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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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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.

XXVII. the lead-up to the proposal.

Yvonne also took leave for the day to provide another helping hand. I involved her for two main reasons. I wanted Huiyi to share this precious moment with her best friend, and I needed someone to safeguard the equipment at the pier while Gideon and Caleb waited for me to arrive. They were camping in the gents where I was going to change into my evening attire.

By the time I hopped into the Subaru, the crew reported their 100% readiness for Project Will-You-Marry-Me. The placards were pasted onto the railings, the guitar was in place, and the camera crew was in position. This was it – now we were only waiting for the stars of the show to arrive!

I drove into the clubhouse car park and parked at the first available car park lot I found because I was afraid that Huiyi may recognise Gideon’s car. Thank God he’s a smart boy – he parked in an obscure lot. We gathered our barang-barang, and I took my time with this because it was crucial that I didn’t miss out on any item, and exited the car for the lift lobby.

We had to change into our evening attire as we were in still in our sweaty and smelly USS tee-shirt and shorts. I managed to persuade her into wearing that Zara blouse; a week ago, I asked her why I haven’t seen her in that blouse for such a long time. I even pretended to lament, “Such a nice and expensive top, but yet you don’t wear it often enough…” She said she had already put it aside for Perth. Yes, she had also intended to wear that blouse for the proposal that she thought I was going to execute in Perth.

I frowned and told her that she has more than enough time to get it washed and packed for Perth. I persuaded her to wear something nice at Privé since it was a high-end restaurant. Again, she obediently complied with little resistance. I think it’s because every girl would want to look good on her birthday. Dining at a posh restaurant was my excuse to change into something pretty.

Next chapter: the change parade and the final countdown.

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. 

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