Category Archives: Traveling

Domestic and international travels and explorations

Unresolved Grief: The Hidden Burden of Expat Life

Please don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for the many good things that have come with expat family living and with being globally mobile. Within the last 16 years, my family has expatriated, repatriated, and expatriated again. During these years, we’ve been blessed to have friends from different countries and cultures, holidays in different countries, comforts and privileges in daily living. Moving across countries has made our family closer, our friendships deeper and our adventures more colorful.

Intermittently within the last few years though, beginning when my family repatriated in 2012, I’ve been feeling what was an unexplainable sadness and bewilderment. From that time, it took me about three years to finally feel settled again in the Philippines, and I wrote about my experience in a post last year entitled “My Unexpected Journey of Repatriation.”

After four years of being back in the Philippines, come mid-2016, we moved back to Singapore where we first expatriated in 2005. Many of my friends and family thought that it would be much easier this time around since we were moving to a familiar place. Sure, in some ways, it has been easy moving back to Singapore. But that sadness and bewilderment still nags at me sometimes.

In library@orchard a few months ago, I stumbled upon a book by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken entitled “Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds.”  I started reading it, thinking that it’s about what my children may be going through as they are growing up across cultures.

Third Culture Kids book

Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background. (p.13)

As I read on, I realized that I wasn’t only learning about what my children may have been experiencing, but I was also discovering words for the darker side of my own “third culture” experience.

Unresolved grief. This term hit me hard. My occasional feelings of isolation, confusion and guilt were finally given a name. And with the name came an acknowledgement and a sort of permission, as if the authors were telling me that it was ok to admit my on and off lack of confidence, sense of loss and reluctance to get on with this new life.

…it’s not hard to see why repeated cycles of mobility can lead to repetitive losses and the normal, ensuing grief those losses generate. It’s not hard to imagine that changing cultures and cultural rules can make it more difficult or take longer to go through the transition phase to the true entry and reinvolvement stages. (p. 74)

Lack of permission to grieve. When my family and I were in the process of leaving Singapore  in 2012, I didn’t want to talk about the things I would miss. I didn’t want to seem unsupportive of the choice my husband and I had made together. I wanted my family and friends to see that I was fully on board, that I was ready and excited to come home.

When we moved back to the Philippines, the experience of reverse culture shock caught me off guard. I had gotten so used to my old life in Singapore that I couldn’t help but compare it to my new life back in the Philippines. However, I didn’t want to sound like what Filipinos call the “Ugly Balikbayan,” someone who keeps complaining about the bad or difficult realities in the Philippines and comparing them to the better or easier realities in another, usually a First World, country. I didn’t want to sound arrogant and ungrateful. I had to try to stop complaining about standstill traffic, inefficient service, slow internet, etc. I had to suck it up and stand by my choice to be there.

I couldn’t show any grief to friends and relatives who have known me for a long time. I didn’t want them thinking that I had changed into a completely different person after having lived abroad, that I’d become a snobby former expat or a snooty world traveler. I was afraid to be judged for the lifestyle I had grown accustomed to. I knew that I had changed, as people change through the course of life, but it became somewhat of a dark secret, something I could only share with those who went through a similar journey of transition and mobility.

Denying grief. This has meant a denial of my own grief, as I hid it from family and friends as much as possible. Those close to me knew how much I missed Singapore when we left in 2012. When they learned that I was moving back to Singapore this year, they all congratulated me and talked about how ecstatic I must be to move back. Most of the time, I had to say, “Yes, sure I am!” I couldn’t admit that I was having mixed feelings – that while I was excited about many things in Singapore, I was also going to miss many parts of my life in the Philippines. I was afraid that they would think or say, “But you loved Singapore so much? That you couldn’t wait to go back to your life there?” And I believed that. I thought that after my grief over leaving Singapore, why should I feel any grief going back? Why shouldn’t I be jumping for joy, as many might have expected?  I didn’t understand myself. I didn’t make sense to me.

