Hiking Gunung Lambak Recreational Forest, Kluang Malaysia

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After completing near 10 training hikes within Singapore, I started to feel the lack of variety in our hill's terrain and slopes. Though the most challenging Bukit Timah Hill Dairy Farm Loop remained demanding (largely due to its man-made steep wooden steps), the round circuit training quickly bored me. I proposed to attempt a 1 day climb in Malaysia to expose the team to natural uphill and forest terrain. The longer climb duration would also allow us to test our gears and shoes.

I was suddenly exposed to an array of climbs, many doable in a day and within Johor Bahru, Malaysia. These included Mount Arong (300m), Gunung Panti (453m), Gunung Lambak (510m), Mount Pulai (654m), Gunung Muntahak (713m), Mount Belumut (1,010m) and Mount Ophir (1,276m), which I had attempted before. Knowing that we have options to attempt day climbs just 2-3 hours drive across the causeway got my adventure bug fired up.

With recommendation by Dav's dad, we settled on Gunung Lambak, which we felt was a mid difficulty mount we could do up and down within 4 hours. Being our very first overseas climb, we somehow felt Lambak was just right with some rest and relax time after the climb to chill in the city centre if desired.

The ride took us 2.5 hours from Singapore to the quiet, rustic town of Kluang in JB each way. With a few drop-outs for the trip; which made the private van hiring too expensive for the remaining few of us, we opted to travel to Kluang via VIP coaches. We were essentially paying for comfort and the hassle of traveling into JB to catch a public bus. Upon arrival at Kluang Bus Terminal, we hopped onto a taxi for a 15 mins ride for around RM$12, to the foot of Gunung Lambak. All-in-all, it cost us SG$32 for the VIP coaches and RM$9 each for taxis both ways. There are sufficient instructions online that illustrates a cheaper travel alternative which we can attempt in our next trip to Kluang.

I'm proud to introduce the Climb Team, who each played their role flawlessly for Gunung Lambak.
1. The Director - In-charge of travel instructions and maps
2. The Purchaser - In-charge of purchasing bus Tickets and insurance
3. The Foodie - In-charge of preparation of food before, during and after climb
4. The Guide - In-charge to lead and guide during climb
5. The Nurse - In-charge of 1st Aid Kit
6. The Time Keeper - In-charge of keeping time and phone to call in Malaysia

As the crisp chilly morning air lingered before the break of light, we gathered at Golden Mile Complex to board the VIP coach direct to Kluang. A storm brewed with heavy rain as the bus drove into JB. As I gazed out at the rain splattered coach window, I figured maybe we might just activate the wet weather plan to enjoy seafood in Kluang town. The weather took a turn after the causeway and though gray, cloudy skies loomed, the rain had completely stopped. As we approached Kluang town, I saw the Lambak twin peaks from a distance and had a good feeling about the climb.


Rain, rain go away...

Following religiously to the climb schedule I drew up, we started our climb at 1045am from the Gunung Lambak Resort. The resort had a 1980s like water pool which local families enjoyed. Hikers can choose between 2 paths up to the summit. From the climb map and consultation from locals, the path on the left leading through the midway point or half way hill was more challenging with steeper slopes and rougher terrains. We would end up at the highest point of the peak greeted by the transmitter of the television station RTM. We came for a challenge and the challenge we took!


Gentle mountain streams flows as we entered deeper into the forest

It was no easy feat climbing up to the midway point. After crossing 2 hanging bridges and a stretch of paved tar road we started our uphill trek through uneven forest grounds and thick tree roots. Armed with my Deuter Nomi backpack filled with 1.5 litres of water in my hydro bag and 2 cans of 330ml isotonic drinks, every step of the climb burned the thighs. My Salomon X Ultra Mid II GTX Hiking Boots proved to be truly effective for maximum grip and support during the climb. Ropes were lined along the tree trunks to assist climbers. My pair of gloves for gripping frayed, rough ropes was another wise move. Thank goodness for the ropes though I need to learn how to depend on them less as some knots were already coming lose. Parts of the climb required us to be on all fours, pushing and pulling our entire body weight. It took us 40 mins to reach the midpoint where we took a rest and digged into our sandwich breakfast.




