Veteran actor Huang Wenyong died Saturday, aged 60, at Singapore General Hospital with his wife, son and daughter at his bedside. According to his manager, the legendary Malaysian-born performer passed away after a six-month battle with lymphoma, which he fought with chemotherapy.
On hearing the news, tributes from Singaporean media and fans flooded the internet, while artists, friends and family continue to attend a five-day wake at the Teochew funeral parlor, which began Sunday. The funeral proceedings will closely follow the traditions of Buddhism, to which Huang was a lifelong devotee.
The actor kept news about his failing health from many. MediaCorp performer and friend Lin Mei Jiao said: "I knew about his condition. But Wenyong is low-profile and didn't want to alarm others, so we gave him privacy. I couldn't bear to lose him, but that's life. We've been friends for so many years."
Yesterday, the Star Awards Show 1 on Channel 8 paid tribute to Huang. "We will forever remember him,” MediaCorp CEO Shaun Seow said before the emotional audience. “The role of Ah Shui he played in The Awakening. He's contributed a lot to local TV. He was always hard working, always improving his craft."
Before moving to Singapore to join the 1980 acting class of Singapore Broadcasting Corporation’s (now MediaCorp), Huang worked as a teacher in his birthplace of Kuala Lumpur. In a long career, he appeared in more than 100 Chinese dramas and sitcoms, including Lobang King and Joys of Life.
Huang was perhaps best known for his role as the love interest of Xiang Yun’s character in The Awakening, a television drama that celebrated the nation’s 25th anniversary, and for the 1982 action drama titled the The Seletar Robbery. Although The Seletar Robbery only had one 90-minute episode, MediaCorp considered it the first locally produced Mandarin-language television drama and, for that matter, the birth of local Mandarin language drama production. This role cemented Huang’s pioneer status as an actor, reflected in his naming as one of the Top 10 Most Popular Male Artistes every year at the Star Awards show since its inception in 1994.
Huang, affectionately called “Big Brother” by the many young performers he mentored, was known for being down to earth and helpful to his colleagues.
In one tribute, Han Wei Chou recalls an experience meeting Huang in a swanky hotel ballroom as a tongue-tied cub reporter for Channel NewsAsia. Han was at an event weeks before Singapore’s Star Awards in 2010, tasked with the job of chatting up celebrities to get gossip and assess their chances for awards.
Seeing Han’s reluctance to mingle with the bevy of stars, he said, “Don’t be shy! Who do you want to talk to? Let me introduce them to you.” Huang proceeded to introduce Han to the likes of Qi Yuwu, Jessica Liu and others, “like an affable uncle.”