Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Beauty of the Village - Badjao, Bohol, Philippines

I’m sitting outside a cluster of little homes in Badjao Village. Our fixer, Marifare lives here with her relatives. The Director, Cameraman and Soundman are down at the compressor fisherman’s house filming. I lounge on the steps of Marifare’s mother’s house while enjoying the cool sea breeze, which smells of smouldering soot, fish, urine and occasionally cigarettes. It’s a charming smell which I’ve grown somewhat accustomed to. There is a little garden that the family has set up. Potted plants line a bench under a single tree. There aren’t enough pots, so the family uses paint cans, milo tins and cut-up bottles as replacements.
It is a Saturday, which means that the entire village is at home, including the men who take the weekends off fishing. Some of them are scurrying around the rocky paths, made slippery by the rains the night before, carrying tools and materials to fix their boats and fishing equipment. I hear music coming through the thin weaved walls of the various houses. Some lady is singing along to Paul Baloche and Don Moen, popular Christian music artistes. Not all the villagers are Christian though. There are Islams (a variant of Muslims) and Catholics as well. Roosters cry out even though it is close to noon. Scraggly dogs mark their territory on the pillars of these raised homes. Cats slink about. A little boy wearing nothing but a t-shirt pees out of the entrance of his house. The warm golden stream splashes on the stepladder to the doorway. It puddles proudly on the ground beneath the first step. It is peaceful here.
The slippery paths lead to the sea, the shallow water is putrid and coated with junk. The lit houses that litter the shoreline tiptoe on stilts as if trying to escape the filth below, as if reaching for the heavens. The houses are connected to land and to each other only by rotting planks and broken bamboo raised two to three metres above the water. The locals navigate these bridges as easily as paved walkways. Children sprint across the rickety boards without care for the stench below. They grew up here; their feet are sure. They wonder why we trek so slowly. They urge us along with their eyes as if hinting that speed makes the journey easier.
There is a wedding tonight. Marifare invites us to attend. There will be a party she says. Hundreds of villages cram into their village hall to celebrate the union. The girls shyly sway their hips; a cultural dance to remind the men to look at them. All of a sudden, the bride diffuses through the crowded doorway, wearing a sleek, purple dress and a frown. It is customary not to smile till after they are wed. She looks convincingly miserable as she takes to the dance floor while the villagers rush to stuff Pesos in between her fingers; she gets to keep as much that sticks. Soon the bills envelop her hands like pom-poms. The guests cheer her on while we quietly take our leave.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

20 Things About Daryl


This is my best trait. I believe it is also the most important trait. I am willing to learn new skills and explore areas to improve. It’s been proven that mental stimulation throughout one’s life can prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia. I never want to get those.

As ironic as it may seem to list this as a positive trait in a self-evaluation, but it is one that I always aspire towards. C.S. Lewis said, a truly humble person "...will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all."

It makes me happy when the people around me are happy. So I do things to make them happy. So that I can be happy. So actually, it’s rather selfish of me. Sorry.

Patient & Understanding
I’ve worked in an education centre with kids and in a day activity centre with people with intellectual disabilities. It’s a good way to practice being calm

I’m addicted to the sense of accomplishment and positive feedback. Having said that, I also like finding shortcuts so that work can be done more efficiently. 

Friendly Communicator
I make friends quickly. I get along with people most of the time. I think the trick is to look for glimpses of God in every person. 

I have an affinity for youth. I play football with interns 10 years younger than me. I’m proud of that! People say its in the genes. My dad is the youngest looking seventy-something-year-old I know. 

I like to stand out and do things that are unexpected. 

I’m not referring to the preoccupation of love, I’m referring to my outlook on life. It is often described as idealised and unrealistic. I’ve been on the emotional and depressive side. I prefer idealised. 

An eye for detail.
I’m in no way the most meticulous person you might meet. However, I’ve learnt to take note of (nitpick) how images and text are presented on a screen or in a page. 

I love my job
I love working with awesome bosses, talented colleagues, and fun intern. I love that I am not stuck in a single job description. I love it so much that I've put 11 things! =D


I have been perceived as a little slow sometimes. Sometimes I overcompensate by rushing, which only makes things worse. Most of the time I work at my own pace, which ensures that the work is done to the best of my ability.

