SABAH QUAKE

Sabah quake: 12-year-old Peony Wee 'always looked on bright side'

SINGAPORE - They would often bicker as siblings do, but that did not stop Peony Wee Ying Ping and her older brother Chester from forging a close bond.

"We would always tell jokes to each other," Chester, 14, told The Straits Times, holding back tears at his sister's wake last night.

"She was very happy-go-lucky and always looked on the bright side. For example, if her grades were not good, she would say, 'at least I passed'."

Indeed, many family members and friends described the 12-year-old as a lively, cheerful girl who frequently helped out at her mother's traditional Chinese medicine clinic.

The Tanjong Katong Primary School pupil was one of the victims who died on a school trip when a 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia, last Friday.

Her body was flown back yesterday and arrived outside her Jalan Tiga flat in Mountbatten just past 7.30pm.

Peony's mother, Ms Luo Jin, 43, wailed loudly as the coffin was rolled out from a white van to a multi-purpose pavilion, where the five-day wake is being held.

At times, Chester wrapped his arms around his mother, comforting her.

More than 20 friends and relatives were present as a Buddhist monk led a sombre 15-minute prayer.

"She liked to try all kinds of new things. She was very adventurous," said Peony's aunt, Ms May Mah, 43.

Family friend Leong Kok Toong, 52, described Peony as a doting sibling.

"She was like a mother to her younger sister."

Peony, named after China's national flower, also leaves behind a one-year-old sister, Felicia.

Peony's father, machine operator Alson Wee, 51, said his daughter was a sociable, active girl who played netball and the piano, read widely and loved wanton noodles.

"She was very loving, very helpful," said Mr Wee, adding that Peony would sometimes call home after netball practice and offer to buy food for her family.

Mr Wee had objected to his daughter going for the six-day school trip, for fear that mountain climbing was dangerous for children her age.

He was also concerned because the Primary School Leaving Examination was only months away. But Ms Luo gave Peony permission and paid for the trip after her daughter pleaded with her.

"(My wife) is still feeling very guilty for giving her the green light. She cannot sleep," said Mr Wee, adding that Ms Luo banged her head against the floor when she first learnt of Peony's death.

"Mu dan (peony in Mandarin) is a respected flower. That's why I named her that," said Mr Wee. "I will miss hearing her cheerful voice around the house."

yeosamjo@sph.com.sg