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XXXVI. the professional post-production pace.

An amusing moment was when Huiyi suddenly recalled our parting words to Gideon, Caleb and Yvonne at KBM, before we started dinner. What she didn’t know was that Gideon and Caleb drove to a coffeeshop in Bukit Gombak (the Chargrill one!) not just to have dinner but to furiously edit the photographs and the video that they just captured.

One of the key reasons for throwing a party was to screen the video and photo slideshow of the proposal at KBM. I wanted all who were present to see what transpired; and it was became a highlight for everyone, including Huiyi and myself. We watched this video after I gave a speech and it caught Huiyi by surprise too.

The crew was superb and they delivered as promised. And get this, they were furiously editing away on their laptops while they were still soaked in sweat and rainwater! Now, that’s what I call dedication. That’s what I would salute as commitment.

That, my friends, is a no-questions-asked kind of brotherhood. And it still leaves me in a state of indebtedness even as I jot it down. Their effort to bless Huiyi and I was second-to-none.

It was then that I saw how these professionals got personal with me. And this time, I’d much rather settle for the latter.

When you view the video again, bear in mind that it was produced by two remarkable men, on two empty stomachs, within two hours, and under the most unpleasant physical conditions.

They truly went all the way for Huiyi and I. Thank you, Gideon and Caleb – I will never forget your love!

Next chapter: the analysis of the video.

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XXXI. the question we’ve all been waiting for.

I finished the song, put my guitar away, and asked her to turn around to see the other five placards behind her. Yes, she was still in shock. (Wouldn’t you, if you were her?) I reveled at her reaction, knowing that my Perth decoys worked to perfection.

Yes, I knew in my heart that the grand surprise proposal was a smashing success! It was worth every inch and ounce of effort put in! What a spectacular result that went beyond my expectations!

I gave her a little over three seconds to savour the moment.

Then I dropped to one knee, removed the engagement ring from the ring box and popped the question. I had rehearsed this a million times but something like this is beyond anyone’s preparation.

I had always wanted to be unique in the way that I phrased the million-dollar question but I thought, “Ah, what the heck, let’s keep it simple and straightforward!”

So I simply asked her, “Will you be my wife?”

(At this point, Yvonne was nodding away furiously as if to egg Huiyi on…)

Huiyi paused, and knowing her, she probably had a billion inner conversations in her head in that two seconds. Then she looked at her three placards and bashfully told me, “YES!”

This was the happiest moment of my life! Of course I beamed to no end – I was delirious!

Huiyi stretched out her left hand towards me. I remained on one knee and I put the most beautiful ring in the world on the most beautiful finger in the world that belonged to the most beautiful lady in the world – an absolutely magnificent moment!

By now, I was completely drenched. So Huiyi put aside the orange umbrella, stepped into the rain with me, brought me back to my feet, held my hands, kissed my lips, and gave me the longest and most assuring embrace I could ever ask for. With that, she convinced me that I was the man whom she was going to spend the rest of her life with.

This was it! We were now officially engaged and probably the happiest couple on the face of this planet!

We enjoyed our long walk back to Privé and exchanged some banter along the way. Huiyi was still in shock – so most of what we did was to smile, and smile, and smile, and smile, and repeatedly declare our love for each other in the simplest ways.

We returned to the clubhouse in complete bliss. There, we thanked the crew for their hard work and dedication, and parted ways with them. Gideon and Caleb were soaked to their undergarments; they went all the way for us and we will always be grateful for their critical roles in capturing our engagement.

“Thanks everyone – see you this weekend!” We bade them farewell as they disappeared into the elevator while as we sashayed into Privé.

Next chapter: the first meal together as an engaged couple.

XXX. the love at first sight.

The walk from the clubhouse to the pier must have been at least around 600 metres. We took nearly 12 minutes to get there. By then, my right arm carrying the heavy umbrella was about to give way and my left arm carrying Huiyi’s bag was completely drenched.

It was such a long walk that I had to reassure her countless times that we were about to arrive. The further we walked, the heavier the rain poured and the darker the sky became. In my mind, my hope for a sunset vanished with every passing minute.

And you know the sunset is over when the street lamps start to glow.

By the time we arrived at the pier, the placards had already lost its adhesive power to remain on the railings. Yvonne improvised and leaned these placards along the railings instead. She looked like a cartoon character carrying a blue polka-dotted umbrella, guarding a $3,000 guitar and five placards that read, “Will You Marry Me? / 让我照顾你”. All this, by herself, as she waited for nearly 30 minutes.

When we finally arrived at the scene, I whispered “Hold the umbrella and enjoy the music, dear!” loudly into Huiyi’s ear. Then I strapped on my guitar and reached into my pocket for my plastic pick. I made a final mental run-through of the chord progression and the Chinese lyrics.

I looked at my iPod and realised that it was still playing the third song so I skipped that track and moved to the fourth song immediately – the original version of 让我照顾你. I left the song to play for just one minute (so that Huiyi would register it in her head), then I pressed “Next track”.

