Honesty, integrity and respect for all people

My dad is a firm believer in the rule of law. He doesn’t go against the system, not even for “victimless crimes”.

Mom Dad
My Mom and Dad

Let me give some context to this anecdote – this was almost 30 years ago, when we were living in Kuching. I knew the time and place coz the Royal London Circus had come to town and I was very keen to go and see it. We were living in Kuching at the time since my dad was posted there as a Nazir (translates loosely to Inspector).


He was on a School Inspector salary so we didn’t have much, but we made do. What my dad did back then was to go to schools and inspect the implementation of the syllabus and the state of educational institutions. If you’ve been to high school in Malaysia, you’ve probably seen someone like him – he was the guy that sat silently behind in classes to watch what the teachers teach and how the students interact.

My family and I on a holiday – from left – my grandma, sister, me, my mom and dad

That’s not how he got his strong ethics though, that has always been there. He always told us to put our seat belts on, at a time when no one did (early 80’s). Since the circus was in town, the roads were jammed due to everyone illegally double parking. It was a long walk to the circus and we were going to be late and I was badgering my dad to just park and go.

He wouldn’t have any of it. With my late mom’s urging, he nearly caved in but he didn’t. Instead, he drove to a Shell station, which was really far away and nicely asked the attendant if he could park there. The attendant didn’t have the authority to say yes or no, so calls were made (this was before cell phones) and we waited almost 30 minutes before someone called back to say we could.

It was only then that we left the car in the Shell station and walked 30 miles (it could have just been 1 kilometer, but still, it seemed far back then) to the circus. My dad had been working all day and was tired and I could appreciate how hard it is to keep up with a young kid like me (I understand this better since I have kids of my own right now). I am all the more appreciative now that he didn’t go the easy way and was patient enough to wait till the proper authorizations were done before taking two hyperactive kids to the circus. I was grateful that they allowed us to park at the station premises after the circumstances were explained.

That incident made a long lasting impression of the good people at Shell.

Fast-forward to today, I always make it a point to go to Shell for my petrol needs. Not only because of the good impression that I have of the company, but because of their superior service. The attendants are very attentive to all their customers, and I can always rely on them to fill up my tank dutifully while I grab some snacks from the Select Store. To up the game – my fuel tank was once filled by the station manager – and she didn’t mind it a bit, even though she could have just asked the service attendant to do the job. This is customer-orientated service. No matter what position they hold, they are dedicated to making sure that customers are well-taken care of.

Grand Old Lady
In front of the Grand Old Lady site, Miri, Sarawak

Shell was the first company to extract oil and gas in Malaysia. The site of the first well producing oil is still here (although it’s no longer functional). It’s called the Grand Old Lady and it’s located in Miri, not too far from where I was born in Sibu.

Shell Station

Shell in Malaysia employs a significant number of people and contributes not just to the economy, but also towards road safety awareness, scholarships for Malaysians, and quality-of-life corporate social responsibility initiatives like the “We Care, We Share” community care programs.

Shell also has core values that my dad can relate to – honesty, integrity and respect for all people as their business principles. Tell me, what are your Shell #StationStories? #ShellKita

My late mom’s first Ching Ming (Tomb Sweeping Day)

Arranging Flowers

I was holding the nice arrangement of flowers awkwardly as we loaded the car, before deciding to put it on someone’s lap instead of inside the boot. We were headed for my mom’s burial ground (technically it’s a tomb since it’s aboveground) to pay our respects during the Chinese festival of Ching Ming (similar to All Saints Day).

Mom Ching Ming

It was then that my aunt told us we’ll be better off getting a new mop since having it makes it easier to clean those really hard-to-reach nooks and crannies so we all packed into the car (my sister came back with her husband in tow) and I drove to a nearby grocery store to pick out an appropriate one. I was quite surprised to find them retailing for RM 17.50 each!

Buying Mop

I guess it’s a temporary price increase, just like flowers, to rake (mop?) in the profits during Ching Ming.

Methodist Cemetery Sibu

The actual date is next week on the 5th of April, which happens to be my birthday, but our family has always done it one week in advance, as most people do nowadays since the day itself is really packed with people and it can take hours just to *reach* the burial grounds. It was also close to the exact date when my mom was called home last year.

