I know I should not but every now and then (especially on one of those days I do not feel so good) I still wonder what my life would be like now if only I had boarded a plane to Singapore before the borders closed last year. Would I be happily married? Would Sophia (and I) have adjusted well already? What would I be doing?
I remember my first out of the country trip in April 2006 to Singapore with family. I needed to fly alone because in my previous job, employees were not allowed to miss first day of the month townhall meetings (I was really just pretending to politely listen, but whatever). I came back in July 2011 for a life insurance congress. Then again July 2018 to market real estate properties in Manila.
When I was with my ex fiancé, I was in Singapore ten times from October 2018 to November 2019. It became my second home. What do I like best about the place?
1. Organized transportation system. Since I do not drive (and even if I do, maintaining a car is very expensive there) I find it very convenient to travel around the city-state. Except for a few missed bus stops due to my bad eyes, I have not had any problems going places. The train and bus schedules are strictly followed and the EZ-link card is very handy. Which reminds me I still had some 30 dollars load in mine which I left in Rainforest.
2. Fast internet bandwidth. It is fun not to have to wait hours to download a movie, or restart the router because the computer suddenly stopped working, or not have to settle for a voice call instead of video.
3. Cheap and clean hawkers within walking distance everywhere! My favorite, of course, are the one dollar parathas with curry! I could have them for breakfast every day!
4. Safe pedestrian and bike lanes. I used to walk a lot when I visit. One time when I did not have any meetings and offered to pick my ex up from work, I attempted to walk 6.5 km, approximately 1.5 hours and I would have made it if it did not rain! I imagine if we did move there, I will get a bike with a cute wicker basket in front, after I get my eyes fixed, of course.
5. Honest and hard-working citizens. Back when grab and uber were not in business yet (and I was young and hesitant to take public transportation with a big luggage), I took a cab from the airport to my uncle or cousin’s place and the drivers would give me the exact change, up to the last cent! Very refreshing!
6. Fun parks. It is amazing how there are parks everywhere. Living in Manila for 20 years now, I cannot imagine how it could be transformed into something more like Singapore with trees and grasses all around.
7. Good governance. I am not going to compare (otherwise I would have said better governance) but let me just emphasize how impressed I am by the way their government handled the pandemic. Again, not to compare but I could not help but wish the Philippines would somehow keep up.
This is not an official history. It is the story of the Singapore I grew up in, the placid years of British colonial rule, the shock of war, the cruel years of Japanese occupation, communist insurrection and terrorism against the returning British, communal riots and intimidation during Malaysia, and the perils of independence. This book deals with the early years which ended with our sudden independence in 1965. My next book will describe the long, hard climb over the next 25 years from poverty to prosperity.
Many, not born or too young when I took office in 1959, do not know how a small country with no natural resources was cut off from its natural hinterland and had to survive in a tough world of nationalistic new states in Southeast Asia. They take it as quite normal in less than 40 years the World Bank has reclassified Singapore from a less developed to a developed country.
For my cabinet colleagues and me, our families were at the heart of our team efforts to build a nation from scratch. We wanted a Singapore that our children and those of our fellow citizens would be proud of, a Singapore that would offer all citizens equal and ample opportunities for a fulfilling future. It was this drive in an immigrant Asian society that spurred us on to fight and win against all odds.Lee Kuan Yew – The Singapore Story (Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew
8. Cozy Lucky Plaza. In my trip last July 2018, I had a meeting in Vivo City and I took a walk alone after. It was beautiful and peaceful and calm and I can see the lights reflected on the water and the cable cars contrasting prettily with the white fluffy clouds against the blue sky. I was probably on my second week and my first trip out of Manila after 7 years. I looked at the boats by the dock and I was surprised when I felt a few tears rolling down my cheeks. I suddenly felt so homesick. I thought of my daughter and how nice it would be if I could show her a different (very subjective but maybe better) place, culture and way of life. I do not feel lonely at all when I go to Orchard and Lucky Plaza. It feels just like home, with all the Filipinos around. At that moment, I could not help but feel grateful that I do not have to work in a foreign country and leave my daughter at home. My heart breaks for all the brave, patient and hard-working OFWs. I cannot imagine the pain you must feel being away from your family.
9. Spacious apartments and houses. Coming from Manila, where a family of 4 squeezing in a tiny 24 sqm condo is the norm, it is very refreshing to live in an apartment with so much space! A master’s bedroom is as big as my entire house here!
10. All the bittersweet memories. I can make an entire post about this. 10 bittersweet memories I will forever cherish and link it here. (Added 22 Aug: Happy 52nd birthday)
Two years ago, the idea of moving to another country frightened (what will I do?) and annoyed (why do I have to be the one to adjust?) me. On hindsight (with the current situation), it would have been better for me and my daughter. The small city-state is a safe and convenient place to live, albeit expensive but I’m sure I would have found a way somehow.
This pandemic sure is making me think about the future (a very uncertain one at that) in a very different light. Several major life-changing decisions are in order. Still, my number one priority is my daughter.
Are you willing to relocate for a better future (and love)?