Awaken the Dragon | Q&A: Liz Oakley Speaks to Eugephemisms

Liz Oakley - Awaken the Dragon

Liz Oakley is the filmmaker of Awaken the Dragon, an award-winning film about dragon boat and cancer survival.

Ms. Oakley shared with us how she started as a documentary filmmaker, her ongoing screening campaign of “Awaken the Dragon” and her team’s endeavour to make the film available in cancer centres across America.

To date, this is probably our most relevant interview as this does not only feature an award-winning documentary filmmaker, but also the film’s most significant achievement—the continuing course of enriching the lives of many cancer survivors all around the world.

Q: When did you start to make films? What was your first project and could you tell us something about it?

A: I was a rather reluctant filmmaker. In 1995, I was a former television news producer now working in production writing and producing short form videos for corporations, higher educational institutions, and non-profits. I had no intention of becoming a documentary filmmaker. But that all changed the day I went to get a haircut from a woman named Joanna Katz. At this point I’m going to refer you to a Q&A on the Sentencing the Victim website that answers just this question.

Here’s a short synopsis on the film:
On June 17, 1988, Joanna Katz’s life was changed forever. That night, she and another woman were abducted at gunpoint, taken to an abandoned house in Charleston, South Carolina, and brutally raped, beaten and tortured by five men for more than five hours. SENTENCING THE VICTIM is the story of how a blood soaked 19-year-old was able to walk away from her attackers, save her friend from certain death and continue fighting for the convictions of her assailants—and for the rights of crime victims everywhere.

Sentencing the Victim aired on PBS’s Emmy-Award Winning series Independent Lens and garnered the highest ratings of the season. The film went on to screen at a special session at the Dept. of Justice and at conferences around the nation. The film was also the inspiration for a change in South Carolina Law. S.935

Q: As an artist, what stimulated you into taking the path of filmmaking?

A: It was never about being a filmmaker. It was always about telling a story. Or rather… telling Joanna’s story. However, once I truly understood the true power of the medium I realized I had a voice that could help others.

Q: How did you come up with the concept of “Awaken the Dragon?”

A: After the success of Sentencing the Victim I was looking for the subject of my next film. I knew it had to be visually, intellectually and emotionally captivating… but it also had to be a story that could change the lives of others for the better. I met Dr. Cindy Carter through mutual friends and she mentioned a program she was working on… something about Chinese boats and cancer survivors. Well, that certainly got my attention. One day I was invited down to the dock to see the program for myself and meet some of the people involved. The first person I met was Margaret Logan. She immediately launched into her story…cancer…depression…not an athlete…started paddling…how it changed her life. She spoke fast and furious but it was more than the words. It was the way she spoke about her cancer… very matter of fact. As I listened to Margaret talk about her personal transformation I began to grasp the potential of her story. It was enormous. I settled on my next project before she stopped talking.

Q: Did you ever get involved in the sport of Dragon Boat at some point? If yes, how did you find it?

A: I suppose it was inevitable. I’m a visual learner. After a few of years on the project, I had spent hundreds of hours around the sport, coaches and culture. I started paddling. Then I started coaching. I was on the drum for many of the races at the National Championships in 2010. Life imitating art. I now paddle Outrigger Canoe whenever my shoulder will let me.

Q: On a personal level, what inspired you to create such a significant documentary on Breast Cancer and Survivorship?

A: Actually, the Charleston team I follow in the film is an “all cancer” team. Men and women of all ages and all types of cancer. However, it was the breast cancer survivors who paved the trail… or should I say broke the waters for the survivor paddling movement.

People have asked if I am a survivor or if I have a family member who has cancer. The answer is no. I have, like so many people, lost very dear friends to the disease and I hate it. But, I made the film to share a story that anyone who has ever faced a challenge could relate to. I wanted a woman in Topeka who just heard those words “you have cancer”, or the man in Gainesville with his third recurrence to know that they are not alone.

I wanted them to know that they can get in a boat figuratively or literally and light that fire within themselves.

Q: Did you anticipate the enormous impact and reception of the film? If at all, how did it personally affect you and your entire team?

A: I’m glad to know you think it has had an enormous impact. I do know it has had a significant impact on many who have seen it. I’ve been really lucky to sit in the back of the theatre during film festivals and listen to the reactions. They are almost always verbal and that’s a lot of fun for me. I can also pick out a paddler from anywhere in the room. They start to rock in tempo with the race scenes. So did I.

Making the film had a huge impact on my life. I’ll refer you to my post on Awaken the Dragon website.

Q: Even though the film was released in 2011, it still continues to inspire millions of breast cancer survivors and supporters worldwide. How do you feel about this?

A: I would love to think it is inspiring millions. The truth is that in many ways the film is just reaching the viewing public. We premiered the film at a festival in LA at the end of 2011 and spent the next year and a half screening the film at film festivals in the US, Canada and Belgium. It aired on the ESPN of Brazil in 2013/14 but has not aired in the United States. We signed with a distributor and the film is now available online or via DVD sales at You can watch it for free online if you have Amazon Prime! Unfortunately, this is a fairly common time frame for an independent film.

I’m inspired by survivors everyday.

