Thank you for… Recreating the taste of home
My dad is a chef who has always been based overseas, so I grew up not spending much time with him. But our family was still close as we always made the effort to fly over to meet my dad and spend time together.
In 2013, my dad got a job offer in London, and it was perfect timing for our family to make the decision to move, so that we can finally live together with him. I had just completed my O levels, and my sister Jade, had just completed her Diploma at a local polytechnic. My mum was working as a swimming instructor at APS at that time.
Despite having lived abroad for six years now, there are times we still miss home and our close relatives back in Singapore. Often, my family would just be watching television, when either my mum, sister or I would have sudden cravings for Singaporean food. We would casually mention bak chor mee, chicken curry, chee cheong fun, and other dishes, during our everyday conversations. One thing I really appreciate my dad for, is that he would pick up on these subtle hints.
Singaporean food is very unique, it has a very specific flavour as it is a fusion of different cultures. There’s a specific Singaporean taste to our dishes, which can be hard to re-create.
My dad would spend much of his time and effort to figure out the ingredients behind these dishes we craved, buy the ingredients from Chinatown and then come home to prepare them for us. They always turned out delicious, and always tasted like home.
Once, he made chicken rice from scratch, and even made his own chili sauce. It took a lot of time and effort on his part. These sacrifices he makes to recreate these dishes is really a testament for his love for us. It means a lot to me and I always feel at home when I share these Singaporean dishes with my family in London.
As much as he is a father to my sister and I, he also extends that fatherly love, care and concern to my other Singaporean friends here in London. Some of them are students studying here alone, and may not have family or relatives here, and they can often get homesick. My dad makes it a point to include them and love them where he can.
One example is during one Chinese New Year, he invited them to join us for our celebrations and reunion dinner. He took the time to make his own lo hei and made sure there was enough for our family and my friends to lo together. I remembered the amount of work it took him to create that dish. He’s not only a father to us, but almost like one to my Singaporean friends here in London.
I’m really grateful that my dad is such a genuine and authentic person, who stays true to his cultural roots. I’m grateful for the way he loves our family through food. This Father’s Day, I would like to appreciate him and let him know that I see him, his effort, his love and hard work for our family.
Dad if (and when) you read this - I love you and thank you for everything you’ve done for this family. Thank you for helping me to miss home a little less because you’ve made a home for us here in London. Thank you and Happy Father’s Day!
Thank you for… Providing support in your own way
I was not always close to my dad, Luke Pestana. He took charge of discipline in our house. As such, I was always scared of making my dad angry, as he was (and still is) a large man. Growing up, I did not feel like I had much in common with him as he was a hard-working military man his whole life and I took after my mom with an interest in the arts and other creative-oriented industries.
However, that all changed when I entered NS. Suddenly, my dad and I had a lot to talk about, and he would tell me all sorts of stories about his time in NS, and slowly, I built a solid relationship with my dad. It was at this point that I'd begun to see my dad as more than the disciplinarian in the family, and noted for the first time why he worked so hard: because of his love and desire to provide for our family.
I moved to Brisbane to pursue my Master's Degree at the University of Queensland, and have always kept in touch with my parents through regular Skype calls. To be very frank, I would not be here today if it wasn't for the support and love of my parents, particularly my Dad, who has made so much effort to be involved in mine and my sister's life.
He's never been the kind of person to show his emotion readily, but he shows his love through his actions. Yes, he's still large, but also a large part of my life.
Thank you, Dad. For everything.
Thank you for… Giving me a heart for adventure
I decided to study in Edinburgh because it’s a UNESCO Literature city and one of the best universities for English Literature. The city is extremely walkable and it also quite beautiful with many parks and a dormant volcano you can climb any time.
I’ve been away from Singapore for four years and even though I take some trips home, I still miss the smell of kopitiams and sun dried clothes. And my family, of course! Here’s my letter to my father.
Hope everything is well with you and the family! I miss you a lot and I will call you soon, Skype and WeChat makes everything so easy now.
I’m hiking in the Highlands right now (will send you pictures soon!) and I was reminded about the time when we went hiking in Bukit Timah nature reserve when I was little. I remember us hiking up the trail in the scorching sun, breathing in the hot humid Singapore air that was heavy. I don’t remember much of the trail, there were too many green leaves and ferns (your favourite), everything mostly looked the same, but I do remember the cicadas singing and the birds chirping. And how you always walked ahead of Kor and I, but always circled back to tell us stories about your army days and how happy you were doing this trail with us.
You always brought us to trek a new route and see a different sight and thank you for those memories. You know Dad, Singapore may be too hot and too humid sometimes; it may not be the best place to go out and do outdoorsy things, but it is our home. I’m glad you brought us out to experience the nature of Singapore in all her heat and humidity anyway. I’ll always cherish the memories of us running around in the forest and how Mummy always came with the car to pick us up after.
Thank you for giving me a heart for adventure and travelling to new places, it’s an attitude that I’ve brought to my new home here in Scotland.
All my love,
Cher Nicolette Ho is a freelance dance artist based in London. Her father is Peter Ho Hip Wah, a Chef at Hakkasan Hanway Place, a Michelin Star Cantonese restaurant.
Zachary Pestana is a 28 year old currently living in Brisbane, pursuing his Master's Degree in Marketing at the University of Queensland.
Elaine Tsui is a final-year student, pursing a Master’s Degree in English Literature and History at the University of Edinburgh.