In the three times my family has moved countries, I’ve always felt that I should be strong and positive in front of my children and that I should set an example of how we can go through transition with as little grief as possible. (I had failed three times recently when I cried while saying goodbye to my mother, to our family helper and to our dog.) During our recent move, I especially wanted to be encouraging to my children since I know that they didn’t want to move this time around. I never denied their grief, and my husband and I broke the news about the move to our children several months in advance to give them time to process and to grieve, to bond with their friends and to prepare to say goodbye. In the months before and after our recent move, I’ve been hiding my sadness and confusion from my children. I want to be strong and steady, to be the capable and positive mother who will do whatever it takes for her family to be happy and healthy. I want them to see and to believe that we are in a good place and that we made the right decision to move.

What I realized recently is that when I deny my own grief, I am setting myself and my family up for unrealistic expectations and deep disappointments. Saying that it’s all good, even when there are bad or sad times, is a denial that can hurt us in many ways and leave us lost or grieving for a long time.

Long Travel

It has been a little over three months since our recent move. In some ways, it has been easy. In other ways, it has been hard. Learning about this unresolved grief that is affecting my family has been helpful. I’ve learned not to rush my children into making new friends and getting into activities. I’ve learned to give them time and space to be alone, to be sad, and to miss their friends and routines in the Philippines. I’ve learned that we are all still in transition, and the journey is different for each one of us. Some of us may embrace this new life sooner than later. Some of us may be grieving longer than others. And we need to respect each other’s journey and support one another through it.

I am learning to allow myself to sometimes be sad, to feel confused and insecure. In any journey of transition, grief has its place. It is not wrong; it is not bad. I believe that grief needs to be accepted, expressed and allowed its due course. Writing this blog post is one way that I am facing my grief. Perhaps this will help me (and anyone reading this) gain a better understanding on how to deal with this darker side, this unexpected burden of repeated losses and unresolved grief that comes with expat life and cross-cultural mobility.

 

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Lessons from My First Day as an Expat

Into the Airport LightToday marks the 10-year-anniversary of a life-changing day.  On 23 August 2005, my husband, our two children and I flew to Singapore from Manila to start a new chapter in our lives. It was our first day as foreigners making a life in another country. When we decided to make the move months before, my husband and I thought that it would be a short-but-sweet two-year adventure. We would enjoy living as expats (some would say immigrants), save money, and after about two years, repatriate to Manila. Our supposed two-year stint ended up being a seven-year life in Singapore.

I remember that day ten years ago vividly. As I look back now, I realize a few things I learned that day.

1. When I have my family with me, I can brave a whole new world, or almost anything, really.

That day ten years ago, I was to set foot in Singapore for the first time and with a one-way ticket. Unlike my husband who has had several business trips before then, our children and I were going to see Singapore for the first time. And we weren’t going as tourists; we were going there to move.

Though we were moving to Singapore which had the same climate and time zone as Manila, it was still a foreign land to me. I had my worries about living abroad for the first time. The fact that I had two very young children in tow, our five-year-old daughter and five-month-old son, compounded my worries. Still, because I had my husband and children with me, I found the guts to go with it, believe that it will all work out and enjoy the adventure.

2. Babies cry. It’s natural. I shouldn’t feel guilty about it. People will understand and move on (unless they think they were never babies).

It was to be our first flight out of the Philippines as a family. It was my first time to fly via Singapore Airlines, and I was excited to experience its world-class service and amenities. However, it was to be my five-month-old son’s first time flying, and it was going to be for three and a half hours. Hence my anxiety.

Unfortunately, my fear came true. My son cried for what seemed like the first and last half-hours of the flight, around take-off and landing, leaving about two and a half hours of peace for myself, my family and the other passengers within hearing range. I was mortified. Despite my repeated attempts to nurse him or cuddle him to sleep, he just kept crying. I felt bad for my son who was obviously in much discomfort, and I felt guilty about disturbing the other passengers.

Some of the passengers were probably annoyed, but I’m pretty sure that our flight experience didn’t leave them traumatized. All of them would get back on a plane again. Travel goes on; life goes on. I have gotten over my misplaced remorse and realized that these things come with the territory of traveling on a plane that isn’t your own private jet.