At long last, Huiyi was listening to my version of 让我照顾你

I signaled to Gideon and Caleb that Huiyi’s blindfold would be removed in less than two minutes. And they got into position. I decided to give Yvonne the honour of removing the blindfold. And she took her place beside Huiyi.

They were ever-ready. I was more than ready. This was it already!

On my cue, Yvonne proceeded to lift Huiyi’s blindfold.

Huiyi finally regained sight and had all of five seconds to take in what was going on around her – the venue, the rain, the crew, the guitar, the three “YES!” placards Yvonne slotted into her hands, the drama of the moment… And her fiancé-to-be standing in the rain, ready to belt out the song of their courtship.

EVERYTHING led up to this moment.

If you know me well enough, I would never do anything without reason. The last person she saw (before being blindfolded) was me and the last voice she heard (through the iPod) was mine as well. So I planned it in such a way that I was the first person she saw when she opened her eyes, and the first voice she heard when the earphones were removed.

I looked into her eyes, and chorused 让我照顾你 as earnestly and as sincerely as I could.

I meant every single word I sang. And I sang my heart out to her. I wasn’t there to impress… I was there to assure. I wasn’t there to be a star… I was there to start a new phase of my relationship with her.

Huiyi stood there with bewilderment in her eyes. She was shell-shocked to say the least, and was still trying to get her head around what was going on. She had no idea this was coming her way… Nothing in life prepared her for this moment…

Next chapter: the question we’ve all been waiting for.

XXVI. the rain on my parade.

See the rest of the photo album here.

I was as cool as a cucumber the entire day. I was so composed that I impressed myself because not once did I give it away by verbal or nonverbal cues. And I exploited Huiyi’s frequent toilet visits to update and keep myself updated with Gideon and Caleb. There was no way she could tell what my evening plans were.

It was bright and sunny the entire day, and it looked really promising that we would be treated to a beautiful sunset later. The only time I started to panic (on the inside) was when we couldn’t complete the last attraction.

The Waterworld show actually stopped halfway due to the inclement weather. Lightning struck and it began to drizzle. I received an SMS from the crew already at KBM and they did not bring positive news too. I had to pull myself together and trust that the Lord would clear the skies for me.

But He didn’t.

The one thing I persistently petitioned God for the entire week was for a nice sunset, for it was the only element out of my control; I had indented sunset, but God indented a thunderstorm. And I understood the idioms “Rain on my parade” and “When it rains, it pours” at a whole new level. There was nothing I could do except to remain positive.

We left USS to return to the car with dark and heavy clouds hanging over us. As soon as we exited the car park, before we hit the U-turn at Sentosa Gateway, a deluge of precipitation suddenly hit us.

“Woah, heng we got into the car in time man! Otherwise we would have gotten drenched!”

This actually translated as, “Sian sian sian sian sian sian sian sian sian sian!!!”

Nonetheless, I texted the crew at KBM with bravado, “Rain or shine, we will proceed! Nothing will stop me from getting engaged today!”

Next chapter: the lead-up to the proposal.

XIX. the inception – the surprise within a surprise.

Planning a surprise proposal itself was enough to keep me busy. But I am a sanguine. And I am over-the-top. So I decided to also plan a surprise engagement cum birthday party for her.

Yes, the proposal itself was a private affair where she had all the time and space in the world to enjoy the moment. But I was sure she also wanted to celebrate this moment with close friends. Besides, it was also her birthday. So it made complete sense for me to throw a party immediately after she became my fiancée. Yes, I am justifying my decision, but it proved to be well worth the extra effort.

Hence, I made numerous phone calls to establishments like The Coffee Connoisseur (TCC) @ KBM, Simply Shiok @ One North, The Daily Scoop @ Holland Village and Haato @ Greenridge Close to enquire about holding the party there. TCC instantly priced themselves out of my consideration (and I wasn’t impressed with their service inflexibility too).

Simply Shiok had space constraints but the owner, Gladys, was kind enough to offer to rent the adjacent restaurant to create more seating capacity. I thanked Gladys for her effort but decided to turn her down because the cost didn’t justify the result.

Wei Kurk attempted to help me pull strings with the owner of Daily Scoop (they were former school mates). But we didn’t order enough ice-cream to qualify as bulk purchase so instead of dining in, I placed an order for eight tubs of ice-cream instead. Much to the dismay of my guests (but to my absolute amusement), I picked out four unique flavours and four even more unique flavours. I didn’t understand why people couldn’t appreciate flavours like Gingerella or Salted Mr Brown… But I digress.

Haato was another one who proved to be inflexible with their services. They refused to let me book the entire premise (even after their peak hour during dinner) unless I could guarantee minimum orders per customer. I wasn’t impressed and I wanted to rebel by getting my guests to clome the restaurant group by group and take over all the tables one by one. But I decided against it and ended up canceling my reservation.