Q: Do you have any Breast Cancer Awareness programs that you’re actively involved with at the moment?

A: Not directly, although after sponsoring a screening in Oklahoma City the Komen group started a Paddle for the Cure event! I continue to stay connected to what’s going on with Dragon Boat Charleston. And, while they are an all-cancer group they do have a breast cancer team, Paddles and Pearls, that recently won the national championship and they are headed to the Club Crew World Championships in Adelaide, Australia in 2016. Really inspiring to see how far they have come…how hard they have worked!

I do continue to work with the Awaken the Dragon screening campaign and we are exploring opportunities to make the film available in cancer centres across the nation.

Q: What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring Documentary filmmakers?

A: Be persistent. Never accept no. Bottom line… this is a very difficult business. More often than not, a documentary filmmaker is shooting, editing, promoting and doing his/her own fundraising. That’s a lot of hats to wear but if you are passionate and have a vision, you can make it all happen.

Q: What’s coming next for Liz Oakley Productions?

A: When I did the first film I thought we would shoot for a year or so and then edit. We shot for 6 and edited for half a year. I said, I’ll never do that again. So when I started Awaken the Dragon I said, I really will shoot for a year and edit for a year. I shot for 6+ years and edited for 2 years. I’m afraid if I start another film I’ll be on social security before it’s finished. Actually, in both cases the length of the shoot created a much richer and much more powerful film. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Having said that… I’m taking a break from feature length films and concentrating on my production business and the Awaken the Dragon Community Screening Campaign.

Q: What are your thoughts on the current state of the disease in terms of awareness? Do you think is has improved over the years? For that matter, what more can be done to help spread awareness?

A: I think breast cancer awareness has grown exponentially. The survivors are speaking out and asking for more and people are listening. And, it’s not just about what they are doing for breast cancer. The efforts of groups like Susan G. Komen are driving the science and those findings may in turn help cancer researchers across the spectrum of the disease.

I think the area where there is a lot of room for growth is in prevention. We now know that exercise can help reduce your risk of developing cancer or of having a recurrence. So, get in a dragon boat!

While this is our way of helping raise awareness on Breast Cancer, we would like to close the Breast Cancer Awareness Month by thanking and honouring Liz, as well as the many others who, in one way or another, empower us to awaken our dragon within.

Photo Credit: Liz Oakley Productions

Water to Fire [excerpt]

Water to Fire

Together they create poetry;
Stanzas of practices, drills of harmony,
Sounds of rhythmic metres,
Verses of drama and comedy;
Into a song of dexterity.

One and same in goal, in persistence;
Aggression aflame, at any distance;
Equal in strength to clutch the aim.

Touch, shave the water, feel the sliver
Longer reach–blend in with water;
Stronger, deeper catch
Hard, quick to win the match.

An excerpt from ‘Water to Fire.’ The full poem will be published later this year. This poem is not available in any public domain.

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10 Most Popular Dragon Boat Hashtags

Photo of the Day | Welland


Subject: 12th IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships 2015
Location: Welland, Ontario, Canada

50 Shades of Singapore

This list has nothing to do with the novel or its film adaptation, which we have neither read nor watched (yet); but rather, this significant number is our tribute to Singapore—its beauty, its culture, its people, its 50th!

Since this year is SG50, a year-long celebration of this “little red dot’s” 50th Anniversary of its independence from Malaysia; let us share with you 50 of our most loved landmarks, food places and other cultural stuff which are uniquely Singapore (through the prism of our eyes).

While a handful of images were straightforwardly picked from our camera phone, our special thanks goes to the Singapore Tourism Board for some of the amazing images featured here and to professional photographers extraordinaire: Kelvin Bao and Jun Pagalilauan.

In random order, each of the items included in our list has a special meaning to us. If you try to nimbly swipe your mobile phone’s photo gallery, you’ll certainly find a beautiful snapshot of Singapore at any given day, time and angle. Whilst our list is an odd mix of inspiring customs, things to do, fun activities, places to see, and unique cultural heritage; nonetheless, they have surely touched our hearts, gave us joy, and (albeit sometimes subconsciously) taught us a valuable lesson or two. Happy Independence Day, Singapore!

1. Singapore Flyer

Singapore Flyer
Image Credit: Natashakye

At 165m high, this is one of the largest observation wheels in the world. As you reach on the top of your ride, you may be able to see some parts of our neighbours: Indonesia and Malaysia. This Dr. Kisho Kurokawa design is really worth a try at 32SGD/Adult.

2. Singapore Zoo

singapore zoo 3

One of Wildlife Reserves Singapore’s (WRS) most visited attractions with over 2,800 animals in its natural habitat. Other must see WRS parks are: Night Safari, River Safari and Jurong Bird Park. Singapore Zoo Rates: 32SGD for 1 adult, 21SGD for kids up to 12yo and 14SGD for senior citizens. Annual visit pass will be very practical if your kids love animals a lot! Download the Zoo Map HERE.

3. Arab Street

arab street
Image Credit: Nightdowhat

This vibrant and artsy area of Singapore is famous for various things: Food, Bars, Cafes, Costumes, Carpets, Shopping and more. Best explored on foot and remember to bring your camera with you. Whether you’re a tourist or a local, you’ll love an afternoon stroll here.

