Ng Kok Song Recalls Life As A Single Father & Pain Of Losing His First Wife, Patricia

Presidential Hopeful Ng Kok Song Opens Up About His First Wife, Patricia

As the Singapore presidential election rolls around the corner, hopeful candidates have begun campaigning for their shot at the high office.

It is easy to forget that behind the photogenic smiles, firm handshakes, and well-rehearsed speeches, there is a being of thought and emotion that Singaporeans may overlook in campaign videos and photographs.

Thus, on a fine Friday afternoon, presidential hopeful Ng Kok Song agreed to a frank sit-down with MS News for us to help us learn more about what he is like behind the scenes.

ng kok song first wife

The 75-year-old former GIC chief investment officer spoke to us about his motivations to serve Singapore, his background as a kampung boy, and how love is the greatest feeling one can ever experience.

Wrote an essay about solving societal issues at 17

Dressed in a dark blue polo tee neatly tucked into a pair of cream-coloured trousers, Mr Ng walked into the room with a warm but slightly reserved smile.

ng kok song first wife

After introductions were made and pleasantries exchanged, he took his seat across from us as the conversation formally began.

Armed with nothing but a full glass of water, Mr Ng quickly livened up when we asked him about a recent post he made on Instagram.

It was an essay about how one can contribute to solving the societal problems in Singapore.

Notably, he wrote this essay when he was a 17-year-old pre-university student for a competition in 1965, the year of our country’s independence.

In the piece, he raised several issues, such as racial tensions, illiteracy, and unemployment. Having spent his formative years living through these issues, Mr Ng’s hopes for a better Singapore were clearly informed by his visceral experiences.

Lived through racial tensions in the early years of Singapore’s independence

Mr Ng’s passionate discourse about how the racial riots “almost paralysed our Island state and threatened to engulf the nation in bloodshed” stemmed from his time as a student in a Chinese kampung in Kangkar, along Upper Serangoon Road.

He shared that he was worried about his Malay friends being in danger when tensions peaked in 1964, and had wanted to help.

Source: Ng Kok Song

“I remember vividly, that night when riots broke out in the city, quite a number of people were killed – both Chinese and Malay.

“My whole village was traumatised in fear. The government had imposed a curfew, and people were switching off their lights,” he recalled.

Immediately, my mind turned to my two Malay schoolmates. I had even asked my father what we could do to protect them. For many years, even though my area had mostly Chinese, we became very close friends and lived in peace until that point.

So, when it came time for him to reflect on how he could solve the racial strife, he pondered how people of different races could live in harmony.

One such way is by going to school together, where everyone can learn about each other’s cultures and be exposed to different views.

Saw mother cry when they could not afford books

However, that was not so easily achieved back then, as many low-income families did not send their children to school. They wanted their children to help with work and make money as they could not afford the fees.

He recalled when he was 12, his family had to borrow money from neighbours to buy his school books. His father was in the fishing business, but it barely made enough to cover him and his 10 siblings.

Source: Ng Kok Song

But alas, the boy’s mother came home one day and cried apologetically, telling him that the neighbours no longer had money to loan them.

Seeing my mother cry, I was very saddened. At that moment, I decided to study and work hard. I do not want to see my mother cry ever again.

That moment changed his life, said Mr Ng. It was then that he decided to put in all the work necessary and more to lift his family out of poverty.

Social mobility in Singapore divided by two escalators, he believes

Although almost six decades have passed since his essay, Mr Ng said children of lower-income families not staying in school is still a problem we face today.

He told us that Singapore has two escalators — one for higher-income families and one for lower-income families.

The high-income escalator moves faster and is more direct, but the low-income one moves much slower.

“That is not good because it breeds income inequality, and we risk leaving the poorer people behind even as Singapore continues to prosper,” he explained.

“The remedy to that is education. My own experience galvanised and motivated me to want to study. As such, I think we really need to encourage children of lower-income backgrounds to go to school and stay in school, and they need to be helped.

“So, this is what I would like to see the government do more of,” he mused.

Ng Kok Song met his first wife, Patricia, when they were both in school

Shortly after he penned the essay in pre-university, he met his late wife Patricia in 1966.

The pair had met when they were both studying in Montford School – the predecessor of today’s Montfort Junior School and Montfort Secondary School.

That day, he was in class after the recess bell had rung as his teacher was not done with the day’s lesson. Along the corridor came a group of girls who had just arrived in Montford – at that point, the school had just turned co-ed.

Source: Ng Kok Song

The 75-year-old cheekily recounted, “I opened the window pane and peered out when I heard these girls laughing. There came into view, this girl, Patricia, with rosy cheeks and a ponytail.”

