What A Day

My Sad Keanu interpretation

My Father’s Day gift this year was being slapped in the face that I have not been a good father (or just not good enough).

Ouch. Reflection follows.

When I started the journey into fatherhood more than 13 years ago, I promised myself that I would be the best father that I could be. I had ideologies, I had dreams, I had plans, I had quite a lot in mind, to be honest. That was thirteen years in the making. And then a brick wall hit me. When you hit a wall, you become dazed and confused. You stop for a while and get your head back on straight. Or at least you try to. Looking back at those thirteen years I have to admit that it hadn’t really been smooth as the journey in my dreams. There were things that I know I should have done differently. There are things that I should have said differently. There are decisions that I should have made differently. Not going into the mumbo-jumbo of time-travel and alternate universes, it could have made a difference in how I am now. I can’t say how much of a difference, but it would have made one.

Breaking things down, one of the things that I regret the most is showing Matthew how I lose my temper. I am very bad at this. Unfortunately, this is one thing that I can no longer undo. This is also one thing that he seems to have gotten from me and it is utterly frustrating being stuck between calming down and flaming up when both of us are doing the same thing. It’s like a Dragon Ball Z fight.

The next thing is actually one that may have been a by-product of my temper outburst. I thought that I would not come to the point that I would need to shout at Matthew. But it did. It was becoming harder and harder to get him to stop and listen. It had gotten to the point that I would be shouting because of frustration and even though I know that I shouldn’t, I could not get myself to stop.

I also told myself that I would do my best not to curse in front of Matthew because I get really disappointed when I hear young kids shouting expletives that they may not even understand. There are places and people that they hear these, and parents should not be one of them. Again, this is where I have failed when I have been taken over by my temper.

Spare the rod and spoil the child is a term that has been thrown around from generations ago. I did not want to ever reach this point in my fatherhood. But I crossed that line. At the boiling point, I have gotten to slap Matthew on his bums. Not a lot of times, but I didn’t think I would need to do it. Another case of an unfortunate event.

Whenever I realised that I had done any of the things that I wish I didn’t do, I would try and go into a calmer state (believe me, this is easier said than done) and try to douse the fires that have been set. I would do my best to explain what had happened and why I had done some of the things that I had done. I would break down what he had done that had gotten me to act the way that I did. I would explain why I shouldn’t have done what I had done and especially why he shouldn’t do what I did.

And I apologize.

It wasn’t like this when we were younger. In fact, it wasn’t like this until he had gone to school. It started probably somewhere between primary four and primary five. It had become a journey that went in and out of bad experiences which had affected us in a way we didn’t expect. There are things that Matthew does that has already become an instant trigger to my frustrations. And no matter how many times I have talked to him about it, he would still go on and do them, seemingly without a care in the world. I try to avoid it as best as I can because I am really tired of telling him off again and again. It’s fair enough when he does these things to me, but they become hairline triggers when he does it to his mum when I am around. And I just explode.

So I guess I have not been the good father that I thought I would be. It’s harder than I thought. This is definitely not turning out to be the happy, ever-laughing, and ideal parenting blog that I initially thought it would be. And that’s fine with me now. I realised that life isn’t all about the fun and the laughter. It comes drizzled with sadness and frustration as well that should not be ignored. This is a realisation. A reflection. No, I have not been the ideal father. And you can’t create a new account and start all over. You can only learn from your mistakes and pick up the pieces and hope that you can turn things around while there is still time.

Matthew is a good person. I don’t doubt that one bit. He just needs to realise that he has the potential to change the world. I guess that means me too. This is not a reboot, but a sequel. Welcome to fatherhood season 13.

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Technology Rules

There is no denying that this generation is living on tech. As parents with teenagers, we are responsible for keeping the balance of usage and abuse of these devices. Our children are exposed to a world that is cunning and ruthless. If we do not teach our children how to take care of themselves using devices such as mobile smartphones and computers, we are exposing them to different types of dangers. I now have a teenager. I can no longer play watchdog and neither would I want to be just one. Instead, I would like to teach my teenager how to take care of himself when out and about. Believe me, this is easier said than done when it comes to Matthew. But we have to start somewhere and we have to start as early as possible.

