ADVENTURES ABROAD AND AT HOME
Following a Southeast Asia cruise on the Crystal Cruises’ Millennium ship last month, our disembarking port was Singapore which gave me an opportunity to return for my first visit back after 20 years. The welcome I received at the Fairmont Singapore made the return trip worthwhile from the moment I stepped into its large attractive lobby and was greeted by Fairmont Presidents Club Manager Shaik Shidek. This likable young man could be named the best ambassador of Singapore as he was a wealth of information about where to shop (the adjoining Raffles Center), where to have an easy light meal (at the Center’s Food Court which offers foods of many cultures quick and simple) and how best to see the famed Marina Sands Gardens, which is a boat-like structure atop three separate buildings seen in so many promotional materials as the new sight-to-see in Singapore. The culinary highlight of our Singapore stay was dining at the Mikuni Restaurant inside the Fairmont Hotel with Ms Lim EE Jin, Walter Navarro and Grace Yong, Fairmont Marketing Communications Directors, for its Winter Tasting Tour Course lunch. Well known for its Japanese cuisine with Executive Chef Moon Kyung Soo, our fare that day included white shrimp with Hokkaido Sea Urchin and Steamed Hokkaido Kegani Crab with Shizu Ponzu. Especially eye catching was the Kagoshima Wagyu Beef served on a flat rock which the waitress then poured liquid nitrogen over, creating an ethereal fog over the table. Amidst oohs and aahs from us all, there was much picture taking to capture this unique sight. A visitor from England, Sue Lowry, Managing Director of Magellan PR, who dined with us, agreed that this special meal blending attractive presentation with unique flavors would be a never-forgotten memory for any visitor to Singapore, a country of exemplary foods from many cultures. It certainly was for us.
During our visit, we had the privilege of meeting Mrs. Pamelia Lee, who has been behind many of the innovative ideas that brought cruise and land tours together in Singapore from the time she led the Singapore Tourism Board as its director. Born and raised in Hawaii, she tells us that marriage is what brought her to Singapore and after raising four children, this remarkable lady led tourism development from 1984 to 2004. Although she recalls she had had no experience in the travel business in those days, she said, “I was willing to work hard for the love of helping Singapore become known to the outside world as a hidden gem in the South Pacific.” Her biggest pride was leading the way to be sure to restore hidden treasures of the country. One of her proud achievements was as curator cum developer for The Changi Museum to tell the story of Singapore’s occupation and the treatment of prisoners of war during World War II from a first person perspective. The stories of the hardships and imprisonment of POWs were heart rending in their simple statements. She also was instrumental in the transformation of some under-utilized islands into a major tourism destination, and continues to share her vision of how Singapore can show its proud history and culture to visiting tourists. Knowing our time was short and wanting us to see as much of her Singapore as possible, Pamelia arranged for Patrick Lim, once given the title of “Best Taxi Man of the Year” by popular vote, in his locally notable bright yellow London Taxi to drive us around Singapore in fine style.
Knowing I am a history buff, my friend Betty Chen, who is a Board member of the National Museum of Singapore, arranged for me to visit this oldest museum in Singapore built in 1887 as the former Raffles library and Museum. Assistant curator Priscilla Chua showed us Betty’s mother, Mrs. May Wong’s portrait in the section on women, which showed the socio-economic and political roles of women in the decades of much change and progress that came to Singapore. This museum is a must-see for any visitor to Singapore for not only is the building an architectural icon of old and modern design, but the displays are very well presented visually and with auditory exhibits. Cousin Scott Wong, a native of Alameda, CA who now works in Singapore, shared some native Singapore Peranakan cuisine with us and led me to complete my bucket list of having a famous Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel. Bill and Betty Chen drove us around Sentosa Island, which has developed into a popular destination for visitors and locals alike with its new fancy resorts, gondola rides and multi-million dollar homes and yacht harbors. Our visit to Singapore was a mere three days, but thanks to its friendly citizens we met, we got to see much of the many features and sights it has to offer. I recommend it as a destination for travelers who enjoy seeing a country of old mixed with new in its culture and architecture, a clean environment and respect for keeping much of it green, and a mixture of people from many countries living together in peace and harmony.