Dislikes Inconsistency
Although I mentioned that I am patient and understanding, I also realise that I am often frustrated by inconstant expectations, which on a bad day can cause me to speak out against it. I think it’s the reaction to it that makes it bad. Especially because an editor’s job is about making changes.

Speaks too freely
Sometimes, I am too liberal with my opinions and have been known to say things at the wrong time. 

One thing I’ve learnt a lot while working here is that there are many things that a client should not see. It’s like the graceful swan: above the water, calm and composed; below the water, paddling like crazy.

My mind tends to wander sometimes, which annoys me when I’m on a deadline. Coffee sometimes helps.

I have excuses; they are all invalid.

I really dislike this description of me. I really think I’m not. I’m really trying to disprove this.

Camera work
Needless to say, there’s a whole lot of techniques to look out for and improve. 

I want to be able to edit a TV show. Don’t feel proficient enough yet, but I’m getting there.

This whole thing still looks like magic to me. Translating a vision to words, and then into life on screen is something that I would eventually like to master.  

Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter's Fool

There is hope for us.
Like we are placed in the middle of a minefield.
The heat beating down like an interrogation. 
We are devastated, finding a path amongst the dismembered,
remnants of the impatient that have gone before.
There must be a way from this dry death;
may we find it. 
There must be shelter from this scorched, parched land;
may we hide in it.
I don't know if it is your words, or the sound of your voice,
or just your presence that appeases me.
There is something about pain 
that stretches time and thins the memory.
Let me remember how I felt,
when those words entered my soul,
when the realisation blossomed like flowers in spring, bright and bold.
Let those words be like a healing salve over numerous wounds,
washing over softly, soothing.
Remind me how those words could save me,
like hope to a trapped man in a minefield,
You carried fools to safety.

- Daryl Goh

Friday, March 29, 2013

Sounds like Good Friday

The first thing I do when I wake is to listen. 
I listen as the light eases into the sky, 
as it rises from morning cool to its noontime height. 
I listen to the rhythms of the neighbour's washing machine, 
or to linen tumbling dry. 
The dryer wheezes like a fragile grandfather. 
These walls reverberate emptiness, 
I try and fill it up with emptier melodies. 
Then the random thought arrives. 
I recall a friend's dismay upon discovering 
that art is artificial; 
an attempt to replicate that which made you feel.
Outside, depression hangs over the city, 
as if setting the scene for heartbreak, 
as if it knew someone important had died today.

- Daryl Goh

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Retro Or Just Plain Old-Fashioned

Walking down Haji lane is quite a surreal experience. It is almost like being transported back in time to a different era; time seems to slow down, the colours fade, the road is narrow and there are old bicycles slanted against the walls. The fashion and furniture within the shops are like a pretty girl's beguiling smile. They beckon you to come closer. It is a romantic place. I don't go there as often as I would like. I should. And since it is so close to school, there is all the more reason to visit.

Racism isn't as cool as the psychedelic prints on this vintage chair
I always admired the taste of the shopkeepers. They seem to be able to bring in things that are retro but yet fashionable. It's not as easy as you might think. For example, a pair of spectacles from the 80s might be retro, but a handphone from the same time is just plain old-fashioned. But it is not just gadgets or fashion that go through this retro vs. old-fashioned scrutiny. Sometimes I feel that people's mentalities need to go through some sort of checklist.

For example, with regards to a certain racially-insensitive twitter user. It seems to me that her mentality was similar to a certain period in the 1960's. Not cool. Just old-fashioned. In fact, this whole hypercritical attitude of bigotry is entirely outdated. 

I just saw a post from a classmate on facebook. She was ranting about someone who was looking down at those who studied at private universities. Although I don't know the context of the criticism, I do know how it feels to feel second class. I used to feel that way when most of my friends went to Junior College after their O' Levels, while I went to Temasek Polytechnic. We are coming into the teenage years of the new millennium where discrimination should no longer exist. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we should all agree on everything, I'm saying that it takes maturity to get along with someone who lives, thinks, or looks different. Maybe it is time we grew up.

