By mid-September, homesickness and depression was eating away at Malaysian Mohd Izwan Sarip.
The 32-year-old, who works in Singapore, had been away from his wife and children since March, when Malaysia decided to close its borders to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
"When I was told to come to Singapore I had only brought two pairs of underwear, two shirts, and two pants — I thought this was only for a few weeks," said the warehouse assistant for online supermarket RedMart.
"My family means so much to me. I am so close to my four-year-old (daughter) and when I left, my toddler had only just started to crawl, and now she's already 18 months," he told The Straits Times.
Mr Izwan's brother-in-law, Mr Muhamad Faiz Roseman, who also works in Singapore for the Automobile Association of Singapore, hatched an idea to cheer him up.
Last Monday (Oct 5), Mr Faiz asked their wives to take their children and drive to Johor's border facing Woodlands while he and Mr Izwan went to the jetty at Woodlands Waterfront Park so they could catch a glimpse of each other across the Johor Strait.
Mr Izwan waved and eagerly scanned the horizon for his wife and children, while Mr Faiz secretly filmed the reunion.
Mr Izwan said: "I was looking for a person in a white shirt because my wife said that was what she was wearing. Eventually, I found her.
"I've not seen them since March, and it was nice to see them not through a screen, even if it was so far away."
In Malaysia, Ms Liana Idris, 33, and their two daughters were thrilled to finally see dad through binoculars.
"My children were hopping while yelling 'papa, papa!'" said Ms Liana.
The heartwarming reunion, filmed by Mr Faiz and edited by his wife, Ms Shafikah Sarip, who is Mr Izwan's sister, was widely shared when it was uploaded on the Malaysia-Singapore Border Crossers Facebook group on Oct 5.
Mr Izwan said: "I heard that when my older daughter saw the video she started crying. I don't know when I can see them again, but every day I pray that I can see them soon."
Although Mr Faiz was able to return to Johor for 18 days last month under the Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA) between both countries, Mr Izwan has been unable to take leave to do the same.
Malaysian employees currently in Singapore who wish to return to Malaysia for home leave can re-enter Singapore under the PCA.
Last month, it was reported that Malaysia's Health Ministry is looking at the possibility of fully reopening the Malaysia-Singapore border for daily commuters in January next year.
For now, Mr Izwan and Mr Faiz have to settle for waving at their loved ones from across the waters.
"I just bought binoculars for us," Mr Faiz said.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction