Untold Stories Of Mr Ong Teng Cheong

Singapore’s former president Ong Teng Cheong may have passed away over 15 years ago, but his legacy has and will never be forgotten.

He might have faced resistance from fellow government officials during his 6-year-term as Singapore’s 5th president, but he remained undeterred in serving the people, and their welfare was always at the top of his priority list — which is why he was also fittingly our first president directly elected by the popular vote.


See our video for 5 reasons why Mr Ong is the People’s President:

The MustShareNews team encouraged netizens to share their personal stories of our People’s President on Facebook, and the response was overwhelming — a testament to how loved and appreciated he was.

We’ve compiled some of the best comments to bring you 7 untold stories of Mr Ong Teng Cheong you may never have come across.

1. A Loyal Patron

A former restaurant staff fondly recalled the good old days when Mr Ong and his family patronised him. He may have been president, but it isn’t beneath him to dine in public and acknowledge everyday Singaporeans.



He may have been president, but it isn’t beneath him to dine in public and acknowledge the Singaporeans sitting next to him.

Mr Ong was honoured at being able to serve the nation, but the common man was equally honoured to serve and be served by him.

Jeremy Choo later revealed in the comments that he used to work at the brasserie at the now-demolished Marco Polo Hotel.


2. Appreciation For Service Staff

Numerous members of the public have stepped up to confirm Mr Ong’s gentlemanly and respectful treatment towards those in the service industry (or anyone for that matter).

What appeared to be a mundane working day at NTUC Pasir Ris Resort for Harith Merican soon became an unforgettable experience as he chanced upon Mr Ong.

Mr Ong expressed his gratitude for his services by shaking hands with the horticulturist — a professional who’s knowledgeable in the area of fruit, vegetable and flowers.


Even while enjoying a dinner at Shangri-La Hotel on Labour Day, Mr Ong did not forget the staff who were toiling away on a public holiday and showed his concern and appreciation for their services.

A simple gesture like that was all it took for a staff member to remember that day.


A part-timer at a golf club was also given the same treatment:


Even those who worked under him were immensely proud to have done so, and said he had no airs at all despite his lofty position:


3. Heart For The People

It’s a known fact that Mr Ong’s family was very important to him.

His love for his dying brother led him to reject a promotion to the Cabinet in 1973, while he turned down the chance to run for a second 6-year term as president in order to spend more time with his wife.

But the citizens of Singapore were blessed to be on the receiving end of his boundless affection too, to which they duly reciprocated.


4. Even Foreigners Are Impressed

A Singaporean told of how he was left beaming with pride when his Japanese general manager was left awestruck at Mr Ong after a chance meeting at dinner.

Mr Ong had simply approached his group in a restaurant and asked for their recommendations.

Afterwards, the Japanese was undoubtedly impressed at how warm-hearted and humble the President of Singapore was.


5. No Special Treatment

It’s common for those with high social status to be accorded special privileges, but Mr Ong didn’t always take advantage of such privileges — and neither did his son, it seems.

Unlike other ministers who sat in jeeps and land rovers, Mr Ong chose to sit in a 3-tonner while on the way to Camp 3 Infantry Training Depot (ITD) Tekong, said this netizen.


After witnessing his modest action, the fellow servicemen were honoured to discover that Mr Ong’s son Ong Sze Boon was a recruit in their company  — and rather than being a “white horse”, was equally humble to boot.

Here’s a 3-tonner like the one Mr Ong sat in:


6. Speaking His Mind

During his term as president, Mr Ong’s actions and words didn’t always sit well with other officials, despite having Singaporeans’ interests at heart.

But it seems it was just his nature to not sugarcoat his words.

While he was still Minister of Culture in the 1980s, he told the press not to quote him, said one netizen — i.e. he was going to speak his mind and say something unpalatable.

His refusal to bow down to self-censorship is laudable, as it shows he was not afraid to speak up and tell the truth when necessary.


7. Regardless of Race, Language or Religion

Mr Ong was not boastful nor did he look down on others.

He’d always offer a listening ear to everyone, regardless of who or how that person was — because he was there to serve each and every Singaporean.

So it comes as no surprise that he was always surrounded by locals whenever he did walkabouts.


The People’s President

It speaks volumes that 15 years after his death, Singaporeans still affectionately refer to Mr Ong Teng Cheong as the People’s President.

He was already known to be a humble man who fought hard for the common Singaporeans, and these untold stories by locals have just further proved it.

Even in death, Mr Ong requested for his ashes to be placed at Mandai Columbarium, where the ashes of ordinary citizens are kept, which perfectly encapsulated just how humble he was.

Read our story on why Ong Teng Cheong will always be our favourite president.

Featured images adapted from the National Archives of Singapore and NAS.