Tag Archives: singlish

The Week for Thoughts…in Singapur

While waiting at  the bus stop a few days ago I overheard this old man, his English heavy accented (imagine Rex Navarette skits), conversing with a child that spoke to him in typical Singlish. Their brand of English that at first is difficult to understand, but once you get the hang of it, becomes easy to follow — even learn.

The Filipino professionals that came to Singapore in the last 10- 20 years now have their families here. They’re also sending their children to local schools. And these children are rapidly integrating into Singaporean society. I could no longer distinguish Filipino from local sometimes. It’s quite fascinating, how children adapt to their environment almost effortlessly.

As Singapore updates their immigration policy (substantially cutting back on foreign labor) these Filipino-Singaporean generation (from the 90’s up to present) would most likely be the first and only big wave of Filipino immigrants here — subsequent Filipino migration would likely become less and less as years go by. Singapore is expected to adapt stricter measures to ensure the core population don’t get completely diluted. People like me would one day come home but these Filipino Singaporeans would stay and help build their country’s future.

The pioneer of Filipino labor here are the “Domestic Helpers”. These DH’s in fact was here long before the so called Filipino professionals started coming in the 90’s (when Singapore broadly opened its door to foreign workers). Some of them arrived in the island as early as the 70’s. Around the time the economy was starting to pick up and the Singaporeans needed people to look after their children while they help build their modern Singapore.

These Filipinos live a hard life. Out of desperation to support their family leaves country and family behind. Breaks my heart whenever I hear fellow Filipinos look down on these hardworking Filipinos just because they toil in the lower rungs. I suspect that this attitude must be some form of a psychological defense mechanism. We abhor the image of what our nation and her people has become – we disrespect our own because we have little respect for ourselves. We forget that their condition in life is the result of our collective failure as a nation.

I respect these people because my mother worked as a housemaid for rich relatives in Manila in the 60’s. She would recount to us her children how difficult that life was. She did it so she could support her siblings in Negros (they were orphaned very early in life). Fortunately, she was treated very well. The lady of the house, Manang Lolet, wife of the founder of Cafe Puro, was the one that taught her how to cook. I know because once I asked her to teach me how to prepare “achara” (pickled papaya) and she reminded me that it was Manang Lolet that taught her. I then asked what else did she taught her and she just laughed. I guess that means a list too long to enumerate.

I’m not sure if there has been any study made on the economic impact of  Filipina DH’s here in Singapore. I’m sure their service had some positive effect on the local economy back in the day because their presence allowed Singaporeans parents to work. And not only this, I believe that most of them also helped educate young Singaporeans. A friend of mine told me that not only did their Filipina “maid” improved his English, she also helped the brood with their mathematics and other homework (she also learned to cook Teochew dishes from his grandma and this friend remembers well how they all cried at the airport when she left for good). I asked if she happens to be a teacher back in the Philippines, he said no, but he was certain that she had a college degree!

Once I spoke with a Chinese Singaporean cab driver who married an Ilonga that worked before as a Housemaid here. His family, wife and daughter are in Iloilo (I forgot what town). He plans to retire in the Philippines and become a full time “rice farmer”. He said he owns two vehicles that carry farm produce to be sold with the help of his “tatay” . Recently, this man bought a “small rice land” as “investment”. The guy also built for himself a two storey home with his extended family occupying several rooms. As for his daughter, he intends to enroll her in a Chinese school in Iloilo city. I’ll never forget these words from him, “here I am poor, but in the Philippines I am a rich man with big family!”

The frigate Intrepid, one of 6 in service for RSN. The exhibit was an oppurtunity for the local population to see their Navy up close. There were also booths inside the vivocity mall displaying Navy equipment  Most popular among the kids are the real guns that they can hold but not fire of course.

This afternoon we went to see a Singapore Navy stealth frigate berthed in the waters near vivocity for the public to see. They’re trying to drive up local interest in military careers especially in their navy which is a vital military institution for them. A powerful navy ensures protection of their maritime interests. Remember, they have one of the busiest sea port and shipping passages in the world. My brother, a retired US Navy, told me that the Malacca straits (not that far from here) to this day is littered with pirates. He said that their ship would be put on alert every time they pass this body of water. I remember looking it up because I can’t believe that we still have pirates in this part of the world today. Turns out that’s true!

You would be surprised to know that even though Singapore’s considered the richest in South East Asia, the biggest navy in the region belongs to Vietnam. And they don’t plan to scale things down. They’re projected to spend most of their military budget buying more submarines and ships. This explains why they have courage to stand up against China;s bullying in the West seas. We’re also vocal, too confrontational at times, but this posturing has more to do with the guarantees Uncle Sam gives us.

I think it’s time for us to imitate our neighbors. We should stop this modernization with US hand-me-downs (my goodness, last year we receive a WWII ship! c’mon! you kiddin’ me!). The Singaporeans build corvettes and patrol vessels — why don’t we negotiate with them? It doesn’t matter if takes time to modernize as long as military procurement are wisely made. Lets skip making more concessions in exchange for free and discounted used arms. Our neighbors managed to modernize their navies without any external funding and assistance – let’s learn from them.

