A Ducky Day Out

I think it’s fun to act like tourists in our home city once in a while. It helps me avoid taking in the city’s beauty for granted.

Hubby and I passed by Marina Square the other week and saw a Duck Tour bus drive by. Why not take BB on a little tour of the Singapore sights? we thought. In case you don’t know what a Duck Tour bus is, it’s like any other tour bus except for the vehicle itself — the bus can drive on land and float on water (hence the name “duck”). Apparently these amphibious buses originated in World War II. According to The Atlantic: “The name DUKW derived from military equipment coding: D stood for the year of production (1942); U denoted its amphibious quality; K indicated front-wheel drive capability; W rear-wheel drive. Unsurprisingly, they just became known as ‘ducks.'”

A DUKW tour splashing in the water

We booked our Captain Explorer DUKW tour online through City Tours. Toddlers are charged S$2 (paid in person when you collect your tickets). The collection and meet-up point is at Marina Square Shopping Mall, with some conveniently placed kiddie rides opposite in case your little bub gets bored waiting to board.

The week leading up to our tour, BB couldn’t stop talking about it. “Sakay duck toi” (“Ride duck tour”) he declared at every opportunity — which made it ironic that as soon as we got on the bus, he started agitating to get off. 😅 I thought I had to forgo our S$28/person ticket fee, but he thankfully relaxed when the bus started moving (and the sights started to get interesting).

While the noise of the engine revving up may have had something to do with his initial fear, I think the tour guide’s crappy sound system (the constant microphone feedback was painful to hear!) and insistence on playing the PPAP song on loop was much, much worse. We had to endure her most of the ride. 😒

Thankfully — the sights more than made up for the sounds.

We had seen these landmarks before, but it was ours and BB’s first time to see them from a boat in the bay. (Hubby and I had taken a river cruise on a bum boat a few years ago, but only got as far as the Merlion.)

I had never seen the underside of the Helix Bridge before…

BB also got to see my office from afar…

He was delightfully engaged for most of the ride, pointing out the buildings, the Ferris wheel, the dragon boats, and even the taxis we spotted when we were still a little close to land. He loved the big wet splash the bus made when we entered the water.

We saw the following landmarks on the tour:

1. Marina Bay
2. Marina Barrage
3. Marina Bay Sands
4. Gardens on the Bay
5. Merlion
6. Helix Bridge
7. Floating Stadium
8. Marina Bay Financial Centre
9. Singapore Flyer
10. Fullerton Hotel

I suppose a positive for travelers taking the bus alone is that the noisy tour guide is more than happy to take photos. She also does the tour in both English and Chinese.

Before going back to Marina Square the DUKW tour bus also drove by The National Museum, St. Andrew’s Cathedral, and The Cenotaph, a war memorial honoring the WWI and WWII dead.

While it was an experience riding a DUKW tour bus I’ll probably recommend the Singapore River Cruise bum boats as a better option for cruising with toddlers — it’s quieter too!

That said, we got off at Marina Square hungry for some Wee Nam Kee chicken rice, fully satisfied with the little slice of Singapore we got to see that day.


Kids Read #9 (Halloween edition!): Ma-Me-Mi-MUMU! 🎃

It was always such a treat to be allowed to stay up late to watch Magandang Gabi, Bayan‘s Halloween specials, with its cheesy floating “white ladies” and powdered cemetery ghosts. To a ’90s kid like me they were the SCARIEST THING EVER (followed closely by the early Shake Rattle & Roll franchise).

Jomike Tejido’s Ma-Me-Mi-MUMU! is a wholesome take on the Philippine supernatural, through the eyes of little Sophia and her Lolo Nanding (Grandpa Nanding).

We begin with a neighborhood boy taunting Sophia, saying, “May mumu sa bahay n’yo!” (“There’s a mumu in your house!”) Sophia is afraid of encountering a mumu (monster) in her house — and imagines one in the kitchen, in the bathroom, or wherever she goes.

Lolo Nanding helps her overcome her fear of monsters by presenting them in a friendlier light. Tejido makes clever use of these creatures’ “real” traits as a way for Sophia to bond with them.

For example, Lolo Nanding encourages her to challenge any manananggal she meets to a sewing contest. In local folklore, manananggals are vampire-like creatures that can separate the upper and lower half of its body to be able to fly at night and prey on pregnant women. (!) But Tejido’s version is cute as a button!