4. Orchard Road

orchard road
Image Credit: Tumblr

We love this place because it’s crowded, it’s sparkly, it’s busy, it’s looong, and, yes, it’s full of beautiful things. It’s just simply: Orchard. Love it or hate it, you decide.

5. Dragon Boat

Dragon Boat by Kelvin Bao
Image Credit: Kelvin Bao

It’s one of the most popular sports in the country and it just gets bigger and bigger each year. Currently, there are more than 100 active dragon boat teams in Singapore. Watch out for the exciting big-scale annual dragon boat competitions like the Singapore Dragon Boat Festival (SDBF) in July and the Singapore River Regatta (SRR) in November.

6. Concerts, Cultural Shows and Musical Plays


A-List celebrities like Maroon 5, Katy Perry, J.Lo, Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey have performed here; and so as Asian music stars like Jay Chou, Lea Salonga, Rain, Bigbang, and Apink, to name a few. Big musical plays like The Lion King, Wicked, Starlight Express, Beauty and the Beast have been staged here. As for cultural shows, you can always catch one almost every weekend; try the venues like the Esplanade, Lasalle, and the art salons along Arab Street.

7. Changi Airport / Singapore Airlines

Changi Airport STB
Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board

Often voted as World’s Best Airport, that accolade alone describes its beauty and efficiency. Since it opened Terminal 1 in 1981, it now has 350 retail and services outlets and about 120 restaurants and cafes in all three terminals. Terminal 4 is on the works, too.

Established in 1972, this flag carrier of Singapore has not only pioneered several innovations in the airline industry; but it has produced the iconic ‘Singapore Girl’—a brand that is synonymous to high standard customer service.

8. Singapore Sports Hub

Sports Hub by Kelvin Bao
Image Credit: Kelvin Bao

This 35 hectare world-class sports site opened in 2014. It is one of Asia’s best sport and leisure venues that is environmentally conscious. Make your way to visit and if you’re taking the train, it’s right above the Stadium Station of the Circle Line.

9. The Merlion

Merlion Andrew Tan
Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board, Photographed by Andrew Tan

This icon has the body of a fish and the head of a lion. The fish represents Singapore as a fishing village in the past, while the use of the lion head is from its Malay name Singapura which means ‘lion city’. The Merlion Park is located near The Fullerton Hotel, while a much bigger Merlion replica can be found in Sentosa Island.

10. MRT

MRT LTA Gallery
Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board, LTA Gallery

To most of us, this is our multi-billion ride to work or school every day. In addition to the existing Red, Green, Purple, Downtown and Circle lines of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), there will be upcoming lines such as Thomson-East Coast, Jurong Island and Cross Island lines. Reported completion in 10-15 years.

11. Buses

Image Credit: Flickr

It is one of the best bus routing systems we have ever experienced. Through a mobile tracking system, it’s efficient and you’re often in for a smooth ride. We’ve heard that Bus 100 can be like a hop-on, hop-off ride for tourists as it starts off from Serangoon to Geylang, Kallang, Beach Road, Raffles Quay, Telok Blangah, Alexandra, Queensway to Commonwealth Ave. Isn’t it a cool route?

12. Chinatown

Chinatown Gaia Ong
Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board, Photographed by Gaia Ong

This beauty has a lot to offer: from sight-seeing, shopping to gastronomic experience. It’s just feels so festive to walk around the area at any given time.

13. Little India

Little India
Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board

A must visit when you’re in Singapore. You will get great bargains on shopping: from gadgets to snacks to toiletries. It’s also comforting to see our Indian brothers interacting with one another (often in groups); it’s very ‘social’, at the very essence of the word–no phones, just plain catching up, exchanging smiles and laughters.

14. Taxi Ride

Image Credit: Flickr

It’s easy to book (via app, text or call), except on rush hours, rainy weather or after clubbing hours. Majority of the drivers are honest and very courteous. If you’re going to the airport, they will ask, “Do you have your passport with you, Sir?” Considerate and nice.

15. Club Street / Neil Road

Club Street STB
Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board

Whether you’re up for an after work drinks or weekend get-togethers with friends and colleagues, these streets are very happening. The bars and cafes around Club Street and Neil Road have a diverse offering for everyone who’s looking for a great time.

16. Sentosa Island

Sentosa Island STB
Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board

With so many exciting things to do in the island, aside from sightseeing or picnics, there are water activities like Wave Riding, Stand-up Paddling, Outrigger Canoe and many more.

17. Tanjong Beach

Tanjong Beach Club STB
Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board

For a quick fix of sand, sun and sea.

18. Community Centres

Community Centres
Image Credit:

Over 100 Community Centres situated around the island, go visit the Communite Cente (CC) near you and avail of its offerings on Education, Life Skills, Sports, Arts and Lifestyle, Performing Arts and many activities both for adults and kids.

19. Bedok Reservoir

sunset bedok reservoir

Located at Bedok Reservoir Park, before it was converted into an 88 hectare reservoir, it was previously a sand quarry and is presently a favourite for many land and water activities like, biking, running, bird watching, dragon boating, canoeing, kayaking and fishing.

