Daddy - Philip Ban Lee Ooi (RIP)

Below is not so much a eulogy but a sharing on how my life has been nurtured by the love of such a wonderful father. It was read towards the end of the funeral service at the Church of the Holy Trinity, Singapore on March 29, 2008.

Before I share with you about my dad, on behalf of my Mum, Agnes and my brother Mark and family, I’d like to firstly express our thanks and gratitude to
Fr Johnson Fernandez,
Fr Paul Pang
Msgr Eugene Vaz
for celebrating the birth of my father into eternal life.

And to each of you who are here to express your condolences today and for the past days. Your kind support, prayers, and expressions of love during our time of bereavement are much appreciated…

Philip Ooi Ban Lee – my Dad, was born on July 1, 1922 in Penang, brought up in Ipoh and was the eldest of 11 children. Because his father died at a young age, Dad being the eldest had to take care of the rest of his siblings, seeing that the youngest ones went through school etc before he himself settled down. Thus it was only at 38 that he got married to my Mum, ten years his junior, whom he met while working in Singapore.

For most of his working life, Dad was a rehabilitation officer in Changi Prison and my brother Mark and I lived most of our childhood in the security of the gated community of the prison compound. Being an active sportsman, having played both soccer and hockey for the state of Perak in his younger days, Dad spent most of his recreational time also playing sports. When I was young, I remember accompanying him to the tennis court, the football field and even to the billiard room!

Dad was a man of few words, unassuming, always smiling with a good sense of humour and when he’s familiar with you, he would always joke with you or say a witty one liner that would get you cracking.

My fondest memories of my Dad were the bedtime stories he would tell me – sometimes spontaneously made up, and with me ending as the protagonist. Dad also taught me to tell the time, to ride the bike, and to remember that “honesty is the best policy”!

Perhaps the greatest gift Dad gave me was to reflect God’s love for me – gentle and unconditional. I vividly remember once when I was about 6 years old, and my parents were throwing a party. They had just returned from the supermarket – Tay Ban Guan – and there were many plastic bags in the car. In my eagerness to help them, I carried a bag which was much too heavy for my little arms, and it dropped! To my horror it contained bottles of liquor – wine and gin etc and everything broke. My Dad rushed to me, and I expected a scolding or spanking. Instead he reached for my hands and asked if I had cut myself and if I was ok. He didn’t care at all about the broken bottles nor the wasted money!

Another incident was when I sneaked to watch the TV when I wasn’t supposed to. I guess I was in Primary One at that time. Dad caught me and came up to me and I shut my eyes thinking “oh oh I’m in deep trouble!” Instead of a scolding, he embraced me, carried me and gave me a kiss!

Of course there were also times when he disciplined me with a good spank. Once my next door neighbour who was also my kindergarten mate and I were playing, we decided to create a swimming pool in the house by filling our bath tub. So there we were splashing and jumping in with all our clothes on. Then whamp! My butt was hit! Ouch! My Dad had just retuned from work. He gave us a good scolding, sent my neighbour home and immediately bathed and dried me up.

My Dad also gave me a good lesson in gender roles – that they are interchangeable! I remember once when our maid was away, Mum who was teaching fetched my brother Mark and I from school and when we returned home, we found Dad in the kitchen preparing dinner for us! It was a delicious meal! He also helped in the housework and always made the effort to carry his plate back to the kitchen even when we had a maid to clear the table.

Dad was also not afraid to show his emotions. When my grandmother passed away in Ipoh, I saw my Dad weeping profusely after he received the news from a phone call.

When I was called to the religious life, Dad was sad but he also said to me, “well you’re big enough to decide what you want to do. If you think this will make you happy then go ahead.” And so he continued to support me in my choices in life and sometimes even reminded me of my consecrated life. Once I was sharing a joke with my family (a not very decent joke!) and while trying to contain his laughter, Dad turns to me and said, “hey you’re a nun, are you sure you can tell this kind of joke!”

Last year my Dad was diagnosed with aneurysm in his abdomen – the swelling of a blood vessel. One option was surgery but because of his age, it was risky. So all of us in the family including my Dad opted to leave it and leave him in God’s hands. We were warned that if it burst, the chances of saving him would be slim. It leaked last Easter Monday – and from Nairobi, I got the news that Dad was dying. I hoped to see him before he left but I didn’t make it in time. He was born to eternal life at 1.30am in the morning of Easter Tuesday, also the solemnity of the Annunciation and my 5th anniversary of perpetual vows.

My Dad lived up to 85 – my family and I are grateful to God for his long life. A life spent serving the second world war when he was in his late teens, a life sacrificing or delaying his own plans till all his siblings went through school, a life being a patient and loving husband, and a wonderful Dad and grandfather.

It’s always sad to say goodbye but the good thing about goodbyes is that there is hope for a better hello. In Dad’s case, that hello will be in heaven when we reunite with him for ever. So as I thank God for the gift of a loving Dad, I also thank Dad for the wonderful life he lived, and for being the best Dad any child would ever hope for. I know that his spirit lives in me and I pray that I have also caught on some of his qualities! Thank you Daddy and see you again one day!

I’d like to end this sharing with a slide tribute to my Dad accompanied by a song by Nat King Cole who was my Dad’s favourite singer and we hear him sing here with his daughter, Natalie Cole.

    Uploaded on authorSTREAM by wendyfsp

    (song "Unforgettable" by Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole)


    1. Your post reminded me of my own dad who passed away last 2007 at age 80.

      I see you in your Dad's face and I love your reminiscences about him...

      And of course, the photo tribute with the Nat King Cole soundtrack was touching!

    2. Hi Sr. Wendy! I saw the tribute and it was tearful moment while watching it,lol! I miss my dad! By the way, I'm the youngest brother of Sr. Marlene Deuna, sfp assigned in Johannesburg, South Africa. I just saw your link thru them. Keep it up and keep touching people by your experiences.