was fired from project management in 2006 to finish her thesis. She has done all that and more, and joins us once in awhile in regal alumni status these days.

It requires reprogramming to switch from the undergrad affliction to adulthood and she weighs in on exactly this with “5 Tips for staying involved (while balancing work and family)“.

Walking the Ridge

When I was a first year student, I was taken to the ridge on a botanical practical designed by Wee Yeow Chin. It was one of several which introduced us to common plants of Singapore. Our guides could be lecturers, Sam from the SINU Herbaium or an honours student.


On my ridge walk, it was an honours student who fascinated us with the names, characteristics of plants on the ridge. As we learn about their ecology and biology, the green shade behind campus became individual plants and a familiar ecosystem we would recognise elsewhere.

This continues and this Friday, we take the LSM1103 Biodiversity students to the ridge. I will have keep an eye firmly on the weather radar for August thunderstorms as usual, but we are likely to be able to complete our walk.

Battle of Pasir Panjang & LSM1103 Kent Ridge Walking Routes - Google Maps

In this version of the trail, students will walk from the Department of Biological Sciences where we will first conduct a plant tutorial to familiarise them with some 13 species from fresh specimens.

KR Prac

A little image icon on the practical schedule will help them sort the 13 species and students will brief each other about diagnostic features and characteristics.

Thereafter they will head out for their walk where they will realise the form of the plant and its appearance both near and far.


Alison Wee, LSM1103 practical

Along the way, they will realise Kent Ridge is part of Southern Ridges, the sea lies just beyond Pasir Panjang (a little further these days), view a portion of the southern islands, remember the Battle of Pasir Panjang (which they learn about in primary school these days), discover the short canopy walk which is great for viewing Tiup-Tiup, bats (at night) and Alexander Hill.

To complement this, I invite these Life Science students later in the year, to join me on a walk of the Southern Ridges.

Bukit Chandu, Telok Blangah Hill and Mount Faber are in the neighbourhood, but it may as well be a lifetime away for those without this spatial awareness.

So we have plans for short walks for the rest of campus too.

When I catch my breath!


For more about Kent Ridge heritage, see: Habitatnews.

41 volunteers clear 3/4 ton of trash at Lim Chu Kang mangrove

Volunteers were ready at bus-stops in Dover and Clementi at 7.40am this morning awaiting pick up. Just over an hour later, 41 of us hit the beach with a simple mission: relieve this precious mangrove of its burden of trash.

We worked hard and fast and many ventured deep into the mud. An hour later we were tying up bags, weighing, counting and moving them out to the Trash Disposal Point.

By 11am, this wonderful group was all done and offered cheery birthday wishes to Singapore! We wish for more sensitive treatment of each other, our precious nature spots and the environment we live in.

The problem is not solved by a single cleanup. This is the 6th year of the National Day Mangrove Cleanup. And its my 17th year of mangrove cleanups. We’re not giving up, ever.

Majullah Singapura!

All prepped for the post-National Day Mangrove Cleanup

I’ve completed the checklist for the post-National Day Mangrove Cleanup. The archive of the previous year’s list on Google Docs helped.

FTTAs Amanda and Weiting passed me the Gigaphones, and my mangrove horseshoe crab student Germaine helped me cobble together items from the museum’s stores. That left just 100 trash bags and 30 pairs of gloves which was solved by some last-minute shopping just before the NDP2013 parade started.

All prepped for post-National Day mangrove cleanup


  1. Confirm the 40-seater bus
  2. Canvas sheet for bags
  3. Additional water for emergencies.
  4. First Aid Kits (check contents and supplement if needed)
  5. Trash bags x 200 – suitable thickness!! (buy if needed)
  6. Gloves x 50 pairs
  7. Weighing scales x 5, oiled
  8. Clipboard with paper x 5
  9. Gigaphone (check battery)

I will miss my buddy Jennifer Kee, who is unable to join me this year.

Photo by Kenneth Pinto, 06 Aug 2011