Italian set for reunion with S'porean partner after hiccup in Milan

Ms Michelle Poh, 45, and Mr Eugenio Mongelli, 55 on holiday in the Italian Alps.
Ms Michelle Poh, 45, and Mr Eugenio Mongelli, 55 on holiday in the Italian Alps.PHOTO: COURTESY OF MS MICHELLE POH

On Oct 21, Italian Eugenio Mongelli was about to board an Air France flight in Milan to travel to Singapore when the airline ground crew stopped him.

Mr Mongelli and his Singaporean partner Michelle Poh had successfully applied for a short-term visit pass under the "spouse-to-be" category for him to travel here. But the crew did not believe him.

"It was heart-stopping. He had already received his approval letter... but the staff didn't know that Singapore was now accepting non-business travellers," said Ms Poh, 45.

Mr Mongelli, a 55-year-old entrepreneur, was supposed to fly to Amsterdam before catching his one-way connecting flight to Singapore.

"He got me on the phone (at 10pm) and I had to convince them with my Singaporean accent and official e-mails," said Ms Poh.

Mr Mongelli's short-term visit pass had been approved on Oct 15, after several initial rejections when he applied under a different category. Fortunately, he was eventually able to board the plane. His flight from Amsterdam had only 10 passengers.

On Oct 22, he landed in Singapore and passed through the checkpoint without issue.

"The immigration officers were expecting me, and after they checked my documents, I was quickly taken to my hotel by bus to be quarantined," Mr Mongelli said in an interview from the Mandarin Orchard hotel, where he is serving his stay-home notice.

The couple will finally be reunited when he completes it next Thursday, after having been apart for more than nine months.



Ms Michelle Poh and Mr Eugenio Mongelli on video call while Mr Mongelli serves his Stay-Home-Notice at the Mandarin Orchard. PHOTO: COURTESY OF MS MICHELLE POH AND MR EUGENIO MONGELLI
 

The couple had met in April 2016 when Ms Poh, a vocal coach and singer, was performing at the Conrad Centennial hotel in Singapore. Mr Mongelli was in the country for business.

He returned to Italy about two weeks later but they stayed in touch, occasionally travelling to see each other.

"You know when you're younger it seems like you have so much time, but for us time is of the essence. He knows he has to come over," said Ms Poh. "It is very heartening to see Singapore consider allowing people in for reasons that are not practical or about business."

The physical separation has been difficult for them as the couple are accustomed to seeing each other for at least two weeks every month.

She has business in Europe and he often travels to Asia for work.

Ms Poh, who is divorced, said she could not fly to Italy amid the pandemic because she has to take care of her 14-year-old son.

Mr Mongelli is also parent to a boy, aged 12. The boy lives with his mother.

Said Ms Poh: "It's been so hard for all of us, and even harder for people in non-traditional relationships to get institutions to understand their predicament."

Mr Mongelli, who narrowly avoided another lockdown in Milan, where the virus is surging again, is planning to stay with Ms Poh as long as his pass allows.


The couple will finally be reunited when Mr Mongelli completes his stay-home notice on Nov 5, 2020, after having been apart for more than nine months. PHOTOS: COURTESY OF MS MICHELLE POH AND MR EUGENIO MONGELLI

His short-term visit pass is for a month, but he can apply to have it extended by another two months.

He said: "We will always live our lives in both Singapore and Europe.

"We have business there and Italy is where I was born, but Singapore is our base and a very beautiful country, and I intend to apply to become a permanent resident."

Ng Wei Kai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2020, with the headline 'Italian set for reunion with S'porean partner after hiccup in Milan'. Print Edition | Subscribe