Monday, August 3, 2015

My Life through Gunpla...

    A lot of people think that we are just men who cannot grow up. Why are we interested in toys, when real men should be looking at money, stocks and shares, cars, property, golf? I can't explain why we are built differently. I shan't waste time explaining our hobby to the uninitiated.

I mean, sure, it's a craft. You learn skills. Some of us consider it art. But after that, what? What can you possibly experience with gunpla? Have you ever had your memory jolted by something like a smell? You catch a whiff of some scent, which reminds you of a certain place...something you did...someone you knew.

It is the same with gunpla. While we ponder over our creations, everything that is happening in our life around us at that moment, is implicitly recorded into the piece.

A lot has happened to me in the last one year. It has been the most painful year of my entire existence so far. And looking back, I realised that all the gunpla pieces I've done, starting from years back when I was just a noob, capture memories of days gone by up till the very present.

If you would indulge me....I'd like to journey through these kits. They're more than just assembled plastic bits. They are collected fragments of times in my life.

This kit stands in Hobby Art @Work, my frequent shop haunt in Singapore, and it is still one of my proudest works, even though it was never entered into any competition, nor was the Raiser plane unit ever completed (because I didn't like the back bulk!). The 00 series was what pulled me into Gundam. I was fascinated with the story and art.

I remember my time working in a local newspaper company while I was glued to this series.

This was about 3-4 years into a relationship with, let's call her Q. We were still fresh even then. I was still living with the folks. She lived with her mother. I remember us staying over every week at each other's places. In fact, she watched Season 1 too. I remember at that time that wow...if a girl could be interested in gunpla. She could be the one! Ah. The exuberance of youth.

I wasn't what you'd call "hardcore" in gunpla yet. I already had my own airbrush and compressor set though.

During this period, I got to know Kenny, aka Toymaker, through my job. Fate would have it that he lived just a few blocks down the road. My gunpla journey had begun.

I got more ambitious and ventured to PG scale. My first kit was of course something from 00. I gave it a gloss coat and pastel designer colours. I customised some decals from Samueldecals to go along. No mods.

Whenever I look at this piece, I still marvel at how I managed to achieve that gloss finishing with such noob skills LOL. Maybe beginner's luck?

I remember bringing my kit down to HAG to show it off. How proud I was, with everyone staring at my masterpiece. So this is what gunpla is about....Creating something. Appreciating it. Sharing it. A whole new world was opened to my eyes.


In 2010, I joined another company. That was when my life changed in all aspects. I had more time on my hands. But I also grew increasingly disgruntled in a job I did not respect. It also affected my love life.

When I look at this kit, it reminds me of the point at which I went into competitive modelling. And the dedication and pride it required. I got a Best Newcomer award for this.

I have a lot of fond memories in this kit, even though it isn't with me anymore. I sold it off to a collector at a nice price. I remember fantasizing that I might be able to do this full-time for a living! Yup. I was still young and naive.

I remember going to to Takashimaya with Q, where the competition was held, and displaying it for the first time, my hands trembling as I set it up under the watchful eyes of other competitors. My ears were burning. I remember standing watch and experiencing the cheap thrill of seeing onlookers ogle at the piece and making their comments as I eavesdropped, little knowing that they were talking in front of the modeller!

I remember that Q was supportive and even proud of my hobby. She obviously could not appreciate it. But she was there by me, and would often accompany me down to HAG. I remember Kenny's family visiting our house as well. Yes...our house.

Q and I had moved out into an apartment owned by my family that year. The PG Astray was the first kit I ever did in that flat. I had an entire room converted into my workshop. It was heaven.

We had the luxury of not being married, yet having our own place - a luxury a lot of unmarried Singaporean couples do not have. You will understand this if you are a local.

We had a cat...hers. From university. An old coot called Spottie that shared the apartment with us, and somehow, knew never to enter the workshop even though she'd sometimes sneak in if I wasn't looking, only to dash out when she heard me coming.

Life was good. Gunpla was great. I had just started this blog. I had everything I needed and wanted right where they were.