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Thankfully, working in IT has not deprived me of the information needed to keep my knowledge up to date. It is not simply knowing which computer or which smartphone to buy. It is not simply about which operating system or which antivirus software to choose. As parents, we need to let our children know about the things that could happen out there if they aren’t careful. Sure, Matthew is not trading real money online on apps nor is he doing any online betting or gambling but that doesn’t mean he isn’t exposed to them.

Don’t be surprised if your young adults know more about things like these than you do. In fact, you should expect that at some point. Right now, I am still in a position to keep an eye out for my family. I do my best to secure our home computers with basic cyber-security. I do not hold any super secret data from government organizations so I don’t think I would be on the radar of cyber-attacks. But you can never go wrong with being prepared. In fact, being paranoid may be a better term but I will leave that for another discussion.

That is security at home. But what about when they are not at home. Matthew spends an average of 6 hours in school. Those are 6 hours that he is vulnerable to cyber-attacks while he is on his own. He is currently aware that his smartphone is being monitored by a parenting app. I made it a point to let him know this because trust and privacy go both ways. I always talk to him about being safe online. During my youth, my mum would tell me never to talk to strangers or go with strangers or take anything from strangers. It is as true today as it did back then. Except now, there is an added advice of being wary of online strangers. This is a sad but real truth. Matthew plays games on his phone, on the computer and on a game console. All of these are connected to the Internet because manufacturers and game developers require most of their products to be connected in order to work. I have always seen this as a threat and as an invasion of privacy but you can’t really contain this for long unless you become a hermit. So education and stern warnings are normal between myself and Matthew. I am allowing him to play online games like Roblox. And yes, I am aware of these stern warnings from a parent that played the game and having encountered a less than ideal experience. I won’t deny that it is possible. But I have been playing games online and have never encountered any such activity. And as far as I am aware, neither has Matthew. Again, I’m not saying that it didn’t happen. I’m just saying, it hasn’t happened to us. As a parent, you are allowed to protect your child. Rather, it is your responsibility to protect your child from abuse. But do it in a way that works for both you and your child. Don’t take away something just because of a viral post that you read on social media. Do your own research and then make your own decision.

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The parenting app that I use is only secondary. It is still the rules that we have set and agreed on as a family that takes precedence over things. We talk about the consequences of action and inaction on Matthew’s part and agree on the appropriate responses. In fact, he would sometimes offer that he gets grounded when he knows that he has done something that we would not be happy with. One of the rules that we have is that there should be no mobile phones/tablets in the bedroom. If you want to use your mobile, you are free to do so in the living room. This rule also applies when we are seated at the dining table and that is regardless if it is in the house or if we are eating out. No electronic devices at the table, period. Of course, it is not as smooth as everyone would like it to be. He would have excuses every now and then, but that is usually followed up with talk about the consequences. It goes full circle. Hopefully, he gets to keep it stuck in his head more. I have also warned him of using his mobile phone while walking which is something I frown on especially when grown-ups are up and about doing it. Look where you are going first. It’s very likely that whatever it is these people are staring at on their devices can actually wait until they are stationary.

It has never been foolproof. And there will always be loopholes here and there. But with ground rules, it at least becomes easier to manage. Prevention is always better than cure. And yes, maybe a little paranoia helps once in a while.

When Pets Leave Us

We are no stranger to pets passing away. And it’s not because they are neglected, but more because of our choice of pet. Living in Singapore is proving to be difficult for us to live with a dog. It comes with additional responsibilities that we didn’t have to worry about back in the Philippines. We don’t have a backyard to keep a dog in and living in shared apartment buildings means you are limited in the size and number of dogs you can own. Add the fact that we can’t leave a dog behind for extended periods of time when we decide to go on vacation and you have yourself a member of the family being housed in their own “pet hotel”. So we stuck with a hamster.

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Hamsters are small and easily managed. They don’t take up a lot of space and when we go on a vacation, we can just carry them over to our friend’s house for sitting. Sure, you have overheads like food, bedding, treats, and the occasional trip to the vet, but that is no different than having a dog. In the years that we have been here, we have had six hamsters in the family. All of them have become small and fluffy companions to all of us in the home. Alas, our last hamster passed away in May. During the last few days of his life, we were already expecting him to leave us due to his age. As such, Matthew had prepared a casket for him and we were sure that we wouldn’t be caught by surprise like the others. And when he passed, we buried him properly and sent him off with a prayer.

