Christmas decor on ledge of HDB block can stay after all

Mr Philip Sobrielo Gene with the Christmas decorations outside his mother's flat in Clementi. He managed to convince the town council that the decorations were safely fastened, so they will get to stay till the year end.
Mr Philip Sobrielo Gene with the Christmas decorations outside his mother's flat in Clementi. He managed to convince the town council that the decorations were safely fastened, so they will get to stay till the year end.ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

A mannequin placed on the ledge of a Housing Board block in Clementi will get to stay for Christmas.

Mr Philip Sobrielo Gene, who put up the mannequin as part of Christmas decorations outside his mother's HDB flat, was told by the Jurong-Clementi Town Council yesterday that he can keep them there until the end of the year.

The turn of events came three days after he was told to remove the decorative pieces, including the mannequin wearing a garland, from the second-storey ledge of Block 351 Clementi Avenue 2, due to safety concerns.

Mr Philip, 38, said town council staff visited him and his mother, 63-year-old retiree Patricia Sobrielo, yesterday morning.

The town council said it initially had safety concerns after seeing the decorations. However, Mr Philip was able to give a detailed explanation on how the display's pieces were secured. The mannequin, for example, was fastened to the railing of the parapet using twine and other materials.

"After hearing his explanation, we feel that (the decorations) will not pose a safety issue," said a town council spokesman.

Some residents have also asked the town council not to remove the decorations.

 

SHARING HIS JOY

Not every family can afford Christmas decorations, I'm just doing what I can to let people enjoy it.

MR PHILIP SOBRIELO GENE, on why he puts up the elaborate displays every year.

The spokesman added that since the theme of the decor ties in with the coming festive season, the town council decided to make an exception. It also offered to work together with Mr Philip to "showcase (his) artistic displays in the many years to come".

For Madam Patricia, who lives alone in the unit, the news was a huge relief.

She told The Straits Times: "This morning, when I saw the town council staff coming, I thought they were going to ask us to remove (the display). Now, I can relax."

Mr Philip, a dance instructor, has been putting up Christmas decorations every year since 1996.

Even though he moved out of his parents' flat two years ago, he still continues with his annual tradition.

For his displays, he recycles decorations others have thrown away.

The mannequin for this year's display was supposed to be a Christmas angel, but he decided against adding wings because he was worried the rain would ruin them.

He said that the town council was "very nice and receptive", and initially offered to let him move his display to the ground floor.

However, he declined as he felt it could pose a hazard to children running around at a nearby playground. He was also worried that the decorations might be vandalised or stolen.

While he was heartened by the many positive comments about his decorations, he accepted that not everyone felt the same way.

The town council looked into the issue after citizen journalism website Stomp contacted it. Reader Augusta Loh had written in to Stomp to raise safety concerns over the decorations.

Ms Loh, who works in facilities management and is in her 40s, said she did not have any issue with how the decorations looked but was still worried that other residents, having seen what Mr Philip had done, might also put up items on HDB block ledges.

Ms Loh also expressed concern for Mr Philip's safety when he set up the display pieces.

Several neighbours The Straits Times spoke to welcomed the town council's move and did not think the decorations were a safety hazard.

Madam Noraini Abdullah, a 77-year-old retiree, said that Mr Philip has been putting up the decorations for many years now and has brought much joy to residents.

Caregiver Shirley Cornelius, 40, said she understood Ms Loh's concerns about safety.

"But there's been heavy rain and strong winds and the decorations have withstood all this harsh weather. This should show that (Mr Philip) secured them well," she said.

On why he puts up year-end displays annually, Mr Philip said: "Not every family can afford Christmas decorations. I'm just doing what I can to let people enjoy it."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2018, with the headline 'Christmas decor on ledge of HDB block can stay after all'. Print Edition | Subscribe