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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 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.

VII. the first group of people involved.

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I was serious about this absolutely cheesy but wonderfully romantic and heart-melting idea, and had already briefed Andrea, Ling Zhi and Yvonne of this elaborate plan over the phone. I requested for them to take half-day leave to ensure that they would appear at her office at 6pm. They agreed and her best friend, Yvonne, was exhilarated with this concept. Three 15-minute phone calls later, the three of them, who grew up with her, knew exactly what they had to do for the evening.

Then I called Justin, one of the media staff in my church, to ask if I could rent the church’s portable sound system (which incidentally is what they use to conduct funeral services) for that evening. He said that it wasn’t a problem but left me with a disclaimer that I remember until this day. “Just pray that no one dies that evening,” he said with a wry smile. Then I quickly familiarised myself with setting up and operating the equipment. No pun intended, but it was all systems go for me.

Gideon, another close buddy, together with Caleb, one of the boys I mentor, played huge roles in the entire proposal. They were practically my five senses and I’d even call them my sixth sense because they updated me with ground information that I needed to know without actually being present. And Gideon and Caleb generously agreed to be the event photographer and videographer respectively without charging a single cent. (I gave them a token of appreciation of course..)

More details on their pivotal roles later. For now, they also agreed to double up as the men who chauffeured the sound equipment from my church in Tanglin Road to MBC and to set it on that little knoll, so that by the time I arrive, the stage would be ready for Joey Asher Tan to croon and sing his status away…

All right, I shall caution you first… It’s going to get a little confusing from here because every element of the proposal is integrated like spaghetti. Stay with me – this is where the story gets exciting!

Next chapter: the secret weapon – her birthday. 

VI. the second idea – Mapletree Business City.

Wei Kurk, one of my buddies, works in the same vicinity as Huiyi. Her office is located in PSA building, at the end of Alexandra Road closer to the entrance of Labrador Park. Kurk told me that he once saw how the sun set in Mapletree Business City (MBC). I was convinced of it and could almost imagine the brilliance. For as long as I live, I will never get sick of admiring God’s magnificence through a sunset and sunrise.

I googled “Labrador Park sunset” and “Pasir Panjang sunset” and confirmed that this was indeed a viable venue. (The other places I had considered were Pandan Reservoir, Marina Barrage and that open field behind Blackmore Road.) In that month, I intentionally made regular trips to Huiyi’s office to pick her up after work, but also to check out the sunset environment, and the distance and time taken to walk from her office to the proposal venue, which was around 200-300 metres away.

The original plan was to get Huiyi’s closest girlfriends to spring a birthday surprise for her at her office right about the time she knocked off work. (Of course, I would need to involve her colleagues whom I barely knew, but was confident that they would be more than willing to help.) Everyone in the office would create a ruckus and tell her that her girlfriends are about to whisk her away for a girls’ night out. Then they would lead her to the proposal venue – a tiny man-made knoll (pictured above) in the centre of the MBC atrium, where she would (please indulge me) hear the sound of the soulful-stirring voice of her fiance-to-be, serenading her from a distance away, singing the song that he courted her with.

And as she walks up the little green hill, I’d be there waiting, drawing her in with my melodious music… And as I finish the song, (by then, a small crowd of white-collared executives would have gathered to check out what was going on,) I’d leave my microphone stand like a rock star, put down my guitar in style, and get down on one knee (and melt the hearts of all the women in our line of sight) to ask that status-changing question.

Yes, I was fully convinced of this absolutely brilliant plan! There was no way I could fail!

Next chapter: the first group of people involved.

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