20. Marina Bay

Marina Bay by Jun Pagalilauan
Image Credit: Jun Pagalilauan

This iconic bay can be found at the heart of Singapore’s Central Business District. While it is one of Singapore’s main attractions and the best venue for extreme sailing and dragon boat races; it fosters a live-work-play lifestyle to locals and expats.

21. Marina Barrage

Marina Barrage Eric Au
Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board, Photographed by Eric Au

This modern dam was built in 2008 to block the seawater at the Marina Channel to aid in the growing water demand in Singapore. The Marina Barrage, a 350-metre reservoir, was also designed to prevent flooding in the city area.

22. Asian Civilisations Museum

Asian Civilisations Museum

Officially opened in 2008, the Asian Civilisations Museum showcases cultures and civilisations which originated from China, Southeast, South and West Asia.

23. Internet Broadband

Image Credit:

Not ranked as the fastest in the world but definitely one of the world’s fastest. Because of the highly competitive high speed fiber broadband plans made available in Singapore by internet service providers like Viewqwest, Starhub and Singtel. The Infocomm Development Authority or IDA meticulously oversees and publishes a monthly speed test results of the ISPs to ensure quality and dependability.

24. Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake STB
Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board

“Chai tow kway” or “Chai tow Kueh” is not the sweet dessert made from carrots. In fact, it has no carrot in it but daikon or winter radish. It’s prepared by stir frying the shredded daikon, steamed rice flour, water, and eggs. Each stall may differ on the seasonings used but a freshly cooked carrot cake is great for snacks and some would match it with beer.

25. Bugis

Singapore, STB-Singapore
Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board

The Bugis area is known for being a shopping district. Aside from the thrill and madness at the shopping area, there are myriads of eating places to go to. Steam boat, Thai food, Indian food, you name it and Bugis has it.

26. Red Dot Design Museum

red dot design museum

For a creative bite of Singapore, one has to come by the Red Dot Design Museum. Aside from design exhibitions, there’s a design trail that you can follow. Yes, there’s designer shopping too.

27. Chijmes

Chijmes STB
Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board

This historical place is not just a place for drinking and gastronomic experience, although it’s famous for that nowadays, Chijmes’ rich heritage started way back in the 1840’s. With the recent developments and renovations, it now playfully integrates history and the modern lifestyle.

28. Gardens by the Bay

Gardens by the Bay by Jun Pagalilauan
Image Credit: Jun Pagalilauan

Its main attractions are the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest but there are a lot more besides. This world-class icon is a must see as it will surely entice everyone in the family, even the most uninterested of plants.

29. National Day Parade

Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board

It was first celebrated in 1966, the year after Singapore’s Independence from Malaysia in 9th August 1965. Usually held at the Padang and simultaneously at the Marina Floating Stadium, its yearly themes are very meaningful. This year’s theme is “Majulah Singapura!”


Image Source:

The STOMP or Straits Times Online Mobile Print, is an award-winning website which is very popular in depicting ‘uniquely Singaporean’ news and features. It is big on social media, especially its famous pages like ‘What Say You’, ‘Singapore Seen’ and ‘Club Stomp.’ A concerned Netizen may take a snapshot or a video of you, so be very careful with what you post on social media and with your demeanour in public or you’ll be “STOMPED!”

31. Clarke Quay

Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board

To some, the place may be synonymous to ‘night out’, but there are more things that Clarke Quay can offer. It’s true though that it’s a very happening place in the evening, because of the bars and dance clubs, but it has great places for dining and even shopping, too.

32. The Helix Bridge

The Helix Bridge by Jun Pagalilauan
Image Credit: Jun Pagalilauan

It wasn’t just made for us to have amazing photos there, the beautiful bridge links us to and fro the Marina Bay, Marina South and Marina Centre (Malls). The Helix Bridge illuminates in the evening, giving more life and vibrancy to its exceptional design and structure.

33. Alkaff Bridge

The Art Bridge

Also known as the ‘Singapore Art Bridge’, this masterpiece was painted by Filipino artist Pacita Abad. It was built in 1997 but was only painted in 2004 using 55 different colours and with over 99 litres of paint used.


Image Credit: Kelvin Bao

These are acronyms of the expressways built in Singapore to help ease the motorists travelling from one urban area to another. That’s why, as they say, it will only take 30 to 40 minutes of travel between the farthest ends of Singapore.

35. Brunches/Cafes

Artistry Singapore
Image Credit: Artistry

Weekends in Singapore is usually filled with brunch gatherings (mostly Expats). This is like a celebration of the busy week that they have survived. There are a number of Cafés which serve brunches all around the island. ‘Celebration!’, that’s how we feel when we go for Singapore brunches.

36. National Library

Managed by the National Library Board (NLB), its mission is to “make knowledge come alive, spark imagination and create possibilities.” Aside from the National Library and National Archives, there are 26 other public libraries in Singapore that the NLB manages. For information membership and borrowing privileges, click HERE.

37. Make-A-Wish Foundation

Image Credit: Prestige Singapore

Many of you may have heard of Make-A-Wish or perhaps some may have even volunteered with them. Its mission is to grant wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. Since it began in 1980, they have granted over 187,000 wishes for children in Singapore. These wish granting that they do aims to enrich the human experience of these children with hope, strength and joy. Have you volunteered or donated lately?


