Tag Archives: Singapore

When I Breastfed in Singapore

It’s the last day of World Breastfeeding Week, and I thought I would write about some of my experiences in breastfeeding in Singapore. I hope to support breastfeeding mothers in Singapore and to encourage those who are considering it or struggling with it.

My family and I first moved to Singapore from the Philippines in 2005.  At the time, my husband and I had in tow a 5-year-old daughter and a 5-month-old son. My son was exclusively breastfed since birth and I had every intention of continuing to breastfeed him for as long as possible.

The Blessing of Nursing Rooms in Malls and Public Areas

I was so grateful to quickly discover that many of the big malls in Singapore, especially in the Orchard Road Area, had nursing rooms. I remember that the nursing room in Paragon was quite fancy and very comfortable, and the one in Takashimaya was spacious and popular (I’d seen other moms and babies when I was there). Having easy access to nursing rooms while I was out was a huge blessing for me. I was able to breastfeed and comfort my baby in peace even while we were out window shopping.

The Challenge of Breastfeeding without Shame

My main challenge in breastfeeding then was having to do so in public places such as the trains. There were times when my baby cried inconsolably while we were on a 15-20 minute train ride to our stop. While ignoring a few anxious or disapproving stares from nearby passengers, I would put on my nursing cover and breastfeed right there. Perhaps I was lucky to have done this in an Asian country where most people would show their disapproval of a stranger’s behavior with their eyes and not with their mouths (I’ve seen videos of people in the United States shaming mothers for breastfeeding in public). Thankfully, I usually had my husband with me and his presence helped to assure me that I was doing the right thing. But with or without him around, I would have breastfed my baby in public anyway.

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It is now 2016. Especially compared to a country like the Philippines, I still don’t see many babies in Singapore. And I haven’t seen any other mother breastfeed in public, apart from those in nursing rooms. I hope that there are many mothers in Singapore who are breastfeeding their babies and toddlers, whether in the comforts of their home or in the company of strangers in a public place.  Breastfeeding is about trying to give your infant the best possible nourishment, and doing so in public is about putting your child’s needs first.

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I just did a quick search online for “breastfeeding in the train in Singapore,” and I discovered this on SMRT’s FAQ page:

For the comfort of other passengers, it is best to feed your children before entering the station. But we understand a hungry child needs to be fed, and we can make special arrangements for you within our station premises. Please approach our staff for assistance.

There is also a story in The Asian Parent of a Singaporean mother who was warned by an MRT officer to not breastfeed while in the train because she might cause a public nuisance.

I hope that breastfeeding gains more support and understanding in Singapore from mothers and their families, from the government and the rest of society.

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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.

 

 

 

 

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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InkTober Drawing Day 30: Sungei Serangoon Park Connector

Serangoon Park Connector

 

My InkTober drawing for Day 30 is a copy of a photo I took during one of my bike rides along the Sungei Serangoon Park Connector in Singapore.  My husband and I loved cycling along this park connector, a part of which was literally across our condo. It was such a convenient, scenic and fun way to cycle in Singapore.

InkTober Day 22: Rangoli for Diwali / Deepavali

Rangoli drawing

 

My InkTober drawing for day 22 is a rangoli in honor of today’s celebration of Diwali or Deepavali, the Hindu Festival of Lights. Rangolis are beautiful round or square geometrical patterns made on the floor with colored chalk, powder or sand, rice grains and sometimes petals. They are usually made at the entrances to houses as decorations for the festive season and to usher in good fortune by welcoming Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity.

I learned a little bit about Diwali while my family lived in Singapore (more commonly known there as Deepavali), as it is a major holiday there. I remember how Little India would be so brightly and beautifully decorated and lit up at night. Shops would be filled with flower garlands, sweets and gifts for shoppers preparing for the festival.

This drawing was made with a Kuretake ZIG Cartoonist Mangaka pen and Akashiya Fude SAI Japanese Traditional Colors brush pens.

InkTober Day 5 and 6: Matryoshka Baju Kurung

Matryoshka Hari Raya HajiI’m cheating a little bit today.  I made two drawings today to catch up with my InkTober promise. For my InkTober drawings for Day 5 and 6, I decided to try drawing a matryoshka version of a Muslim Malay girl and a Muslim Malay boy celebrating Hari Raya Haji in Singapore. Yesterday, October 5, Muslims all over the world celebrated Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice. It is to honor the Prophet Ibrahim’s (Abraham’s) willingness to sacrifice his own son to God as an act of submission.

I remember how it was one of two major Muslim holidays in Singapore, and it was called Hari Raya Haji. I remember seeing Muslim families going around for their traditional family visits. I remember seeing Malay Muslim families dressed up in traditional costume, the baju kurung, of the same color, usually in shades of green, red or yellow. It was always nice to see families happily celebrating together.

This drawing was made with Kuretake ZIG Drawing Pen 0.1 in black and Akashiya Fude Sai Japanese Traditional Colors pens.

Inspire Monday: Art and Autism with Stephen Wiltshire

How I wish I was there, among the crowd in Paragon on Orchard Road, Singapore, watching British architectural artist Stephen Wiltshire do his magic. On July 16 to 20, he made a panoramic drawing of the Singapore skyline on a four-meter by one-meter canvas. From the articles and videos posted online, I could see that his drawing was, as expected, spectacular. But wouldn’t it have been so much more special to see the artist at work?

I first heard about Stephen in 2013 when I saw this video on YouTube.

Since then, I’ve become a fan. His art is amazing. His talent is jaw-dropping. And his story is inspiring to us all, not just to families with autism. For those of us who can, let us enable others’ talents to shine and to help make our world better and more beautiful. For those of us who may be facing challenges, physical or otherwise, to pursuing our passions and dreams, we should listen to Stephen’s wise words. “Do the best you can, and never stop.”

 

Her Hidden Depression

Sad WomanA year ago today, my children and I were on vacation in Singapore. A year ago today, we had spent the whole day in a dear friend’s house. As luck would have it, although our families had both moved out of Singapore the year before, both of our families were also back in Singapore on vacation at the same time. Perfect opportunity for a reunion.

My friend had just had a baby girl, her third child, a few months before. I met her little angel for the first time and carried her in my arms. My friend said her baby wasn’t colicky, wasn’t difficult. She said that, after having repatriated, her family was enjoying being closer to family again. The only hard part was that her husband was still working in Singapore, and would just go home to visit them as often as he could, perhaps once every month or two.  They weren’t sure how long that arrangement would last, but they were doing their best to make it work.

It was a lovely day. Mommies chatting away, teenage daughters hanging out, young sons running around and playing with toys. We were a bit sad to say goodbye at the end, but were hopeful of seeing each other again.  Maybe a day at the park next time, next year.

That day, a year ago, my friend was her usual self – calm, generous and happy. She looked and sounded like her usual self that I had come to know in the last two years. Which is why I was in complete shock and denial when I heard just two months later that she had committed suicide because of severe postpartum depression. Was she already experiencing it when I saw her that day? Were there signs that I had missed? If it had started only after we saw each other, how can this illness go bad so quickly that in less than two months, she was gone?

I learned the painful way that depression is a very frightening thing. It can hide; it can deceive. I still ask myself if I had missed anything, if anyone else could have seen it coming.

Today, I remember how my friend was a year ago, how our day was a year ago. It was a good day, a happy day. And I still don’t understand how it all went horribly wrong afterwards.

 

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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.