Breakfast of tuna, ham and egg mayo sandwiches prepared by Dav and Dennis


Part 1 Climb Stats

The second half of the climb was equally brutal as we battled near 1.5 hours of uphill continuously. There were numerous breath catcher breaks while we waited for one another to pace up. Somewhere along the remaining 300m mark of the grueling 1km climb, we spotted markers indicating the distance to the summit. One of our happiest moment was spotting the 100m signage which incidentally I missed but Joy discovered! It was with certainty that we were indeed at the tail end of the ascend.


Just look at those delighted, overjoyed faces!

As I trampled through the last couple of steps toward the highest point of Gunung Lambak, I lifted my arms for my victory cry and cheered on the rest of the team! We survived in good timing around 12:40pm to a crowded summit of local students and leisure climbers. And as I breathed in the humid afternoon air, there was a great sense of relive that we all made it up. It was time to enjoy my can of Aquarius Sports and packet of Chips Ahoy! My well deserved treat painstaking carried.


The defunct television station transmitter was a highlight together with a worn signage indicating the peak's height and latitude / longitude position


View from Gunung Lambak looking west

On schedule at 1:30pm, we stared our descend back to the foothill. The confronting uphill meant an equally demanding steep downhill which worked a totally different set of muscles. While we watched climbers sprint pass us down the slopes, we took our steps ridiculously slow and steady. A lot of knee strength and stability were required and again I was thankful for the ropes, which aided me in preventing a few possible falls. It was also in the descend that I really appreciated my hiking boots which I felt definitely supported my ankles to escape injuries. After what I felt was a really long return, we finally arrived back to the resort to change and freshen up. The entire climb including breakfast and lunch breaks took us 4 hours.


Part 2 Climb Stats

There is so much to give thanks for, in achieving our goal of reaching the summit, for the brilliant weather, a safe and injury free climb (not sure if the leech attack on Dennis count), being able to keep to our clockwork timetable and all the experiences that we have gained in making us a more confident climber for Mount Kinabalu. God's hand was definitely on us and most certainly in the pretty bizarre taxi screw up that led to Dennis' lost and found incident of his GoPro. He apparently dropped his camera in the taxi on the way to Lambak. We wouldn't have connected Mr. Anapalan for the return ride should the original taxi driver had turned up. God works in strange mysterious ways but always one with our best interest.

Climb Schedule
0700am – Board bus to Kluang from Golden Mile Complex. Expected travel 2.5 hrs
0930am - Arrival at Kluang Bus Terminal Point
1030am - Arrival at Lambak Mountain Base. Introduction to the mountain and conduct a safety briefing
1045am – Start of climb
1300pm – Reach summit and lunch
1330pm – Start descend
1600pm – End of climb, wash up, lunch and back to Kluang Bus Terminal Point
1800pm – Leave Kluang for Golden Mile Complex. Expected travel 2.5 hrs
2030pm – Arrival Singapore Golden Mile Complex for Dinner

Climb Checklist
Mandatory
1. Small lightweight hiking backpack
2. 1.5 liters of water
3. 1 bottle isotonic drink
3. 2 energy bars
4. Dry T-shirt
5. Towel
6. Hiking Shoes
7. Lunch (packed sandwiches)
8. Mini 1st Aid
9. Passport
10. Money (both SGD and RM)

Optional
1. Gloves for rope
2. Sunscreen
3. Whistle
4. Plastic Bag
5. Poncho / Raincoat

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Art-Zoo @ iLight Marina Bay

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Jackson Tan, creator of Art-Zoo put together an interactive larger-than-life experiential inflatable playground and art installation in the setting of a zoological garden!

Art-Zoo was part of a ticketed festival hub under the fifth edition of iLight Marina Bay, Asia's leading sustainable light art festival which ran from 3 - 26 March 2017. With 9 inflatable bouncing playgrounds, an inflatable maze, an entry into a giant whale's mouth, one could hardly deny the fun in the make believe immersive world.


The Swamp Bounce! I'm clearly having fun!


