Cecelia Ong - Form 5B 1971

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Cecelia Ong



Due to my indecision as to the career I wanted to pursue, I ended up ‘losing the year I gained by skipping Primary 1’.

One night in February’75 at Subang Airport I waved goodbye to my family and some of you who were there (some possibly to make sure you’ll be rid of me and I think some who were going to miss me). It was my first flight and the first time I was going away all by myself. As if that wasn’t unnerving enough, when I boarded the plane, I found somebody firmly planted in my seat! That person refused to budge so I had to stand at the nearby exit till a flight stewardess found an empty seat for me.

What a beginning to the end of my life in Malaysia!

From 1975 to 1977 I was in Perth, Australia, pursuing my Bachelor of Commerce (majoring in Accounting) degree at the University of Western Australia. I worked during all the summer vacations so those of you who thought I didn’t want to meet up know why I didn’t – I wasn’t ever home in Malaysia.

Upon graduation I moved to Melbourne to pursue a post-graduate diploma in Computing Studies. However, after the orientation I decided it was not for me so I went on to apply my degree.

In the late 70’s, the number of unmarried Singaporean females was almost a national crisis. Fearing it was the same scenario in Malaysia, I said ‘yes’ to a Singaporean, Patrick (Khee Seng), who offered to ‘rescue’ me from being a statistic. Our wedding in April’79 in Melbourne was witnessed by family members and about 30 close friends from church. It was a cosy affair with the traditional Chinese dinner and tea ceremony.

In Melbourne we enjoyed good pay and benefits, great working hours 9-5 on weekdays (till 3pm on Fridays because most of the Aussies will be working on their beer bellies after 3pm). It was easy to maintain a balanced life.

Patrick was transferred to Singapore by his company in August’80. Well, we knew it was going to happen sooner or later because he was employed for the Singapore office at the onset. During the 1st month in Singapore I showered an average 5 times a day. Yes, adjustment to the humidity was a major thing. The pace of corporate life was another.

The corporate rat race in Singapore for the next 16 years was a really hectic one as I was in listed corporations and in regional positions.

Despite the pace I did manage to do my national service of 100% replacement with 2 kids but in 1996 I threw in the towel because I was overseas 60% of the time and the kids were growing up ‘on remote control’.

My elder son was born in 1984. A straight A’s student but also well-balanced, he’s is a ‘fire-&-forget missile’. In August’04 David commences Year 2 of his medical degree at the National University of Singapore. By God’s grace he got early disruption from his national service after serving only 5 months. He will complete his service as a medical officer, instead of a soldier, after his houseman-ship.

Michael was born in 1987. Blessed with many talents, he serves as a keyboardist in the youth ministry in church and is a school athlete. He’ll be sitting for his ‘A’ levels exams next year. Michael aspires to be a ‘dog-tor’. Upon completion of his national service he will probably head for Australia to study veterinary science if he does not change his mind by then.

Patrick is a Chartered Accountant by training who spent several years in the public accounting sector and then in listed corporations. He moved on to financial planning services and then was Chief Executive Officer of a software company. Long hours at work left him little time for the family. The boys were growing up, with or without him. Soon they will be in university, possibly overseas, and then they will be running the rat race and have no time for him. Not wanting to ‘lose’ them he ended his rat race in 2002.

Since I opted out of the rat race I have been spending time with the kids, serving in the school parent support group committee, church work and community service.

In late 2001 I decided to do something with economic returns.

Some time ago a head-hunter's summation of the tests I completed was that I do a lot of planning (perhaps a result of my wasted year in 1974?). So true to my ‘re-conditioned nature’ I did my due diligence prior to plunging into my current business venture.

I spent 16 years of my life plus blood, sweat, tears and money to get a degree. The next 18 years, also with blood, sweat and tears, were spent recovering the money spent during the 16 years of education with some extra for a house, car and vacations overseas during the 9 months vacation leave earned during the 18 years in the rat race.

When I left the corporate rat race, the income stopped! But my expenses continued. Not a very good deal, huh.

It was clear – I was not going back to the corporate world.

Not one with business acumen, I didn’t want to start a business with the inherent risks and worries like staff, debtors, inventory, rent, the economy,…. I wanted to continue enjoying the freedom to do what I want to do when I want to do it and of course with whom I want to do it. Last but not least, I wanted to make a difference in peoples’ lives and leave this world with testimonies and not just titles.

Recently published statistics revealed that the cost of hiring each Singaporean is equivalent to that of 3 Malaysians, 8 Thais, 13 China Chinese and 18 Indians….My future generations will have to work much harder than I did to be competitive. I think the same applies in many parts of the world where we are feeling the heat from outsourcing to China and other emerging economies like India. I thought about it - we generally had it a lot better than our parents, but I truly believe that in the new global economy, our next generation is going to have it a lot worse than us. We need to provide our children with an alternative path to stepping into the corporate quagmire.

In Singapore, we are churning out graduates like “a production line”. We got a couple of new universities coming on stream, not to mention twinning programs with foreign universities.

While preparing for the possibility of sending my elder son to do law in the London School of Economics (LSE) which was one of his choices, someone shoved a Stansfield College (representing LSE in Singapore) flyer into Patrick’s hand at a MRT station. It read “Are You Mad!” Intrigued, we took a look. The flyer said that there’s only one degree given for each LSE course, be it in the UK or externally (in Singapore). Wow! We could be spending S$350,000 to S$400,000 for our son to get a piece of paper which others could acquire locally for much less. So just how much is a degree worth?

In May’04 I attended the National Achievers’ Congress and one of the 4 key speakers said that it is vital that one has multiple sources of income. Good, we are on the right path. We are thankful that we decided that should do something different so that we and our future generations will have a more fulfilling life.

So far, in addition to meeting our criteria for a business, we got a ‘bonus’.  Last month Patrick and I went for our 25th anniversary honeymoon in Hawaii for free – we got to fly business class and had an ocean view suite in the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort.

I believe we’re in the perfect business!!




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