December 29, 2022
SINGAPORE – Madam Teng Ek Kiew, 90, was sitting in her wheelchair in a hotel lobby looking out on the streets of Kuala Lumpur when she was startled by someone touching her hands. When she realised it was her long-lost daughter, she grasped the woman’s hands as her eyes watered.
It had been 58 years since she last held her daughter, Madam Hamsiah Mohamad.
Having reconnected in September 2022, Madam Teng and five of her six children crossed the Causeway on Dec 5 to meet Madam Hamsiah, who was given up for adoption at birth to a Malay-Muslim family in 1964.
The Straits Times reported in September that Madam Teng’s son, Mr Ling Kok Ong, 66, and his wife, Madam Josephine Ng, 62, tracked down Madam Hamsiah in Bukit Payong, Terengganu, with the help of the Malaysian History Association in Dungun.
When asked about the reunion, the reticent Madam Teng smiled, gave a thumbs-up and said: “She’s grown up to be a very good person.”
Madam Teng, a housewife and a great-grandmother, gave her daughter up for adoption when she was living in a kampung in Bukit Besi, Terengganu, about 400km from the hotel where they were reunited.
In 1964, Madam Teng, who already had five other children, gave in to a prominent Malay family in their kampung after they begged her incessantly for her newborn daughter. The family relocated to Singapore in 1969.
After Mr Ling and Madam Ng met Madam Hamsiah on Sept 4 at a coffee shop she owns in Taman Tasek, Bukit Payong, they introduced Madam Teng to Madam Hamsiah over video calls, and the two spoke regularly.
After months of planning, the family was reunited on Dec 5 when the Ling family went on a four-day visit to Kuala Lumpur.
Madam Hamsiah took her two children, granddaughter and other relatives to meet her biological family, while her husband stayed behind to run the coffee shop.
Madam Teng, whose husband Ling Ek Koon died in 1989, praised Madam Hamsiah’s cooking skills, recalling the fresh spring rolls her daughter had made for her and taken to the reunion.
There are now plans for Madam Hamsiah to visit Singapore after Chinese New Year.
Until then, the mother and daughter speak a few times a week.
When ST visited Madam Teng at her Ubi flat in mid-December, her children, aged 54 to 68, arrived soon after. They visit her almost daily.
Madam Teng received a call and beamed when she saw the name “Hamsiah” appear on her phone.
She has forgotten how to speak Malay, so the conversation between her and Madam Hamsiah is translated through her children and daughter-in-law into simple English.
Over the video call, Madam Hamsiah showed the Lings her daughter making roti canai in the kitchen, as the liveliness in the flat picked up.
But Madam Teng was content to sit quietly and smile as her children gathered around her phone excitedly to talk to their newfound sister and niece.