Happy Father’s Day, Mrs. Mak

When it comes to the most iconic local pig character, “McDull” is probably the name that comes to mind for both you and me—it’s a nostalgic figure for an entire generation. Whenever we think of this naive and simple-minded little piggie, we also recall the voice of Sandra Ng and the character she voiced, “Mrs. Mak.”

Mrs. Mak, the slightly nagging and fierce  Hong Kong-style housewife, is a familiar character to all. However, what many may not realise is that her full name is “Tam Yuk-Lin”.

She is also known as Mak Tam Yuk-Lin

She was once a “factory girl” in her younger days, who would entertain the crowd with her seductive leg dances at Dai Tat Dei. It was there that she unexpectedly crossed paths with a man named Mak Bing. With his scruffy beard and a perennially troubled countenance, he appeared somewhat forlorn, often unable to respond to her musings. Despite their contrasting personalities: Tam Yuk-Lin being outgoing, talkative, and skilled in martial arts, she inexplicably developed an affection for this reserved man. Standing by his side during his lowest moments, she willingly endured poverty alongside him. Their relationship had even progressed to the point of discussing marriage. However, driven by his unwavering ambitions, he ultimately left her alone in a bridal shop, leaving behind only a farewell letter. At that time, Tam Yuk-Lin was already carrying the child of their love, McDull. While her lover left for the sake of his ideals, her own ideal became raising her son to adulthood.

How does a single parent explain the absence of the other parent to their child? It’s an incredibly challenging question.

When McDull inquired about his father, Tam Yuk-Lin’s response was curt: “That guy? He’s gone forever!” Clearly, this response falls short of being satisfactory. It was in the film McDull, Prince de la Bun (2004) that Mrs. Mak finally mustered the courage to reveal the story of his father: he is a prince of a lost kingdom who yearned for more than an ordinary life and embarked on a journey to reclaim what he had lost.

Is Mak Bing truly a prince, or is it merely a story of an unfaithful man? Or could it be that Mrs. Mak wanted to preserve a positive image of the father in her son’s mind? The film never presents a definitive answer, leaving us to wonder. Like McDull, perhaps we too can choose to believe in everything she shared.

A mother’s tender Love: the greatest gift of all

Mak Tam Yuk-Lin once held aspirations of her son becoming a shining star, envisioning him as charismatic as Tony Leung or Donald Chow. However, at last she simply wished for him to be “smart and excel in studies” or even “less academically inclined, but successful in his career.” This is the poignant story of Mak Tam Yuk-Lin: a single mother with modest education, working tirelessly to provide for her son, residing in a humble, old-style apartment in Tai Kok Tsui. She took charge by hosting an online cooking program, sharing her expertise in making the “Paper-wrapped Chicken” to earn a living.

Captivated by a travel advertisement, McDull longed for the idyllic paradise of “coconut palm-fringed beaches, crystal-clear waters, and endless blue skies” in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives. However, their family couldn’t afford such a trip. Determined to bring joy to her son, Mak Tam Yuk-Lin wove a beautiful tale, transforming “The Peak” into the “Maldives” and the “cable car” into a “plane”. With meticulous preparation, she crafted props featuring “Hong Kong Airport” and “Welcome to the Maldives” on makeshift paper signs. This became a day filled with the enchantment of happiness for McDull.

In the face of financial struggles, Mak Tam Yuk-Lin decided to try her luck with the lottery. Unfortunately, McDull didn’t possess the “fortune-bringing hand,” only the infamous “jinxed hand” that made everyone laugh. Despite trying over twenty times, they never won a single word. McDull’s classmate, May, taught him a method of elimination to improve their chances. So, McDull stayed up late meticulously selecting thirty-six numbers and asked his mother to buy the remaining six. 

Little did he know, Mak Tam Yuk-Lin still insisted on only buying the numbers chosen by her son. While everyone doubted him, she had unwavering faith in her son. In order to preserve his dreams, Mak Tam Yuk-Lin treated him to a hotpot, bought him new clothes, and created an illusion of travelling the world. She would pretend they had won the lottery while working multiple jobs, even pushing herself to the point of hospitalisation due to exhaustion. She referred to it as “travelling to outer space”. It was a series of beautiful lies, all in the pursuit of McDull’s carefree upbringing.

On Christmas Day, she made her son’s heartfelt wish for turkey come true. However, they savoured the turkey from Christmas all the way to the Dragon Boat Festival. It was during this time that McDull realised the true essence of the turkey’s flavour. He learned that the peak of enjoyment lies between the anticipation and the very first bite. Growing older, he came to understand that the most precious moments in life reside in the space between longing and fulfilment. When McDull discovered that there was turkey hidden inside the steamed rice dumplings, he cried. Mak Tam Yuk-Lin discreetly disposed of the remaining turkey, which had been stored in the freezer for nearly half a year. Years later, on the day of his mother’s cremation, McDull recalled this childhood memory. As he gazed at the grey smoke ascending into the sky, he could almost catch a faint whiff of the turkey’s aroma. It served as a poignant reminder of his mother’s selflessness, her unwavering love, and the sacrifices she made to shield him from life’s hardships.

McDull’s childhood was filled with kindness and innocence, nurtured by his mother’s unwavering dedication. She stood as a shield against the adversities of the world, ensuring that he was always bestowed with the very best she could offer.

Vague memories, nothing but memories

W. B. Yeats

She was fearless in love and worked tirelessly to make a living. Though Mr. Mak wasn’t around, everyone knew her as Mrs. Mak because her son carried the surname “Mak”. She was Mak Tam Yuk-Lin, a woman with limited education but abundant life wisdom, a real-life woman.

A mother encompasses the entirety of a child’s world. On this Father’s Day, let us honour all the incredible mothers who play the dual role of mother and father. They are unsung heroes who selflessly dedicate themselves to raising their children.

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