Taking the stage to fulfil daughter's last wish

A relapse of bone cancer forced polytechnic student Phoo Shi Rui to pull out of last year's National Day Parade (NDP). The then 22-year-old succumbed to the illness four days after the nation's 48th birthday.

To fulfil their daughter's last wish, her parents will perform on her behalf at this year's parade.

Mr Phoo Joo Kuang, 54, and Madam Tan Ley Huan, 53, are part of the 580-strong Singapore Soka Association contingent performing at the parade.

"We're participating for our daughter. She wanted to do her bit for society but she fell sick and didn't manage to complete the performance," said Mr Phoo, a technician.

"So we wanted to fulfil her last wish."

They will be dancing in the first act of the show segment, donning bright pink and blue costumes in a tribute to the different professions that make up the nation's workforce.

Miss Phoo was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer, in 2009. An introvert, she became more outgoing after she fell sick, said her parents.

She signed up to become a member of Soka, a Buddhist society, that year and started taking part in activities, said Madam Tan.

Performing at the 2012 Chingay Parade with the youth division of Soka inspired their daughter to take part in the NDP the following year.

"She found it meaningful and said it's very different performing at Chingay compared with watching it," recalled Mr Phoo.

Miss Phoo went for the initial training sessions but had to drop out in May due to her worsening condition. She died on Aug 13.

Of their decision to take part in this year's NDP, Madam Tan said: "We hope to encourage others to face their circumstances with courage."

Hoping to make their daughter proud, the first-time participants have not missed any of the weekly practice sessions, which started in April. They have another daughter, 27, and a son, 22, who will be marching in the parade as a specialist cadet.

Madam Tan said that they were initially nervous about performing in front of an audience of 27,000 at the Marina Bay floating platform. But after four months of training and rehearsals, they are raring to go. It helps that they have made new friends from Soka who have been very encouraging, Madam Tan said.

She added: "If my daughter could see us now, of course she would be very happy."


This article was published on Aug 6 in The Straits Times.

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