What I didn’t know, or maybe I didn’t want to believe during those times was how the death of a pet affected children. My wife and I are already grown up, we feel sad when a pet passes. But we cope and we move on. I thought that was just, you know, normal. As my wife pointed out to me though, it had a profound effect on Matthew.

I have to admit, I had not been very good at helping my son deal with the loss of our pets. Because of the reason I mentioned above, I was coping. And I thought that he would cope with it as well. Apparently, at age 7, he does not cope so well. He went through some difficult times more than once and I thought I was there for him. But it was not enough and it was already too far back to rectify. So when our last hamster passed away, I made sure that I was more sensitive to his needs. It may not be enough to heal him from his past experiences, but I’m hoping that he does manage to cope better as long as I become more aware of their needs.

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My Last Day

I was looking through tons of archives on my computer and I found a blog entry that I did not get to publish. And it struck a chord in me once again. Here is a blog entry from 2017.


It was not one of those nights. Somehow, something was amiss. And it wasn’t something as simple as forgetting to brush your teeth or drinking a glass of milk. It was the fear of dying.

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Even before Steve Jobs delivered his Harvard speech, I have already asked myself the question he asked himself. “If today was my last day, would I do what I would be doing now?”. It wasn’t his metaphor, it was a reality. The fact that one realizes that is the catalyst for change. But sometimes, some people just don’t care.

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That night, I prayed that I am given one more day to give to Matthew, to Judy and anybody else who might need me. And this morning, I gave Him thanks for giving me this one more day. Tonight, and every night hereafter, this would be my prayer. Until such time that nobody needs me anymore.

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For some reason though, Matthew was holding my hand as he fell asleep. He had his hand wrapped around mine. He’s never done that in a long while. I used to hold his hand when he was younger and he couldn’t fall asleep. But this time he held mine. He is special (we have always believed that he is), I may never know to what extent, but he is special. And I will be forever grateful for being blessed with very special people (there are too many to mention, but I promise, I will make a list).

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Until my last day then. Express your love to the people you care about. Make amends to the people you’ve hurt and those who have hurt you. Seize the day, make it yours, make it worth the time.

Down the Rabbit Hole

The Singapore ArtScience Museum has recently launched a new exhibition involving a rabbit, a mad hatter, and a girl named Alice. Wonderland is an interactive exhibition running from 13 April through to 22 September 2019. And it has been a while since an interactive exhibition has gotten us interested and excited. Thankfully, Wonderland does not disappoint. Well, maybe it’s a bit too short, but that’s it.

Our journey began with a very long queue. Ys, this is what happens when you go to an anticipated exhibition near the dates that it has just started. On the other hand, you would probably see most of the exhibition in prime condition before wear and tear has a chance to wear it all down. But, I digress. We were given the Lost Map of Wonderland while we were on the queue and these maps were registered on the system before you follow Alice. Each map follows a character from Wonderland, the Queen, the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit, and the Cheshire Cat and they each have their own unique artwork to find.

Right off the bat, you are given a choice to use the normal door, or a shrunken door just like in the book/film. Of course, we took the small door. It’s perfect for small kids but a bit of a squeeze for bigger kids (like, adults). And from there, your adventure begins as you follow Alice through her adventures in Wonderland. Actually, you would be following several adventures seeing as there have been over 40 films, over 30 television programs, pop-culture references in books, music, video games, and even fashion. So, if you venture forth, follow your map and learn more about the world of Alice and the various interpretations of her adventures.

The Hallway of Doors is where we began our journey. Quite a few doors were around and each one holding bits and pieces of the tale of Alice. Behind the doors are concept art, manuscripts, drawings, and more inspiring works that have led to the pop-culture icon which is Alice. There is one particularly interesting corner here which is the glass table with the key that Alice works so hard to reach since she had been shrunken down after drinking the potion in the bottle that was labeled, “Drink Me”. Soon after though, we find ourselves in The Pool of Tears. Of course, in the book, this pool was actually created by Alice when she cried so much during the time that she had grown nine feet tall. This room houses early image projectors that were called magic lanterns. Think of it as early animation techniques. And through those technologies, Alice made her appearances in film with better special effects as the years moved forward. The Looking Glass House takes us deeper into the special effects that were used on the olden day films of Alice and eventually, the sequel to Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass. As the name implies, most of the effects are done with trickery using mirrors. A very old, but very ingenious way of basically superimposing images on top of each other to create an effect.

