Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans gather in Manila to remember Mr Lee Kuan Yew

Some one hundred people turned up at the Singapore embassy in the heart of Manila's financial district - all solemn, silent, in black or white - to watch from more than 2,300km away the final journey of Singapore's founding father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

"Even the weather is a blessing. It is crying for him," said Mr Peter Tay, president of the Singapore Philippine Association, as he watched the live telecast of the gun carriage carrying the coffin of Mr Lee to the University Cultural Centre (UCC) amid light showers and overcast skies.

Mr Tay, 60, said he would have queued for eight hours himself to pay his respects to Mr Lee had he been in Singapore.

For Mr Christopher Tan, the impact of Mr Lee's death has become even more apparent now that he has seen the vast economic difference between Singapore and the Philippines.

"He built something that my generation didn't have to fight for, so it is easier for us to complain," said Mr Tan, 23, who has been in the Philippines for six months to help with his father's fish trading business, Mida Trade Ventures International.

"When you're stuck in heavy traffic at 6pm, you miss home. You miss the Singapore that Lee Kuan Yew built," he told The Straits Times.

There were also Filipinos in the crowd.

Ms Leonora Wong, mayor of San Simon town in Pampanga province who is married to a Singaporean, said she and her daughter travelled for three hours to Manila "to salute a great leader".

"I hope we will find one day a leader (in the Philippines) like Lee Kuan Yew," said Ms Wong.

The embassy put up two flat-screen televisions in separate rooms for those who came to watch the state funeral. Some brought their babies and young children with them.

Some people in the crowd stood, as Mr Lee's coffin was being moved to the UCC auditorium in Singapore.

During the eulogies, the crowd laughed with the dignitaries and other guests at UCC as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told funny anecdotes about his father. They clapped, as if they were at the UCC themselves.

The mood turned sombre at the end of the proceedings, when they stood proudly as they recited the national pledge and sang the Singapore national anthem.

A woman in a corner wept quietly.

rdancel@sph.com.sg