Some Letter from Singapore

December 21, 2008

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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