SINGAPORE: As an afternoon drizzle faded and the overcast sky cleared, the hearse carrying the body of actor Aloysius Pang rolled into view at Mandai Crematorium on Sunday (Jan 27).
Donning black armbands on their left biceps, close to 300 servicemen and women from the Singapore Armed Forces’ (SAF) Artillery formation lined both sides of the road, grim-faced, sporting smartly pressed berets. Upon command, they snapped into a salute.
Clad in black, Pang’s older brother Kenny followed behind the hearse.
As the funeral march echoed and boots clattered, the hearse halted behind the military band.
Eight pallbearers lifted the flag-draped coffin, carrying it past Kenny and into the funeral hall where friends and family awaited.
Three rounds of blanks fired by six servicemen punctuated the silence, and the bugle was sounded.
The servicemen bowed their heads for one minute of silence and bade Pang farewell.
Pang, an actor, died on Wednesday from injuries sustained in a military training incident during a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) training exercise in New Zealand.
At a press conference on Thursday, SAF senior commanders said Pang was crushed between the gun barrel of a howitzer and its cabin after he was "unable to get out of the way" as the barrel was lowered.
An independent Committee of Inquiry will be convened to investigate the circumstances leading to the incident, MINDEF had said.
Pang's body arrived in Singapore on Friday evening from New Zealand. His family was at Paya Lebar Air Base to receive the body.
A private wake was held for the family on Saturday morning; the wake at MacPherson Lane was later opened to the public from noon on Saturday to noon on Sunday.
The military funeral accorded to the late actor had began shortly after 3.30pm. Soon after, Pang’s hearse left the wake, led by his elder brother Kenny ahead of a long trail of grieving family members, friends and members of the public.
Earlier in the day, local celebrities such as Chen Shucheng, Rayson Tan, Aileen Tan and the Sam Willows’ Benjamin and Narelle Kheng were in attendance.
Member-of-Parliament for Marsling-Yew Tee GRC Alex Yam was also seen arriving at about 10.30am on Sunday.
“I don’t even know him personally but as a Singaporean, I can relate to this,” said a 26-year-old who wanted to be known as Atikah.
“My brother is a driver in the army and he operates machineries as well. I hope there won’t be any other accidents, especially to our NS men. A mother sends her child to the army to protect Singaporeans, but if they don’t come back, that’s very sad.”
Crowds of bystanders continued to grow as the morning wore on, with members of the public, many clad in the sombre tones of black and white, standing along the barricades that separated the wake area from the walkways of the housing estate.
This spilled over to two coffee shops nearby and onto the pavement parallel to the main road.
The memorial service started at about 1.30pm on Sunday, with eulogies from Pang's friends and family.
Pang's eldest brother Jefferson, who was the first person to speak during the service, recalled how their mother doted on his brother and would practise his scripts with him.
“How we can get through this is to remember how he was and being that special person to everyone and that is what we want everyone to remember,” the 32-year-old said.
He also recounted his brother's last words to their mother in New Zealand.
“Mum, don’t cry. If you cry, I’ll cry too. I’ll recover in a couple of days, then I’ll take you to New Zealand casino for a walk,” he cited Pang as saying to their mother.
Local celebrities such as Shane Pow, Carrie Wong, Kym Ng, Hong Hui Fang and Felicia Chin were among others who paid tribute to Pang.
Describing him as a “sweet boy”, Ng recalled how Pang would play table tennis with her and spend time chatting with her during gatherings.
“He was very sincere, had no agenda in what he did ... He was a very sensible boy, always very thoughtful and always dedicated his friends and his work.”
Actress Hong called Pang “the kid that parents would wish to have”.
“He always loved, gave and spoke from his heart and never put on any fronts,” added Chin, who recalled how Pang bought portable fans for her and others while they were filming.
“He was acting as my brother and one day on set, he passed me a portable fan. I then realised that he noticed we were shooting outdoors and it was really hot and we were perspiring,” she said.
“This kind little boy would set aside 10 per cent of his pay to thank and bless the production people ... He had a heart of gold, especially for the older folk ... Aloy is very loved, missed and adored by many people.”