But, what really got me interested was her cheerfulness. I think it was at that moment I fell instantly in love.

He remembered how she would sit next to him at mass, which caused some murmurs within the village about whether the pair were an item.

Back then, the Catholic community in his village was quite conservative, so the men would usually sit on one side of the church while the women were on the other. However, Patricia joined the 18-year-old Mr Ng at the men’s pews.

“Of course, the whole village saw that and was wondering what was going on, and they were like, ‘Ah, Kok Song has got a girlfriend’,” he laughed.

“It was a bit embarrassing, but come to think of it, it’s actually quite humorous.”

Late wife did not mind that Ng Kok Song came from a poor family

What sealed the deal for Mr Ng that he had found the love of a lifetime was when Patricia showed up at his kampung house, unannounced.

ng kok song first wife

Source: Ng Kok Song

The now-75-year-old closed his eyes as he painted a picture of his old residence.

“Where I lived, it was a small hut with thatched roofs that leaked when it rained. We didn’t even have cement on the floor; it was a mud floor. We also had a chicken coop, but not much else.”

He confessed that he was embarrassed to bring Patricia to his house as she was from a well-to-do family.

“She was a town girl, and I’m a village boy. I tried my best not to have her come to my home. But, suddenly, one day, to my horror, she came with some of her friends and said they were here to visit.”

The day after, Mr Ng spoke to Patricia and asked why she did not inform him of her visit.

He told her that he was shocked by her sudden appearance, to which she said, “Look, Kok Song, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. That you’re poor? Nothing to be ashamed of!”

Your father makes an honest living to take care of you all, so there is nothing to be embarrassed about.

“When she said that, I was so happy,” Mr Ng said, tears starting to well up at the corners of his eyes.

He fondly added, “In other words, she did not care that I was poor. She did not look down on me. And so, our love deepened because of that incident.”

Ng Kok Song faced challenges as a single father after passing of first wife

Mr Ng and Patricia married in 1972 and went on to have three children together. But, in a tragic turn of events, Patricia later lost her battle with cancer and passed in 2005.

With the couple’s fairy tale ending gone just like that, Mr Ng had to lace up his boots once again and take care of his family on his own.

By this time, his first two children were already working adults. However, it was their youngest daughter, who was only a teenager when she lost her mother, Mr Ng was most worried about.

As a single father, Mr Ng recognised that he would never be able to fill the hole his children’s mother left. There was one occasion when, after an argument, both the widower and his youngest daughter broke down and cried.

“It was in that instance we realised how much we missed Patricia. There were things that only a mother can do for her daughter, and that a father cannot replace.”

Things soon fell into place when his youngest daughter tied the knot four years ago.

And as luck would have it, he found love again after meeting his current fiancée, 45-year-old investment professional Sybil Lau, soon after that.

Wants to be transparent in telling his love story with Sybil Lau

With the recent media attention on the two, Mr Ng understood that, while their relationship is a private matter, the role he is aiming for makes this a public matter.

Ms Lau had apparently told Mr Ng that his gunning for the presidency would “blow her private life apart” as Singaporeans would, understandably, want to know more about them.

Thankfully, Ms Lau understood that he felt strongly about wanting to serve the people of Singapore. Thus, she gave Mr Ng the green light to go ahead and be transparent about their story.


Come with me to Tiong Bahru market to meet my friends and surprise Sybil! This place holds a special place in my life. It is where I used to go daily to buy groceries when my late wife was sick. Since meeting Sybil, I continue to make new memories here with the inclusive community. We had such a fulfilling time. It was hot though, so I decided to sneak off and surprise her with a lovely bouquet from the wet market! #unitedforourfuture #ngkoksong2023 #date #couplegoals #love

♬ Theme from “A Summer Place” – Percy Faith And His Orchestra

“So, we decided to be proactive in telling our story, instead of letting people come to the wrong conclusions.”

Mr Ng clarified that his fiancée has been living in Singapore for the last 18 years. She had given up her Canadian citizenship to become a Singapore citizen a few years ago, he added.

“She is also an investment professional, which is why we have this compatibility. I learn so much from Sybil, and she learns from me too.

“Sure, there’s a 30-year age difference, but people forget that she is 45. She is a woman of experience, a professional,” he said.

“No greater happiness than to experience love,” says Ng

As someone who is a firm believer in duty, unity, and love, Mr Ng has one thing to say to all the young people out there: The whole meaning of life is to love, and be loved in return.

“There is no greater happiness than to experience love,” he beamed.

Know an inspirational figure you’d like us to feature? Get in touch with us via email at

Featured image by MS News and adapted from Ng Kok Song. Photography by Iskandar Rossali.

Drop us your email so you won't miss the latest news.

  • More From Author