9th – 11th December 2017
Pulau Pangkil Kecil.
Behind-The-Scenes: June – December
6 months of stealth planning to pull off the biggest surprise party I have ever thrown – our parents’s 25th Wedding Anniversary Weekend Getaway!
Undecided on celebrating my 30th, in the spur of that moment, I remembered seeing ‘1992’ on my parents’s wedding photo. Texted Paul to double check it for me. Photo was in a wooden frame, on the second shelf of the glass cabinet, adjacent to the kitchen. 02-12-1992 was stamped in red at the bottom of the kodak-printed photograph. Paul had never seen such old ink in his life. LOL!
That settled things for me – I shall throw them a surprise party instead. Paul and I schemed to get their friends’s phone numbers. One such instance was waiting for Mum to absent-mindedly leave her mobile at home. Poor Paul had to deduce from 3 ‘Flo’s in her contact list to ascertain the right Auntie Florence. HAHAHA!
Set up various Whatsapp groups and started the discussion of our party date! At the same time, I was tossing between hosting in Singapore or overseas. Concluded that Singapore venues would be boring and restrictive. Moreover, I like a challenge. Thus began the deep dive into Bintan’s private island resorts. Chose Pulau Pangkil as they were not only the first (out of 5/6 enquiries sent) to respond to my email but their architecture was also something Dad would dig; a blast to the past. How apt for our theme!
© Video: Keith’s drone (first-time he flew the drone!)
© Video: Nono & Keith’s phones
(paul slept in the tree house)
The weekend of 9th & 10th December coincided nicely with everyone’s schedules AND was available for booking! Pangkil was fully engaged until November when I first checked their availability in June. Hustled to confirm attendance within 2 weeks and dropped the deposit! After which, I told Dad & Mum that we were going on a family trip, to which, they obliged without many questions. During these six months, I was on tenterhooks, for fear they might google the island, as the resort policies and rates were listed on the website – the key one being “minimum 10pax.” Lucky for me, they did not. PHEW!
August. So, the surprise element was their friends and family. With relatives abroad and friends who could not attend, I figured a video would be the best way to include these folks in the celebration. Kenny and I re-hired our wedding videographer, Teck Kuan, to interview their closest friends and siblings. As for those overseas, I got them to send in clips which would be incorporated into the video. Big thank you to husband and cousin, Keith, for managing the interviews while I was grounded in Lombok.
September. On the eve of my filming, Paul and I cracked our heads into the wee hours of the night, conceptualising the best way to visually illustrate the home Dad & Mum had built. The next morning, just as we finished filming the exterior scene, it started to pour! If that was not luck, I do not what is. #SecondTimeFluke
October. Uncle Richard was back in Singapore. Auntie Grace nearly let the cat out of the bag during dinner! What a close shave. Hahahaha!
Late November. Grandma fell ill. She was still in recovery well into December. Auntie Grace and I had our reservations about bringing her along. Although this weekend vacation was meant to commemorate Dad & Mum’s Silver Jubilee, I had proposed bringing Grandma (back in June) as an opportunity for the family to spend more time with her and allow her to have some more fun. The first week of December was quite the jittery one. However, Lady Luck was definitely shining upon us! Grandma’s spirits were increasingly lifted as the 9th drew near. Also, Kristin had her week off and could fly in from Australia to join us! Sorry about Kenneth though. It sucked that his exams ended at a later time on the 9th so he had to bow out. And, I fell sick 2 days before. But hey! 2 good things! #ThirdTimeBlessing
D-DAY: 9th December
Woke up before Dad. Got downstairs before Dad. Now, this should have set off alarm bells for him because I am usually the second last or last to be ready. Strangely, I think, it did not. HENG AH!
Time – 0715
60% of the surprise party were at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal while the remaining 40% were still stuck in traffic. I had to stall. Dad & Mum were eager to leave the house! Played the sick card. Boiled water, made tea, took my medication while Kenny ate a cheesecake. Simultaneously, Deryck, our photographer for the trip, and I were changing the pre-arranged designated meeting spot due to the unexpected morning crowd. Sent out constant updates to the various Whatsapp groups. Anxiety Maximus!
Time – 0730
90% present at the new designated spot. 10% waiting to turn into the terminal. I called an Uber XL and we left the house at 0740.
(the surprise party – ready and waiting!!)
Our superbly co-ordinated surprise, among the 5 of us, was beyond flawless! Big shoutout to Deryck, Nono, Keith & Kenny! FuckYeah!!!!!
Relive the moment of immense shock and astonishment for Dad & Mum right here:
© Video: Keith’s phone
© Video: Nono’s phone
Deryck captured their priceless expressions perfectly! See in numerical order as Mum & Dad started to recognise faces:
Not forgetting our surprise superstars!