Image Credit:

A ticket service and solutions provider who is in charge of over a thousand events happening in and around Singapore annually. Every concert, show or play savvy knows SISTIC. They have ticket booths and agents located in key areas of Singapore and even in other countries like Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, India, and Indonesia.

39. Singapore Art Museum

Singapore Arts Museum

It’s formerly the St. Joseph’s Institution, the Singapore Arts Museum or SAM has a diverse collection of contemporary art from Singapore and Southeast Asia. As Singapore’s first art museum, its mission is to make people think, feel, experience and imagine through contemporary art.

40. National Museum Singapore

National Museum Singapore by Kelvin Bao
Image Credit: Kelvin Bao

The oldest museum in Singapore and the custodian of 10 National Treasures, namely: The Singapore Stone, Gold Ornaments from the Forbidden Hill, Daguerreotype of Singapore by Alphonse-Eugene-Jules Itier, Portrait of Sir Frank Athelstane Swettenham, Will of Munshi Abdullah, The Mace of the City of Singapore, The Xin Sai Le Puppet Stage, The William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings, Singapore from the Rocky Point and Portrait of Sir Shenton Thomas.

41. MacRitchie Nature Trail

MacRitchie Reservoir STB
Image Credit: Singapore Tourism Board

Surrounding the park is Singapore’s largest reservoir—MacRitchie Reservoir. As part of nation building and transforming Singapore into a Garden City, the tree-planting started in the 60’s and the first campaign was spearheaded by the late PM Lee Kuan Yew; and, that was when the greening of Singapore started. The MacRitchie Nature Trail and Reservoir Park is now one of the most favourite spots of nature lovers, runners and water sport aficionados.

42. Universal Studios Singapore

Universal Studios Singapore
Image Credit: Flickr

Aside from Hollywood Walk of Fame and New York, there are seven movie-themed attractions and twenty four different rides found inside Universal Studios Singapore (USS). The Universal Globe logo which welcomes everyone by the entrance of the USS, already gives you the feel of being in a Hollywood movie. As Southeast Asia’s first Hollywood movie theme park, the USS is one attraction one shouldn’t miss when in Singapore.

43. Hawker Centres

Image Credit: Flickr – British Council Singapore

Hawker Centres are found in almost every residential area. If you want to experience authentic Singaporean (Malay, Chinese, Indian) cooking, the Hawker Centres will be your best option. Food prices are relatively cheaper too, as compared to food courts inside the malls. Disclaimer: There are a lot of shops in malls which serve great tasting local food as well; you just have to know where to go.

44. Kopitiam

Image Credit: Flickr

Kopi is a Malay word for coffee while tiam is a Hokkien word which means shop. While people watching or chatting with friends, it is a bliss to sit down with the kopi of your choice and a warm kaya-butter toast to go with it.  Best enjoyed early in the morning or afternoon during weekends.  On a busy Sunday morning, sitting in the open-air Kopitiam is just as exciting as it is relaxing.

45. Esplanade

Esplanade by Jun Pagalilauan
Image Credit: Raymond Cruz

The Esplanade Theatres on the Bay or just simply The Esplanade or ‘The Durians’ was built in 1996 and reached its completion in 2011. While The Esplanade is considered to be  one of Singapore’s most popular tourist attractions because of its unique architecture and design, its huge concert hall and theatre often showcase world-class performances.

46. Park Connectors

connector park

Aiming to promote fun recreational activities as well as fostering good health through fitness, the National Parks or NParks have created park connectors in different neighbourhoods around Singapore. Runners, joggers, cyclists, roller bladers and many more may enjoy their activities closer to nature. Park Connector Do’s and Don’ts

47. Bubble Tea Craze

Bubble Tea

When likes of Gong Cha, Artease, Each A Cup, SOD Cafe, Koi, et cetera have surfaced around Singapore; the ‘bubble tea’ fever has taken off in Singapore and the long queues have become visible. Everywhere. While it offers delicious flavours/mixes, it has become so lucrative to a number of stall and franchise owners as bubble teas are a great refreshment that’s delicious and fit for the hot and humid weather.

48. Queueing

Image Credit: The Straits Times

Speaking of ‘queues’, it’s not just in bubble tea counters but in Hawker Centres, Kopitiams and just about everywhere. Queueing is one cultural trait that is common in Singapore. It is respectful and orderly. It sometimes also signifies that that particular store is famous or have been serving quality food or service for a long time. You may also notice some stores featuring photos of celebrities or politicians queueing or enjoying their product. Now, that’s a good marketing strategy!

49. Choping


It is the practice of placing a tissue, an ID, an umbrella, or any small item atop the table to signal to others that you have reserved it. To ‘chope’ simply means to save one’s territory–that is your table. It is a practice that is observed mostly in the Central Business District area of Singapore. While it’s often packed on food places, especially during lunch time, the custom of choping has become a ‘policy’ that’s whimsical, and, yes, unique!

