Share on:

Mother’s Day stories: Millennial leaders on the woman who shaped their lives

These young business leaders pen personal tributes to their mothers (and wife!), and share heart-warming memories and family photos.

Ahead of Mother’s Day on Sunday, The Peak spoke to our Next Generation personalities to hear their heart-warming family stories, and learn more about the woman behind their success. No matter the industry they have entered and are flourishing in, their mothers’ care and selfless devotion in their growing-up years have contributed to the fine figures they are today.

Here are their heartfelt tributes to the woman at the centre of their universe.

Shanya Amarasuriya, creative director, B.P. de Silva Jewellers

  • Amarasuriya-Family-in-Switzerland-2018
    The family behind B.P. de Silva Holdings, a business with a heritage dating back to 1872 that is now into its 5th generation of leadership. (from left) Sunil Amarasuriya and wife, Nimi, with their children Shanya, Rehan and Navin.

My fondest memory:

There was a day that my mum was a little down and I impulsively decided to drive us to East Coast Park where we just kicked off our shoes, rolled up our jeans and dipped our feet in the sea as we talked for hours, till the sun came down. It was a very sweet memory I will always hold dear because it reminded me of my connection with her, beyond our mother-daughter relationship. At the core of it, we know that we are there for each other and can have a great time just connecting.

My mother and I:

There are many traits that I treasure about my mother: her humility, compassion, creativity, lightness of spirit and natural ability to connect with people – and these are traits I find myself working to have, too. Mum and I have differences in opinion now and then but I’m blessed that we are very open with each other as it allows us both to keep growing. I often feel inspired by my mum’s journey; she hasn’t always had it easy but, no matter what, she remained compassionate. It reminds me to show compassion to myself and others; it is a constant journey on which I hope to keep evolving.

Dear Mum:

Dear Mum, thank you for inspiring me to be creative, stay humble and always grow. You’ve been a light in your own way to me. Though life has not been the kindest to you, you’ve shown me being kind is not just a choice but a lifelong practice for ourselves and for others. I hope that you will continue to have the same lightness of spirit and good health. Keep growing in faith and kindness. Love you always, Happy Mother’s Day! –Shanya

Hey Mum! Thanks for all those drives to school, I really enjoyed that part of my childhood 🙂 My interest in psychology, well-being and even meditation was inspired in some way by you and Acchi (grandma), and I am very grateful for the journey we have all been on. Happy Mother’s Day! –Navin (non-executive director of B.P. de Silva Holdings, executive director Singapore of The Contentment Foundation)

Hi Mum, thank you for cooking nice food when we were growing up; it inspired me to be better in the kitchen. Hope you follow Thathi’s (Dad’s) good lifestyle changes too and always stay happy and healthy. Happy Mother’s day!  –Rehan (general manager of 1872 Clipper Tea) 

(Related: The Peak Next Gen | Why scion of BP de Silva family, Rehan Amarasuriya, joined the family tea business)

 

Jonathan Chua, founder and creative director, Zendyll Music Agency

Sam-Willows-Jonathan-Chua-and-mom

The Sam Willows’ Jonathan Chua and his role model, Julia Chua.

My fondest memory:

My fondest memory with my mum was during my university graduation. I started doing music professionally while I was still in school, and thought of dropping out of school countless times. The balance between doing shows, recordings and promo tours was taking a toll on my academic focus. My mum didn’t outright tell me I couldn’t, but I knew it’d disappoint her if I left school. That made graduation day exceptionally special for both of us. She gave me a Batman soft toy as a gift (she knew that I’d liked Batman since I was a kid), and that toy sits in my studio, reminding me why I should continue to work hard.

My mother and I:

My mother is the most selfless, loving and supportive person I’ve ever known. Growing up, I always questioned why she didn’t like adventure, explorations, or any thing that involved a high level of risk. She was always grounded and taught me many important lessons such as being thrifty, being caring and thoughtful. I sought out wanting to achieve more at a very young age. My mum gave me all the essential tools needed, but it wasn’t handed to me as easy as it was for my peers during my teenage years. And I thank her for that. Now that I’m married and living independently away from her, it makes me cherish the moments and her presence a lot more. While writing this, I might say I do miss her nagging quite a bit.

Dear Mum:

Dear Mum, you’ve always been the model example of a person’s character, honesty and love for me. I only wish I could be more like you. Thank you for loving me.

(Related: Next Gen: Jon Chua of The Sam Willows has new music goals)

 

Amanda Lee Koe, novelist (Delayed Rays of a Star)

  • amanda-lee-koe-and-mom-nancy
    Amanda Lee Koe at the launch of her debut novel, Delayed Rays of A Star, with flowers from her mother, Nancy Koe.

Recently I asked my mother: How did you know how to take care of me? She said she didn’t know how, but she always knew just what to do.

