By Vanessa Choo
Kristoffer Gales, half of the duo, Vets on Fire, that won first runner up at the 2017 SingHealth Got Talent contest has artistic hobbies that couldn’t be more different from his day job.
As a Veterinary Technician and Team Leader of the large animals team at the SingHealth Experimental Medicine Centre (SEMC), Kristoffer Gales, 30, from Mindanao, Philippines, takes care of animals used for research purposes. Located in the basement of Academia, the animal facility which Kristoffer works in is one of two under SingHealth’s charge – the other being at Sembawang.
His day starts off with cleaning the animals, followed by feeding them and treating those that are sick. When an animal is required for a procedure, Kristoffer takes care of the logistics and preparations, assists in the operation, and monitors the animal closely post-operation to ensure that it heals well. All this is done with great care to safeguard the animals used in research, to make sure that they are treated in an ethical and humane manner.
Kristoffer spends time with animal subjects as part of his daily responsibilities.
While Kristoffer’s eyes light up when he talks about caring for these animals, this was not his top career choice. Wanting to build a house for his parents based on his own design, Kristoffer was keen to study Architecture. However, to avoid causing any financial burden to his family because of the expensive school fees, he opted to study Agriculture instead and has not regretted since. In fact, studying Animal Husbandry as part of his degree has prepared him well for work in the SEMC, equipping him with the necessary skills to properly care for these animals.
Kristoffer is very proud of what he does as a Veterinary Technician. “It is a privilege to be part of a research team, knowing that this work will eventually benefit mankind,” he shares.
When he is not busy tending to animals, he indulges in hobbies such as playing the guitar, painting and sculpting – all of which are self-taught. While he picked-up guitar from watching his friends in high school, he credits the internet and YouTube as his greatest “art teachers”, often picking up new skills from tutorials online.
And his talent speaks for itself. He showed me around his office and in a corner stands a 20cm sculpture of The Incredible Hulk, one of Kristoffer’s favourite Marvel characters. It is truly impressive - filled with intricate details which rendered it incredibly life-like, and nowhere near amateur. He spent about a month perfecting it, but says there is still room for improvement. “I always strive to better myself, and challenge myself to take things to the next level.”
A sculpture of The Incredible Hulk – a masterpiece by Kristoffer.
And challenge him we did! I gave Kristoffer a photo of my pet dog, Magic, and he was asked to sketch it. He quietly accepted the challenge, but boy, did he deliver. I was impressed by the likeness and how skillful he was in capturing the expression of my beloved pet, all in a matter of a few hours. One could say it’s magic!
While Kristoffer continues to build up his drawing and painting prowess, we can certainly indulge in his guitar skills, honed over the past 14 years. Shy and reserved, taking part in SingHealth’s talent contest last year was a huge hurdle for him. Thankfully, he managed to overcome his nerves. Playing the guitar accompaniment to his colleague’s, Ryan Cabo Maniquiz’s singing, they managed to snag first runner up as the duo, Vets on Fire. And they certainly are on fire, for they have been asked to perform at several staff events since.
As for his next artistic endeavour, Kristoffer has his eyes set on creating a diorama* involving a waterfall, some trees and a battle-damage Gundam robot. This project would require him to stretch his artistic imagination and sharpen his skills in sculpting and painting – a culmination of all his talents. It certainly sounds like a fitting challenge for someone as curious and creative as Kristoffer!
*A three-dimensional full-size or miniature model, used to depict a historical time period, a nature scene, or a fictional situation