That plain looking building that got us to stop …

24 03 2011

(at two that is!)

Passing by Dunearn Road the other day, I noticed a building that had I had forgotten about that once stood prominently close to the junction with Newton Circus. It was a building that stood out not so much as a great piece of architectural work, but one that was built on simple lines that reflected the frugality of the uncertain times during the era in which it was built. I was pleasantly surprised to find it still there, as many of its fellow buildings of the era had since made way for the wave of modernisation that has swept through Singapore.

The plain white building at the corner of Dunearn Road and Gilstead Road.

The building was when I was growing up, occupied by the Singapore Family Planning Board, serving as the board’s headquarters, right up until 1985, when the Board was closed and its work passed on to the Ministry of Health. The Board itself was formed in 1966, taking over the work of a voluntary organisation, the Singapore Family Planning Association (formed in 1949), which the building was originally built for, having been allocated the plot of land at the corner of Duneran and Gilstead Roads in 1963. The building was completed in 1968 by which time the Board had taken over from the Family Planning Association.

The building which now houses several health support groups including the Breast Cancer Foundation and the National Stroke Association, started its life as the headquarters of the Singapore Family Planning Board in 1968.

A side view of the building.

I suppose that most of my generation would remember the Board’s efforts in the 1970s more than the building, with its distinctive logo and its slew of posters and slogans which one really couldn’t miss, which sought to remind us with what was usually a picture of two girls, that, “Girl or Boy, Two is Enough”. This was everywhere, and with the powers of persuasion that most couldn’t really afford to ignore, the programme was one of the more successful ones, which many now feel contributed to the current low birth rate amongst Singaporeans. The campaign had been part of the Board’s second (of three) five year plans, launched in 1971, the first being aimed at selling the idea of family planning to 60 percent of married women aged between 15 and 44, and the third being to persuade the young to delay marriage and have children later. Based on available statistics, the success of the policies initiated by the Board can be seen in the total fertility rate falling from 3.07 in 1970 to 1.82 at the start of the 1980s. The total fertility rate in 2010 was 1.16.

Posters produced by the Family Planning Board over the years (source: National Archives of Singapore).

The National Family Planning Programme was launched with the formation of the Board in 1966 (source:

The building which today houses several health support groups that includes the Breast Cancer Foundation, the Singapore National Stroke Association and the Epilepsy Care Group Singapore, has for a while, faded into its surroundings despite having once had a prominent position close to Newton Circus, being in the shadow of the flyovers over Newton Circus that now dominate the area. Chances are, it will soon fade altogether, being in a prime residential area … to be replaced by a luxury apartment block that the area seems to have welcomed, and with it, some of the memories we have of a programme that went too well …

A signboard belonging to the National Stroke Association in front of the building.

The porch at the entrance to the building.

The bag that sold for $1001.68

16 09 2010

I attended the “Love Cuts Meet-the-Cast Sharing session at the K Box Union at Cineleisure Orchard on Monday. Present during the session were the Producer, Jack Choo; the Director, Gerald Lee; Scriptwriter, Lee Shyh-Jih and the Queen of Caldecott Hill, Zoe Tay, who played the main character Sissy in a movie that has touched the hearts of many who watched it. The appearance of what is undoubtedly the star of the very moving movie that attempts to bring about a greater sense of awareness of breast cancer and the importance of early detection in the effective treatment of what is today a common disease, wasn’t the only highlight of the evening. The session also provided an opportunity for some of the breast cancer survivors present to share their views on what the movie had meant to them.

Members of the Love Cuts production team and the Queen of Caldecott Hill, Zoe Tay, were present at the session. From left to right: Scriptwriter Lee Shyh-Jih, Producer Jack Choo, Zoe Tay (who plays main character, Sissy) and Gerald Lee (Director).

Central to the theme of the movie was the importance of the support of the family and friends in a victim facing the disease, and this was certainly emphasised by the survivors in the comments made, with even one Rita, going on to say that what she would like to have seen is the main character Sissy, sharing that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer with Kristy who had confided in her first about her fears about the disease. What they felt was really touching was seeing how in the movie, the family in which maybe bonds were taken for granted, had come together when Sissy had found out that she had fourth stage breast cancer. Another survivor, Esther, noted that even the rich boyfriend who seemingly is attracted to Kristy for her looks, does not leave her as she had feared. Esther recounted a poignant scene in which a wedding invitation comes in the mail – Kristy’s, with a tastefully done nude shot of her and her husband to be, which Esther feels was one that carried the message through. Overall, the survivors gave their thumbs up to the movie and to the awareness of the disease that it brings with it.

The sharing session.

The sharing session also provided an opportunity for some of the participants to share their views of the movie and also pose questions to the production team and to Zoe Tay, and in the process of that, it was apparent how the movie had touched and reached out to the audience. It is in the scenes of everyday life that struck a chord with many. One participant recounted how she had cried on each of the four occasions in which she had watched the movie (wow the movie just came to the screens on the 9th of September – and she had already watched it four times!).

Zoe Tay, who was hand-picked for the role as Sissy, looked radiant throughout the one-hour session.

Zoe Tay, who was hand-picked for the role as Sissy, looked radiant throughout the one-hour session.

One of the more interesting questions that did crop up, directed at the production team, was about the choice of Zoe Tay for the role of Sissy, with there being several other possible candidates who might have fit the role just as well. The question was answered by Director, Gerald Lee, who said that Zoe Tay was who the team had in mind from the outset. Zoe Tay whom I had found out in a newspaper article earlier was 8 months pregnant, looked radiant throughout and whilst seated, certainly didn’t look as if she was expecting. Zoe had during the session, admitted, that she was herself, touched watching the movie, recalling a poignant moment when the daughter of her character in the movie had smelt the clothes of the character Sissy – something which Zoe had a personal experience of. She graciously also provided two personal items for an auction at the end of the session: a Emporio Armani dress which she bought in New York, and a 4 compartment shopping bag which she had picked up in Japan. The bag surprisingly went for a larger sum at $1001.68 to a self professed Zoe Tay fan Tarren (10.01.1968 being Zoe Tay’s birth date), while Esther got the dress for $350.

Zoe Tay with the $1001.68 bag.

Breast cancer survivor, Esther, with a Emporio Armani dress donated by Zoe Tay that she won the bid she put in of $350 for in an auction to raise money for the Breast Cancer Foundation. The dress was bought by Zoe Tay on a trip she made to New York.

The audience was also treated to a moving rendition of the theme song for the movie, Shou Zhong Xian (手中线) by none other than the recording artiste herself, Serene Koong. Serene shared her experience in the making of the music video for the song which was shot at Fort Canning Park in which she had continued with the shoot despite ants biting her feet. I guess that kept her on her feet … and based on the response to her delivery of the song … would certainly keep a few of her fans on theirs.

Serene Koong who recorded the theme song, Shou Zhong Xian (手中线), making her appearance ...

performing a very moving rendition of the song.