50. Gillman Barracks

Gillman Barracks

Formerly a military camp, this hip area may not be very well-known to many just yet; but the Gillman Barracks is a cool area for contemporary art. Through the cooperation of National Arts Council (NAC), Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), and JTC Corporation (JTC), it aims to make Singapore the centre of contemporary art in the whole of Asia through its art galleries and exhibitions. Let’s support this mission. If you have not been yet, here’s how to get there.

What’s your 50?

28 Amazing Athletes Who Will Inspire The Younger Generation of Dragon Boaters

After twelve days of exciting, nerve-racking, and historic sporting moments at the 28th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) held in Singapore, what’s next for the athletes?

Some events at the SEA Games 2015 started days before the Opening Ceremonies and a few finished just hours before the Closing Ceremonies; yet, it must have been a quick, sweet and sweaty ride for the organisers, athletes, coaches, race officials and volunteers. It all just passed by oh-so-quickly!

While most of the foreign athletes have already gone back to their countries and others may still be enjoying a little bit of time in Singapore; nonetheless, where ever they are at this moment, we just want to salute and thank them for their fantastic performances at the games. To those who were unfortunately injured, we wish them full recovery soon.

For some athletes, say, those in Athletics, they will be competing again for the Asian Grand Prix in Thailand, 22nd June 2015, just a week after the games. Other disciplines are taking a short break and then slowly start to prepare for competitions coming right up. For those who may have qualified for the Rio Olympics, all the very best! Show them the might of the Southeast Asians!

Traditional Boat Race

As we are very passionate about any sport, on top of our list is Dragon Boat (or Traditional Boat Race as labelled in SEA Games). We have witnessed the two-day competition held in Marina Bay and for each and every Heat, from the Qualifiers up to the Finals, the dragons of each competing countries definitely breathed and expelled big fires.

Teams from Thailand, Indonesia and Myanmar truly lived up to our expectations but the most promising one was the performance from Team Singapore, where they copped five Bronze Medals, out of the eight events contested. The last time that the Men’s Team had won its SEA Games medal was in 1993. The Women’s Team got a Bronze Medal in SEA Games 2013 and 2 Bronzes this year.

It was during this recent SEA Games where we’ve seen the dragon boaters from different nations bonded like brothers and sisters; and some teams visited their competitor’s tent, shook hands, and took group photos and usies or teamfies. A delight to see that even though they battle head to head and burn water at the race; yet they are friends on land–an enormous spectacle of the spirit of camaraderie, sportsmanship and friendship.

By the end of the two-day event (Day1 – 200m; Day2 – 500m), Thailand had won 5 Golds, 3 Silvers; Indonesia with 2 Golds; Myanmar had a Gold, 5 Silvers and 2 Bronzes; Singapore with 5 Bronzes; and Philippines brought home 1 Bronze. Thailand dominated the 500m races while Indonesia copped their Golds from 200m sprint races. Singapore swept all 4 Bronzes from the 500m races and 1 from the 200m race.

Celebrate the Extraordinary

The final medal tally is out and the ceremonies had closed. The SEA Games Baton was passed on to Malaysia who will be hosting the biennial event in 2017.

Let us take you back to the inspiring stories of the Dragon Boat Team Singapore athletes as they’ve embarked on their SEA Games journey. Theirs are stories of hope and inspiration as some had opted to go for an unpaid leave from their job, while some student athletes had to skip half or full term, in pursuit of their athletic dreams.

While each of them had persevered amidst any circumstance they were in; and after several blisters, calluses, and some back and shoulder injuries later, they stood up at the medal podium bringing pride and glory to Singapore. It was their best moment.

DBTEAMSG Women's Team


28 Athletes, 28 Questions

We want to salute these amazing dragon boaters for sharing their most unreservedly sincere responses. Such highly affecting narratives of their experiences as athletes; worthy to be emulated, especially by the younger Singaporeans who aspire to one day represent the nation in the SEA Games, Asian Games, World Champs or any other major dragon boat race.

There’s definitely an abundance of strong potential candidates from the tertiary school teams like Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore Polytechnic (SP), National University of Singapore (NUS), Temasek Polytechnic (TP), et cetera, who have what it takes to be paddling in the elite level ranks. They are the future of dragon boating in Singapore; and that future looks radiant and auspicious.

Now, more than ever, Dragon Boat Team Singapore is stronger and making its way to the top.

1. Kang Yu Jia | 24yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Women’s Team)

What is the greatest sacrifice you made when you decided to come on board as a full-time athlete?

I have given up work, as you know, but, giving up the family time really would be the greatest sacrifice I have made in embarking on the journey. It’s funny and sad at the same time because my mom would always say, “Every time, every time dragon boat.” I keep this as a motivation though. It’s for me, my team, of course my family, and Team Singapore.

2. Clement Neo | 22yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Men’s Team)

What drives you to keep on with being at the elite level of dragon boating?

It’s really the rest of the guys—the way they are training and pushing themselves, it’s so motivating. You will feel that you must do the same thing—to excel. That’s what drives me and that’s what makes me love the sport when I was first exposed in dragon boat.

3. Barath Kumar | 23yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Men’s Team)

You have the genes and capabilities to represent Singapore in the Traditional Boat Race, how do you handle such pressure?

