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SINGAPORE: If you were born in 1965, it’s hard to forget how old you are – especially on Aug 9 every year.
That’s the case for Gurmit Singh, Chen Liping and Rayson Tan, who happen to be the same age as Singapore.
And just as Singapore has matured and developed over her 53 years of independence, these celebs can also look back and say they have come a long way – and are definitely not stopping here.
This National Day, they tell us their hopes and dreams for the future and for Singapore.
This year marks Gurmit’s 20th year as one of the hosts for the National Day Parade, a true testament to the actor and comedian’s enduring popularity. While he’s working the crowd at the Marina Bay Floating Platform, the fans who grew up watching him on TV can also appreciate his contributions to the local entertainment scene.
"The difference between Singapore and myself is that every year, Singapore gets better and more developed and more high tech, whereas I am going the other way,” Gurmit joked. “But seriously, some people see getting older as a bad thing, but I see age as just a number. I’m still enjoying the same way of life as I did back in my 30s and 40s – going to the gym, meeting friends and being active. I think the fact that I have a five-year-old helps as well! I can’t lie back and say, "I’m going to be a grandfather soon.'"
If he could go back in time to advise his younger self, he would say: "Save more, invest more and don’t be an idiot and spend so much," he quipped. "It was only after I met my wife that I picked up the habit of saving. If I knew then what I know now, I’d always put some serious money aside, as opposed to, 'Oh, I’ve got money now, I’d better buy the latest laptop or phone.' That will never end."
For the future, “I think the first thing I want to wish for the nation and myself is good health. Increasingly, that’s my priority. If I’m doing too much at the expense of my health, then I have to take a look and say, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t do this.’ I think it’s the same for Singapore,” he said.
“We have progressed so fast that it’s incredible. But I also want Singapore to take note, as a people and as a government, of where our roots are, and be able to keep that alive. One way of doing that, I think, is to keep the architecture. There are landmarks that I sometimes feel have been torn down for the sake of progress – I’m still very sore about the old National Library. I know that the government has taken steps to earmark some buildings as national heritage, and I think that’s the right way to go.”
At 53, Chen Liping asserts, she’s far from done learning. “No matter how old you are, you have to keep learning without ceasing. That’s true for me even when I’ve been in the industry for so long,” she said. “Every show, every phase of life, offers something to learn from, experience or overcome.”
Those are weighty words coming from somebody who has been acting for 33 years and counting, and is still remembered for her iconic roles such as that of a teacher in 1989’s Good Morning, Sir!.
But on the subject of school, if there’s anything she could go back and do again, she said, she would put a little more effort into her studies.
“I think back to when I was a student. I loved outdoor activities and exercising,” she said. “Sometimes I think to myself, ‘Why didn’t I work a little harder? It wasn’t that I was lazy; I just liked sports, so I didn’t focus wholeheartedly on my studies. I went to a Chinese school, but then I switched to an English school, so now, my language skills are neither here nor there. I really admire people who can write and speak well. Many people say academics aren’t that important, but I think that when you’re young, you should put more effort into studying.”
Still, her love of outdoor activities laid foundations for active roles in sports dramas such as 1990’s volleyball-themed The Winning Team.
Having found her career niche early on, Chen’s love for acting hasn’t abated at midlife. “It’s been so many years, but the passion is still there. I love thinking about how to craft each and every one of my roles, obtain inspiration from the scripts and deliver my best,” said the actress, who currently stars in the drama Say Cheese, airing weekdays at 9pm on Mediacorp TV Channel 8.
At 53, growth is still on her mind. “Things are always moving forward and changing, especially in television and with social media. We have to be able to keep up. No one knows about the future. We will all grow together. In Singapore, everything is very well established. How to maintain that is another question. I think that’s the challenge. It’s that way with people and also with the country.”
“Singapore is a green and growing garden city. I think I’m the same – not that I’ve lived to 53 and refuse to admit that I’ve aged, but that my mindset is still 30-something. That keeps me energetic,” said actor Rayson Tan, who happens to be married to Chen and also stars in Say Cheese.
“I think I’m like Singapore in that aspect – having a young mindset and continuing to grow and learn. Once a person ceases to grow, they start to age.”
At this period in his life, “I have more confidence in myself,” he said. And “I’m learning now to be slow to speak, slow to get angry and quick to listen.”
Also, “I’ve learnt to live in the moment. If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to enjoy the process. I used to be very much focused on achievements and outcomes, and I neglected the process.”
His wish for Singapore’s future is a very practical one. “I really hope Singaporeans will have more babies,” he stated matter-of-factly. “If we’re lacking in population, we lack the chance to groom our own talent, and we’ll have to absorb talent from outside. For the sake of our country, we should have more babies. I mean that sincerely.
“From the time of our birth, every step we take moves us closer to the grave. During this process, we take things for granted. But we have to pass the baton to the next generation, and we need this group of people to be ready.”
NATIONAL DAY PARADE 2018 | Watch the parade live on channelnewsasia.com starting from 5.30pm on Aug 9.