This piece also stands in HAW, and is still my BEST work to date. I consider it the point at which I had a breakthrough in gunpla. I have Kenny to thank for much of it. It was a spare kit from the local distributor, and they needed someone to mod it for an exhibition piece at the year-end GBWC.

It was on this kit that I realised all my advanced modelling skills. The PG Astray a year before was merely kit-bashing with basic mods. On this Strike-freedom however, I went all out, inspired by Keita's style on the MG. I did not finish the wings though, and Sam from HAW did it.

I remember Poison Monkeys. A group I formed with Kenny with the intention to bring local gunpla modelling to the world stage. We even had a 'world tour'! We went to the Philippines to visit some of our brethren there. It was one of the most fun trips I've ever had with friends in this hobby. I don't know if I can ever top that.

Here's the milestone every gunpla lover wants - Finally a trophy! I didn't win first though, but I came in third. The Hyaku will always be a bittersweet memory for me, because it reminded me of a big fallout with a gunpla friend who kind of backstabbed those who cared about him, and tons of messy politics as collateral damage. It also affected my friendship with Kenny, who was likewise, involved in the turmoil.

As I was balls-deep embroiled in the politics of the scene that year.....I remember that Q said to me - "Don't get too involved. Let every one argue. In the end, you're still a winner. You broke the Top 3." It was one of the fondest things I still remember about her. I was thankful that I had someone who, with a few simple words, could knock me to my senses. I had cracked the local Top 3 in just my second attempt! No small feat.

But the fondest memory this Hyaku gives me, is still when Kenny told me the results. I remember being in the car with Q, driving. She took the call since I was on the wheel. Her eyes lit up, she was literally jumping in her seat. I knew then that it was either 2nd or 3rd. I had no delusions about winning first of course LOL. I remember feeling so proud and loved, seeing how excited she was for my achievement.

The Hyaku, is my only Top 3 piece...for now. It stands like the rest, in HAW. Some day I will probably bring it home. I changed the base for it the following year, and it looks much better now. At that time I was still experimenting for the first time on rocky bases. Perhaps I could have moved up one more rung with the current base...who knows? ;)

I love this piece. But there are so much bittersweet memories and lost people it reminds me of...

Inspired by my Top 3 break, I went all-out the next year on this one. a heartbreak piece. It is as tragic and dark as it looks...even though I never intended for it to be so.

This year was when the cracks started to show. Not in my pla-plating of course LOL. In my relationship with Q. Everytime I look at this piece, I still wonder - what if? What if I hadn't dedicated so much time to this crazy monster? Could the down-slide have been prevented, or would it have happened anyway?

As far as the gunpla scene was concerned, it was the year of monster builds. Eday had won in HK, and his work blew the competition away. Everyone wanted in on the mobile armour act. I was no different. Kitbash was all the rage that year.

I remember late nights as a distraught friend of Q's popped by our house to sob. I would be working on Morrigan while Q counselled her friend. In between builds I would come out to listen to her story. This person had just broke up. Her long-time partner of almost 9 years was ruthlessly efficient. Her partner had broken up, moved her stuff out of the house and within a manner of weeks, hooked up with another person. The Morrigan was built alongside the tears of this friend, whom we counselled often, wondering at the ruthlessness and callousness of her partner. I remember thinking how fortunate I was. Here in our own pad, with my passion and all that I need.

Little did we know this was the foreshadowing of our own life.

I did not win anything that year. The top 3 monster builds won. I did feel that I deserved at least a third spot, but who are we to judge, right? I remember being rather disappointed that year, and disillusioned with the judging. They had used photo-judging instead of having an actual judge come down to inspect the kits.

That was the last time I took part in a competition.

    This is another build that sits at HAG. This one was in 2013 during a Zoids fever I was in LOL. I was hoarding Zoids kits like crazy, and I wanted to paint the ultimate bigass kit - the Tomy King Gojulas. An oldie but a goodie. It was for a Zoids group build at HAW where it now stands.

What's special about this fella? It reminded me of the time Q went with me to HongKong. I still have a lot of ghosts there. You could say it was ruined for me and has never been the same, because the places an streets are just so haunted with memories of our trips. 

