This introduction is contributed by Dr Phua Kai Hong, who represented the School at the inauguration of the Singapore-Llorente Library on 19 April 2016. The library was a community project supported by the Singapore Red Cross and led by Judge Rowena Tan, MPM 2010-2011, and President of the Philippine Alumni Chapter, 2015-2016
When I first interviewed Rowena or “Weng” for a spot in the MPM program sometime in 2010, I was fascinated by her story of Samar which is one of the many islands of the Philippines. It sounded very much like my own childhood growing up in rural Malaysia. She recounted her early days as a woman judge working in the local courts, travelling from one town to the other on the roads with pot-holes, and exuding a deep understanding concerning poverty as one of the determinants of development. Most sincere was the genuine love for her people and a desire to serve society through the administration of justice.
Later on, after Weng had graduated from LKYSPP and Harvard KSG, I was soon alerted to an MPM advertisement that had put Weng up as a “poster girl”, with her recalling that she was attracted to the LKYSPP by the prospects of studying Singapore’s legal system, and reform of the law courts that she had heard from me at the interview!
Fast forward to the aftermath of the Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda to the Filipinos), when the people of Singapore responded with a generous $12 million that was raised to fund more than 10 rehabilitation projects. As a Singapore Red Cross Council Member and Chair, Governance & Nominations Committee, I was included in a ceremony with President Tony Tan and selected Singaporean Members of Parliament, to hand over the donations in the presence of three Cabinet Secretaries (Foreign Affairs, Social Welfare & Development and Health) of the Philippines.
As there was some residual money left over, we then encouraged the LKYSPP Alumni of the Philippines to apply for a grant to do a community rehabilitation project. From her Facebook, we could see how Weng was appealing to her own personal contacts to raise funds for a library that was affected by the super typhoon. I immediately arranged for her to meet with the Secretary-General of the Singapore Red Cross, Benjamin William, on his visit to Manila. Thus her proposal was accepted by the Singapore Red Cross and the rest is of course, now history – a little but meaningful step towards fulfilling the School’s mission to “educate and train current and future leaders to raise the standards of governance in Asia, improve the lives of its people, and contribute to the transformation of the region.”
Click on the story below to view The Singapore-Llorente Library Project by LKY School Alumni Rowena Nieves A. Tan (MPM 2011).
The Singapore-Llorente Library Project by LKY School of Public Policy on Exposure