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Pastor How (Tan Seow How)
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Pastor Lia (Cecilia Chan)
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Heart of God Church (Singapore)
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Length: 3-minute read

Falling Rocks and Throwing Stones | #SabahQuake

The Sabah earthquake is the biggest natural tragedy for our small nation in 50 years.
The pain is exacerbated because most of the victims are children—six 12-year-olds are dead. Two teacher/guide are also dead, and another youth and teacher are still missing.
They were killed while ascending Mount Kinabalu, when a 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck, raining rocks—some as big as cars—on them.

This is a complete freak accident. There is no dispute about this fact.
However, now there is a chorus of dissent questioning if 12-year-olds should even be climbing Mount Kinabalu in the first place.
The cyber naysayers are out and looking for scapegoats. Naturally, the school and Ministry of Education (MOE) are in their crosshairs.
To these keyboard-happy, armchair critics—STOP IT!
We can’t stop the falling rocks but we can stop throwing stones.

The rocks have done enough damage. Don’t allow it to further kill the spirit of adventure and discovery in our youths.
The last thing we should do is to shrink back and start bubble-wrapping our kids.
We must not succumb to fear and start playing safe.
We must not over-react and over-compensate, allowing Mount Kinabalu to cast a looming shadow over our next generation. Let the avalanche come to a halt at the foot of the mountain. Don’t allow the fear to cascade down into the hearts and minds of our youths.

Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his inaugural address, “The only thing we have to fear is…fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Our response as parents and citizens should be to convert retreat into advance.

Hindsight is always a perfect 20/20, but it does not paint a glorious vision of the future.
This blame game is putting the final nail in the coffin of the spirit of adventure and discovery, and burying the soul of challenge and curiosity.
If this inquest continues, it will cause our schools’ decision-makers and MOE’s policy-makers to play safe and coddle a fragile strawberry-generation.

So please put down the stones.
The decent thing to do now is to commemorate the dead, comfort the living and celebrate the heroes.


  1. Randall Go says:

    Yes, totally agreed.. When I first heard the news, my response or thought, was that, after this, will Singaporeans stop sending their children for overseas trips, for exposure and experience. Would the parents be afraid, would they shelter their children from the world? If they are going to, we would just raise another 草莓族,a generation who will be hurt easily! We will not have the same adventurous spirit anymore.. And to those critising the ministry, the school, stop. You are only killing the children’s spirit to dare, to dream!
    Love the quote, “We can’t stop the falling rocks, but we can stop throwing stones.” Very inspiring and thought-provoking read!!

  2. […] Read this post and it’s exactly what Singapore needs to hear : https://pastorhow.com/tanseowhow/sabahquake/ […]

  3. […] Falling Rocks and Throwing Stones | #SabahQuake […]

  4. Darryl says:

    It’s so true, Pastor! Many times when things like this happen unfortunately, our first instinct is to succumb to fear and start playing safe, or to play the blaming game on others. But all these that we do does not help change the past, present and future any better.

    We can’t change what happened in Sabah earthquake but we can certainly do the right decent thing after that. Which is to commemorate the dead, comfort the living and celebrate the heroes.

    Thank you Pastor for sharing your thoughts on this!

  5. Vanessa says:

    […] You can read what Pastor How wrote on his blog about this as well. Falling Rocks and Throwing Stones | #SabahQuake […]

  6. Pansiri says:

    I agree! We can’t prevent freak accidents from happening, but we can definitely stop throwing rocks. Sheltering the young generation of our nation is not a way to raise them. They will grow up to be adults who don’t take risks, not pioneering breakthroughs!

    This article really pulled our focus back to what is important! Not on the critics but on really commemorating the dead, to comfort the families whose loved ones were involved in the disaster and to celebrate the heroes.

  7. […] way, I read through Pastor How’s article on “Falling Rocks and Throwing Stones“, and it is so true. I’m not sure if it’s a Singaporean trait, but we love to […]

  8. John says:

    Why need to ban under 15 from climbing in the future if it is ok?
    How about sending YOUR kids there next month?
    Are you all not keyboard warriors too?

    1. Matt says:

      John – you are being insensitive to all the parents who just lost their kids. What are you trying to say? That they sent their kids there to die? You think as parents we do not take all care to research about the safety of trips like this? Whether the school has done enough preparation, has a good track record and whether there are the right guides and equipment? It was an ACCIDENT. It was a NATURAL DISASTER. And yes, knowing that this happened, I would still be willing to send my 12 year old on an OLJ. But that’s not the point yeah? At a time like this let’s just be a support to the people who have lost loved ones and honour the heroes.

  9. Justina Chew says:

    That is so true! We should not let fear be the limitation and ended up rising a strawberry-generation. Spirit of discovery and curiosity should be celebrated! The falling stones had caused much pain, people should stop throwing stones.