When I look at this kit I always remember the one part of the trip I loved most about, but was probably the least memorable for her. She followed me to the outskirts of the city into an industrial area on a wild goose chase for some toy warehouse. She could have easily went shopping or do her girly stuff, but she followed me faithfully, and we found that warehouse where I bought this kit. 

It was also on this trip that I came back with a Hong Kong mission report, still one of the most widely read of my posts today. 

I hope that one day, I would be able to form new memories there that are worth keeping....

The Jesta was an overly done kit for a Group Build. perhaps I was venting and making up for my non-participation in GBWCs. I had taken most of 2013 off with leisure non-gunpla builds. It is still a piece I am highly fond of, but this would be the last serious gunpla build I would do.

The Jesta reminds me of the end of my hardcore gunpla hobby somewhat.

Perhaps not realising the rot in my relationship that had already set in a year before, I still dedicated quite some time to the hobby. It wasnt that I was neglecting Q, but just that I thought we were happy where we were, albeit kinda jaded. The spark had simmered quite a bit. We had been together for almost 8 years.

I was considering marriage, but the more bored she got, the further away from marriage my mind wandered, because I wasn't sure if that was what she wanted, and she certainly wasn't acting like she wanted to, which in turn put me off. She didn't know what she wanted. Things were getting frustrating.

I had found a new job in a corporate company and had more time. But she was unhappy in hers and constantly trying to switch jobs.

I tried telling her to find her own gunpla. Why can't she do that? Find a passion? Why does it seem like all girls are interested in nowadays is - eating, travelling, shopping. It's too generic. Find something you really love, that makes you feel like you were made to do it. Find your own gunpla and I will support you wholeheartedly!

Perhaps at the end of the day, I was her gunpla. But I wasn't a gunpla that was showing results or winning competitions. Maybe that was it. She was thinking of giving up the hobby. She was thinking of giving me up.

I didn't know it still.

2014 Optimus Prime AOE self-imagined

This kit stands in my kick-ass display cabinet at home! It would be the last elaborate non-gunpla build I would do. The movie was not yet out at that time, but Michael Bay was getting loads of promo, and sneaks of the designs looked sexy. To cash in, Hasbro had already released some early toys.

I bought one and modded it with gunpla parts.

I remember proudly showing Q a piece of shimmery blue metallic armour with the flame decals. I remember also her disinterested expression.

I remember getting into business with a gunpla friend whom I had grown close to. Selling Transformers toys. This build brings back fond memories of a flea market table we used to run at China Square. I always enjoyed those times, even though I realised now that he didn't.

I also remember extending the business to producing some third-party products for the Transformer market...a niche that was taking off at that time.

I remember nights spent with my business partner and designer at a bar. I asked Q to joined us once but it was too late into the night. She wanted to go to bed. I also remember telling her that I am trying to forge a career out of something I loved, and that I hope she would support me. She said ok.

The vaccum

From May 2015 onwards, I stopped gunpla because Q moved out. We had a fight, it was a culmination of the jadedness we'd began to feel in the last one year or so, and she didn't want back in. She was gone. She wiped out the entire house of all her stuff, over one weekend.

Her last words were "I want to live life. I want to travel."

I never objected to travelling. Gunpla never got in the way of that. But perhaps because of her passiveness, she never spoke out. All these years silently expecting me to organise the trip of our lives. We did go places. I remember Bhutan. Killer Bee was made that year and Toymaker submitted it for me at TFcon, while I was with her in Bhutan.

There was HK and great memories. Trawling the streets for dim sum. There was Bali, close to the end. I even planned for a trip where we would take our wedding photos, because she did mentioned that even though she wasn't into having kids and therefore, marrying, she'd still like to capture our youth through pictures. But we never got a chance to do those pics. The place was Santorini in Greece.

