By The Way

F1, keeping trim and Singapore's answer to Colonel Sanders: What politicians are up to this week

The Straits Times looks at what politicians, and the politically related, are up to in this weekly series. PHOTOS: FACEBOOK/TEO CHEE HEAN, TAN SEE LENG, LOUIS NG, MELVIN YONG

SINGAPORE - The Straits Times looks at what politicians, and the politically related, are up to in this weekly series.

In this edition, we look at the political star power drawn in by the Singapore Grand Prix, MPs exercising - or at least trying to - and shining a spotlight on the varied talent in their wards.

Look out for the latest edition of the series every Friday, and check out past ones here.

F1 diplomacy

While drivers like Red Bull's Sergio Perez and Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel contended with the most physically and mentally challenging race on the F1 calendar last weekend, several foreign dignitaries and politicians were in town making deals and building ties.

Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean posted on Facebook photos he took with Malaysia's king, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, Rwanda's President Paul Kagame, and Brunei's Prince 'Abdul Mateen.

Manpower Minister Tan See Leng posted pictures of himself with dignitaries such as Philippine President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Pulau President Surangel Whipps Jr, and Cambodia's Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak.

While Mr Marcos drew flak for attending the Grand Prix days after Typhoon Noru pummelled parts of the Philippines, his supporters praised him for using the event to network.

Among Mr Marcos' photos at the race were those with F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali, Facebook co-founder and entrepreneur Eduardo Saverin and several Cabinet ministers, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Transport Minister S. Iswaran.

"They say that playing golf is the best way to drum up business, but I say it's Formula 1," he wrote. "What a productive weekend! It was fulfilling to have been invited alongside several dignitaries and to have met new business friends who showed that they are ready and willing to invest in the Philippines. "

But the race was not all big names and rarefied air - Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth and Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling said she was glad to have spread the cheer to about 100 senior citizens from Bethesda Care Centre, Jia Ying Community Services Society, Jamiyah Singapore and other social service organisations, and that they had enjoyed the festivities.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing was chuffed that culinary students from Temasek Polytechnic had the chance to give F1 guests a taste of their modern interpretation of iconic local dishes such as kong bak pau (braised pork slider).

Sporting politicos

Politicians here have been finding different ways to stay trim, and some have invited their residents to join them.

With a clip of himself in a friendly pull-up challenge, Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng called for residents to join him at Yishun Neighbourhood Park bright and early at 7am every first Sunday of the month for a workout.

While last Sunday's workout was cancelled because of heavy rain, the prata breakfast went according to plan, he said in another post titled "Yikes".

"Breakfast now at Syed restaurant before home visits at Blk 347A and 347B from 9am - 1.30pm," he said.

Over in Sengkang, Workers' Party (WP) MP Jamus Lim and a small group of runners braved a drizzle on Saturday night for the monthly Sengkang GRC River Run.

Associate Professor Lim wrote on Facebook: "It was an eclectic mix, including soon-to-be undergraduates, a financier, and a former restaurateur, with age ranges in the decades.

"This just proves that there is no barrier to getting fitter and enjoying each other's company. Until next month!"

Meanwhile, Marine Parade GRC MP Seah Kian Peng caught up with old schoolmates over a football match on Saturday morning, and was wistful for years gone by when they could field a full squad.

"Been a while since my last football game," he wrote. "So glad that our batch of schoolmates have continued to keep in touch with each other throughout the years."

Last weekend also saw labour chief Ng Chee Meng complete a fitness milestone: his first overnight century (100km) cycling ride.

Mr Ng posted a picture of his cycling route, which spanned 111.5km.

"On now to RTI and LP1!" he said, a reference to two renowned achievements among cyclists here: the Round the Island cycling route that spans about 125km, and a 36km addition to include a trip to the sticker-festooned Tuas Lamp Post 1.

Talents in our midsts

With house visits back in earnest, some MPs took to social media this week to showcase some of their stand-out residents they bumped into during walkabouts.

A piano performance by one precocious resident left Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Low Yen Ling dazzled and grinning, especially since she had seen him grow up over the past decade.

"For residents in Blk 540, if you happen to hear beautiful piano music playing in the estate, it's likely to come from Wei Zheng's home," she said. "At the age of 13, he's already obtained his Grade 5, what an achievement!"

Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC) was touched by the kindness of one Mrs Sheth, a resident who cooks about 100 portions of vegetarian lunch every weekend to send to a Hindu temple for the needy.

Mr Melvin Yong (Radin Mas) was impressed by the sprightliness of an 88-year-old resident he met during his house visits.

"Guess her secret to keeping both physically and mentally active?" he asked, alongside a picture of the resident and her sofa cushions, inspired by the three dragon tiles in mahjong.

Mr Yong also posted a photo he had taken with the hawkers of a chicken wings stall at Block 11 Telok Blangah Crescent, after regulars told him the wings flew off the shelves every evening when the stall opened.

Their secret?

"Their chicken wings are marinated using a family recipe comprising nine different kinds of spices and sauces for at least three hours to seal in the flavour," Mr Yong said, having spoken with the stall owners.

One commenter noted that this was slightly fewer than the "11 herbs and spices" used by a global chicken chain in its original recipe.

"KFC uses more spices," a Ms Sandy Leow noted incisively.

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