Singapore, Still Second Home to this Filipino
Two years ago, on May 1, 2012, my family said farewell to Singapore as our country of residence and moved back to the Philippines. We lived in Singapore for a few months shy of seven years. It is my second home, dear to my heart.
I recently learned about all the online talk against the planned June 8 independence day celebration being organized by the Pilipino Independence Day Council Singapore (PDICS). I read how some Singaporeans wrote angry and insulting remarks against Filipinos on The Real Singapore’s Facebook page. I read Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s reaction on his Facebook page: “I was appalled to read about those who harassed the organisers of the Philippine Independence Day celebrations, and spammed their Facebook page. They are a disgrace to Singapore….We must show that we are generous of spirit and welcome visitors into our midst, even as we manage the foreign population here. Otherwise we will lower our standing in the eyes of the world, and have every reason to be ashamed of ourselves.” Although there were many who agreed with him and supported his stance, other Singaporeans posted to express their disapproval of the Prime Minster and of his policies regarding foreigners, or to simply show their hatred of Filipinos.
I felt disheartened. Singapore is a very special place to me, yet here I am reading about Singaporeans hating Filipinos like me.
Thankfully, I found articles written by Singaporeans Kirsten Han, Bertha Henson and Ng Yi-Sheng. Kirsten Han talked about how it’s not okay to call another group of people “scum” or “vermin.” Bertha Henson blogged about how she thinks that the arguments against Filipinos holding their own day at Ngee Ann City in Orchard Road are narrow-minded. Ng Yi-Sheng listed down names of Filipinos who have contributed to Singapore society.
I am reminded of my Singaporean friends who remain dear to me, and vice-versa. I am reminded of the many times Singaporean strangers were kind and friendly to my family and to me. I remember all the good experiences and happy memories from living in Singapore.
While it may be a sad truth that there are racist or xenophobic individuals and sentiments in almost every country, I believe that there are always open-minded and open-hearted people who do not judge individuals or groups by their skin color or nationalities. There may always be some Singaporeans who believe that Filipinos or other foreign nationalities have no place in Singapore. However, I choose to think of my dear friends and kind neighbors, the friendly Fair Price cashiers and kopitiam uncles, my daughter’s generous and talented dance teacher Jacky and our community librarian Madam Azizah. They are some of the many Singaporeans who have welcomed my family into their Singapore community.
I am grateful for the opportunity to have lived in Singapore, to make new friends, to see new places and gain new and enriching experiences. I am glad that despite all this recent talk of anti-Filipino and anti-foreigner sentiment, I can still think of Singapore as my second home.