(Clockwise from top left) Madam Alice Wong and Mr Robert Bonar; Mr Anthony and Mrs Estrellita Twohill; Mr Percival Shepherdson and Madam Chua Poh Choo; and Mr Tan Soo Ren and Mrs Raelene Tan.PHOTOS: ST FILE, VIDEO SCREENGRAB, CAROLINE CHIA
SINGAPORE – The love story of Mr Koh Leng Kiat and Madam Meena Jaganathan, which has been described as uniquely Singaporean, captured the hearts of many after it was shared by The Straits Times on Saturday (March 31).
Mr Koh, who died last month, met and helped Madam Meena – a widow left to raise eight young children – in the late 1960s. Their love blossomed over time and they wed, despite his parents’ objection.
Over the years, Mr Koh loved and raised his stepchildren as his own, alongside the four children he had with Madam Meena.
The family was tight-knit growing up. They celebrated the different cultural holidays and used a variety of languages to communicate.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Sunday that he was touched by the “wonderful tale of love transcending racial and religious boundaries”.
“I did not know him, but this uniquely Singaporean romance, and Mr Koh’s exemplary love for his family, moved me,” said PM Lee in a Facebook post.
Here are four other inspirational love stories of interracial couples that will warm the cockles of your heart.
1. ‘SIMPLE STORY OF A HAPPY MARRIAGE’
Australian-born Raelene Tan and her Singapore husband Tan Soo Ren met in London, and the story of their cross-cultural marriage of more than 46 years went viral in 2015 after a video was shared on Facebook.
As the Tans were from different cultures, their marriage had its challenges.
For one thing, she stood out back in the 1970s, as there were not many Caucasians in Singapore.
On Aug 10, 1970, when they arrived in Singapore by ship, Raelene met Mr Tan’s large family for the first time. About 20 people turned up at the dock to welcome them.
As Mr Tan’s parents could not speak English, Raelene remembered using sign language to communicate with them.
“It worked because I respected his parents, and they tried their best to make me feel welcome,” she said.
Surprised by the popularity of the video, she said that theirs was just “simple story of a happy marriage”.
2. HER PARENTS SKIPPED THEIR WEDDING, BUT FINALLY ACCEPTED HIM
They met in 1974, while they were doing volunteer work to help the underprivileged.
He was a Eurasian Catholic while she was a Chinese Buddhist, and right from the start, Madam Chua Poh Choo’s parents objected to her relationship with Mr Percival Shepherdson.
Despite this, the couple were wed in the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in May 1977. Madam Chua’s parents were not present, though her siblings were there.
It was only after Madam Chua had her first child that the couple’s relationship with her parents improved.
Eventually, the couple had two children and Madam Chua’s parents finally accepted Mr Shepherdson once they saw how caring and hardworking he was.
3. CHANCE INTRODUCTION AT A MALAY NIGHT CLASS BROUGHT THEM TOGETHER
They say true love transcends language barriers, but in the case of Madam Alice Wong and Mr Robert Bonar, a Malay night class in 1967 was the best matchmaker.
Madam Wong is Chinese and Chinese-educated, while Mr Bonar is Indian and English-educated.
Mr Bonar, a prison officer at the time, was also enrolled in the class and had a colleague who was in Madam Wong’s elementary Malay class.
A chance introduction set the ball rolling for the unlikely pair and, before long, they were inseparable, spending almost every day together.
While Mr Bonar came from a large and liberal family, Madam Wong was from a very traditional Chinese family, and back then, the pair drew stares from strangers wherever they went.
The couple got married in church in 1968 and later hosted a dinner at the famous Sultan Cabaret, in the heart of Chinatown.
Despite comments from other people, their union was wholeheartedly supported by both families, who became close in the years that followed.
4. FRIENDS-TURNED-COUPLE SHRUGGED OFF NAYSAYERS
Ms Estrellita Soliano, who is Filipino-Chinese, first met a young Australian accountant, Mr Anthony Twohill, at a dinner when she was 19.
He was nine years older than her, but the two stayed fast friends for 10 years – while Mr Twohill shuttled between Singapore and Australia for work – before finally dating properly in 1982, when he moved to Singapore permanently.
Two years later, they got married and went on to have two children.
But when they went out together, many strangers would cast them disapproving looks. A woman had even assumed that Ms Soliano was a nanny when she was carrying the couple’s fair-skinned son, Edmund.
For the couple, the bad experiences barely made a dent in their relationship. They shrugged off naysayers, learnt each other’s traditions and turned their differences into advantages.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.