We are bound by blood, milk, sweat, tears. I know her by sight, smell, touch, taste and sound. She is right there, where my memory begins. Sweeping the hair out of my eyes so it wouldn’t stick to my forehead. Blowing on food to make sure it wouldn’t burn my tongue. Telling me about enormous dinosaurs that once roamed this earth, and blue whales that still live under the sea. I could not believe that dinosaurs were real. When was 65 million years ago? I could not understand why whales were mammals. What does it feel like to be warm-blooded? 

I imagine a young woman, not yet 30, who has given up her job to clean up after a baby. Instead of furthering her interests or spending time with her friends, she now has to keep house and answer the inane questions of a child. I imagine her being bored to tears. I imagine her thinking she has better things to do with her time. I imagine her regretting making her life simpler and smaller just to watch us grow stronger and surer, until one day — because and in spite of how well she has taken care of us — we leave her and the home that has become her life’s work.

Life goes on in this way, I know, yet in truth I still cannot believe or understand this:

Why a beautiful woman in the prime of her life would choose to devote all her time and energy to me. Knowing full well that when I grow up, I will never be able to give her as much time and energy as she once gave me.

But when I tell my mother this, she laughs. All the time spent raising us were some of her best years, she says, there is nothing she expects in return. In this lifetime, she says, we are lucky enough to have known each other.

We are bound by blood, milk, sweat, tears. I know her by sight, smell, touch, taste and sound. She is right there, where my memory begins.

(Related: Award-winning novelist Amanda Lee Koe on her inner worlds)

 

Ng Yi-Xian, executive director, Etonhouse International Education Group

  • Etonhouse-Ng-Yi-Xian-and-mum-Gim-Choo
    Ng Yi-Xian and his mother, Ng Gim Choo, actually went to school together. Here they are pictured at Wharton, where they attended an executive education training session.

My wife and I:

Recently, my wife gave birth to a pair of twin boys. Seeing how life is brought into this world and how that fragile life is nurtured, made me reflect on the journey that all mothers go through. It is one of the cruellest ironies of the world that we can’t remember the love that our mothers showered upon us when life begins. It’s only when we become parents ourselves, do we get a sense of the sacrifice and love that our mothers have for us. I can’t count the number of times my wife has wondered aloud, “How did our mothers do this?”

My mother and I:

My mother is a parent to more than just her biological offspring. My siblings and I joke that my mother gave birth to five children – firstly E-Ching, Yi-Sheng and Yi-Xian. Thereafter, she “gave birth” to Etonhouse and E-Bridge. She’s mothered an international education group with 12,000 students! Over time, she gradually entrusted me with guiding her non-biological children, as she has taken on a new job she had been waiting a long time for – that of a grandmother!

Dear Mum:

So, to my mother: I love you. Thank you for bringing me into this world and raising me well. It is a debt that I can never repay but I can only honour and impart to the next generation. I hope you enjoy your new “job”, grandmother to the twins! I understand that it is all fun and less responsibility. One of the earliest childhood memories I have is of both of us picking up sharp rocks in a school field to make it safe for children. Soon you can do that together with your two grandchildren!

(Related: The Peak Next Gen: Ng Yi-Xian of Etonhouse)

 

Ong Liling, founder, Cicheti Group

Cicheti-Group-Ong-Liling-and-mum

The stylish mother-and-daughter pair: Ong Liling and Angie Ong.

My fondest memory:

My most recent fond memory of my mum was in December, when we went to a detox clinic retreat together – she did a two-week stint while I did one week. By the time I got there, she couldn’t get past the lobby lounge without being greeted by practically everyone. She left with close to 10 new friends; on the contrary, my husband and I left with zero!

My mother and I:

My mum, Angie, is best friend, confidante, mentor and key maternal figure in my life all rolled into one. She has taught me to always stick by my morals, to be thoughtful and empathetic and to never give up. My mum has fabulous taste and her aesthetic has definitely shaped mine over the years.

Dear Mum:

I’m continually inspired by you, Mum, and your contagious zest for life!

(Related: Female trailblazers on the F&B scene who’ve overcome the odds)

(Related: Meet the intrepid restaurateur behind Fynn’s, Cicheti, and Bar Cicheti)

 

Clement Piak, project director, Rico Engineering Works

Clement-Piak-and-mum

Clement Piak at graduation with his mother and staunch supporter, Emily Piak.

My fondest memory:

My fondest memory would be when I left home for an exchange programme in Germany. Being the eldest of three children, it was the first time that my mum had to experience being apart from her children. She was worried but, at the same time, encouraging; we were Skyping each other almost every day. As she knew I would miss local food, she would continually send me instant chicken rice and laksa mix, just so that I could have a taste of Singaporean food. It was through our daily conversations at that time that we got to know each other a lot better.