Free hugs everywhere!! (most of the photos will be on the facebook album; link below)
(except for us kids. claire, where were you?!?!)
© Photo: Uncle Ben’s phone
Having informed Bintan Resort Ferries in advance that Grandma would be coming in her wheelchair, the staff were on standby and ready to board her up the ferry. Easy Peasy! The ferry ride took about an hour. When we arrived in Bintan, it was pouring heavily. Only Grandma was ready with a poncho! With age comes experience? Haha!
After we cleared customs, it was a 1.5hr land transfer (3 cars and 1 bus) to Pama Jetty. It was a little tedious but Pangkil staff had prepared pandan cake, curry puffs and drinks in each vehicle which helped to alleviate the humdrum journey. Took a piss break and we were ready to embark on the last leg of our transit – a 15minute speed boat ride!
Pangkil staff and our family helped Grandma into the speed boat without much difficulty. 34 of us were loaded into 2 speed boats. It was drizzling and the waters were choppy. A handful of us started to feel seasick :O
As Pangkil did not have a jetty, which was puzzling, and there were many corals in the shallow area, we had to take an inflatable RIB to shore. That did not help the seasickness as we had to wait patiently for the boat to return. It could only take 7pax at a time.
(grandma was totally feeling the wind in her hair!)
Unfortunately, this short transit took much longer than expected – about 45mins – since Pangkil only had 1 tender servicing 2 speed boats. Baffling. With 6 hours to dinner, I was not worried about the seasick ones recovering in time for tonight’s party. I was more concerned about the weather and high tide.
While waiting for the last few to get to shore, the rest of us were treated to refreshing welcome drinks, which were very much appreciated by the swirling heads >D
Counted my ducklings. Checked everyone into their respective houses. Fed them a feast!
© Video: Nono’s phone
Just as our entire party was settling down for lunch, the weather started to clear up. Also, Grandma seemed to enjoy her food. Given her recent history of being a picky eater, this must be a good sign! #WhereIsMyFourLeafClover
While my guests did whatever they wanted – massage, water sports, chilling, board games, napping etc – I popped into the shower, slapped on some makeup and did what I get a kick out of – creating an immersive space.
The tide receded rather slowly and due to time constraint, we could only work with a limited beach area. Multiple layout changes later, we were putting on the finishing touches as the sun began to set.
(would have been more romantic if pangkil had fairy lights or light bulbs to intersperse with the suspended florals)
(’tis the season to be jolly – a rustic semblance of the christmas tree)
My guests began to arrive while Kenny kept Dad & Mum at the house, waiting on my cue to lead them into a grand entrance! >D
Everyone came dressed in party colours – White/Beige with shades of Blue (Aquamarine to Royal Blue)! THANKS FOR INDULGING ME!
© Video: Nono’s phone
Powering through a sore throat was UH-MUH-ZANG! Embarrassingly, there was no filter between my head and my mouth. Whatever got Dad, Mum and guests to lose their inhibitions quickly was the methodology of the night!
(for symbolism sake, i just had to get claire to put the garlands on them because she is 25 too!)
Opened dinner with the most important heads-up to my parents: they had no veto rights in the activities to come! Care to decipher the thoughts behind their smiling faces? LOL. Dad was probably thinking about karma.
Got bellies filled and happy. Had alcohol flowing; without a single empty glass in sight. Everyone was in high spirits! What better time to kickstart the program than now?
Paul had some of our guests welling up. His speech was, indeed, quite moving. At the end of it, he revealed that we had a video to show. In response, Mum sprang up from her chair!
“Whatever you see, whatever happens in Pangkil, stays in Pangkil!” She must have thought we filmed a secret home video or something! HAHAHAHAHAHAH!
(i have officially put mum in the most anxious social situation ever! yeaaahhhhh!)
(uncle jerry was having none of it! eager to see beans spilled!)
What an immaculate act of sabotage! HAHA! (watch till the end and you will understand) See in numerical order for Mum & Dad’s reactions as they watched the video. Paul was lurking behind, waiting to hand Dad the microphone!
After Dad’s speech, our family went up front to pop 3 bottles of champagne together!
© Photo: Kristin’s phone
Poured champagne for all 34 of us and in good ol’ Singaporean fashion, we toasted to the wonderful night with one really loud and long Yum Seng!
To the Super Married Couple!
So, we began with Paul’s speech – Video – Dad’s Speech – Champagne Popping – Toast, henceforth, the next item in succession is the First Dance! And to, none other than, Van Morrison’s Someone Like You:
Shortly after, all of the other couples joined in. While the folks were relishing romantic times past, Kenny, Nono and I scurried to co-ordinate the release of fireworks at the exact moment in the song. Totally aced it! Woohoo! #ItsAllAboutTheFlow
© Videos: Nono’s phone
(the unintended heart shape! love is literally in the air!)