Cleaning Tomb

My mom was laid to rest almost exactly 1 year ago after her battle with lung cancer at a Methodist cemetery.

Wiping Moms Face

I helped clean the tombstone (said I was wiping mom’s face, to a few quiet twitters) and everyone pitched in as well. The mop turned out to be an AWESOME idea as it allowed us to clean the top and sides easily.

Singing Hymns

These new tombs are meant to be easy-to-clean – unlike my late grandfather’s where you have to pluck grass growing in the cracks. The hardest thing I had to do was to borrow a bucket of water from a nearby construction crew, which they were happy to give, knowing what we were there for.

Flowers Mom

My sister had printed out Amazing Grace and another hymn from the United Methodist Hymnal (my mom loved to sing during church on Sundays) and the entire family sang both before my dad lead us in prayer. He gave a very touching dedication and I could see how so many decades of marriage has cemented these two lives together, making the parting hard even after one year and my heart went out to my dad.

Late Family Portrait

Goodbye mom. You are still missed.

My mom’s funeral


My mom passed on about two weeks ago and the funeral started at our home in Sibu followed by a service in Wesley Methodist Church with a bagpipe band before laying her to rest at Methodist Grace Memorial Park Cemetery.

moving casket

These are the photos from that day. We didn’t think about having a photographer around but one of my aunties kindly arranged to have her friend take the pictures and handed them to us.

home service

My better half flew back to Sibu too, it’s fortunate that my late mom has met her before and I’m glad she managed to take the time to come back. My sister and brother-in-law and my nieces and nephews are all here too – the family is all dressed in white.

home funeral

We don’t wear black for mourning unlike Western funerals, the immediate family is usually dressed in white for Chinese funerals.

coffin van

I went with my dad to accompany my mom’s casket on the van to the church.

church service

There was an hour-long service which a lot of her friends attended and me and my sister gave a speech.


I also made a short movie to commemorate my mom that was screened at the church service.

moving coffin

The coffin was then carried to Methodist Grace Memorial Park to be buried (technically, no caskets are “buried” anymore – they’re double sealed in concrete)…


…and we paid our last respects before coming back again 3 days later. I’m not sure if this is a Chinese custom or a Christian one though.

funeral service

I’m back in KL now after shuttling between here and KL and Singapore, doing the documentation for my mom’s sudden passing. She has been fighting cancer for a long time and a sudden deterioration made her unable to undergo her radiotherapy sessions, and relying on chemotherapy alone didn’t really help as she rapidly went from wheelchair-bound to bed-ridden to oxygen dependent.


Thanks again for all the thousands of people who came to visit and the others who send messages of condolences and funeral wreaths and food and other shows of support. It is much appreciated, all your kindness, during a difficult time.

coffin church

We will miss you mom. We hope you lay at peace knowing you have raised us well and we’ll do the best we can and be there for each other and dad until we meet again.

called home

Goodbye, mom.

(Called home 6th March 2014)

Dishes of Death: Cultural food for funerals

crispy floss sandwich

My late mom is Foochow while my dad is Henghua and they both have different cultural traditions for food after a death in the family. We’ve just done the 3rd day ceremony where we sweep the cemetery grounds and bring her photo back. It’s customary to eat together after this and the two different cultures have different dishes that you’re supposed to eat.

1. Chicken mee sua with red wine and boiled-fried egg

henghua noodles

This is a Henghua tradition. You’re supposed to eat longevity noodles cooked with chicken stock (real, not from a cube or bottle) and served with pieces of chicken and an egg that’s been boiled before battered and then deep fried.

There’s also locally fermented red rice wine used for cooking in this dish. The dish above replaces the mee sua with hung ang noodles (see below).

2. Fried thick beehoon with boiled-fried egg

foochow noodles

This is a Foochow tradition and we originally wanted to follow this custom since my mom is Foochow. The fried thick beehoon is known as “hung ang” over here – it’s best described as a cross between mee hoon and lou shi fan.