3. While I am excitedly heading to a new adventure, I am leaving behind supportive but sad friends and family.

It’s a common Filipino tradition for relatives and friends to accompany loved ones to the airport, especially when they will be away for a prolonged period. In our case, my parents and my husband’s sister brought us to the airport to see us off. One can imagine how that went, especially with my parents saying goodbye to their grandchildren. What I didn’t expect was how I would end up in tears as I hugged my mother goodbye. And I learned afterwards that my husband’s sister, who didn’t have immediate family with her anymore in Manila when we moved away, suddenly felt so alone after we left.

While my husband and I were planning for our move, our relatives and friends were right there with us, helping us when they could and being excited with us. While we were busy getting to know our new home, they were missing us in our old home. I realized the importance of showing appreciation for the loved ones we leave behind by staying connected with them.

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Remembering that fateful day ten years ago brings back vivid memories and varied emotions. I look back fondly and introspectively on a day that marked the beginning of new adventures, new lessons, new friendships and new dreams. And I am forever grateful for that day.

(Three years ago, my family and I left Singapore and have since been living as repatriates.)

 

 

 

 

 

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My Unexpected Journey of Repatriation

It’s been three years (and five days, to be exact) since my family and I moved from Singapore and back to Manila, Philippines. It’s been quite an unexpected journey of repatriation, and has taken me longer than anticipated to adjust to being back home. I’ve learned the ups and downs of repatriating and discovered some things about myself.

Going back home doesn’t mean going back to how it all was.

My family and I lived in Singapore for almost seven years. We visited Manila every year at Christmas time. We spent time with relatives and friends while we were here on holiday. We went to new and old malls, ate in new and old restaurants, drove in the familiar Manila traffic.

Visiting my old home from abroad is one thing. It’s all fun and hectic with plans of going about, seeing friends and family and shopping for stuff to bring back. Settling into life here again after being settled in a life abroad isn’t simply slipping into the life I left behind. I was shocked to feel displaced in my own country, in the city where I grew up as a kid. Sure, there were familiar places and faces, but I felt quite disconnected from them. For my friends and relatives in Manila, life was going on as usual with their families, careers, households, hobbies, etc. For me, it was this feeling of being a stranger in my own country and of having to start a new life in an old place.

You can’t recreate your former life; you have to let go, be open and start anew.

I knew that I didn’t want to be that “ugly repatriate” who always compared her comfortable life in a First World country to her “more challenging” life in this Third World country. I couldn’t complain to my friends about how I hated driving in Manila traffic and would rather be taking the MRT in Singapore. I couldn’t talk about how wish I could just drop my bank check into a deposit box here, like how I did it in Singapore. I didn’t want to sound like a snob who was forced to move back to Manila from abroad. Together with my husband, I did make this choice. And I still believe it was made for good reasons.

During my first year of being back in Manila, I did cling to some old habits, like using QV Body Wash and drinking Dilmah English Breakfast Tea. Admittedly, until now, I still eat the same St. Dalfour Strawberry Preserve that I discovered in Singapore and still put the same NuZeaBee Pure New Zealand honey in my breakfast tea. And at home sometimes, I still hear myself playfully saying, “No lah.”

Slowly, I learned to let go of these little things, these little habits that reminded me of my life in Singapore. I made more and more conscious choices to embrace the good things around me here in Manila. Though I still enjoy my breakfast tea with milk and honey, I discovered the yummy goodness of Barako coffee from Batangas. I’ve stopped asking people to bring me back some QV Body Wash from Singapore, since there are several good, hypoallergenic, affordable brands available here. These were small changes, but for me, they were about making new daily routines.

Living abroad makes your world small and your heart restless.

I am eternally grateful that living abroad has given me the gifts of travel and adventure, and the blessing of dear friends around the world. Until I was in my 20s, I never imagined living outside the Philippines, let alone having close friends in places like Singapore, the UK, and Finland. Now, these places don’t feel that far nor exotic. And people of other races and cultures are not that distant nor different.