Inside the Whale's Mouth! A total Jonah's Experience

For SGD$12, the young and young-at-heart stirred up wonder and curiosity through a very visual and interactive adventure that explored nature through the perspective of art, created through an imaginative cartoon landscape of alphabets and animals. I felt, for 2 hours of intense bouncing up and down, the experience was way more educational and tons more fun than the Uncle Ringo Carnival Games just a stone's throw away at Marina Bay Sands (MBS).


Taking the opportunity to test the motion stabilizer on my new GoPro Hero 5 Black. Still bumped that the stabilizer feature is not available with the 4K video recording. Like SERIOUSLY! So what you see in the video clip with all the bouncing around is shot on 2.7K. In all honesty, the quality filmed is pretty impressive and shooting at a slightly lower resolution also meant the clip sizes were not too huge. I am starting to feel a lack of storage capacity in this high quality video age

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Nox Gaudii (Night Of Joy) 2016: By This We Will Know Love (1 John 3:16)

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Just a week more to Good Friday and Fr. Jude David reminds us of the "Cross" +


Our Christian lives are marked by the cross. A clear sign of our conviction of our life in Christ. Our conviction for life, our conviction for love, our conviction that others may have life and love.
Fr. Jude challenges us to make Holy Week evangelical. The best thing we can give back to Jesus, is to bring someone to know him.

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Nox Gaudii 2015: Behold I Make All Things New

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Nox Gaudii 2015: For He That Mighty Has Done Great Things For Me...

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Office of Young People (OYP) turns 2!



"For He That Mighty Has Done Great Things For Me And Holy Is His Name!"

I recall stepping through the gates of Lorong Low Koon 2 years ago with Fr. Jude David delivering his 1st ambitious testimony of how he was called to this service of the youth and how he dreams of Nox Gaudii in the future taking up space in the indoor stadium!

I have now walked through the side gate of OYP countless times, and each time after Nox Gaudii walking away with a renewed spirit - that the Catholic Church of Singapore can be energised by young people of God. Two years on, and each time I bring new friends to Nox Gaudii, they can't believe they walked into a hall of Catholic youth. I'm proud of the work of OYP and always keeping your mission in prayer.

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Nox Gaudii (Night Of Joy) 2015: You will be my people, and I will be your God
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Nox Gaudii 2015: Behold I Make All Things New

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Nox Gaudii (Night Of Joy) 2015: You will be my people, and I will be your God

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In 2007, I made my first visit to Bintan's Tanjung Pinang Asrama Putra Boys Home. It was a mission trip with STYG to expose our youth to the poorer living condition just a couple of hours from the shores of Singapore. For the first time this year, we made arrangements to invite the Asrama Putra Girls over to our sunny Singapore island. After much difficulties with finances and paperwork to leave the country, we finally played host to 4 teenage girls (Maria, Afni, Kristy, Sherin) and their mission leader, Manuela. The objective of the visit was to allow the girls to experience the diverse culture, lifestyle and food offered in Singapore.


Awaiting the start of Praise at Nox Gaudii

Among the tightly scheduled program was a trip to Nox Guadii (Night of Joy) August. We wanted the girls to have a taste of young catholic people from all parishes coming together to Praise and fellowship. Nox Guadii in the month of August; following all the festive filled SG50 National Day celebrations, was naturally dedicated to the Nation Jubilee theme of "You will be my people, and I will be your God - Proud to be Catholic, Proud to be Singaporean".



Fr. Derrick Yap who lead the JOY SG50 Thanksgiving Mass at the National Stadium in July was invited to preach on the theme.
He started with - Have you chosen to follow Jesus? To choose is to believe. "You will be my people, and I will be your God" is both a statement and a choice.
"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." - Philippians 3:20-21
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." - John 6:68
God is Home, truly.



In this double bill SG50 Nox event, we not only had Fr. Derrick, but also acclaimed singer and songwriter, Corrine May who graced us with her time to share her journey in writing Bless Our Singapore.

Corrine shared about how she was lead to write a song about sanctification, a process of being made holy. The song reflected the image of a garden of our soul.