  10. Nancy Joy Tan says:

    Think the public is not throwing stones but asking for a review of current OLJ guidelines and risk assessments. Perhaps the way they put across sounded anguish but surely we are all saddened by the incident. While accidents may be inevitable, they can be minimised.

    There were a total of 16 incident of earthquakes in Sabah in the past 20 years.

    1995-08-11 4.1 Ranau, Sabah
    1996-12-06 4.4 Lahad Datu, Sabah
    2001-04-07 5.1 Kudat, Sabah
    2003-08-03 4.9 Semporna, Sabah
    2005-05-23 5.3 Sandakan, Sabah
    2006-04-22 4.0 Sandakan, Sabah
    2006-09-28 4.5 Ranau, Sabah
    2008-01-10 4.1 Keningau, Sabah
    2008-04-09 4.5 Semporna, Sabah
    2008-05-18 5.0 Tawau, Sabah
    2009-09-04 4.5 Kudat, Sabah
    2010-08-21 4.2 Lahad Datu, Sabah
    2012-05-28 4.6 Lahad Datu, Sabah
    2014-02-01 4.7 Ranau, Sabah (Mount Kinabalu)
    2014-10-24 4.6 Kudat, Sabah
    2015-06-05 6.0 Ranau, Sabah (Mount Kinabalu)

    Deputy director-general of the Meteorological Department Dr. Mohd Rosaidi bin Che Abas, when interviewed by Sin Chew Daily pointed out that:

    “There will not be stronger earthquakes than this in the near future. However, as Ranau has entered the phase of seismic activity, we cannot rule out the possibility of even stronger quakes in the future.”

    Public are advised to stay away from Mount Kinabalu for the time being for fear of landslides.

    1. Shigure Ho says:

      The public are throwing stones. Please look at the various forums on and off Facebook.

      The problem is not about risk assessments. Even with risk assessments to mitigate the occurrence of such, there will always be such incidents that happen when you least expect it.

  11. thank God for giving a wisdom to this pastor,he is right in his article.stop throwing the stones,commemorate the dead,comfort the living & celebrate the heroes,very well said.

  12. Shirley Boon says:

    Thanks for the article pastor, it’s so good! I conquered Mt K when I was 12! My school teacher brought me to climb with her family. It was one of the best memories and achievements I had. ‘Don’t allow the fear to cascade down into the hearts and minds of our youths.’ agreed! My heart breaks for the victims’ family, will continue to pray for them.

  13. Michael Chan says:

    Thank you Pastor. Nailed it spot on!

  14. miak says:

    Thank you for your wise words.

  15. Kek says:

    I can’t agree more with this article. Thank you for sharing your view Pastor, and this is the first article I come across that provide such perspective and how we can be of comfort and strength to those in need, instead of throwing stones. The rocks have done enough damage. The last thing we want to do is to further kill the spirit of adventure and discovery in our youths. We should not let fear take it’s ground in the heart of our people, especially our young generation.

    This is the time to commemorate the dead, comfort the living and celebrate the bravery and selflessness of our heroes. We’ll always remember them.

  16. Dexter says:

    Pastor, this short entry nails the point. I’ve learnt from reading this. I think Singaporeans have got to be bigger than this. We cannot just simply keep apportioning blame when incidents happen… Perhaps these keyboard warriors think that apportioning blame makes Singapore a better society and prevents future incidents like this – but your blog entry reveals to us a truth that many (including myself) have failed to see.

    To me, there is nothing wrong with climbing a mountain even as a young child.
    We cannot blame the MOE or school because an earthquake occurred.

    Let’s focus on mourning, comforting and celebrating today.
    Forget the finger-pointing.

  17. […] Edit 10 June: this article by Pastor Tan Seow How encapsulates what I feel and want to say. Read Falling Rocks and Throwing Stones. […]

  18. Wee Jiayan says:

    Heart feels heavy as I was watching the news over the past few days, to hear of this shocking news and see, as the nation mourns for those we have lost. Really put into words what I feel Couldnt agree more to “cyber naysayers out there looking for a scapegoat – to stop it! ” We should put an end to the blaming game.
    It is a freak accident and we should not let it stop the spirit if discover and adventure in the next generation.

    “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” It is through these stories i’ve heard, the acts of protection, from these giants amongst our midst that have allowed me to see what is selfless love.
    What we can do now is really to stand and mourn with the dead, celebrate the living and commerate the heroes amongst us. Couldnt put it any more aptly.

  19. Yi Lun says:

    can’t agree more.. sometimes our kiasu-ness, kiasee-ness can be a little too extreme. causing us to lose sight of what matters..

  20. Bao Sheng says:

    Totally agree! I believe the last thing that the family of the victims want is finding fault and blaming someone or the school/MOE. All they need is the comfort and support for their loss.