But living abroad and experiencing life in a home away from home has made me restless. I still dream of a next family adventure. I can’t say where I will be in five years. I don’t know where I want to grow old (maybe in the same continent as my children, but who knows?). When I just moved back to Manila, I remember how my friends asked me if I was back for good. I would answer, “For good, for now.”

It’s been three years since I repatriated to the Philippines. It wasn’t easy feeling displaced, disconnected and discontent. But now, I’m settled and content with my life here. My children are reconnecting and deepening relationships with family and friends. We are getting to know the country of our birth. Slowly, we are fulfilling our purpose for moving back.

Until the next adventure anyway.

 

 

 

 

Tokyo Impressions #1: Crowded and Busy

Three weeks ago, my family and I visited Tokyo, and we had a week to get to know a little bit about this metropolis. This trip was my kids’ first time in Japan,  second time for my husband and me. (Hubby and I spent a few days in Kyoto two years ago, and we had a lovely time.)

Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, Japan

Downtown Tokyo is very crowded and busy.

From Narita airport, we took the Narita Express train to Shibuya, where we were going to stay on our first night. Wow, as soon as we stepped out of the Hachiko exit of Shibuya station, we were immediately welcomed to Tokyo by a bustling crowd and bright neon lights! We were surprised to find ourselves, together with a crowd of Japanese locals and some foreign tourists, joining the pedestrian scramble on the famous Shibuya Crossing. It was a bit challenging to make our way among the crowd while pulling our wheeled luggages and without getting separated from each other.  But, hey, we made it!

Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, Japan

 

Pushing in the trains during rush hour is normal.

Granting that, in my 7 years of living in Singapore, I took the train during off-peak periods more often than during peak periods, I had never experienced being pushed into a train. One rush-hour evening in Tokyo, my kids and I were in a queue to ride the train home. There were many people on the platform, so we were bracing ourselves for a fairly crowded train ride. What we didn’t expect was to be pushed by rushing passengers from the platform and into the train. We didn’t even have to make any effort to move. I noticed a young man desperately pushing his way out of the train as the throng of passengers kept trying to squeeze themselves into the packed train car before the doors closed. Thankfully, he made it out without incident.

We took many more train rides during our Tokyo holiday, and none were nearly as crowded as that. I’m guessing we were lucky to have taken the trains more often during off-peak hours, avoiding the packed train platforms and pushing passengers.

Local train in Tokyo, Japan

Having been back in Manila for almost 3 years now where I drive to get around, I am no longer used to the busy nature of commuting via public transportation. And unless absolutely necessary, I avoid crowds. This experience of the bustling sidewalks and trains almost felt like new and was a good introduction to life in Tokyo.

 

 

Rest in Peace, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew

#RIP Lee Kuan YewI don’t know much about him – his personal life, how he started his political career, how he became a giant among leaders in Asia. I do know his name, and I have lived amidst and grown to love many things about his legacy – the success story of Singapore. And today, with the people of Singapore and their friends and allies all over the world, I pay my respects to Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, the man who made Singapore what it is today.

I am Filipino, and I grew up in the Philippines. It is my first home; it is where most of my family are. It’s far from perfect, but if you open your heart to it, the Philippines has many treasures to behold, including the warmth, resilience and creativity of its people and the natural beauty of its mountains, islands and waters. I’ve been living in the Philippines again for almost three years, and I am getting reacquainted with it – the good, the bad and everything in between.

My family and I lived in Singapore for almost seven years. I adjusted to life there so well that I call it my second home. It is a place close to my heart because I have very good friends there, some of whom are friends for life. Apart from the many good people I met there, the conveniences of being in such an efficient, clean, safe and well-planned place made Singapore very appealing. Especially that we had very young children when we moved there, I was very thankful for the safe, clean, multi-cultural environment that my children were growing up in. We enjoyed the beautiful public libraries, the lush and colorful public parks, the interesting museums and galleries and the many public events showcasing art, music and culture. We were fortunate enough to meet and become friends with people from different backgrounds. We learned about different cultures and religions. Thanks to the ease of travel in and out of Singapore, we were able to explore many other parts of Southeast Asia. Our world became bigger, our experiences richer.

