Meet the people behind Selegie House's iconic flag display

The residents of Selegie House have been proudly hanging Singapore flags across the building’s facade for past 17 years, making their block popular with local photographers. In celebration of our 58th National Day, Kaya speaks to the leading volunteers behind this initiative.

  • 31 Jul 2023

Newly displayed Singapore flags at Selegie House put up by residents of the neighbourhood

"The most iconic thing about Selegie House is our flags!” Mr Lee Tor Joon, 64, says with a beaming smile.

For the past 17 years, Mr Lee and his wife, Mrs Lee Shwu Huah, 58, have been quietly putting up the Singapore flags ahead of National Day.

The flags and pleasing geometry of the facade have made Selegie House a favourite among local Instagrammers looking for the perfect shot for National Day. The flag hanging has also become a local tradition that brings neighbours together.   

We love Singapore, and it's only when there's a stable country that we can build stable homes. So, we just want to do our part to serve, and involve others at the same time.   

A local tradition is born

The couple started out by hanging flags for a few elderly neighbours with mobility issues. However, they decided to extend their help to all three blocks to maintain consistency in the facade. 

"Since I like things to be neat, I thought, why don’t we just hang it up for everyone so it will look more consistent?” Mrs Lee says.

Once the Lees started, their neighbours expected them to continue. “Sometimes when residents see us, they would ask, ‘Eh, when are you putting up the flags? How come it’s not up yet?’” 

Mr and Mrs Lee have been involved in putting up Singapore flags at the Selegie House for the past 17 years

The flags have turned the Lees into neighbourhood celebrities. When Mr Lee was making his rounds to adjust some flags, residents who saw him would greet and thank him. Others would peer from their kitchen windows and wave from across the blocks.   

The neighbours join in

After the estate was featured on national TV last year, volunteers started stepping forward.
This year, a diverse group of 15 volunteers gathered early on a Saturday morning to join the Lees in hanging the flags. They included residents of various ages and backgrounds. A few met the couple through a Zumba class. There were even new immigrants and an expat. 

"It was an amazing experience for me as it is heartwarming to see everyone be so patient and helpful. The more I stay, the more I love this place,” says volunteer Kirti, 30, an Indian national working in tech.  

A group of 15 volunteers turned up for the activity, many of whom are hanging flags for the first time

When asked about the volunteer turnout this year, Mrs Lee says: “We love seeing people coming together to help. It shows tong xin, which means unity in spirit and service.”

Speaking in Mandarin, Mr Sieh Hwee Leong, a 70-something resident of a nearby estate, says: “I came because of this couple. We met at the market, and they are very sociable people, many want to be their friends.”

Working in pairs, it took the group less than three hours to put up more than 200 flags. Before the volunteers got involved, it would typically take the Lees up to four days to finish.  

37-year-old Kristabel Quek, who runs the Instagram account MySelegieHouse, the activity is a great opportunity for her to get together with neighbours. 

I feel blessed and thankful to be part of this beautiful estate with wonderful people who still have kampung spirit left in them. Good neighbours cannot be bought, it's a relationship you build together.

Undaunted by bird poo, potted plants, and laundry

Mr Lee shifting laundry to ensure that the flags remains unblocked

As he put up flags, Mr Lee would shift potted plants as well as laundry to attach the flags or adjust the ones that the newer volunteers were not able to secure.
Even when there was bird poo on the railing, Mr Lee persisted. Walking up and down the blocks, he says, “I just take it as an exercise, after all it’s just once a year.”

Residents have also devised creative ways to hang the flags in windy conditions, using an umbrella to hold the flag down while they tie it through two holes in the facade.  

Teamwork: A volunteer pins the flag down with his umbrella, while another ties it down through the two holes of the building's facade

"We do this because we want to uplift the spirits of the residents here, especially the elderly. We don’t have a complex reason for doing this, we just love our neighbours!” says Mrs Lee.