Unfortunately, we drove to three (3) different places and all of them were *closed* so we settled on eating just whatever we wanted, since my dad is Christian and doesn’t follow all these pantang (superstitious beliefs) anyway.

The picture above is a type of Foochow style fried noodles – the next best thing, which most people had.

3. Pork leg longevity noodles

pork leg noodles

I had this with one of my uncles. It’s stewed pork leg cooked with a specific combination of herbs and spices called pek ting yok (usually translated as 8 treasures herb). It’s RM 7 and I found it to be quite good and it fulfils the Henghua tradition of eating longevity noodles after a death and the subsequent visit to the family.

pork mee sua

My grandma was so worried that we didn’t eat this (she’s of the older generation) and cooked dry longevity noodles tossed in lard for us at night!

rojak tambi

As for us, since we don’t really follow tradition, you can even eat rojak tambi if you want. I just thought it was interesting, all the cultural believes surrounding death and I never got a proper explanation on why we eat a certain dish and not another. However, as in all cultures, the consumption of food after a funeral is the norm.

tambi rojak

I did a quick search and found out that the reason we eat after a funeral is to celebrate the life of the deceased…

death dishes

…and we’ve been doing it as far back as 12,000 years (!!!) since the Natufian people in the Stone Age!

My mom’s wake

mom wake

We’ve been quite busy getting all the stuff sorted out for my late mom – we’re heading to the cemetery in a couple of hours for another ritual. My dad practically stayed up for almost two days without sleep when he flew with my mom’s body from Singapore to Sibu.

mom vigil

My better half also came back with me for the wake (which is *different* from a funeral viewing here, the latter is done just before the coffin is buried and the casket is open instead of closed) and all of my relatives came over. A bunch of my friends turned up too, while I was sleeping in the afternoon, so I was a bit groggy when I talked to them – thanks for coming.


My uncles and aunties stayed up the entire night too but mostly we took turns to keep vigil over my mom’s casket throughout the two days she was here. We’re lucky to have all the help to meet and greet people – there were a couple of tables at our car porch that a restaurant provided so lunch and dinner can be served to everyone staying over. I was surprised to find out that it’s common practice for them to read the obituaries and offer their catering services.

cross wreath

There’s still a lot of things that require sorting out, so I’ll be updating intermittently and staying here until at least the weekend.

Thank you all for all the condolence messages, funeral wreaths, food and support.

My mom just died

last office

My mom has passed on peacefully at Changi Hospital Isolation Ward 2 at 2:14 pm Singapore time just now. It’s a blessing that all of us were with her when she took her last breath. I’ve been in Singapore for a couple of days now and there’s a lot of procedures involving embalming and death certificates and what not over here.

I just came back from the hospital, she has been struggling a lot with the pain last night and it was heartbreaking to see the blight that end stage cancer brings.

My mom has been real strong though, she has been fighting lung cancer since 2010 when she went for the initial operation in Auckland.

entombing service

We will all be flying back to Sibu with my mom’s body on Saturday night – if anyone wants to pay their last respects, the coffin will be at our home in Sibu for at least one (1) day before funeral proceedings on Monday.

The Christian service will be tomorrow morning at Singapore.

Thank you all for your well wishes and condolences.

You’ll be sorely missed by all of us, mom. I know you’re in a better place now.

New Capitol Restaurant, Sibu

gold tablecloth

I just came back from dinner with my parents! I brought my better half along, we just flew in this morning – it’s been a while since I’ve visited my mom.

new capitol restaurant

She just went through another killer bout of radiotherapy from tumors spreading to her scalp and it’s been impeding her movement and cognitive systems a little so I thought I’ll drop by and say hello.

blended ice lemon tea

My mom is usually in Singapore but my dad convinced her to come back for a 1 week sojourn to eat the chicken over here. Apparently, it’s more nutritious. ;)

raw vegetables

I was thinking about where to bring them to dinner tonight when New Capitol Restaurant came up. This is a very old establishment in Sibu – look at the display case with cognac bottles and the old school gold tablecloth!

sliced century egg

We wanted to have the signature Claypot Mutton but unfortunately it was sold out, so we ordered:

fried kampua
Fried Kampua
This is for my dear, who has eaten a lot of different incarnations of Sibu’s most popular noodles – except fried. New Capitol Restaurant does a pretty good rendition.

sweet sauce chicken
Sweet Sauce Chicken
This is quite good actually – it has cashew nuts and other goodies inside. I ate the most of this dish.

fu kui
Fu Kui Vegetable
I have no idea what this is. The New Capitol Restaurant waitresses came up with a platter of raw vegetables (see above) for us to choose from. My dad went with this one.