With my limited knowledge of the political history and workings of Singapore, I do believe that these First World benefits are here for us now because of the hard work, commitment and vision of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.

On this day of your passing, I tip my hat to you, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. Indeed, as you said, there’s nothing more that you need to do. Rest in peace, LKY.

 

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Happy 30th Anniversary, Monterey Bay Aquarium!

Yesterday, 20 October 2014, Monterey Bay Aquarium celebrated its 30th Anniversary.

My family and I are fortunate to have had the chance to visit Monterey Bay Aquarium twice, the first time in June 2011 and the second time in March of this year.  This year’s visit was extra special since my son celebrated his 9th birthday in Monterey Bay Aquarium.

It was unfortunate that my son’s birthday this year fell on a Monday, and their shark tours are conducted on Wednesdays and Saturdays. (My son loves sharks! One day, we will do that shark tour!)  Still, I was hoping that my son would have a little treat since it was his birthday. When I informed the nice ladies at the front desk of this, they gave him a Happy Birthday button to wear. He wrote his name on it and wore it on his jacket the whole day.  And thanks to this button, every aquarium staff he encountered that day greeted him a Happy Birthday!  (Thanks for that, Monterey Bay Aquarium!)

There were many things we enjoyed in this world-class aquarium. We loved the walk-through tunnel in the wave crash exhibit!  My kids kept wanting to waiting for the wave to “crash” above their heads. In the Rocky Shore exhibit, it was fascinating and a bit frightening to be so close and almost touch the rays. And in our recent visit, we got to see an egg case in the tide pools, and we saw the shark embryo moving inside! Since my son loves sharks, we watched a short presentation in the auditorium called Project White Shark where we were entertained as we learned about white sharks and about the aquarium’s shark conservation efforts.

One of my favorite moments from our recent trip was at the Kelp Forest exhibit.  We watched one of the afternoon feeding sessions and were treated to a surprise appearance by a very friendly, attention-loving wolf eel. As the diver was feeding the many fishes in the aquarium and talking to the audience, the wolf-eel just swam up close to him and happily posed for our eager cameras.

Of course, no trip to Monterey Bay Aquarium would be complete without seeing the breathtaking view of the bay from the amphitheater. With clear blue skies on a cool spring afternoon, it was a perfect way to end our day. And that view of Monterey Bay remains to be one of my all-time favorites.

I’m really hoping that the next time my family goes back to Monterey Bay Aquarium, we can do the shark tour and maybe the sleepover too.  And I would love to see a whale or two swimming in the bay!

Happy 30th Anniversary, Monterey Bay Aquarium!  Thank you for all that you do to help save our oceans and seas, and thank you for giving people like us a chance to come close to their beauty and majesty.

 

Corregidor: Remembering the Fight for Philippine Independence

Today, 12 June 2014, is the 116th Anniversary of the Philippine Declaration of Independence. On this occasion, I remember a field trip two years ago to the historic island of Corregidor in Manila Bay. My kids and I joined the students and teachers of Bright Young Minds Learning Center in a hands-on history lesson that also became a fun day out.

I am Filipino, and I have lived in the Philippines for most of my life. But this trip in 2012 is the first time I went to Corregidor. I’m glad that my children were able to experience Corregidor in their youth and only a few months after we had moved back to the Philippines from Singapore.

We took a one-hour ferry ride from Manila Bay to the island. On the island, we moved from place to place on a tram (which is especially great considering the heat and humidity). We saw old barracks and artillery. We went up an old lighthouse. We saw many memorials for the many who died in war, e.g. the Pacific War Memorial, various memorials for fallen Filipino, American and Japanese soldiers, the memorial for the Filipino Woman. We walked through the Malinta Tunnel, and watched audio-visual presentations of the history of Corregidor, including how the American and Filipino soldiers lived and died in the tunnel. Our tour ended in the museum, where we saw war memorabilia, including guns and other weapons, plane models, coins, letters and photos.