But more importantly, I don't let it affect me anymore. There are people whose opinion I value and respect; they are the voices I let in and listen to. The others don't matter. Because the ones who have to beat others down to feel good about themselves deserve neither my ear nor my heart.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

My Teacher, Li Cheng

I left my job at Christian Outreach to the Handicapped in August 2011. I had worked for slightly over three years in a Christian charity organisation for people with intellectual disabilities.

Now now, I know what you're thinking, "Is it THAT kind of charity?"

I've been asked this many times before. After NKF, after Ren Ci, and now, after the City Harvest debacle.

So I guess you can say, I'm hurt.

I'm hurt because much of what they say is true.

I'm hurt because much of what they say is not.

It should come as no surprise, such opinions and viewpoints towards religion, charities and money have always existed. And yet, the ferocity of it always leaves me voiceless.

But no, it is not THAT kind of charity. We are the kind that has an annual expenditure of just over $1 million. And we struggle to raise funds to meet that expenditure. And when we do, we wipe the sweat off our brow and breathe thanks to God.

But I digress.

She calls me her teacher.
Today, one of the clients attending the day activity sent me a friend request on Facebook. Right after I accepted her request, I saw a post on her wall.

It said "My Teacher Daryl Goh".

You know, in life, there are moments so overwhelming and warm that you just have to stop what you're doing, centre yourself and say, "this is so precious."

Like watching dance. Like listening to music. The stuff that stirs your soul. This was one of those moments.

I would like to clarify. My job at Christian Outreach to the Handicapped was more like an events and volunteer coordinator. I was not her teacher. I would see her at the Toa Payoh Centre whenever there were volunteer events. Most of the time, I was based at the administrative office in Tampines.

Li Cheng, 35, has been with COH since 1990. She is diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy messes with the body's nervous system, mixing up the signals for clenched and relaxed, making it hard to control her movements.

She is largely wheelchair bound, but I've learnt that she is strong enough to take steps on her own during her physiotherapy sessions. Her condition makes it difficult for her to speak, but I've learnt that she is able to communicate using a board with everyday words printed on it.

When COH was shooting their corporate film, I learnt that she is a bit of an actress and able to portray different emotions on cue.

When she communicates with new volunteers who find it hard to understand her, I learnt that she has tons of patience in pointing out the words on her board repeatedly until someone gets it. And then she's all smiles.

I've learnt that she has a wicked sense of humour, laughing whenever she overhears a funny story, or when she sees someone being clumsy.

On days when she looks visibly sad, I learnt that it doesn't change the way she treats others, beaming a smile whenever she is greeted.

I've learnt that her disability doesn't affect her generosity; she shares the treats she has.

I've learnt that a smile works in every situation.

I've learnt so much from the way she approaches life; her gratitude, her attitude, and her beautiful spirit.

So actually, Li Cheng is my teacher. And even now, using Facebook, she is teaching me that sometimes, we just have to focus on the moments.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

City Of Lies

I'm seated at the peak. The wind serenades the silence. The skyline could be a photograph if not for the blinking lights. The city's towers look like middle fingers pointed to the heavens.

The offices lit with people dreading to leave because they know they must return -- dreading to stay because the hours burn into their eyeballs, yet lining their wallets and padding their egos.

They worship: every desk; an altar. Every flickering screen; a sacrificial flame. The clock counts down to its death, like incense burning, they both make for watery eyes.

Then we aged into mere reflections of true religion, paying tribute to temples of the night. We still sing amidst our failures, while the rhythm of lies are drummed into our subconscious.

You are loved, but barely. Expect to be treated unfairly. Grow old and weak, but pray you do not get sick. And if you do fall ill, it must be God's will. 

I think of you, your name like a whisper the wind teases to iron out the ceases of my crumpled soul. Gentle breezes bring me back to a simple love, when the heart reached out for another, and that was all that mattered.

It was different then; our voices pure, our vision unwavering, our dreams untainted, precious and raw.

- Daryl Goh