Kool & The Gang’s iconic ‘Celebration’ was the perfect opener for the night’s dancing! Even Grandma stood up to get a few moves in! YEAAAHH!!
(grandma totally lit up when dad danced with her!)
What really got the whole party pumping was Earth, Wind & Fire’s famous ‘September’! (most of the photos will be on the facebook album; link below)
(when grandma is off her seat, nobody has an excuse not to get on the dance floor!)
(auntie brenda, the disco queen, has awaken!! woohoohooo!!)
(and dad always said he had two left feet. yeah right!)
Took a break to get some group photos in and devour Pangkil’s home-made ice cream dessert! (most of the photos will be on the facebook album; link below)
(grandma loved her vanilla & chocolate ice cream! did not even look tired from all that dancing!)
(their sailing friends surprised them with a really posh gift!)
Paul and I had one more trick up our sleeves before we closed dinner. Can you guess what it is? >D We tuned up the original newlywed game to the Super Married Game!
We came up with borderline-PC questions such as “Who was the first to say I love You?”, “Who first had a crush on the other?”, “Who has dated more people?” and finally ending the game with, “After a fight, who usually apologises first?” – That, my good people, is the magic to making a marriage work!
(half the time, mum could not stop laughing and had to be coaxed into answering! hahaha!)
(the audience were lapping up the questions posed and absolutely curious about their answers!)
On that high note, dinner came to a close. A big thank you to all 43 people in helping me to create and make this once-in-a-lifetime event a huge success! And now, for more group photos and dancing!! (most of the photos will be on the facebook album; link below)
(wong house! special shout out to kaofu, anne, matteo, koan & chiara in canada + auntie chris & uncle frederick in france!)
(old is gold; when the saints come partying!)
(old is gold; super BFFs for life!)
(their drinking team has a sailing problem!)
Bananarama’s ‘Venus’, The Knack’s ‘My Sharona’ and Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’ got us forming a retro dance cypher and freestylin’ old skool!
(can’t believe dad got the groovin’ started! photos of every dancer on facebook album!)
(even grandma was up for round two!)
Exhausted from dancing but adrenaline still running high, we adjourned to the bar and chilled out over a game of Taboo, cheese & crackers, wine and instant cup noodles! Claire and I have a travel tradition of midnight snacking on cup noodles since we were kids, and this was my first taste of instant mee since August! OH SO YUMMMMM!
By 0300, we were all tucked in.
DAY 2: 10th December
The fishermen were up and about at 0630/0700!!
0800-1000: Despite the late night, everyone looked pretty fresh at breakfast!
(thankful for kenny who hosted our guests over breakfast while i slept like a log)
(putting her feet up and soaking in the morning sun!)
24 of us were scheduled to leave at 1600. Some managed to squeeze in last minute massages before lunch while others took their time to pack their bags. At 1500, everyone gathered at the bar for the final group photo!
© Video: Keith’s drone
10 of us remained on Pulau Pangkil for one more night. While grandma took a nap, the whole family headed out to sea. Auntie Grace, Paul, Kenny and I decided to try standup paddling while the others kayaked. We managed to get a hang of it pretty quickly. However, it was a total body workout! Too tiring!
Paul, Kenny and I then switched to kayaks and we all had ourselves a mini competition. Kristin & Mum were in perfect sync, rowing their kayak at super speed! But, Paul was the star kayaker. He started way behind everyone else, managed to get ahead, cut a sharp corner round the buoy and got ahead of Dad!
© Photo: Kristin’s phone
Took a dip in the resort’s pool after we had our fill of the sea. It was really deep, about 3metres?! As evening fell, the sea breeze got stronger and colder until it became unbearable for us to remain in the pool. We scooted out. Showered. Played some pool. Dined in the garden – I asked Grandma: “Where did we have dinner yesterday? Where was the party?” She answered: “Beach”. Splendid bookend to our weekend vacation!
© Photo: Kristin’s phone
DAY 3: 11th December
Weather was good. Waters were calm. Played Rummy-O with Grandma for a while until we had to pack. Took 2 trips to bring all of us to the speed boat. This time, Pangkil staff carried the entire wheelchair, with Grandma sitting in it, and placed the whole chair on the inflatable RIB! Not sure if anyone has that epic photo though. Got back into Singapore around 830pm. Kristin had an 11pm+ flight back to Australia later that night. Everyone got home unscathed and with their hearts full.
Twas an excellent weekend.
Facebook Album Link
Official hashtag #LAquarterlifebliss