The Icon of Boat Quay

The People of Singapore

The Merlion can move over. This icon is the real deal.


He slinks up to the prata stall Golum like: he’s nimble but peers around a bit apprehensive. There isn’t an ounce of body fat on him. He wears shorts but otherwise a collection of tattoos makes do for clothing. He’s looking for his dinner.

“What’s your name?”

The question takes a few attempts. He speaks neither English nor Mandarin. He prefers Hokkien and Malay.

“What’s your name?”

He extends his left fist. The letters “T” “O” “N” “Y” are tattooed across his knuckles.

His volume is almost a shout. He wants everyone nearby to hear the answer: “TONY!”


His presence causes a bit of a stir. Soon, guys are walking by greeting him.

“Hey Tony!”

“You guys know him?”

“I’ve known him 5 years.”
“I’ve known him 10 years!”
“I’ve known him 35 years!”

It’s a mark of status…

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