My mother and I:

My mum built me to be the person that I am today. She would always teach me to have patience and to spare a thought for others. When I faced setbacks, she never held back in encouraging and reassuring me. Even though I made a same mistake twice, thrice (or countless times), she never relented in pulling me back onto the right path. Most importantly, she made me feel that I was always good enough. I thank her for her unconditional love.

Dear Mum:

The first thing I would like to say to her would be, “I Love you MUM!” You taught me leadership, love and to be brave in facing challenges. Without you, I wouldn’t have achieved what I have today.

(Related: Fine clothes and accessories bring this stylish tribe together)

 

Gillian Tee, CEO, Homage

Homage-Gillian-Tee-and-mum

Gillian Tee and her mother, Joyce Chua Siew Lian, share a love for great food.

My fondest memory:

One of my favourite memories with my mum was when we took a trip to Prague and spent Christmas there together. We loved visiting the night markets and what left a deep impression was when we sat on the roadside curb drinking beer that we bought from McDonald’s (McDonald’s sells beer in Prague!) and eating hot chestnuts we bought off a street stall. We both very much love food and travelling and it was a fun time we shared together.

My mother and I:

My mother is very sacrificial, generous to her family and friends, and she’s also very giving to people around her.  She has taught me the importance of taking notice of the smaller daily things that are important and how to help and be good to people for no other reason than the act itself.

Dear Mum:

A big thank you for all that she has given to me, and the support as well as help she’s extended to me over the years. I very much look forward to many more food adventures with her! Also, we’ve started nagging each other more these days, to keep exercising, staying active and do more yoga!

(Related: The Peak Next Gen | Gillian Tee of Homage relies on tech to help elderly)

 

Toh Yah Li, principal, Light Collab

light-collab-toh-yah-li-and-mom

Toh Yah Li sharing a proud moment with her mother, Ermiyati, during the Skills Future awards ceremony in 2019.

As a homemaker, my mother has dedicated her whole life to taking care of the family. Her biggest dream is to see her children succeed in life. In my early years, I probably had a less than perfect relationship with her due to her expectations of me. I felt I had to live up to her expectations, academically and all – to be a perfect daughter to make her happy – and I wasn’t able to share an open relationship with her.

I remember when I chose to go to Germany to further my studies, she was truly worried about this decision. She was supportive, but I did not tell her the whole truth about my pursuing lighting design. Things changed when I was abroad, away from the comforts of home. My mum and younger sister visited me and I tried to paint a beautiful picture about my life there. We went on a day trip to an island and this was during the time of the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in 2004. The tsunami did not affect Europe much, unlike Asia, but the ferries back to the mainland were cancelled, and my family’s return flights to Singapore were the next day. We managed to find a boat taxi to ferry us across. In the middle of the sea, the engine of the tiny boat just stopped, and the waves were incredibly rocky. We prayed and looked at one another, and hoped we could survive the ordeal. Luckily, the boatman managed to start the boat after 15 minutes. That night, as we reflected about how close we were to death, I came clean to my mum about the challenges I faced living abroad. Her tears fell uncontrollably. I truly felt my mom’s worries and her hopes for me, and realised she was more open than I thought. I was determined not to let her down, and make the best of my life.

It took her maybe a decade, before she felt assured about my choice to be a lighting designer and a design entrepreneur. This photo was taken at the Skills Future awards ceremony in 2019. She was shy to attend such formal events but she agreed after much persuasion.

I love you, Mum! Thank you for your encouragement and your belief in me. Don’t worry too much, ok?

(Related: Toh Yah Li lights up spaces and minds in Singapore and abroad)

 

Morgan Yeo, director, Roger&Sons

roger&sons-morgan-yeo-and-family

Maisy Loh Yuet Wan is the driving force behind her sons (from left) Lincoln, Ryan and Morgan.

My fondest memory:

Ryan (youngest): My fondest memories of my mother and I are when I’m helping her with cooking. After a hard day’s work, nothing feels better than coming home to her food. My mum is an excellent chef. Seeing her provide for us over the years has really shown me the amount of love and patience she has for everyone — not just her family. She will patiently stir a pot of porridge for three hours without complaint. I’d like to be able to match her cooking skills, patience and love one day. To all mamas out there, here’s wishing you the happiest Mother’s Day!

My mother and I:

Lincoln: Mum, thank you for teaching me to see the lighter side of things, and to laugh in the face of adversity. Through your actions, you’ve taught us to be selfless; you love and care for everybody, and you always put yourself last. It’s time for us to take care of you now. Enjoy life.

Dear Mum:

Morgan (eldest): I would like to say a big thank you for all the sacrifices you’ve made, and the care and love that you have showered on us. I love you lots and just want to wish you a very blessed Mother’s Day.

(Related: Morgan Yeo of Roger&Sons on future-proofing his family’s carpentry business)