SINGAPORE - Hundreds of people gathered outside Bugis+ shopping mall on Saturday (Oct 15) to drink Milo and catch a glimpse of local singer Nathan Hartono.
The crooner, who came in second in the latest season of reality singing competition Sing! China in Beijing on Oct 7, was there to mingle with fans and fulfil his Milo promise in person.
In an earlier interview with The Straits Times, Hartono had said that he would rent a fleet of Milo vans and treat everybody to Milo peng, the iced chocolate malt beverage, if he won the contest.
He may not have won, but Nestlé Singapore, which manufactures the beloved drink, went ahead to deploy the green vans thrice - once at Plaza Singapura on Oct 7, a few hours before the competition final, another time at Bedok Mall on Friday (Oct 14) and once more at Bugis+ on Saturday (Oct 15).
Hartono, who returned to Singapore from China last Sunday (Oct 9), was his jovial self on Saturday as he went on stage to answer questions in front of screaming fans.
"The last few months were very rewarding, but Singapore is still home," the 25-year-old said, adding that he is glad to be back here.
"The weather is a welcome warmth. I miss the humidity."
Referring to his Milo promise, Hartono confessed it began as just a joke.
"I didn't think this was gonna be a thing. The Straits Times asked me what I would do if I won. I made a joke because I didn't want to be boring."
And he was anything but boring to his swooning supporters who showed up with cameras and gifts in hand.
Some, like Ngee Ann Polytechnic student Zhang Yue, 20, were there from as early as 10am, even though Hartono was due to appear only at 3pm.
The Beijing native, who was there with three other schoolmates, said: "We came early because we were too excited. We were afraid we couldn't get close to him."
But get close to him she did. Ms Zhang was one of 100 fans who got to take photos with Hartono on stage.
"My heart kept beating. He sings well and he's very handsome," said Ms Zhang, giggling.
For nearly two hours, Hartono signed autographs, handed out cups of Milo to the crowd and played stage games with fans.
The performer almost won a game of musical chairs, but lost the final chair to a woman from Beijing.
"Second place again," he said as the crowd roared with laughter.
Ms Jin Yan, a 19-year-old Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts student from Suzhou, was one of a few fans who got to play games with Hartono.
She said in Mandarin: "I was so emotional when he picked me to go on stage. I'm still trembling!"
Despite being a self-professed introvert, Hartono did not come across as out of place with all the newfound attention back home.
In fact, making an appearance at a local shopping mall brought back memories for the singer, who said he first performed on stage at Bishan's Junction 8 mall in 2005 when he was just 14 years old.
"I've been performing in shopping malls like this for a long time," he told the crowd. "The music performer I am today is moulded from being in Singapore. If you can make it in Singapore as a musician, you can make it anywhere. It's a tough crowd here."
But Saturday's crowd was definitely on his side, even as they formed snaking queues for a taste of Milo peng.
Fans both at home and abroad can expect to hear more of his music soon, as Hartono said he feels a self-imposed pressure to ride on the wave of his success at the Sing! China competition.
"The pressure right now is all my own pressure on myself. I want to go forward and not waste this opportunity. I want to keep making music in Singapore and outside Singapore."