Pasalubong (Insights from Singapore)

The bigger picture. Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.

After travelling, it’s not uncommon for Filipinos to come back home feeling slightly heavy — in weight, clothes, but most especially in heart.

We traverse upon alternate realities while marveling at the wonders abroad. But usually what accompanies an exposure of the world is the expectation and/or disappointment of home, tinted in every gripping shade of contrast.  You love the Philippines but oh, the #ThirdWorldProblems. <— Then insert “I hate our airport rant.”

But the comparison can go both ways: What We Have versus What We Don’t. Which insight would you choose to bring home as pasalubong (gift)?

Last May 11-23, I was visiting my sister in Singapore for almost two weeks. The last time I stepped out of the country was in 2008 for a THIMUN conference in Hague. So, I was definitely looking forward to the change of scenery.

No cute boys in Singapore? Hmm. Here’s proof haha! Abercrombie and Fitch, Singapore.

Prior to the trip, friends and family gave me different commentaries about Singapore. “Go easy on the shopping!” “It’s expensive there!” It’s so boring!” “There are no cute boys in Singapore” (my pop’s words, not mine fyi.)

After experiencing it for myself, I found Singapore to be quite ironic. It’s commendable how it makes up for what it lacks.

Reflections in the sky. Singapore skyline.

Luscious greenery. Botanic Gardens, Singapore.

People know Singapore to be incredibly man-made, from the consumerville streets of Orchard Road to the industrious skylines and savvy technological aesthetic of Marina Bay Sands.

Yet, it’s a smart city with so much green infrastructure. I enjoy taking a stroll, by the overpasses decorated with purple flowers, or in the other green spaces juxtaposing the upscale pavement.

Compared to its Asian neighbors, the young city has less history. However, it knows how to brand its culture well.

Buddhist Temple. China Town.

Singapore, the cosmopolitan city.

While Filipinos nitpick about being mixed, the Singaporeans of Malaysian, Chinese and Indian descent co-exist without difficulty — especially in Hawker stalls filled with their delicious delicacies! There are Muslim mosques in China Town and Buddhist temples in Little India.

Throughout my stay, the fact that Singapore imports a lot of its labor force consistently came up in conversation. Since it’s a city with little natural resources, it makes sense how they invest heavily on human capital.

Ever wonder why Singapore is so competitive? Perhaps it’s not only because they want the best, but need it in order to boost their Tiger economy.

Now, how about the Philippines?

Visual art everywhere in Singapore! Posing with my sister and her boyfriend.

Unlike Singapore, we have both the human and natural resources and a history rich with culture to be proud of. To be worn like battle scars of antiquity and vestiges of honor.

My trip reaffirmed my belief that we’re living in a creative economy where the process of creative insight is starting to be interjected into the black and white industries.

First, to provide alternative solutions to age old problems and second, to keep up with the digital age we’re living in. Personally, I believe that’s the driving force behind the Steve Jobs revolution and is key to uplifting the Philippines in the future.

Since arriving home from Singapore, a place where the arts are appreciated, the nagging thought in my head was how naturally creative Filipinos are. It’s a talent we take for granted and a skill that the rest of the world pays a high premium for.

Feminists in Singapore! With Reg Guevarra in China Town, Singapore.

Comparing and contrasting the Philippines and other countries with constructive criticism is what Reg Guevarra, my fellow pinay  and batchmate from Ateneo, and I constantly try to do. She interns with several NGO’s and is currently based in Singapore.

After one of our conversations she shares her pinoy pride on Facebook.

She meets “human rights activists who explicitly say that they draw inspiration from the civil society of the Philippines… while we may be apolitical many times, take pride in the fact that we are ahead than our neighbors in many freedoms.”

Aside from corruption and poverty, which characterizes many other third world countries, we mused about the lack of other problems in the Philippines such as refugees. (She mentioned some more, but they escape me as I write this.)

Of course the blatant difference between Singapore and the Philippines is worlds apart — first and third respectively. It’s easier said than done when you have money, eh?

But for those who have the luxury to travel, remember that pasalubong is always the act of giving without compensation. What are you bringing back home?

What do you bring back home?

Note: Since I did not have time to really get to know Singapore more, please feel free to comment on any other observations  that I might have missed. : ) Entries on the more toursity parts of my trip coming up next!

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