Let me sidetrack here. If you are reading this and you own a café or restaurant, do yourself a favour and HELP THE MAN who wants to hold his engagement party at your place! Come on, he’s about to bring 40 people to your restaurant to create a positive memory there for everyone in attendance. It makes complete commercial, marketing and economic sense for you to host his party. Don’t you get it!?

I ended up throwing out the idea of holding the party outside and decided to scale it down instead. I asked Xianyi to help me book his condominium’s function room instead (which was more affordable anyway) and I decided to DIY this engagement party; I’d buy my own food, beverages, desserts, decorations and set my own theme for it. I was sure I could have done a much better job at throwing a party than those so-called food and beverage experts. Most of them didn’t leave me with any food for thought.

Three-quarters of those who were waiting in ambush...

Next chapter: the one mad week of errands.

XVIII. the birthday that nearly ruined the proposal.

There weren’t many people who knew about the proposal. I wisely decided to keep it from her parents because I wasn’t confident that they could contain their own excitement and keep this secret from her, but I chose to confide in her brother, Xianyi, instead.

The reason why we couldn’t visit USS on Thursday was that we celebrated her birthday with her family on that evening. And the reason we deliberated for a week was that she was trying to arrange for an evening where her parents, brother and his girlfriend, as well as both of us were all available.

It was so trying that she had nearly wanted cancel the family dinner. And Xianyi, another unsung hero in this story, couldn’t intervene as much because he was supposed to help me keep it a secret. He skipped a school lesson to ensure that he was available on that Thursday evening for the family dinner, and missed a birthday (or farewell) party on Friday evening to ensure that his parents were home. More on that later but know that these are important pieces of information.

Normally, a boyfriend would pay special attention to his girlfriend’s birthday. But this dinner was so low-key to the extent that I forgot to buy a birthday cake on Thursday and had to trouble Xianyi to do it for me instead. My mind was focussed on one thing only – the proposal. I was surprised that Huiyi didn’t suspect anything from my lack of preparation for this birthday dinner.

Anyway, we celebrated Huiyi’s birthday on Thursday with her family at Peony Jade and this left Friday cleared for us to spend the day at Sentosa, as well as to have a private birthday dinner at Privé. Initially she wanted to dine at Lawry’s (and I had already made reservations for two) but I convinced her that Privé would be a better choice, simply because of location.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to have dinner by Keppel Bay Marina? I read reviews on hungrygowhere.com and apparently Privé’s got quite good ratings. Shall we try a new restaurant?”

Once again, she nodded and even told me that she had been to KBM a few times with her colleagues. I played along and told her, “Cool, then you can bring me around after dinner since you know the place better than I do.”

Now by this time, you might have realised that the original proposal plan had modified significantly, because she decided to take leave on her birthday to spend a day at USS together with me.

The original plan was to propose at MBC, then head to Lawry’s for dinner. But I had to throw that idea away, as well as the office surprise by her girlfriends. Why? Well, she wasn’t going to be at work that day! A major modification, but it was still fundamentally the same idea.

(I couldn’t get) Sunset by the (beach, so instead I got sunset by the) bay – check. I was good to go.

Next chapter: the inception – the surprise within a surprise.

XVII. the sunset on his screen.

Since it was pouring, the only thing I could capture on my iPhone 4 was the environment. Again, just like at USS, I took a surfeit of photos and videos to send to Gideon and Caleb.

10 minutes later, after I walked around to take as many photos of the surroundings as I could, I was mildly discouraged by the time I walked back to the hut. Seeing my semi-forlorn face, this man asked me what I was doing here. I explained briefly. I also told him that I had hoped to see the sunset. His response stunned me.

“Don’t worry, young man. This place has a beautiful sunset every evening. You can’t see it fully today because of the rain.” He assured me and brought out his handphone to show me his wallpaper as if to prove his statement to me. Of all images, it was a picture he snapped of the sunset at KBM. I smiled, thanked the Lord in my heart for this special arrangement, and easily mustered a whole-hearted “Thank you!” to this stranger. I took my final shots of the place and made my way out.

Yes, I had to endure the walk of shame all over again. I tried to wait for a taxi at the clubhouse, but there was none in sight after waiting for 15 minutes and I wasn’t successful in calling for a taxi. So I was left with no choice but to brave the rain and the 1.8 km again. I was determined to honour my word to the supervisor at the guardhouse, despite how uncharitable he was towards me.

And so, I fulfilled my part of the agreement, hopped onto a cab that exited the condominium, and made my way to my church in Bukit Gombak, where my cell group session was already underway. I found a modicum of comfort when my cell mates consoled me of the evening’s tragedy and applauded me of my enormous effort for the proposal.

Strangely enough, Huiyi couldn’t make it for cell that evening because she had a business function (an annual dinner and dance) to attend to. I guess it all worked out well after all.

Next chapter: the birthday that nearly ruined the proposal.

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