Tofu Soup with Oysters
It’s tofu, I ate half of my bowl just for the sake of eating it but I don’t like tofu as a general rule. It’s so funny, I just realized that I didn’t even take a photo of this dish coz I don’t like tofu! Haha!

foochow wine duck
Red Wine Sediment Duck
This is the famous Sibu Foochow cuisine condiment known as “hong zhou” – literally the remains of home made red wine. It’s slathered over a duck and deep fried. I’m not a huge fan but it tasted alright.

huai yee

The bill came up to RM 66.70 – it was cheaper than our extravagant lunch! It’s good to talk to my parents and spend time together with all my loved ones over dinner though.

red wine duck

That was worth the price of the flights back home! :)

Happy Birthday Mom! :)

happy birthday mom

I have a really funny story about this. We don’t actually know if the 1st of January is her birthday. You know how people back in the days don’t actually register their babies until maybe a couple of days later and gets a pink birth certificate (date of birth – estimated) instead of a white one (confirmed by a doctor)?

That’s the case with my mom and I Whatsapped my sister two days ago to get my mom’s number to call her.

She’s in Singapore but we’ll all be together in Sibu in a bit.

I’ll have to take more photos with my family when we reunite again!

First post for 2013 – may you have peace, joy and everything you want in this year and many more to come mom! :D

You can’t control what people think, you shouldn’t control what people say


Barrack Obama said that in one of his addressed to the UN where mentioned he has become used to people calling him appalling things every day. While I won’t dare to equate myself to him, it generally applies to everyone. I have an anecdote from my very first (and expensive) private rehab where I spent 28 days.

The psychologist told me before I left not to expect people playing kompangs (a Malay drum usually used for celebrations) to herald your new found sobriety. No one is going to believe you.

A lot of ex-addicts get snared by this apparent “lack of support” and relapse due to the mentality that “Well, if no one is going to believe me anyway, I might as well go right on doing drugs.

What has that got to to with anything?

It has got to do with everything.


I’ll like to thank all my readers for being supportive throughout my Project Listen campaigns. There’s a handful of naysayers (but that’s to be expected, and coming from the same IP, disregarded by me) but the point of that lesson is learning how to believe in yourself!

That is the true path to recovery.

That is the only way to become a better person.

You don’t rely on what others think or say for your self-confidence – that is the worst thing you can do. Just believe in yourself and want to be a better person.

…and that is my journey, from my darkest days of drug addiction, to facing the skeletons in my closet and my journey to become a better person.

Of course, it takes a long time (nay, a lifetime) to become a better person but I wanted to start anyway coz every journey begins with a single step. I have taken enough from the ones dearest to me. I have lived life to the fullest extent. Now it’s time to give it all back.


I could have just written about anything mundane, but I choose to write about the most difficult parts of my life and how I’m changing it. I firmly believe in the reach of Project Listen and I hope that the experiences I’ve been through could be of help in some way to someone.

Thank you again for sharing my videos, it was hard doing them, it was a decision that I made and I’m glad I did it.


One last note – if there’s any of you out there stuck in the depths of drug addiction, know you can set yourself free, but only if you choose to. If any of you are in a spot coz of unwanted pregnancies colliding with religious beliefs, know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.


Finally, cherish your family and those dearest to you for they are the ones who stay when everything else goes to shit.

Huai Bin

The Prodigal Son

I wrote this for Project Listen a while back and I’m re-posting it on my blog so it can be kept as an archive. Cheers to my family for enduring me all this while and I’m glad I have a chance to make it all right.


I’ve always felt that I haven’t been doing much for my family. I’ve put them through a lot – it all started when I went to New Zealand as a permanent resident to do my high school in Christchurch. I was 15 then and quite very extremely rebellious.