Similarly, Lolo Nanding suggests that Sophia use the tiktik’s long, snaking tongue to paraglide…

… that she teach the tiyanak, a monster baby, his ABCs…

… and give the kapre, a cigar-smoking giant thought to reside in big trees, some pakwan (watermelon) candy so he’d dump his cigar.

For other monsters Tejido doesn’t stray far from folklore. If you pass an unexplained mound on the ground in the province it’s supposedly good practice to say “Tabi tabi po” (“Excuse me”) just in case you disturb these nuno sa punso, or Philippine dwarves.

Ma-Me-Mi-MUMU! is a fun introduction for children to a distinct part of Philippine culture. I personally love that Sophia is introduced to these creatures by her lolo, to whom she gives his favorite tea and fruit at the end, as thanks for rhyming so long.

There’s a gallery at the back of all the monsters in the book…

… and the book is bilingual in English and Filipino, so you can help your little one learn the language too.

A highly recommended, scary-not-so-scary book to read the kids this Halloween!



Ma-Me-Mi-MUMU! (Tahanan Books)
Written and illustrated by Jomike Tejido

Php 195 at National Bookstore

Kids Read #8: There Was a Peranakan Woman Who Lived in a Shoe

I try to help BB embrace the vibrant culture here in his present home, Singapore, mainly through the books we read to him and by taking him around this small island-city. To BB, the best way to get from point A to B is via the local SBS or SMRT buses — he loves looking out the large windows and pointing at the things he sees (“Biddings! Tees! Canes!” [Buildings! Trees! Cranes!]).

As for books, Epigram Books has a lot of good selections for kids and adults alike. An excellent find of ours is There Was a Peranakan Woman Who Lived in a Shoe by Gwen Lee, a book BB has been asking us to read more of lately.

BB is now old enough to remember his favorite nursery rhymes. He even replaces the words sometimes, in an attempt to make us laugh (“Baa, baa black…BUS!”).

BB’s perfect for Ms. Lee’s book, which rewrites traditional English nursery rhymes in a Singaporean context, using local food, places and festivals.

For instance in “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Lights” (a recreation of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”), the focus is on the local Deepavali festival or ‘The Festival of Lights.’ Meant to symbolize light conquering the darkness, the Deepavali (or Diwali) festival has Hindus “waking up at dawn to bath in oil, dressing up in colorful clothing, and going to a local temple for prayers. At home, clay oil lamps are lit, doors are decked out with green mango leaves, and colorful designs called ‘rangoli,’ which are made of dyed rice or flours, are drawn on the floor. Homes are also thoroughly cleaned and adorned with flowers and other colorful decorations.” (1)

Other rhymes include ‘Hickory Dickory Dock’ (about the common house gecko instead of a mouse!), ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’ (about moon…cakes), and the titular poem, which instead of an old woman in a shoe with too many kids, is about a Peranakan woman in a shoe with too many nonya kueh (sweet or savory bite-sized snacks). Peranakan refers to Straits-born Chinese or Baba-Nyonya. They’re the masters of Singaporean staples like laksa, which “blend Chinese ingredients with cooking techniques and spices used by the Malay/Indonesian community.” Yum!

Beautifully illustrated by Cheryl Kook, the book is a lovely re-imagining of beloved traditional rhymes and humorous enough to merit repeat “Read, Mama!” requests from BB.

That’s good enough for me!


(1) Source: https://publicholidays.sg/deepavali/


There Was a Peranakan Woman Who Lived in a Shoe (Epigram Books)
By Gwen Lee, Illustrations by Cheryl Kook

S$14.90 + GST


Like the rest of Singapore (it seems), we tried to catch Yayoi Kusama’s Life is the Heart of a Rainbow exhibit on its last weekend at the National Gallery. The queues were legion, but BB enjoyed it, so — worth it!

Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist most famous for her distinctive art made up of intricate dots, nets and pumpkin motifs. She’s also known for her dazzling room-sized installations, unique performances, and sparkling mirrored infinity rooms. This was the first time her art would be exhibited in Southeast Asia so it was definitely a must-see, in my view.

I thought it would be cool to bring BB along for his first art exhibit. Instill a sense of culture and love of all things creative, and all that. O, how naive I was. 😂

I first got a sense I wouldn’t be lingering around admiring the art when we entered the Narcissus Garden room. BB immediately wanted to be put down. He was eyeing the stainless steel balls and I could sense he was itching to touch/kick/lick one. The gallery attendant was shooting evil looks at our little group, and we (i.e. me, Hubby, and Yaya C) passed BB around in a joint effort to keep his little arms and legs from touching the whole thing.

