Family, Meaning of Life, Videos, Work & Money

Mired in a pit of debt and despair, actor Peter Yu decided to look up

By Rachel Phua , 1 May 2020

Nowadays, Yu is best known as the lead in local indie flick A Land Imagined, which was the first Singaporean film to win the top prize at the Locarno Film Festival in 2018. Yu himself clinched a nomination in the festival’s Best Actor category.

Since then, the seasoned actor, who was often spotted on the small screen in the nineties, has made a comeback.

“If you say that you want to return your life to Me, now you must listen to Me.”

But about 10 years ago, the 51-year-old made headlines for a vastly different reason. He and prominent variety show host Quan Yi Fong were ending their decade-long marriage. Reeling from the divorce, Yu subsequently fell into drugs, booze and gambling.

It wasn’t his first brush with a hard-partying lifestyle, but it was the wake-up call he needed, Yu said. Over time, he incurred more than $100,000 in debt from his spending habits.

Yet, it was all in God’s timing, he said. God had to empty him until he hit rock bottom. “He knows my character,” he said. “He allowed me to reach the pits, then God rescued me.”

That was how he was “reborn” and became a Christian in 2011. He married his girlfriend Brenda Leow in the same year and they now have two sons, Christian and Israel.


Yu was in his mid-40s when he had to start all over. He became a taxi driver, an idea hard to swallow for a former celebrity, but one Yu gradually came to enjoy once he got over his self-consciousness.

During this period, Yu said he spent most of his spare time watching sermons, reading the Bible and “having conversations with God”, on and off the road. “You know, when you first return to God, you know how loved you are,” he exclaimed excitedly, holding his palms close to his chest.

Yu at a nationwide Christian event.  The actor has been open about his faith and how it helped to turn his life around. Photo courtesy of the Celebration of Hope.

After three years of driving and looking for direction, he decided to consider his options.

“How do You think I can glorify You in my future?,” he asked God. Should he study theology and become a pastor? Or remain a taxi driver, which Yu said he was fine with as his cost of living had reduced dramatically since he became a Christian. Perhaps return to property, for which he still had his licence. Or could it be that he belonged in the entertainment industry?

“I was 40-plus, who would want a lao kok kok?”

Soon after his question to God, a guest preacher came to his church and told him that God would “open the doors” in time to come.

Within a week of the visit, Yu received five calls for various acting gigs – two short films, one Christian play, and two more for roles at Mediacorp. It was the last thing he’d expected, even though he loved performing. “I was 40-plus, who would want a lao kok kok (Singlish for an old person)?”

Since returning to set, he’s had few opportunities to drive, Yu said. He bought a car and switched to being a Grab driver but, even then, he hasn’t spent much time ferrying passengers around.


Yu knew Christianity was the answer to his brokenness the day he stepped back into church, a place he left in his teens and had only sporadically returned to until then. “I cried and cried,” he described. “The Holy Spirit came to heal me.”

He became more confident that God, though invisible, was ever present. “God promised us He is the light before our feet (Isaiah 42:16; John 8:12). You walk and walk, you will feel God is always speaking to you. That’s what it’s like to be in communion with God.”

Yu remarried in 2011 and now has two sons, Christian and Israel, with his wife Brenda Leow.

Even as a gambler, he never stopped delving into the spiritual realm, but had sought good luck in other religions, sometimes a few at once. What cemented his belief in Christianity was the realisation that it was futile praying to these other gods, as they were idols that “you don’t strike up a relationship with”.

Defining his temperament as “enjoying life”, Yu professes to always be chirpy and relaxed.

“I don’t think so far ahead, as I know God will lead me.”

“How do I live with so much peace? It’s because I don’t think so far ahead, as I know God will lead me,” he said.

This is the philosophy he takes with his burgeoning acting career, he added. If there comes a day when the roles dry out, he reckons he will have no problem going back behind the wheel.

“When you are rich spiritually, you don’t bother about money anymore. Peace and joy, money cannot buy.

“Because you know this world is just temporary, like what God says. Gaining eternity – that’s richness.”


This is an excerpt of an article that first appeared in Salt&Light.

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