HAPPENINGS IN THE LOCAL SCENE
To begin a year to celebrate its 40 years of history, the organization Asian Americans for Community Involvement honored the twelve individuals who once volunteered their time to advocate for the progressive interests of Asians and Pacific Americans. These twelve brought together their collective strength to ensure the betterment and well being of all Asian Pacific Americans and formed what is today, forty years later, Santa Clara County’s largest community-based organization focused on the Asian community. Recognized and honored in a reception at the California History Center on the DeAnza College Campus by Executive Director Michele Lew were those original twelve: Jeanette Arakawa, Paul Sakamoto, Mari Chan, Nilo Sarmiento, Robert Kam, Emi Okano, Allan Seid, Edward Kawazoe, Victor Wong, Leo Lowe, Paul Wong and Connie Young Yu. Also acknowledged that day were the many former 1973 Board of Directors. AACI, as this organization today is known as, today provides an array of high quality health and human services and continues to provide leadership to advocate on key health and human issues. Kudos to you all who had the vision to start it all – and to those who continue its legacy of service.
In the language of awards, the Grammys are given for music, the Emmys for TV, the Oscars for film. On the San Francisco scene the Camys are given for service and leadership by the Donaldina Cameron House in San Francisco’s Chinatown. At its recent Camy Awards evening held at the South San Francisco Conference Center, the theme was Rising Above in immigration challenges, domestic violence and abuse. Receiving the Historic Impact Award was Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, as received by Executive Director Michael McKechnie, Board President Buck Gee and Board Director Gerrye Wong. The Community Partnership Award was given to the Asian Women’s Shelter and Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach. The Lotus Flower Award was given to The Healing Journey of Donaldina Cameron House & Presbyterian Church, USA and its professional facilitators Dr. Satsuki Ina, Dr. Benjamin Tong, and Brenda Wong. With each honoring organization, an informational and heartwarming video told of the services it provides for the community. I commend Interim Executive Director Yolanda Kwong, Board President John Anderson and the efficient volunteer team who put together this highly organized and successful fundraising dinner. Donaldina Cameron helped the needy young women and children of Chinatown over 139 years ago, and those Cameron House leaders of today are carrying on her legacy of providing programs and services for Asian immigrant children, youth and families. Speaking of the evening’s Rising Above theme, I shared my own family’s connection with Cameron House for my mother, Helen Kee, was an abandoned 3 year old in 1909 who was rescued from unfitting living conditions by Donaldina Cameron herself and brought to be raised at her mission home in San Francisco’s Chinatown. From that time on, she was cared for in what was later called Ming Quong Homes until she graduated from high school and entered college. Hers and her sister’s youthful years growing up were clothed in a loving protective atmosphere, thanks to the work and guidance of Donaldina Cameron and her subsequent followers and teachers.
Let’s have another round of applause for yet another social service organization continuing to do a remarkable job from a history of 139 years.
The South Bay Chinese Club celebrated the Chinese New Year with its annual dinner at the Union City Mayflower Restaurant. President Steve Cho welcomed all, citing the traits of any “Snake people” there as loyal but fierce. Is that true, those who will admit to be 24,36,48,60,72,84, and 96? Red bag favors containing a couple colored fortune cookies and one rubber fortune cookie pin along with a Year of Snake pencil greeted each diner, Many fine raffle prizes were distributed to happy winners by Maelene Wong and Lorrie Wong. Enjoying the annual reunion were Fremont Councilwoman Sue and Steve Chan, Brace and Phyllis Wong, Bob and Joan Johanson.
When Jeremy Lin and his Houston Rockets came to whomp the Oakland Warriors the Oakland Coliseum recently, Asian Week Foundation brought out a large contingent in support of Lin and the Hep B campaign. Seen among the hundreds of Lin’s Asian American fans were AsianWeek’s Angela Pang and Ted Fang, San Francisco Mayor Ed and Elaine Lee, Fiona Ma, Daphne Kwok, Frank Jang, Jim and Carole Yamaguchi, Jan Yanehiro, Sylvia Kwan, Gary and Todd Matsuura, Frank Chang and his China Stix Restaurant staff, Willy and Brenda Hee.
The ever popular Peter and Gloria Hom were heralded by their three daughters Pattie, Jennie and five grandchildren who threw them a festive 50th Anniversary luncheon at their favorite Ming’s Restaurant. Jenny remembered Gloria’s favorite story she told them when they were growing up was that she ditched Kung Fu star Bruce Lee for a first date with Peter. We gather they’re still dating happily throughout the subsequent 50 years. Congratulations Homs!