I still remember the final day she came to get her stuff. I broke down in front of her like a bawling child. One lame last ditch attempt to get her back. She was unmoved. How could someone be this heartless and unfeeling? Eight years. Four of which we lived together. How does one just up and go? Check out. How. Her dad started knocking on the door as we spoke inside the house one final time. This man. Life hits you hard and fast when you least expect it. I don't want to go into specifics or air someone else's dirty laundry. Let's just say this man, whom I had little contact with over the years as he was divorced from Q's mum, was the FIRST man she turned to on the night of our break. She told me he encouraged her to go. If she didn't need a rock, a pillar of strength, just go. Quite odd father-daughter advice.... He was her hero that night. And on that tearful afternoon at the house, he was knocking on our door to know if everything was ok, and how long would she need to move out. The hero again. She hushed him outside and I wrapped up my pathetic sobbing finale.

"Treat it as a break. Who knows one day..." She actually said to me. In my distraught state, those shallow words, uttered probably out of desperation, fear maybe? Those words have me strange comfort. I let her go. Defeated. Slumped. But foolishly clutching false hope in my heart.

I would only learn much later that her father, a contractor, had waited downstairs with an entire crew of workers, together with her best friend, to help her move out. Wipe the entire house of her belongings... our existence. She never told me there was a crew in waiting. I thought it was just her and her old man.

It's hilarious in a tragic way - that my life as I knew it would be wiped out by a clean-up crew.

Our hearts had been traveling in opposite directions for two years prior to the split. I was looking inwards increasingly, getting more absorbed into my little world as I felt she didn't care, and I needed something to quell my disgruntlement. She on the other hand, was looking outwards more and more, seeking new distractions new pleasures to kill the boredom and emptiness she felt at home.

In May, all that I was left with was my Gunpla and a cat, our second one we adopted 2 years ago. She took back the first, which was originally hers anyway. I thought that cat meant the world to her. She would eventually lose it.

I moved out and back to my folks. It was the first time in my adult life that I would weep openly in front of my parents. I told them that I let them down. That I did not marry. That I wasted the apartment. My gunpla tools and workshop would lay in shambles for a year. It was this period I learned a lot more about my folks than I ever did living with them as a kid. My old man supported me in his quiet stoic old man way. My mother was tender at times, flustered and confused on others. But it made me realize how I've left them out of my life or never sought their advice despite them always wanting to administer some. My dad told me about kids and marriage and life. I listened over coffee and toast at our neighborhood coffee house, or kopitiam as locals would know. I can't imagine the disappointment they must have felt to see their elder son waste his life and resources like this. Sometimes I still think I let them down more than I let myself....

In Dec of 2015, barely half a year after she left, I learnt from facebook that Q had lost Spottie, her cat. I had been struggling with how to raise mine in my parents' home. The poor fella was like a child victim of divorce. But the cat did not ask for this, and it was my responsibility to give it a good life. How could she lose hers? I was angry. I was also sad because I remembered that I used to think - one day if Spottie goes, Q would be distraught. And I will be there for her. Now....the cat is gone, and so am I. And it didn't die in the comfort of a home. It wandered out and got lost. I was angry but it wasn't my business anymore. I contacted her to ask if she needed help and she replied no. We chatted a bit and she said she was still lost and cruising. That was Dec 2014.

In Feb this year (2015), I received an email from her. It was short, crisp, precise, cautious.

She was getting married.

2015 Lee Kuan Yew Oppo Buster

I came out of the shadows sometime this year recently. Singapore's founding father had died a few months back. LKY fever gripped the nation. It was also Singapore's 50th anniversary of independence. I decided to do an SG50 build.

This build would signify my return to the hobby, if not gunpla.

This build reminds me of another set of bittersweet memories. From the vacuum last year into this year, I had also met an amazing girl in the wake of Q's departure and the shock news of her marriage.

She was sexy she was cool. She watched both seasons of GBF with me. Yes, BOTH. I should have married her on the spot LOL.

But it wasn't to be.

Perhaps it was timing, perhaps it was personality clashes. I was still haunted by my past. It was barely a year since the break. I was still literally living in the past because the old apartment is just down the road, so it's essentially the same neighbourhood. My old gunpla toold are still in there. I am still negotiating with my folks to rent the apartment out.

