Pastor Philip Chan, co-founder of halfway house The Hiding Place, dies of cancer at age 69

People pay their respects at the wake of the late Pastor Philip Chan at The Hiding Place on Feb 4, 2020.
People pay their respects at the wake of the late Pastor Philip Chan at The Hiding Place on Feb 4, 2020.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - Pastor Philip Chan, who dedicated his life to helping drug addicts and co-founded halfway house The Hiding Place with his wife Christina, died on Monday (Feb 3).

Mr Chan, who suffered from liver cancer, was 69.

His only child, Ms Joaquim Chan, a 39-year-old chef, said Mr Chan was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer in 2016 and his condition worsened last year. It was his second bout of the disease, after being struck with colorectal cancer in 2006.

Ms Chan said her father died peacefully in his sleep on Monday morning. He is survived by his wife, 73, and daughter.

She added: "I have been given ample time to prepare for this day. But no matter how much time is given, when it (death) comes, it feels like I have been hit by a truck.

"Dad is like a crab, soft on the inside but firm and stern outside. My dad has a very big heart and he will give whatever he has to others. I will definitely miss him so much."

A former drug addict, Mr Chan used to work as a salesman in his father's trading firm and led a self-described "havoc" life of drinking and drugs up to his early 20s.

He was introduced to Christianity and stayed at the Christian halfway house House of Grace, which was set up by his wife before they wed, and he kicked his drug habit.

The couple later tied the knot and renamed the halfway house The Hiding Place in 1978. It housed and helped drug addicts to turn their lives around while also assisting gamblers and those hooked to the bottle.

In 1992, Pastor Chan was given the Life Insurance Association Award, which honours individuals and organisations that have given a new lease of life to others.

Mr Tan Hock Seng, 62, a former drug addict, knew Pastor Chan for the past 39 years, when Mr Tan went to The Hiding Place to stay. Mr Tan, now a pastor and also a staff member at The Hiding Place, said of his first encounter with the Chans: "I couldn't understand why they were helping us, as we are not the obedient kind and gave them lots of headaches. And they did not gain financially from it.

 

"I learnt they did it for the love of God. They have sacrificed a lot to take care of us, living with us and sacrificing their privacy. They also had to fund-raise to keep this place going."

He described Pastor Chan as a fatherly figure who was very wise.

Mr Caleb Tan said Pastor Chan was the father he never had.

Mr Tan, 46, has no idea who his biological father is and was raised by his grandmother. The former drug addict was in jail six times for drug and other offences.

When he was released in 2010, he came to The Hiding Place to stay, as he was homeless, and learnt first hand of Pastor Chan's compassion.



Mr Caleb Tan and Ms Joaquim Chan arrange cards from well wishers at a wake for the late Pastor Philip Chan at The Hiding Place on Feb 4, 2020. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

One day, Mr Tan was preparing jam to make the pineapple tarts The Hiding Place sells to raise funds and was badly injured in a horrific kitchen accident. He suffered extensive burns, had five broken ribs and his lungs collapsed.

He said: "We have no blood relation but Pa (what he calls Pastor Chan) told me not to worry so much; he promised me The Hiding Place will take care of me. And even if The Hiding Place doesn't take care of me, Pa said he would personally take care of me."

He said Pastor Chan helped him get back on the straight and narrow and taught him what it means to be a trustworthy man and a good husband.

Mr Tan, who works as a cook at The Hiding Place, said: "He always put others before him. And even when he was very ill, he is still constantly worried about us. He is like a father to me."

Social worker Benny Thiam, 35, was a former drug addict who stayed at The Hiding Place for three years. He said Pastor Chan was a very forgiving and generous man, and always willing to give others a second chance.

He said: "I have learnt this from Pastor Philip - not to give up on someone and to give them a second chance."

The wake is at The Hiding Place at 50 Jalan Lekar until Thursday, and the cortege leaves for Mandai Crematorium on Friday.