Over at The Rabbit Sends in a Little Bill, Alice’s adventure takes a detour from the normal stories that we may have heard. This is in part due to the interpretation of the story by a Czech filmmaker named Jan Svankmajer. In these bits of Wonderland, the world becomes surreal and everything becomes eerily interesting that you would do a double-take on the things that you see. You would then seek Advice from A Caterpillar. The Caterpillar is one more character that makes up the Wonderland crew and is represented in all sorts of ways by different characters and interpretations. But it is the question that is significant here, “Who are you?” asked the caterpillar to Alice. The Queen’s Croquet Ground is a small activity area where you turn yourself into one of the Queen’s guards. Yes, you will become a playing card. After croquet, it’s time to sit down to have tea with the Mad Hatter. You are invited to attend A Mad Tea Party which is an animated 3D tea party made especially for visitors of Wonderland. An amazing concept, but nothing really new if you have been coming to Singapore’s Art Festivals for the past few years. Who Stole The Tarts? This place showcases the Queen in all her mean and nasty glory. It is one of the smaller, but nicer places to visit before heading over to see Alice’s Evidence. This last room is where you realize how much Alice and her Adventures in Wonderland has influenced our culture. It has been one of the many stories that many know and remember, but some have only just vaguely heard of. But the influence of the many films show just how much Alice has been a part of our lives.

A Day Out With Lola (Grandma)

Lola came to visit us in Singapore. While we are shuffling around the days that we are free from school and work, we managed to stroll all the way down to Gardens By The Bay and see the pretty flowers.

Tulipmania is the main attraction at the Flower Dome and this runs from the 12th of April through the 20th of May 2019. We did not get to see it last year, so we brought Lola along to see the Flower Dome play host to the Netherlands. The Flower Dome itself had been home to different varieties of flora from the start. With Tulipmania, it was obvious which flora was at center stage. This year’s Tulipmania brings us to the Dutch countryside with rows upon rows of tulips. We were told that there were about 35 varieties of tulips across the display including the new “Singapura”, a red and white variant to commemorate Singapore’s founding some 200 years ago. The look was definitely ideal with Dutch cottages, a watermill, a windmill and dozens of wooden clogs scattered across the tulip zone. The tulips, of course, are amazing to look at spread far and wide like they were. Having the different varieties under one roof makes you appreciate it’s beauty even more. And if you get hungry, there’s a European Fair happening in the Flower Dome as well. This is where you get stuffed with sausages and pastries from a variety of local European food stalls. It would also be just in time for you to rest your feet by the time you get to the hall so it’s all well and good that the food is good.

After having a snack in the Flower Dome, we decided to use all our available time wisely and headed for the Cloud Dome next. Luckily, we were with a senior citizen and managed to get priority at the lift taking us up to the top of the Cloud Dome. As usual, we went about enjoying the colorful greenery. It also helped that the mist had just started and the Cloud Dome has transformed into this foggy, misty, wonderland. We took our time getting from place to place and reached the foot of the dome just as night time is taking over. It had been a fun and slightly wet day at the Gardens, but we’re glad that Lola enjoyed it. Because we did too.

Video Games Classics with the SSO

What is the SSO?
In this case, it stands for the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.

Matthew had been drafted to join Military Band for his school’s Co-Curricular Activity at the start of his Freshman year. It was not his first choice, but he did not make an appeal to change it so we didn’t attempt to get it changed. They were given a chance earlier this year to attend a concert and then meet and greet the band that played. He told us that he enjoyed it and that he was happy that he had attended.

The stage for Video Games Classics with the SSO
This is our view while watching the SSO

I am personally not musically inclined because music does not seem to like me. Let me re-phrase that. I like music. Music does not like me. But I won’t let that stop me from taking my family to enjoy the things that make them happy. So, out of the blue, I saw this ad for the Singapore Symphony Orchestra playing Video Games Classics. So we booked seats. That was way back in February with the show scheduled for the 5th of April.