And we got a picture with the very talented, Corrine May

Both sharing by Fr. Derrick and Corrine were very localized, which turned out challenging for the Asrama Putra Girls to understand both for its context and their command of the English language. I believed the girls did enjoy Praise and adoration of the Eucharist.

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JOY SG50 Thanksgiving Mass

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We came together, as ministries, as classmates, as friends, as families, as church and as Singapore. Catholics and non-catholics from all over our island graced the special JOY SG50 Thanksgiving Mass in celebration of our little nation's Jubilee celebration. 10,000 strong filled the Singapore Indoor Stadium as we gave thanks for 50 abundant years in Singapore's nation building.



Celeste and I didn't get the bid for the National Day celebration balloting this year, so she was determined to get tickets for the JOY SG50 event. And what a celebration it was! With a star studded line up from Gold 90.5 radio presenter, Joe Augustine, Channel NewsAsia caster and friend, Augustine Authuvan, singer songwriter, Corrine May, favorite Daughters of St. Paul nun, Sr. Wendy and all those ridiculously talented religious and friends from various music ministry that took the stage. In all honesty, I couldn't recall a "catholic" event of such scale that was put together with such quality and fluidity. This one pulled together all the tricks of a combined youth orchestra, band, choir, praise and worship singers, hip hop dancers, video production (with Red Dragon 4K cameras), stage lighting, live online video streaming and everything behind the scenes we couldn't see. It felt profession, it felt massive, it felt WOW! It felt like I was attending a protestant event, just that it was Catholic! It felt strangely comfortable celebrating mass, worshiping God and being surrounded by so many familiar faces. It was the taste a rejuvenated church on fire with Jesus!


Prime Minister Lee Hsien Long who graced the event commented that when he heard of a Catholic Thanksgiving Mass, he thought of a gathering at St. Peter and Paul's Church and not a filled Indoor Stadium.

As many religious groups organised thanksgiving events for SG50, PM Lee took the opportunity to hype up religious harmony and at the same time rally himself into the good books of the upcoming Singapore election.


A special Singapore Catholic Church History video by PixelMusica was screened in the presence of PM Lee showcasing the stories I have come to know very well from Pilgrimage In My Backyard (PIMBY).

Our Catholic Light is a film that tells the story of how missionaries such as the Paris Foreign Missions brought the Light of Christ to Singapore, to serve the needs to the people through the Catholic Church. Since 1821, the Church has played a pivotal role in Singapore’s nation building through its work in education, healthcare, and social services, serving people regardless of religion, race or language.

The story is told through the lives and personal testimonies of 25 priests, religious, church workers and volunteers. More than a thousand man hours of work (research, pre-production, production and post production) went into the making of this film.


Corrine May performed her World Premiere song dedicated to the country - "Bless Our Singapore"
The lyrics to the song - heartfelt, sincere and truly a blessing. Corrine May is such a beautiful talent, allowing Christ to shine in her song, voice and music.
Bless Our Singapore

O Lord, hear our prayer
Bless this land where we stand
May we be light for our nation
May we be salt for this land

To this land, you sent our Fathers
For the church their blood was shed
They served the island's sons and daughters
Like the wheat that forms the bread

On this land, you grew a garden
From the toiling of our hands
We thank you Lord for every blessing
Trusting your eternal plan

Holy Spirit light the way
Keep us faithful, this we pray
Till we reach Heaven's shore
Bless our Singapore

On this land, you choose to feed us
on the altar of our hearts
May we be Christ for one another
Never fear to bear the cross

Holy Spirit light the way
Keep us faithful, this we pray
Till we reach Heaven's shore
Bless our Singapore

Holy Mary, full of grace
Help us give Him, all our days
Till we reach Heaven's shore
Bless our Singapore

Till we reach Heaven's shore
Bless our Singapore

Little voices from CHIJ Kellock Choir joined together to perform "You Are Mine". Can't help but gleefully grin with pride as I was once (many, many years ago) just like them. That blue pinafore and white blouse followed me 10 years of my life!


The finale brought to stage priests, religious and all the performers in a resounding praise and worship medley ending with "Shine, Jesus Shine". Confetti shot to the air as the event drew to a close.

Thank you church for sharing Christ's JOY this SG50!

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