I think there’s not much of a pressure on our part as we are the underdogs in this particular sport. “We’ve got nothing to lose”, in a manner of speaking; but since the SEA Games will be held in Singapore, much like a home court, I will do my best to show that Singapore can be great too, in this sport.

4. Chen Qiujun Jennifer | 30yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Women’s Team)

How do you envision the Dragon Boat Team Singapore’s performance in the SEA Games 2015?

We will break more records, create history for Singapore’s dragon boat and anything additional is a bonus!

5. Pamela Choong Peiling | 24yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Women’s Team)

Do you set your own personal goals? How is it beneficial to you as an athlete?

I set micro personal goals, such as trying to improve my personal bests in things like the number of pull-ups I can do, weights I can lift, or how fast I can run for certain distances. It helps me focus on the training at hand and not be overwhelmed with the length of this entire commitment. When I witness myself hitting my goals and getting stronger than before my belief in myself strengthens, and confidence is vital in self-motivation.

6. Lim Wee Siang | 23yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Men’s Team)

How important is the coach’s role in keeping the supportive and respectful climate in the team?

To me it’s very important. They are our guide—they direct us on the path—the championships. They would lead us to the destination (the games) and we will just follow. It’s not that we only follow and not think on our own but often times they are very convincing and I feel obliged and willing to follow. That constitutes a trustworthy and respectful climate within the team.

7. Hu QinMei | 25yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Women’s Team)

Can you share to us one thing that makes being in the N-Team so rewarding to you?

Even though we may not serve much in the workforce or in the economic aspect, we are honoured to be the key presenters/ambassadors of Singapore to other nations. Bringing pride and glory to the country through this sport is very meaningful and rewarding.

8. Lam Yi He | 25yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Men’s Team)

In terms of dragon boating, how do you see yourself 10 years from now?

I enjoy sharing my experiences and teaching its lessons to others. I actually do some orientation programmes with the Singapore Dragon Boat Association (SDBA) on weekdays. I just enjoy letting other people know about the sports. So, yeah, probably I see myself facilitating dragon boat training sessions in the future.

9. Hayden Ong | 24yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Women’s Team)

What is the nature of your coach-athlete relationship with your new National Coach?

I joined the N-Team in 2012, and when Wee Jin took over the Women’s Team, I find him to be easy to communicate with. He cares for our welfare, he always advises us to go back home early and get ample rest because recovery is important for the succeeding trainings.

10. How Wei Min | 26yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Men’s Team)

What’s the vital role of the National Coach in the development of your athletic performance and as an individual?

The coach must understand each and every one of the paddlers well and he must know their strengths and weaknesses; and know how to bring the team together. The Coach must also be very flexible and must know how the paddlers are feeling on a particular set/training piece, whether they can push beyond their limits.

11. Ng Ji Yan | 24yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Women’s Team)

You started with the N-Team since 2010 and have had injuries along the way, what drives you to keep on with being at the elite level of dragon boat sport?

I guess, the way of life—the rigidness of it, because as you know, it’s fixed—you just go to training everyday. Another thing that actually drives me is the discipline of the sport. As an example, I am not really into running and being in the N-Team you need to do it. I learn discipline and it also keeps me fit, and, at the same time it creates this structure in my life—honestly, I don’t know what to do with all this time if I don’t paddle.

12. Kong Peng Hui | 29yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Men’s Team)

How do you envision success (of this journey to SEA Games)?

Success to me is clinching the medal and having the capability to retain and defend it. We need to appeal to the dragon boat community and attract more people to join so that we’ll have a larger pool of athletes to choose from.

13. Shona Chan Wai Kay | 21yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Women’s Team)

How do you know if there is compatibility between an athlete and the coach?

You would know if the goals are aligned. The athlete and the coach may not have the same idea/s, so mainly if the goals are aligned then it will work. If for example, the coach wants to alter a training program or technique, the athlete on the other hand should want to try it for he/she knows that it’s for the best, it’s toward the achievement of a common goal.

14. Shawn Tan Jit Lun | 25yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Men’s Team)

Given the number of hours of trainings per week, how do you keep up with it?

With as much as 12 training sessions a week, physically you won’t be 100% fresh. My teammates are the ones that keep me going. We are all in this together and with the same common goal in mind.

15. Oz Titus Hong Mong Zi | 29yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Men’s Team)

Having temporarily relinquished your job to embark on such a high-level athletic career, do you feel like that you’re putting your life on hold?

Honestly, I don’t think that my life is being put on hold; rather it’s being fast-forwarded, because other athletes/teams are taking it years and years to accumulate or create, we have done it in one year. It’s like being compressed into a short but intensive journey.

16. Tan Chun Leng | 25yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Men’s Team)

Being in the National team is a tough responsibility. What keeps you going?

After racing for many years in the National Team, we haven’t got the chance to defeat the South East Asian and East Asian powerhouses. The closest was in 2013 at the Hong Kong Dragon Boat race when we won against China and lost to Thailand by only a margin. I reckon it is the winning and as well as bringing honour to Singapore in the Traditional Boat Race (Dragon Boat) are the factors that keep me going.