We had a whirlwind honeymoon, we thought we were made for each other, and then it fell apart. We called it quits once again in May after only a few months. Let's call her P.

That was when I broke out my airbrush to keep me afloat. The LKY project was cathartic to me in many sense. I knew P was watching online, and tracked my progress, because it was a project I was telling her I wanted to make.

My skills were rusty, and so was my airbrush. But somehow I pulled it off, while even learning a new technique for making bases (cockwood!).

This LKY kit will always remind me of a mixed time in my life. Where I was still wheeling from the loss of a long-time partner, while struggling to find a foothold in a new relationship and failing, and also moving back in with the folks and bonding with my brother whom had been a stranger for over a decade.

Yes, LKY, kinda brought me and my brother together. We attended the state funeral that day, which was also what inspired me for the kit. Thank you Old Man. :)

This kit kinda symbolises a closure of sorts for me.

Half truths

It was around this time that I heard something about Q from a mutual friend. She got married because she was pregnant with the guy's child. Here's when everything you thought you believed, caves in on you like a sinkhole opening up on the road. So this guy came along "a few" months after our break, if she is to be believed at all (she told me this in the marriage email).

My friends of course called bullshit. They say he's probably been around even before the split. I've been had for a fool. Strangely though. I believed her. I believed she was truly lost when we broke. Alone. But then someone came along, that someone will be refreshing, interesting. Sexy. Accidents happen. What hurt me most I guess, was that she could bring herself to marry him yet she couldn't give us a chance after all that we've built. But how could I argue? This was a life inside of her. This was a whole new different ball game...

Perhaps I'll always wonder about why she couldn't tell me the truth. After eight years, after so much, you couldn't at least come clean? I had to learn it from a friend? Maybe I never really knew you after all...

Everytime I go back to the apartment now; that empty ghost shell of an apartment; I am reminded of everything that she deserted, then desecrated. The thousands we invested to build this home. The warmth as I built my kits and she baked her cakes, the liveliness as we raised our cats. Everything. Destroyed. Even the memories of those things, desecrated.

I felt like my life for the last 8 years had been one big lie. Except for gunpla, everything else was a lie. How do you spend 8 years loving a person, only to find out that you never knew her? It still boggles me...

But every cloud, no matter how black, has a silver lining. Learning about what she did and was willing to do, gave me some kind of closure. It felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I don't really hold any hatred towards her, and I am very happy for her. Knowing she could do what she did, also gave me the rude awakening that I needed.... That by the time we split her heart was already long dead. No one will admit this to another when breaking up with the person. The reason might be well meaning. Most don't want to hurt the other person any more than they have already done. But ultimately theres also a darker, more selfish reason: We all want to believe we can't be so heartless. That we're breaking up with the person not cos that person means nothing, but that we have other stuff, we're lost etc. The reality, is actually much simpler. That person means nothing. Full stop. Doesn't matter how much or how long a life you've been through. Nothing. Nothing in our lives together mattered to her anymore. In a way even she was shocked by her own heartlessness, I suppose, and so you always try to soften the blow, if only out of guilt or some responsibility you feel for you own well being.

It took her having a baby and marrying the man, and having for me to hear of it from a third party, to fully jolt me to this realisation. I kinda snapped out of this self misery. But it didn't mean the wounds would heal easy or the pangs of loss when I think back to our old life would be vanquished.

That was when I picked up the airbrush and really got revving again. That was when I was convinced, I should stop blaming gunpla. It was never the hobby. I could have been interested in calculus and she'd still would have left. And so I started buying new kits and setting up a new work station.


As my birthday approaches and a significant age beckons, I trudge forward, cos forward is the only way we know how. Holding on to anger, like they say, is like poisoning nobody but oneself. Only you suffer. Not the person you are angry at.

In the last few years and the recent one past, gunpla has been always there, collecting memories good and bad into those modded pieces of armour and paint. Because of what has happened, lot of pieces hold pain in them. I have not had the heart to look at my old builds for the last one year till recently.

But they also remind me of hope. That among all these heartbreaks I still have my creative skills.

What does your gunpla mean to you?

No comments: