Remembering Emma Yong

Elizabeth Soh
Elizabeth Soh
Singapore Showbiz

Emma Yong (Photo from Emma Yong's Facebook)

Tributes continued to pour in for late thespian Emma Yong from Singaporeans from all walks of life on Thursday as the nation mourned the loss of one of its leading actresses to a 16-month battle with stomach cancer.

Members of the theatre community, in particular, were reeling from the passing of Yong, 36, whom they described as one of the "youngest, brightest, and best" of the arts scene here.

Emma Yong and her husband, Jerry Lim, had just tied the knot last year (From Emma Yong's Facebook)

Yong, who is survived by her husband Jerry Lim, had just gotten married in the middle of last year while undergoing cancer treatment.

She had remained positive even after news of her illness, telling reporters that she hoped to travel to Japan with her interior designer husband once she had recovered.

"I'm truly sad by the news, she was a lovely lady, so bubbly, so lively." said veteran singer-actress Rahimah Rahim, who told Yahoo! Singapore that she would often run into Emma at events and rehearsals. "Even after she was ill, you couldn't tell, she was so strong, there were no signs."

Most of Yong's close friends who attended her wake yesterday, including fellow Dim Sum Dolly Selena Tan and actor Najip Ali, declined to speak, saying that they were "grieving" and "not in the state to talk".

Boeing-Boeing co-star Chermaine Ang, who worked with Yong on the set of the Wild Rice musical in 2010, also said that she was "not in the mood" to comment, while prominent actor and close friend Lim Yu Beng said that he was "respecting the family's wishes" not to speak to the media at the present.

Those who did speak out paid homage to an actress who seemed larger than life and had left a gaping hole in the close-knit theatre community with her untimely passing.

Actress Neo Swee Lin, who was one of the first to break the news of Yong's death on Twitter, posted a touching response to freelance writer Ng Yi Sheng's tribute to Yong's many stellar performances.

"Kara-u-ke where she wow-ed us all with her electric geisha; the wonderful China masseuse/girlfriend of Ah Kong's birthday party, Sally Bowles, Cinderella .. more than a triple threat - what a tremendous loss for everyone. Love you Emma. No more pain." she wrote, finishing the post with a smiley face.

Member of Parliament Baey Yam Keng, who founded theatre company ETceteras and has spoken many times in Parliament on arts and culture, said that Yong's passing was "a huge loss."

"Although I don't know her personally, I've watched her (in Boeing Boeing and Dim Sum Dollies) and she was really one of the best. I was very saddened to hear that she had suffered quite a lot before passing away. The arts community and all Singaporeans have lost a star." he said.

Online, Twitter users flooded timelines with an outpouring of condolences, bearing witness to Yong's legacy here as one of the most instantly recognisable faces of Singapore theatre and one third of Singapore's funniest comedy doyennes, the Dim Sum Dollies.

Dim Sum Dollies - From left, Pam Oei, Selena Tan, Emma Yong (Taken from Emma Yong's Facebook)

"You made riding trains fun with your Dim Sum Dollies crew. Have fun in heaven." tweeted user "Kathleen Isabela", referring to the Dollies' infectious "Love Your Ride" ditty which was played in train stations across the island as part of a courtesy campaign.

Local actors Tay Ping Hui, Gurmit Singh, and Jimmy T were a few out of many who tweeted tributes, with Jimmy T tweeting that it was a "very sad day... Singapore has lost a talented gal, it is hard hitting...(she was) a legend in the Arts."

Known for her sweet and clear voice as well as her versatility, Yong has long been one of the stalwarts of Singapore's theatre scene.

Her most recent works include lead roles in Wild Rice's Beauty and the Beast and Cinderel-Lah!, as well as appearing in local director Glen Goei's The Blue Mansion, which made its international premiere at the Pusan International Film Festival in 2009.

The Raffles Girls' School and Raffles Junior College alumni had been involved in theatre since her school-going days, and won the prestigious Angus Ross Award for the best A-level English Literature script in 1994.

Last August, Yong's mother's chicken curry puff recipe was published in "Consuming Passions",  a special coffee table book commissioned by Raffles Girls' School featuring much-loved home recipes from ex-students.

For theatre student and aspiring actress Victoria Chen, 17, Yong's passing means that she will never fulfill her dream of one day acting alongside her inspiration.

"I first met her when I was about six years old, at a rehearsal. I didn't know her name then, but she just radiated this aura of energy that was so infectious." said the final year student at Singapore's School of The Arts. "With her gone, the industry has lost something precious, and I will never get the chance to work with someone that great."