1st – 2nd week, March 2013


Some Letter from Singapore

Most Filipinos comes to Singapore, either as a tourist or a job hunter, it could also be both, and I’m just the tourist minus the budget. When I first landed here about a month ago, I was surprised how everything is so organized. I guess it’s as good as advertised.  From the airport, I saw magnificent tall trees, there were so many of them that they resembles a rain forest. This was a surprise because I was under the impression that being a small nation, meant cramped living villages and horrific traffic jams! I was wrong, they don’t have it here, and a traffic jam here is when your vehicle is moving slow at 30 in the speed-o-meter.

I later found out that the space they have is due to a city planning that involves building, well, buildings. They call it HDB, these are home estates here, I don’t know how many families can live in one building alone but I could imagine it could be hundreds or more. With this masterful planning they solved the housing issue, I remember we had a similar program back home, we called it the BLISS, well it looks like it was truly a bliss for it did not last long, come to think of it we should’ve continued doing it, it could solve our housing problems, were not really a big nation, lands would become an issue later on.

The housing here are ok, by that I mean, don’t not expect a condominium or a hotel accommodation, you pay the rent and utilities and you have place you can call your own, and there, you’re on your own too. The flats here are complete, I love taking hot baths and doing some work in the kitchen, you really need not to worry about anything except the rent. They have everything well taken care of, there was this morning when I just woke up and I saw a man scrubbing and washing the pathways outside. I also saw people trimming lawn grass and disinfecting the sewage [using some white mixture that smells awful]. Then you would not see these people again for some time, they’ll reappear all of a sudden, they’re a mystery to me, they’re like Santa Clause’ little workers! Most of these informal workers are Indian looking.

Transport here is easy, by train and bus [if your lazy take cab, its great way to ride but a bit pricey], all you need is a loaded card. It’s the same card you use for both. Everything is strategically located, most train stations are located inside a mall, the buses on the other hand have huge interchange stations, in almost every street corner there are very clean waiting sheds, these sheds are well lit during the night time, buses are numbered and one only needs to check the list located at waiting sheds. It’s simple enough that even a grade schooler can hop around town using it.

I prefer riding buses than traveling by train, the first Singapore tour I ever had was with these buses, with its wide clear windows you could do a lot of sightseeing, I particularly like the double decker [which remind me so much of those old open air double decker buses in Luneta], it has very cool air conditioning, it also have wide seats, they have small televisions that only shows a local news channel. I would usually go around riding buses until dusk; it’s cheap so it’s better than cabs. They’re very efficient, they have schedules that you can follow, you can expect this bus to be on time every time, that’s clock work, that’s precision!

The food here is something else, my weight is testament to what’s on a Singaporean plate. Everywhere you go there are these stalls they call “hawker”, in fact there is one right below our flat, food abound and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. For 3.50 Singaporean dollar, you could buy a big [very] bowl of noodles, a soup that back home could satisfy two people, it will also provide you with all the nutrition and energy you’ll need for the entire day! its that heavy.  Aside from the foods availability and cheapness, everything tastes good, the variety is quiet impressive as well -Indian, Chinese, Malay, Muslim Cuisine, Vegetarian etc. etc… They all taste extremely well, Chinese of course is a favorite but I also learned how to eat Indian food, like the “Prata’ with some chilly curry, I like it a lot. Here, you’ll always find a reason to be hungry.

The people here seems to live their lives in a past phase, they are all rushing to go to a bus, the mrt, around the malls, they always have reasons to move fast, they are very time conscious. As I’ve written before, the diversity is admirable, you have all kinds of people here, and all the major religions are here too, and they don’t fight with each other, there is even a street where you could find a Hindu temple sitting side by side with a Buddhist temple. The tolerance and respect here should serve as a model to all of us, they’ve proven that the religions of this world can co-exist.

There are beggars here too, but they usually play instruments or they sing, they just don’t beg, I find it odd that even their begging is regulated, they possess ID’s and most of them are dressed well. My favorite is this blind Chinese man, who plays near where our home is, he’s a maestro, he plays the electric guitar better than I did when I was in high school, he’s like Satriani out there. I usually would go visit his place but lately he’s no longer performing in his old spot, I wonder what happened.

If you love nature you’ll definitely enjoy your stay here, they have parks that serves as nature reserves, so vast that one would find it admirable how they  maintain it. Like this one park which is just a short ride away from here, Bishan, it’s a huge park, the trees are tall and old, the birds are so beautiful there, I even saw a squirrel, and they have ponds where people do fish, gardens that are teeming with greens and brightly colored flowers. I usually stroll to exercise in that park, when I’m tired I would just sit down and read books, since I brought with me only three titles, I’ve reread the books so many times already.

I would try to remember some more of my Singapore experience. This would be all for now.


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