Lesson #1: my son has a pretty solid kick.

The next hall housed the installation The Spirits of the Pumpkins Descended Into the Heavens, in Kusama’s distinctive yellow-and-black spotted theme. This was a slightly easier hall to navigate, but we still had a heck of a time keeping BB away from the hanging frames.

BB loved the room where the pumpkin installation was. “Circles!” he said, and proceeded to sing a few lines from that Blippi tootbrushing song we play to him every night to encourage him to brush. (♫ “Circles, circles, on the sides of your teeth…” ♫)

We definitely failed our Let’s-Keep-BB’s-Hands-Off-the-Artwork challenge in The Tulip Room. He loved the colorful dotted tulips — I have several shots of him leaning against the giant flower pots with a “Do Not Touch” sign clearly seen from the back. *sigh*

In BB’s defense, Kusama herself encouraged an interaction between the viewer and her art. So maybe BB is appreciating Kusama’s work properly after all.

Lesson #2: Toddlers be toddlers.

The longest queue was for the immersive infinity room experience, Gleaming Lights of the Souls. While the mirrored room was meant to “invite contemplation in an infinitely repeating, expanding space”, because of the crowds each group was only allowed around 12 seconds to “contemplate.” Still worth the queue, I think.

Finally, we visited The Obliteration Room, a room and its furniture painted white. The room was filled with thousands of colorful round stickers. Visitors could donate S$2 to the gallery which comes with a sheet of stickers — go wild and stick it anywhere, everywhere.

I think I spot an Ikea Malm dresser
According to The National Gallery, the inspiration for the room comes from when Kusama was a little girl. “She started seeing the world through a screen of tiny dots. They covered everything she saw—the walls, ceilings, and even her own body. For 40 years she has made paintings, sculptures and photographs using dots to cover surfaces and fill rooms. Kusama calls this process ‘obliteration,’ which means the complete destruction of every trace of something.”

As it was a space meant to be fully immersive, BB definitely loved it. He had a blast pretend-drinking out of the cups scattered in the area, climbing some shelves, and checking out a bicycle. (I think I spotted a few Ikea pieces in there.)

Kusama’s art is truly a treat to see in person. But my key takeaway from this day is you haven’t truly lived life on the edge until you bring a rowdy toddler within hair’s breadth of artwork worth millions of dollars. Bow.

Phrase on repeat today: “DO NOT” 🙂

To My BB

In the middle of moving house (again!), nonstop work stuff, your mama trying to study for a certification exam, and just general busy-ness one can’t seem to get rid off, you’re growing big, our little one. Not so Squishy anymore. So I’m hereby christening you BB, a.k.a. Big Boy.

Over the past month you’ve somehow developed the ability to string together short phrases: “Ayoko ‘yan ayoko ‘yan” (“I don’t like I don’t like”, reacting to your chicken lugaw)“BB sakay car!” (“BB ride car” — thereafter proceeding to declare you want to ride all modes of transportation and then some. Your list includes random ones like “trailer truck,” “street sweeper,” and “cement mixer” thanks to your Usborne ‘Things That Go’ book), “Hi FRIENDS!!!” (to the kids / “BATA” who’re swimming in the baby pool at the condo — who promptly ignore your sweet face haha), making “MmMMmm” yum-yum sounds whenever you see pictures of food or see ones that you like (a short list that has Jollibee sweet spaghetti at the top), and so on. Your daddy and I honestly cannot keep track of New Things BB Does anymore.

I am floored by all the words you manage to remember. You parrot everything we say when you’re in the mood, and you sometimes say random lines from your favorite books at spot-on times (“OH YES” you once said to me after I asked you if you wanted to go out, while nodding — it cracked me up).

You now recognize some cartoon characters — we’ve relaxed the TV rule a little a bit so you’ve seen part of the first Cars movie (“Mc-KEEN!” “MATER!”) and the Minions. You get bored of the TV after a while though. (Yay.)