17. Lim Xiao Wei | 26yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Women’s Team)

How intense does your training go nowadays? How important is the element of fun for you?

Intensive. It’s very intensive. Again, it’s comforting to say, “It’s going to be worth it. I think the secret recipe is that our coach can poke fun with us and we sometimes tease him as well; but when we need to get serious, we know how and when to adjust. It’s the element of fun that spices up our everyday training.

18. Wee Zheng Joyce | 21yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Women’s Team)

How does a goal-setting mentality provide you with the motivation you need to keep going?

Internally, I try to be more positive. In some days, I will question myself if I can really do this? I condition my mind that I/we can do it and I must push some more at trainings. So every time a negative thing comes to mind, I try to deal with it positively and just keep on going. I would tell myself, “Don’t let go of the moment.”

19. Gan Chea Hau | 24yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Men’s Team)

What drives you to keep on with being at the elite level of dragon boat?

The brotherhood within the team; and I also want to bring the sport to a higher level in terms of recognition and more support from the community. That’s what keeps me going.

20. Diana Nai Min Zhen | 23yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Women’s Team)

Your coaches help execute the team’s training program, how does it help improve your individualised program and workout habits?

In terms of Land Training, we need to keep up with our teammates and do heavier weights and do more repetitions. We are given a target speed or a certain timing to hit, so this definitely helps our individualised program and workout habits. Another thing is that we are often reshuffled in different sitting positions to make us more adaptable and this will also enable the Coach to see where we excel more.

21. Jerry Tan | 31yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Men’s Team)

In this 28th SEA Games journey, where do you get that inner drive to perform your best at the race?

I would look back at the journey that we have embarked on for a particular game. The months and months that we have prepared for, the sacrifices, everything we have gone through–I take inspiration from it. Pull motivation from the amount of training hours we have committed and then apply it in the game. After all, it’s just a very short moment to execute, so just give it all!

22. Leong Yang Xian Ellycia | 22yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Women’s Team)

How does the training programme help improve your own individualised program and workout habits?

With paddling, they help us individually, especially in areas where we can improve more—stroke wise and technique wise. They would also observe our form during our weights training. Having said that, I learn a lot from them and I apply it in my own workout habits. There are also some additional techniques on certain exercises and from there we learn from it and carry on. There’s been a good collaboration between our coaches so it’s a great thing.

23. Tan Yong Zhi Esmonde | 25yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Men’s Team)

How do you maintain a good rapport with your coach? How important is this for an athlete?

Yes, it’s important and I must say it’s natural for the coaches and athlete to have a good rapport as we spend more time with our team mates and coaches as compared to our loved ones, family, friends etc. It all comes down to the trust and confidence we have in our coach, to train and prepare us for clocking our best time to win the gold medal that we’re aiming for.

24. Loh Peixuan | 25yo, Vice-Captain – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Women’s Team)

The trainings are extremely physically demanding, how do you condition yourself to achieving that long-range goal?

I see to it that I get ample rest time and to always stretch properly to recover faster. Drink lots of water to replenish fluid lost. Consuming food with higher protein source to assist with muscle repair is also very important.

25. Raymond Kiang Jian Xiang | 27yo, Vice-Captain – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Men’s Team)

Outside the dragon boating world, who is the athlete that you admire the most and why?

That would be soccer player, Lionel Messi. I admire him not just for his athletic skills, but also for his determination and hard work. Despite his height and size, as compared to other European players, it did not hinder him in becoming one of the greats in his chosen sport.

26. Christie Han | 28yo, Vice-Captain – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Women’s Team)

Looking back to that first dragon boat experience, what does Dragon Boat mean in your life now? 

Dragon boating had taught me so much, about myself, about people and relationships, and many values in life. I know I won’t be able to be competing forever, but I want to be able to end my dragon boating career on a high. Hence I have committed myself training full-time in preparation for the upcoming SEA Games here in Singapore, and in this process I strive to become the best athlete I will ever be.

27. Shanice Ng Xuening | 22yo, Women’s Captain – Dragon Boat Team Singapore

Do you sometimes play a mental video of a race with your toughest competition?

Yes. I would sometimes even dream of it. The Myanmar team is very strong but the team that we consider to be our toughest competitor would be Thailand; because we were on the same level with them in the past. They have athletes who are working and studying, just like our team; but now, they have become as strong and almost on the same league as Myanmar. So, we really need to train harder and catch up with them.

28. Loh Zhi Ying | 22yo, Men’s Captain – Dragon Boat Team Singapore

How important is the coach’s role in keeping the supportive and respectful climate in the team?

They are very important. Our Coaches are like ‘maps’. They are the one leading us to our end results. They also serve as our checkpoints—they keep an eye on us. As they serve as our guidelines and checkpoints, they make sure that we are on the right track towards our destination—achieving the goal of the team.

These eager, hopeful, passionate athletes are full of aspirations—such a crazy bunch of inspiring, persistent and high-spirited dragons they all are. BIG Congratulations!

Read the Full Interviews HERE.

*Singapore Dragon Boat Association, the National Sports Authority (NSA) for the sport of dragon boat in Singapore, develops and maintains the Dragon Boat Team Singapore (N-Team).