Reunited after 40 years

Madam Wee Poh Keok with actress Petrina Fung Bo Bo and Madam Wee's son Fabian Koh in an old photograph (right) and at the Link Hotel yesterday (far right).
Madam Wee Poh Keok with actress Petrina Fung Bo Bo and Madam Wee's son Fabian Koh in an old photograph (above) and at the Link Hotel yesterday.PHOTO: COURTESY OF WEE POH KEOK
Madam Wee Poh Keok with actress Petrina Fung Bo Bo and Madam Wee's son Fabian Koh in an old photograph (right) and at the Link Hotel yesterday (far right).
Madam Wee Poh Keok with actress Petrina Fung Bo Bo and Madam Wee's son Fabian Koh in an old photograph and at the Link Hotel yesterday (above).PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Fung Bo Bo meets the godmother she stayed with when she performed as a child in Singapore

Forty-seven years ago, Hong Kong veteran actress Petrina Fung Bo Bo, then 12, came to Singapore to perform. She stayed for a month at the Katong home of Madam Wee Poh Keok and called her "kai leong", Cantonese for godmother.

In the intervening years, the pair lost touch - reuniting only following the publication of an interview with Fung in Life! last month.

Speaking to this reporter at Link Hotel in Tiong Bahru yesterday, Fung exclaims in Mandarin: "Isn't it fate? They've been looking for me for a long time and because of the cover story in Life!, they finally found me."

Madam Wee's son Fabian Koh, 47, had read the story Married To The Movies published on May 21 and contacted this reporter. Mr Koh then managed to reach Garrick Wong, a Hong Kong-based Singaporean actor-director who is helming the musical, Fung Bo Bo Memories And Chinatown.

Fung, 60, is in Singapore for the show, which will be staged at Kreta Ayer People's Theatre on Friday and Saturday, as well as for her new movie, Wonder Mama, which opens here on Friday.

Meanwhile, Fung herself had no idea where to start looking. "Who would I ask? Do I come to Singapore and ask: Hey Singapore, where's kai leong?"

The reunion is a happy occasion and Madam Wee, 83, had brought along a special treat - durian puffs she had made early in the morning. Fung happily pops one into her mouth and proclaims "ho chiak", Hokkien for delicious.

It was Madam Wee's father-in-law Koh Tian Kit who got Fung to perform in Singapore. He was the founder of Chong Gay Organisation, a now-defunct film company which ran some cinemas including Golden Mile. In those days, one could watch a movie and a live performance for the price of one ticket.

Madam Wee recalls in Mandarin with a laugh: "She was very pretty when she was young and everyone loved her."

To which Fung interjects: "I'm still very pretty."

Madam Wee teases: "No longer."

Fung says of Madam Wee: "She was very skinny back then, not as fat as now, and loved to wear skirts."

Despite the many years apart, they are clearly comfortable with each other, chatting in Cantonese and Hokkien. For the most part, Madam Wee is happy to let Fung reminisce.

The entertainer recalls that her godmother's bungalow had a garden that one had to cross to get to the kitchen and dining area. "There was a fried pomfret dish that I loved. It was so crispy and it had soya sauce drizzled over it."

"I'll cook it for you," chips in Madam Wee.

The garden was a favourite spot for Fung as it had a cool stone bench. "At night, you could see the stars while sitting there. I would sing this," says Fung and proceeds to sing a Mandarin ditty, Stars In The Sky.

Madam Wee even travelled with her when Fung performed in Penang. "I wanted to have fun so I tagged along to watch her perform. We even slept in the same bed."

Fung exclaims in Hokkien: "I don't remember that."

She adds: "I stayed with them for a month and they all spoke Hokkien, so I picked it up as well. After not speaking it for so long, I've forgotten it."

But meeting Madam Wee again has dredged up some Hokkien phrases she used to know. Reflecting on the passage of time, the actress says: "It's hard to believe that more than 40 years have passed and now this person whom I knew then is before me once again."

The two met on a television programme here for the first time in more than four decades on Monday night.

Fung starts to tear as she adds: "I was crying when I got into a car after that because I was very moved. It's good to cry because it means you still have a heart and mine is full of gratitude, that there's someone who has been thinking of me all these years."

While she has work commitments on this trip, she plans to visit again and learn from Madam Wee how to make durian puffs and cook fried fish.

Asked what she wants to say to Madam Wee on seeing her again after such a long time, she says cheekily: "I want to eat fried fish."

Breaking into Hokkien suddenly, Madam Wee says: "I haven't seen her in years and I'm just happy to see her again."

bchan@sph.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2015, with the headline 'Reunited after 40 years'. Print Edition | Subscribe