By: Verne Maree
“I hope you aren’t on diet,” says Binky Caral. “I baked a chocolate cake.” Diet or not, it would be downright rude to refuse homemade cake. Wouldn’t it?
Binky Caral’s sweet and gentle manner belies a heroic tenacity – she tells me that she saw 50 properties before presenting her husband Kiril with a short-list of four. That was three years ago, and the family of five is still very happy with their Brentwood Villas home in quiet Lloyd Road, off Killiney.
This cluster of two-storey dwellings is ideally located for Kiril, especially; he is employed by Shell, and his UE Square office is just a 15-minute walk away. Gabriel (12) and Kyra (10) take the school bus to the Singapore American School (SAS), while huggable toddler John Emmanuel (3) –“John Em” for short – goes to the Overseas Family School (OFS) in nearby Paterson Road.
VM: How did you two meet each other?
KC: We are both from the Philippines, but we met on a cruise ship in 1995. It was a two-month adventure called the Southeast Asian Youth Programme, which is part of an ongoing goodwill campaign sponsored by the Japanese government. The idea of the programme is to rebuild international relations that were damaged during the Second World War.
Thirty to forty youth leaders from each of the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and Singapore sailed together on the ship, visiting each represented country as a port of call, and staying with host families in each place. In the process, we learnt understanding and respect for one another’s cultures and made so many friends. Binky and I are still in close touch with many of them.
VM: Is this Singapore posting your first?
KC: Yes, but we spent a year in Edinburgh while I was doing my master’s in law. I specialise in petroleum and energy law.
BC: We only had the first two children at that stage; Gabriel was four, and Kyra two. It was an exciting experience, and we managed to fit in some European travel while we were there.
My favourite place was Barcelona. Not only was the food wonderful, but it felt familiar because of the colonial Spanish history of our own country. The Spanish people were so friendly; even the immigration officials were glad to see us – they liked the Spanish-sounding names on our passports! I loved the art there, too. Gaudi and Picasso are two of my favourites.
VM: What brought you to Singapore?
KC: We had been back in Manila for four years, and the offer of a post here came up quite suddenly.
BC: I had just given birth to John Emmanuel, but moving here was fairly easy. Singapore is so comfortable and safe. But it’s still Asia; our friends and family from the Philippines visit us often, and we have made lots of friends here, too.
VM: This is superb cake. Do you do a lot of baking?
BC: Quite a lot. I have been taking baking lessons from Judy Koh at Creative Culinaire in Eng Hoon Street, but this particular recipe is one that my sister gave me. I host a weekly Bible-study group here, and baking comes in handy for that.
Volunteering at the children’s schools also keeps me busy. I help out at OFS in the IT class and in the baking class for three-year-olds.
VM: What on earth do three-year-olds bake?
BC: I start that next week, so I’ll let you know when I know! I imagine we’ll be having fun making dough and cutting out cookie-shapes.
VM: If you’ve signed a second lease, you must be happy here. Your house has a lovely, cosy feeling.
BC: We are happy. The villas are managed by Pontiac Land, and they are excellent landlords. Whenever maintenance work needs to be done, they are here in a flash. We don’t have a pool or gym in the complex, but the lease includes membership of The Pines club in Stevens Road. It’s quite nice – Kiril goes there for the gym and the pool, and sometimes the children and I pop in for a swim.
VM: Did you bring much furniture with you?
BC: Some, but we bought some here, too. This patio furniture is from Ohmm in River Valley Road. Our living-room coffee table and the TV console and study-desk in the family room are from Second Life Furniture – I read about them in a copy of Expat Living that was lying around in our Fraser Suites serviced apartment, where we stayed when we first came to Singapore. The couch is from Lorenzo at Furniture Mall, and the accent chairs were custom-built for us in Manila.
The dining suite is from Malaysia; I found it on the internet, and we went up to Johor Bahru to buy it. It was so difficult to find a big table here, perhaps because Singaporean families tend to be smaller? We like to entertain friends at home, and there are ten or twelve of us at a time in my Bible-study group, so we do need a longer table.
VM: I see you have a modern carpet in the living room, and a more traditional one in the family room.
BC: My mother and I had gone from carpet shop to carpet shop in Orchard until we finally came across The Orientalist in Cuscaden Road. The guy we dealt with was really helpful and knowledgeable, and when I saw this contemporary Persian design from the Haynes Robinson collection I liked it at once. The other one, in the family room, is a tribal Persian.
VM: Are these gorgeous bird-and-flower paintings from Bali?
BC: They are. We found the one in our bedroom and the portrait of a girl that hangs in the corridor during our first visit there, and another two – the ones in the living and family room – on our second visit.
VM: Have you done any travelling recently?
KC: I travel quite a bit for my job, mainly to India, Malaysia and Brunei – not as much this year, but it will probably start picking up again quite soon. During this past summer, we spent a month in North America: in Canada and on the East Coast. I have relatives in Calgary, so we made that a base from which to visit the Rockies. We rented a car, and one of my cousins drove us all around.
BC: It’s such a pure and beautiful place! The kids enjoyed it, too.
VM: Any more travel on the horizon?
KC: We’re catching our breath for the time being. After that, perhaps China?
|Creative Culinaire Cooking and Baking School|
17 Eng Hoon Street
+65 6324 1663OHMM
#03-09 Riverside Point
+65 6732 0996
|Zac Meat and Poultry|
(Good quality bulk meat)
16 Woodlands Terrace
Woodlands East Industrial Estate
+65 6284 5979
www.zacmeat.com.sgVictory Homes (Beds)
7 Kaki Bukit Road 1
#01-09 Eunos Technolink
Ierus (side tables, console)
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