The freedom I had there pushed my rebellious nature to new heights, and I got involved in drugs, gangs, etc etc – basically your “regular” teenage rebellion multiplied by a billion in intensity.

reverse mohawk

That was more than 15 years ago and although I came to my senses I still never quite bonded with my family, creating more burden and causing more stress instead of what I was supposed to do as a filial son.

I can safely say that during my career as a professional human lab rat, I’ve tried more drugs that the vast majority of other users, sourcing for not just common drugs like heroin and methamphetamine but exotic research chemicals like 6-APB, UR-144 and 5-MeO-MiPT which most people have never even heard of, much less tried.


I was arrested for drug possession when I was 24 and appeared on many newspapers, some with extremely detailed information about me, which must have caused my parents a lot of grief. I’ve also went through rehab three times and been hospitalized countless times – overdoses, ICU admissions from permanent renal and liver damage, suicide attempts during psychotic breaks.

It was chaotic.

night out

I’ve never felt that I’ve contributed much to the family and I was never really close with them even as I got older. I was in Sibu for a period of time and even then I’m always out with friends when I’m back home for the holidays and coming home just to sleep. I’ve even brought girls back in the middle of the night for noisy drunken sex and wake up the next afternoon to shower together…

…in my parents house!

I never thought of how disrespectful I was being.

I never though of how much I hurt their feelings.

I never even communicate much with them – most of the conversation goes one way – with me talking about the latest exotic drugs I’ve tried, the inevitable escapades with police that I’ve gotten away with, the girls that I’ve fucked.

I never really listened to what their needs are. It took me a loooong time before I started becoming more attuned to their needs. I’m ashamed to even put a year to when I stopped. I shudder to even think about what I’ve done now.

…but like the Biblical story, my parents have always been believed in me despite my numerous flaws and downright disgusting behavior.

My mom was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2010 and it was only then that I understood what family meant. The way our family pulled together to support her as she went through multiple surgeries, radiotherapy and chemotherapy sessions taught me what being related was all about.

I’ve always thought of my mom as a nag, and didn’t spend much time listening to her at all.


However, since the diagnosis, it just struck me how fast the years fly by and how little time we actually have together as a family unit.

I regret not spending more time with my mom, and I started to realize that the “relationship” that I have was basically non-existent – I was just being selfish.

I started to really spend time with my parents at that point. Instead of just gaudily flaunting my sexual exploits, I started to listen more to what they have to say. I developed a genuine interest in their life and well being.


Hell, I even start to worry about them.

I talk to them more instead of the obligatory weekly check in phone call to make sure I’m not dead or in jail.

I listen and try to get them to talk about their problems.

lung cancer

We eat together when I’m back home instead of me heading out which sad to say was common until as late as 2008.

I lounge in the living room after and chat about everything – news, politics, religion – with my parents instead of skipping out and coming home drunk in the middle of the night.

I understood the importance of just hanging out with my family – listening instead of just talking, helping out with chores at home, comforting my mom when she’s throwing up.

It’s made us into a better family unit.


I just received a birthday card from my parents (it was somehow lost until a few days ago) and it nearly brought tears to my eyes when I realized that they’ve mailed me one every single year without fail while I barely remember their birthdays.

I am truly ashamed of how I’ve behaved and I’m trying my level best to be a better son now. I visit my mom in Singapore more often, where she’s having her treatments done. We all chip in to help – not just financially but emotionally.

I really want to save up enough money to bring my parents for a trip around the world.

simple meal

They’ve worked hard in raising us and my dad still works hard and I think it would be the least that I can do. I’m actually being extremely frugal right now – limiting the times I go out, being careful with spending, saving up money so I can help out with the medical bills and especially to let my parents visit the world.

They’ve always saved up for our education and it’s time for us to give back

Not because of some attempt to seek forgiveness for past transgressions.

Not because of my ongoing mother’s fight against cancer.

Not because of guilt.

It’s because I want to, out of the love I have for them.


I want them to know that someone cares, someone always will, and that someone is FAMILY.

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