Video Games Classics is a show conducted by Eimear Noone. So, Eimear Noone is known for her work on the music behind the World of Warcraft. Her other achievements include the scores for Starcraft II, Diablo III and Overwatch. And this show, was amazing. I probably knew half of the pieces, and the rest were music that I have heard while playing games or watching videos on YouTube. It was a pleasant surprise, really. But the way that the show went was really quite a surprise because it was lively and it was fun. I didn’t even know you could do that watching an Orchestra. So, yes. My favorite band is now, an Orchestra.

Of course, this show was really about Matthew. After all, he is the person that is in a band. Yes, it is Military Band. But it is a band nonetheless. And in fact, we were told from the very beginning of his secondary school education that this CCA of his would be playing a big role in his overall marks by the time that he graduates. And that is one of the reasons why we brought him to watch Video Game Classics. The second reason was for him to actually have a bit of time to relax from school work. If adults burn themselves out from too much working, it is no different for a child to burn himself out if he cannot find a balanced study life.

Matthew and the SSO Pops programme for Video Games Classics
Matthew’s face whenever he does not want to give us a “nice” picture.

At the end of the night, we all had a good time. Video Game Classics with Eimear Noone was an excellent performance. It was a very enjoyable experience and one that you would look for should other performances come along that will tickle our interests.

Not Just A Dad

I wanted to write a blog about Fatherhood and I thought that was what I was doing. But I came to a realization that you cannot be a good father if you are not a good husband. Yes, there are technicalities in relationships in this day and age, but I would like to keep it simple.

Often times I find myself between a rock and a hard place whenever there is an argument at home between my wife and my son. These don’t happen often, but when they do, I am usually left to decide if I am going to take sides. And yes, there are times that it becomes a difficult choice (though you’d think it shouldn’t even be a choice).

We all have our thoughts about what’s right and wrong. It shouldn’t really be about who is and who isn’t but deciding on that is more difficult than it seems. During one of these tough tugs-of-war was when I realized that we, as parents, shouldn’t be biased. I had been biased towards my son most of the time because of my thinking that he was “still a child” and that he was “still learning” and all those other alibis that fathers can think of just to put an argument to rest. And that’s wrong.

I understand that it is going to take a while to fix that. But it needs to start with a thought. And that thought is my wife. I wouldn’t have been a father if Matthew didn’t have a mother. And to raise Matthew into a beautiful person, I need to do it together with Judy. I had been blinded by my need to become important as a “father” because the world has changed. It has now accepted and is even preaching that fathers play an equally important role as a child’s mother. I made that my goal without realizing that being a father is not a competition. Rather, it is a joint venture called proper parenting. And having two parents is definitely an advantage over having just one.

Then we come to the point of being a good husband, partner, and friend. It is very important to take care of your partner (and you should know that my wife is standing behind me as I type this). As a child grows up, he would be growing with the values and behavior of the people he spends his time with the most. And from the beginning of his life, his parents would be the primary source of his love and inspiration. Matthew grew up as a very caring person. He would attend to you when you are feeling sick. He would give you hugs and kisses for no reason at all. He would often hold your hand when you had to poop in the toilet. Some of those traits were slowly lost to us as he grew older. He is now thirteen years old and he has been exposed to a lot of people with different views in life and different ways of dealing with their emotions. Inevitably, this has affected him. And like all kids that are growing up, the people around him play a part in his development – mostly these are his peers.

Luckily for us, his foundations had been strong enough to allow him to keep his identity. He would still hug and kiss you out of the blue, though not as often as before. He would still take good care of you when you are sick and he would still make sure that you are comfortable, though he would always take care of himself first. But he would no longer hold your hand when you poop in the toilet. Some of the traits that he developed are understandable but there are still some that we have been having difficulty trying to understand. I guess that’s part of parenting. And like what we have always been telling ourselves, this is a journey that the three of us are taking together and that there would always be surprises along the way.

