Wong Keong Hua, 58, has a wisdom that belies his simplicity. He has been in the hawker business for the last 16 years and is father to a middle class family consisting of his wife and two daughters. He isn’t looking to retire anytime soon, finding joy in honest and hard work. An expecting grandfather, he looks forward to spending time with his grandson and watching him grow up.
He may be an ‘ordinary’ dad, but we say his gentle spirit, his affable personality, and his modesty make him extraordinary.
How He Makes a Living
Originally from Malaysia, Mr Wong Keong Hua has been in Singapore for the past 40 years. A father of two daughters—aged 29 and 23, Mr Wong continues to labour tirelessly together with his wife at his cai png (Chinese economical rice) store located at Bukit Timah Plaza. He has been making a living out of this hawker business for the last 16 years, six days a week, resting only on Sundays. He works up to 12 hours a day, waking at the break of dawn at 7am, and only returning home at 8.30pm at night.
The Way He Has Brought His Children Up
His youngest daughter, Wong Yong Lin, was only 7 years old when he went into the F&B business, starting as a vendor at Anglo Chinese Junior College’s canteen. Despite the busy schedule and early hours, Mr Wong insisted on taking both daughters to and from school each day. This dedication continued until Yong Lin turned 16.
At home, Mr Wong emphasises the building of character first before anything else. He says that the principles and values of a person are absolutely essential and he feels that it is a pity that schools have removed the moral education class, ‘Hao Gong Ming’ from their curriculum. He believes that if his children have degrees but not the correct values, he has not taught them well. He also does not believe in bringing his children up by the rod, and teaching them right from wrong in that manner.
The Contented and Humble Father
One of the things in life that makes Mr Wong happy and satisfied, is knowing that both his children are grown, and healthy. When asked what makes him the most proud, he answers that it is the fact that both his daughters have degrees and do not have trouble making a living today. (Zhiling works as a credit risk analyst in Barclays Bank, and Yong Lin works as a designer for Pets Magazine.) He has no wish for his children to take over his business because he knows that they do not have an interest in the hawker business and he wishes for them to make a career out of something they will enjoy.
Mr Wong says that as a middle class family, they lead a simple life. They do not plan for big annual holidays and they don’t visit fancy restaurants to have dinner. In fact, on birthdays every year without fail, this Buddhist family celebrates at a vegetarian restaurant with a meal so that he can remind his children to always be humble.
All Grown Up
Now that his children are older, it is harder to get everyone together because both his daughters have their own social lives. As a family, less time is spent together. But, Mr Wong and his wife atill make it a point to to stay involved by keeping watch at the sidelines, and attempting to understand their children’s troubles without unnecessary prying.
He continues to show his love for his daughters at every opportunity. For example, on Sundays, his only day of rest, he and his wife make the effort to cook bird’s nest every week for elder daughter Zhiling who is, at the moment expecting their first grandson. They deliver the broth to her home personally to make sure that she gets her dose of nourishment.
Hopes for His Family
Ten years down the road, he hopes to see his youngest daughter, Yong Lin, married and with a family of her own; and for both Yong Lin and Zhiling to be able to successfully and smoothly navigate the troubled waters that may course through their lives. He wants to continue working because he feels that it helps to keep his mind active and healthy. In spite of having suffered from a stroke previously, he has no plans to retire, perhaps only to slow down a little. Work gives him an aim in life and something to look forward to each day.
When asked, what advice he would give to other fathers, this dad for life humbly replies that he does not think he is a fantastic dad, but rather, he thinks that he has a fantastic wife.
Getting to know Mr Wong is a heartening and humbling experience. A successful dad by any standard, he bears testimony to the fact that wealth and socioeconomic status are not significant factors in the making of a good father. Rather it is the heart and will to provide nothing less than the best for one’s children, to nurture them in a manner that will develop them into the best persons possible, that make for the most outstanding dads.
About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.
First published on 26-12-2012
Categories: Dads' Stories