    Accidents could even happen during a simple field trip out of school but does it doesn’t mean that school should stop all these field trips and adventure. If not, we might as well not allow children to leave home at all since there’s a risk even when they cross the road.

    It makes me wonder what if the effort and time spent by anonymous keyboard warriors are channelled towards more constructive, positive and encouraging opinions & to stand with the victims’ family.

  21. Christiana says:

    Sabah quake breaks our hearts.. and in all situations, we have diverse reactions from all walks of life. One of the most obvious reactions is the immediate blame game and throwing of stones – which I think is very unfortunate. I choose to believe that these are the minority loud voices, but I have to agree that they are directly moulding the general sentiments about the accident, especially in the cyberspace.

    Nevertheless, pointless blame game will die down with time, but the impact left behind on people’s minds is not small. I’m sure to some parents, this accident naturally confirms their decision to bubble wrap their children in walled gardens of Singapore. It may not be the easiest thing to unwrap them, but I hope more people understand the implications of overprotecting their children. Thank you SP, more people should read this.

  22. Lawrence says:

    During my growing up years, there has always been a adventure-and-exploration versus play-it-safe kind of struggle. Often times I found myself choosing to play it safe, but looking back now, I realised that choosing to take some risks and explore have brought me some of the most enriching and helpful experiences, *especially* when things went horribly wrong.

    As parents we all want what’s good for our kids, but some times giving them the ‘good’ can end up withholding what’s great for them.

    Mount Kinabalu has indeed been an unfortunate event, more so for some than others, and my heart goes out to the heartbroken families.. but I do hope that this does not eliminate exposure to adventure and exploration for our young people, especially in their growing up years.

  23. Peck Lian says:

    Yes! Rather than blaming, we should use our time, energy, words to comfort and love those who are mourning and commemorate those who sacrificed their lives.
    As a young person growing up in Singapore’s education system, have benefited a lot from being able to go on school overseas trip and adventure trips like outward bound Singapore
    We should never let fear snuff out the spirit of adventure and discovery in our children, we should not let our fear deprive them of exploring new things.

  24. Xing says:

    It’s so true SP, all the nay-sayers are only looking at bad effects of this, but they lack to see that the teachers put themselves on the line the moment the incident happened.

    That act itself deserves to be commemorated, as the saying goes, there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for his friend. How many of us can say that we would have done the same if we were to face such a crisis ourselves?

    And with what you said about nailing the coffin over the spirit of adventure and discovery is also so true, if everything becomes safe, then the next generation would never get to experience life for what it truly can be, instead of the bubble world created in the safe environment.

    Thank You Pastor for showing us wider perspective in current issues!

  25. Josh says:

    Can’t agree much more… It’s a freak accident that precious lives were lost… We are deeply sadden and my prayers goes to them and their families. The spirit of adventure and discover of our youths should live on and turn retreat into advancement. People who loves commenting online on issues should read and get something out of this. I know they care but look deeper and further on issues. Thanks Pastor How for this great sharing.

  26. Eugene Soo says:

    Personally I like how this article explains about the killing the spirit of adventure and discovery in our youths. I cannot imagine if there is no element of inquisitiveness in our youths today, no surprise, no excitement, no purpose. How will life be? Indeed fear cripples us.

    We can never control what we cannot control (natural disasters). It’s just a matter of calculated risk with prudence exercised. I agree totally that we should celebrate the heros. Now is the time to focus on the good things that come out of this unforeseen event.

  27. Benedict says:

    Wow, Pastor, I really agree so much with what you wrote here. I’ve been so disgusted seeing articles saying that the parents are foolish for sending the kids, the school should not have these types of expeditions etc, but this article really highlights why this is so wrong!

    If we have this kind of mindset, then the future youths will never know what it means to take risks, to challenge themselves, to go out of their comfort zones.. We really should allow them to continue be able to have these kinds of activities, not just for the physical action per se, but for the mindset and character that this will instil in the next generation!

  28. Kimberly says:

    Indeed SP, finger pointing can never bring back the victims. Praying for the loved ones, and hoping they can find some comfort.

  29. Toh Jiaxin says:

    So true… there’s no point rubbing salt in and playing the blame game.
    The last thing we want is for everyone in Singapore to start shrinking back and our youths will then grow up to be wrapped up in a bubble world with no sense of adventure and discovery.

    While i was initially worried about other of such programmes, this article has shed some light and given me new perspective, We should convert retreat into advance, celebrate the spirit of selflessness and discovery, applause the venturing zest alive in our young generation!

    1. Valerie says:

      It’s true!! All these keyboard warriors should really stop it!
      It is indeed not anyone’s fault because it was a natural disaster…
      This should not cause us to shrink back and stop that sense of adventure..
      Some people might step back right now and think we should “avoid such things”… but honestly, it’s not gonna solve anything because u can’t solve a natural disaster!

      Let’s indeed focus – commemorate the dead, comfort the living and celebrate the heroes.

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