Right now Matthew needs to see more of our love and understanding. It would be wrong to give him all of ourselves. So, while trying to figure out how best to move forward, I think that I also need to rekindle love in our youth. I believe that setting a good example is always the best way to teach someone. And I know that I have been lacking in that department lately. So this is the year for a comeback. Matthew’s world is growing and I would prefer to be in a bigger part of that world as his life becomes fuller. At the same time, we would need to find ourselves again and live our own couple-lives as our son continues to grow. The future has just become more exciting.

iLight Marina Bay 2019

2019 marks the Singapore Bicentennial commemoration. Bicentennial meaning 200 years since the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles onto Singapore shores. Not to be confused with SG50 held back in 2015 where Singapore celebrated its 50 years of Independence. Therefore, iLight Marina Bay will also be in Bicentennial edition despite only having started in 2010. Leave it to Singapore to have something to celebrate and spend money on. So let’s not get into too much detail over those things.

This year’s iLight Marina Bay was a wet one. That being said, we were not really able to enjoy some of the installations due to the inclement weather conditions the night that we went. Still, you can’t let a good night go to waste so we made the most of what we had. The route we took started from the Prudential Marina Bay Carnival and the light only started coming on from the Promontory.

City Gazing Singapore
City Gazing Singapore

“City Gazing Singapore” is a suspended map of Singapore at night. Albeit upside down. However, it portrays a Singapore that is both “grand and humble” according to the artist/s (VOUW). It would have been better for us to see the installation in full if it wasn’t raining so I will leave it to the artist’s interpretation. Over on the other side of the Promontory were these lit up squiggly lines which apparently were named “Squiggle”. There were joysticks for visitors to use to interact with the installation which is an abstract reflection of the multicultural world that we live in according to artist Angus Muir. Again, the rain didn’t help much with our experience here. Trying to get away from getting sick, we passed by “Les Footballeurs” which looks simple with only a bunch of LEDs but when you see the fluidity of the movement that they managed to set with these LEDs, you just go “wow”. Kudos to the artist Remi Brun for this one.

Dune
Dune

Still trying to be in shelter from the rain, we reached the installation “DUNE” next at OUE Bayfront. According to artist Daan Rosegaarde, visitors become a part of the artwork, enhancing social interactions between themselves and the landscape. This happens as the light fibers brighten (or dim) as visitors pass by and touch the installation.

Over at The Fullerton, the “Time Traveller” stands between the old and the new as a bridge between generations according to the artist Eko Prawoto. It was inspired by bamboo fish traps from the past which is what makes this visitor in the present a time traveler. It looks nice but unfortunately, I still don’t get it.

Flower Clock
Flower Clock

Our plan was to grab dinner at Over Easy, but it was closed. And so was P.S. CafĂ©. So we walked along the “Flower Clock” in search of actual food. The design was inspired by the relationship between blooming flowers and time which also celebrates Singapore as a Garden City. This was an entertaining piece while looking simple so props out to the group of students from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts (China).

The Merlion has always been an integral part of iLight Marina Bay. This year, the lights are from Loom Prod of France and are called “The Cat in the Garden”. Viewers will travel through seven colors of the light spectrum which is a poetic bridge to nature reminiscent of a rainbow. Yeah, we didn’t get this either. Last iLight’s take on the Merlion seemed to have been better executed and was better in terms of overall design as well. Not saying that this installation is bad, maybe it would just appeal to others.

Sebastien Lefevre decorated the Jubilee Bridge with hundreds of vertical flags animated by kaleidoscopic lighting in an installation called “Oriflammes”. As the flags wave in the wind, the colors and the lights play along with it creating an interesting display. I guess the word is festive.

Time Frame
Time Frame

DONIS, on the other hand, lit up the Esplanade Bridge with his “TIME FRAME” exhibit. Using information from http://www.worldmeters.info, TIME FRAME displays various information under the Esplanade Bridge like a ticker box. Some information is surprising, some relevant and some are just nice to know. Being Singapore’s Bicentennial, this display shows information represented by numbers in Singapore compared to numbers in the world. Interesting and informative is what I would say about this.

We managed to score a very late dinner somewhere between Makansutra and the Esplanade. And we decided to take the long route home by going back to Marina Bay Sands just so we could pass through “The Time Vortex”. This installation by Paul Vendel and Sandra de Wolf is easily our favorite. Set up on the Helix Bridge, you will be drawn to the light like a moth to a flame. Our only gripe is that the transition seems to hiccup in order to reset the journey. It would definitely have had more impact if the lights did not seem to switch off and reset in between sequences but this is still one of the best, if not the best that this year’s iLight has to offer.