To relax after a half-day tour, we had a picnic lunch by the beach. Thankfully, there were enough sun and sea breeze to make it a fun and pleasant way to end our day in Corregidor.

My children and I might not remember the dates, names and details of our Corregidor tour. But we do remember that the Philippines wasn’t always a free country.  We remember that war is a terrible thing that ravages lives and nature. We remember that our freedom is something Filipinos and our allies have fought and died for.

 

 

Entertained by Justin Ward

Justin Ward in Union Square, SFThere are many good musicians out there, but I am particularly impressed and inspired by buskers. When I see and hear a talented musician busking, working hard and sharing his passion with anyone who will listen, I can’t help but appreciate, cheer him on and hope that he gets the breaks he needs to succeed.

Last March, while I was on holiday in the United States with my family, I discovered the cool music of saxophone player Justin Ward. My daughter and I were standing outside Macy’s Union Square in San Francisco, waiting for my husband and son who went to grab some ice cream. A young man was right outside the entrance, his back to Union Square, playing music on a saxophone. He caught my attention as soon as I realized he was playing “Let It Go” from the Disney movie Frozen. (At that time, the song and the movie were at the height of popularity, especially with my nieces.)

Together with about a dozen or more people, I stood there and enjoyed the free entertainment. I asked my daughter to put some money in his instrument case and get a name card. And that’s how I learned that the name of this talented young musician was Justin Ward.

I checked out this YouTube channel and found his jazzy rendition of Zedd’s “Clarity.” How I wish I had heard him play this too.

 

Jedi Training Academy in Disneyland Park

Today, I write in honor of Star Wars Day. I enjoy watching all six movies (and I will watch Episode VII). I’ve seen several episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I’ve read a few books.  I love the iconic music. However, my favorite Star Wars experience happened in Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California in 2011.

Jedi Training AcademyIt was our first time in Disneyland Park, and we discovered that there was something called the Jedi Training Academy. They had several sessions throughout the day, so we queued up for one.  It was full to the brim with kids and parents! For about half an hour, we saw several kids randomly selected from the audience dressed up as Padawan and were taught to wield lightsabers.  It was so cool!  My son, who was six years old then, wanted to try it.  We decided to come back the next day and try our luck.

Jedi Training AcademyOn our next day in Disneyland Park, we chose a Jedi training session and queued up extra early. That got us in a spot close enough to the front. When it was time for the Jedi Master to select the Padawans, all the kids started jumping up and down, raising their hands and calling, “Pick me! Pick me!”  Luckily, my son was one of the chosen ones!

I was so excited seeing him and the other kids wear the brown robes, take the Jedi Oath and train to use lightsabers. After the training, it was time to face villains from the dark side of the Force.

Everyone, adults and kids alike, got so excited when Darth Maul showed up! He demonstrated his killer moves with his double-bladed light saber. Then, the Imperial March plays, and Darth Vader appears!  So cool!

Darth Maul It was time for the kids to practice what they’ve learned. They were divided into two groups: one would line up to individually fight against Darth Maul, the other group lined up against Darth Vader.  My son went to the group what would fight Darth Vader. When it was his turn to fight, what made it extra cool was that he was taught by the Jedi Master to use a Force push against Darth Vader, and a double Force push against two stormtroopers! Everyone was cheering after that!

At the end of the training, all of the children were given certificates from the Jedi Training Academy, stating that they are now Padawan.

The Jedi Training Academy was such a fun Star Wars experience, not just for the kids, but for the adults too. The kids got to act out being Jedi in training, and the adults got to cheer them on as they battled the forces of evil. All in the comforts of Disneyland.

May the 4th be with you.

Singapore, Still Second Home to this Filipino

Singapore HeartlandsTwo 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.

Xenophobia Rears Its Ugly Head in Singapore Once More (Kirsten Han, Yahoo Singapore)

The Flip Side of the Filipino Day (Bertha Henson, berthahenson.wordpress.com)

The Filipinos Who Made Singapore, Singapore (Ng Yi-Sheng, theonlinecitizen.com)

Punggol WaterwayI 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.