Letter: I Met Mr Ng Kok Song At Tiong Bahru Market & Witnessed Sybil’s Love For Him IRL

Mr Ng Kok Song & Ms Sybil Lau Seemed Genuinely In Love At Tiong Bahru Market Doorstop

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A 75-year-old gentleman announcing his bid for the Singapore presidency is sure to turn heads. But besides the ambitions of a stately ex-GIC Chief Investment Officer who taught Mr Lee Kuan Yew how to meditate, a lot of press attention has been focused on the soft-spoken fiancée of Mr Ng Kok Song, Ms Sybil Lau.

It’s an unlikely pairing. But it wasn’t until I witnessed their interactions in person did I realise how we might have shifted our focus too quickly onto their 30-year-age-gap relationship as one of the defining parts of Mr Ng’s presidential bid.

45 years young, clad in a ‘Beyond The Vines’ pastel purple shirt, fitted jeans and a cream tote bag with the words ‘National Gallery’ emblazoned on the front, Ms Lau made her entrance to join the 1.5-hour doorstop at Tiong Bahru Market, where Mr Ng was to make his rounds.

On the ground floor, where she stood slightly apart from Mr Ng, she looked fresh, with a quiet but calm energy in contrast to Mr Ng’s extraversion. I detected an air of gracefulness but also a sense that she would do what it took to support Mr Ng wholeheartedly, regardless of whether she enjoyed the media attention.

At any point in time, Ms Lau trailed slightly behind the group of staffers as Mr Ng greeted hawkers with friendly waves. Reporters circled him, snapping away on their iPhones and professional cameras.

I caught her smiling pensively in the background, following them and occasionally turning over her shoulder to whisper directions to Mr Ng’s team. Always respectful, never attracting attention to herself.

I could be entirely wrong, but my sense was that even as the press circled Mr Ng like hawks, Ms Lau’s world simply revolved around her fiancé. He was her whole world, and it was obvious because of at least three incidents I witnessed.

The first was when a young girl approached Ms Lau as Mr Ng was passing a drink stall, tapping her on the shoulder to ask for a selfie. For just a fleeting moment I thought that Ms Lau might reject her. Instead, she smiled and gracefully turned around to accede to the request.

Onlookers seated at the adjacent hawker tables caught wind of what was going on, and there was a flurry of activity. Most of us stayed a distance away, watching the wholesome scene unfold. The opportunity passed, and the window to get a selfie with her closed swiftly. Mr Ng moved on, and so did we.

Later, Ms Lau struck up a conversation with an Indian auntie who was passing by, carrying a bunch of barang barang. At some point, one of them suggested that a picture be taken.

A photographer from Mr Ng’s team headed over swiftly to capture the moment. Out of courtesy, Ms Lau got down on her knees to make the picture more logistically viable — she’s three heads taller, after all.

The picture didn’t turn out the best, so Ms Lau offered her staff the phone again to retake the shot – once again kneeling in the same position – bright smiles on both women’s faces.

The action spoke volumes and in a short span of time, left a lasting impression on everyone surrounding them.

There’s just one last thing that happened that afternoon that I’ll never forget, arguably the most important incident of all. After a series of energetic photo stops and conversations with hawkers dealing with lunch-hour crowds, Mr Ng moved towards the front of the market in order to get ready for his big moment with the press.

Right before he took a step towards the mics, Ms Lau darted forward quickly to intercept him and he turned to face her. With a tissue in the palm of her hand, she gently wiped Mr Ng’s brow as he smiled at her with gratitude.

For context, the temperature was 31°C, close to noon on a Saturday, and we were all sweating buckets due to the humid August weather.

In that moment, there was no one but them around. I almost felt embarrassed witnessing it in real-time. This was something impossible to stage; a moment not for anyone else but themselves. No cameras, no bystanders, just Sybil and Ng Kok Song.

She then handed him a canister, and he took a large gulp of water from it. A deep breath was followed by a beaming smile as he turned to face the crowd of journalists, ready to take questions.

It’s not easy to be under the scrutiny of the media or the judgment of netizens, but as I was standing less than a metre away from Ms Lau that afternoon, watching her watch Mr Ng do what he does best, I wondered what was going through her mind.

Perhaps she was proud of him for setting out to accomplish the impossible at his life stage. Or that she felt respect for the man on a mission to serve his nation. Maybe it was something much simpler – that seeing her partner do what he loved made her happy.

Besides being a Presidential hopeful and potential First Lady, Mr Ng and Ms Lau are living, breathing humans who’ve found companionship in their later years, despite their differences and society’s perceptions.

If the recent winning 4D numbers of 7545 are anything to go by, it could simply be fate. As Mr Ng concluded the media doorstop, he gave us a new set of numbers to bet on — 5149 — alluding to the percentage points required for him to win the Presidency.

I, for one, would like to wish him and Ms Lau all the best. For them to continue inspiring power couples with age differences to champion causes, chase their dreams, and be there for each other for a long time to come.


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All images by MS News. Photography by Iqmall Hayat and Joelynn Wong.

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