But boy, do you love your JAMS. You have a funny little dance when we put your favorite YouTube music videos on the speaker (belly thrust forward and back, jiggle shoulders up and down). Wheels on the Bus is still your #1 song, but you’re starting to branch out to the Hokey Pokey and Head Shoulders Knees & Toes. You know all the words to Johnny Johnny Yes Papa (down to your breathy HA HA HA at the end), Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and have your own version of Bahay Kubo and Ako Ay May Lobo (thanks to yaya Aca).

Your mama and daddy try to keep your days (at least the weekends!) and your heart full, BB. We took you to the Palawan Pirate Ship down in Sentosa one weekend and you loved the free sprinklers — though you fell victim to a cold right after. 😦

You had your third-ever boat ride to attend your Ninang‘s wedding in Bohol. You had the chance to play with your “BUCKET!” and get sand all over your bum. You met your “TITO BAYAN!” and now promptly remember him every time you see someone dark (LOL).

I’m sorry our little playgroup experiment didn’t work out, BB. Mama now knows that she shouldn’t rush you into being a big boy, that all she has to do is to fill your days with hugs and kisses and silly dances and joy — that the rest will happen in its own good time.

Kids Read #7: Dr. Seuss’s ABC

Some books are classics for a reason. I think Dr. Seuss books fall firmly within the classic camp.

Of the ones we’re fortunate to have, Squishy’s current favorites are ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ (“Sam-ay-am!” by his request) and this one, Dr. Seuss’s ABC.

I love reading Dr. Seuss out loud because it just sounds so musical. (“Big B, little B, what begins with B? Barber baby bubbles and a bumblebee!”) I discovered that “Seussian verse” is meant to sound better out loud — so it’s perfect for little kids who’re just starting to read.

Again in typical Seuss fashion we’re introduced to zany characters like the Fiffer-feffer-feff (see below) and Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz…

… and humorous activities like painting pink pajamas, oiling orange owls, dreaming of a dozen doughnuts and a duck-dog, and walking a quacking quacker-oo.

Squishy loves sounding out the letters with me (“Jee-jee-jee!” for G), which I take as a sign that he’s enjoying the book too.

I think Dr. Seuss’s ABC has a soft spot in my heart because we had a CD-rom (!) of the book back in the ’90s. Both the print edition and the CD have the same words, but the CD has some clickable content and sounds accompanying each page too (for example, you could hear the mice humming their midnight music on “M”).

Can’t go wrong with a classic!


Dr. Seuss’s ABC (Random House)
By Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel)

Bought secondhand for around S$3 at the atrium in Lucky Plaza

Kids Read #6: Bee Safe by Joyce Piap-Go

I knew Squishy had absorbed at least one key lesson from this book when he pointed at one of our electric sockets, looked at me and said, “Basap” (“Be safe”).

We started reading ‘Bee Safe’ to Squishy when he developed a keen interest in poking around stuff he wasn’t supposed to be poking in the first place.

Source: Lunar Baboon

The book follows Dee the Bee as he encounters everyday situations at home, in school, or out and about, with a glimpse of the unpleasant consequences that may follow if Dee isn’t doing the “safe” thing. The book is illustrated by Maria Cristina Sison, a member of Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan.

It was tiring (and pointless) to keep saying “No!” every time Squishy reached for a socket or stepped into the kitchen when the oven was switched on. Because he’s too young, he won’t understand long-winded explanations either.

So, on top of baby-proofing where we can, we’ve taken to reading him this book and pointing out to him the spots in the house where he was most likely to encounter such situations.

We realized Squishy was remembering some of it when he suddenly started making a “boo-hoo” face whenever we tried to read ‘Bee Safe’ to him. We eventually concluded that he was associating the book with all the bad stuff that could potentially happen if he wasn’t careful … so maybe in this case the lesson was actually too effective, haha.

On a positive note, that means ‘Bee Safe’ is an easy-to-follow read even for toddlers as young as 1½ years old. Our point here was not to scare our little one, but rather introduce him to basic safety precautions in a loving and protected environment, with adults he knows and trusts.

Recently Squishy’s more relaxed about us reading the book to him again. “Dontdodat” (“Don’t do that”), he’d say, whenever he remembered parts of it (it’s really just the bits on the electric socket and washing hands that he remembers for now — which is just fine!).

It’s good that he’s friends with Dee the Bee again, because I just found out my mom bought the rest of the books in the series (Bee Polite, Bee Green, Bee Active, Bee Happy). Bring it on, Dee!



Bee Safe (Hiyas Press)
By Joyce Piap-Go

Php 80 at National Bookstore