It’s not easy to go cheap in a city like Singapore where the price of a normal commodity is enough to freak the daylights out of our Filipino frugality, but it is entirely possible to experience the city without spending too much. If you’re a casual tourist like me, or a backpacker just passing through or a student who represents your country for an international conference held here, you can still make the most out of your meager budget in the Garden City.
Singapore is a small island-state in Southeast Asia that’s been looked up to by its neighbors for a long time. My country, the Philippines, is one of them.
And for good reason too. Around 50 years ago, Singapore was a just an overlooked, backwater swampland teetering on civil unrest and poverty. It had lost its membership from the Malaysian Federal States due to the “overwhelming” differences on views of their leaders. No one really expected Singapore to make it after the separation but the great thing about Singapore is it did.
Under the guidance of a well-meaning Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, the innovative vision of its top government officials and the collective maturity of its people, Singapore is the powerhouse country we know now, a democratic state of people who respects the authority of law and trusts the government to do its job.
Singapore is often known as the Garden City. I heard that the late Prime Minister Lee’s wife was fond of orchids and I think it played a part in Lee’s overall vision for the city. Singapore may be a concrete jungle for some nature trekkers or backpackers but it’s one damn beautiful concrete jungle. I suspect the shapes, sizes and linings of skyscrapers are intricately planned and designed to form a harmonious, sophisticated feel on the eyes. It would be a great idea if some of government scholars who took up engineering, architecture and urban planning would spend a week in Singapore and just have a pleasant stroll around its streets, hang out on its parks or go inside one of its buildings.
This is what I did. I don’t have any itinerary in mind (partly because of my low-budget plan) I just go where my feet would take me and that has been my motto as a traveler since I consider myself as one.
Dinner at Changi Bay
I arrived on Singapore at exactly 6:05 PM. The sky is still clear and bright, unlike in Manila where dusk would have fallen around this time. Travel guides and websites weren’t lying that the Changi International Airport is one of the efficient airports, if not the best, in Asia. It is literally a shopping mall inside an airport. Once your plane made a lay-over in Changi and your transfer flight wouldn’t be due until six hours later, you can avail a tour of Singapore’s most iconic sights and it’s all paid by the airport.
If you’re planning to stay in Singapore for a long time, you can purchase a local sim which costs around $15.00 (PHP 500) inside the airport. They will also get you an affordable internet promo depending on the length of your stay. Internet in Singapore, as I attested, is nothing compared here. It is expensive, but the fast connection is worth it.
At around 7PM, my aunt, who’s been staying at Singapore for more than five years now, picked me up from Terminal 2 and we had our early dinner at Changi Bay. They have a nice boulevard with a road good enough for biking, skating or a leisure jog. We settled ourselves in one of the benches at a food center not far away from the beach and I became easily relaxed with the Monday after-work chill of the people around me.
Food in Singapore costs about $4.00 – $7.00 SGD (150.00 – 330.00 in Peso), depending on the menu. They also serve this large noodle dish with seafood and spice, and it’s good enough for two people. You can get cheaper food if you’re traveling with a companion or two.
You can trust the taxi drivers (most, if not all) in Singapore to be honest with what they charge you. I like to think that their meters are reliable and they give you the exact change even in cents. My aunt said refusing a commuter out of preference to traffic, or the race of religion of a commuter is a serious legal offense. Inside the cab, their personal identification cards are displayed along with numbers to contact if the commuter feels harassed or unsafe.
Base fare, as far as I remember, is $4.00 SGD (PHP 150.00) and I recommend taking it as last possible resort or if you’re traveling in groups. Unlike here in Manila, however, five or more people are strictly not allowed inside a cab. For budget tour around the city, you can take a bus which costs around $0.40 – $1.60 SGD (PHP 13.00 – 50.00) depending on your destination.
We reached my aunt’s place and we settled in for tonight. I learned that an apartment unit in Singapore is only allowed 99 years under your property. It’s one of the drastic measures the government has to take to control the booming of migrants and to maximize the dwindling space in the city. And seeing a lot of cranes and lots being excavated where a skyscraper shall soon rise, it seemed Singapore keeps on growing. It is still at the tail-end of its construction and I doubt the momentum would stop as long as it’s economy is growing.
On the my first night in Singapore, I lay on the couch beside the tall windows, watching at the twinkling of lights on the buildings near my aunt’s apartment. Everything in this city is damn efficient, I remembered thinking before falling asleep.
I asked my aunt on breakfast where do Filipinos hang out in Singapore. Pinoys thrive in communities and common interests, no matter where they are in the world. Naturally, she took me into a place where Filipinos mostly hang out and that’s the Lucky Plaza Mall.
It’s got everything that can somehow ease your homesickness if you’ve recently come to Singapore to work. It even has Jollibee, for crying out loud! It’s also a convenient place where you can remit your money back home, do some groceries for Filipino products or brands, or just chill with your fellow kababayans on Sunday evenings. My aunt told me they also go on this building at Orchard Road for a disco on Sundays but as a couch potato (I habit I wouldn’t change wherever I am) I refused to go, opting to spend that particular evening enjoying the ultra-fast connection at her apartment.
Marina Bay Sands
After getting some food in Lucky Plaza, we took an MRT going to Marina Bay. I don’t even want to compare the MRT there versus the MRT here. C’mon! What I just like to point out however is that the MRT in Singapore is carefully and well thought off. It’s not a single, linear lane that we have here, but a complex grid of stations and terminals that overlap each other so the commuter would have the fastest, easiest travel on the destination they want.
MRT rides cost around $1.15 – 2.50 at most (PHP 38.00 – PHP 80.00) at most but it’s still the fastest mode of transportation if you want to avoid traffic that much. Before going up (or down) the terminal, an LED sign would indicate how many minutes until the next train would arrive so that you can calculate your time of travel effectively.
We dropped off Marina Station and strolled towards the world-famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel. Before that, we passed over an impressive river that is as much as every bit historical as it was picturesque. Fifty years ago, this river has been littered with small bancas and small ships manned by half-naked men whose sweat-stained skin shone under the sun, a typical sight for a busy British outpost. Now, an occasional tourist ship would just pass by, distorting the reflections of the sleek buildings, the bowl-shaped entrance to the Museum of Science and Arts and tourists passing by the wooden platforms lined around it.
We walked to the Marina Bay Hotel and as we come closer, I feel my jaw dropping more ever so slightly. The whole thing is enormous. I can’t exactly describe how much of an eye-candy it is and I’ll just let my pictures to tell it for you.
You can gain access at the top of the hotel and get a sweeping view of Singapore for $23.00 (PHP760.00) My aunt asked if I would like to go up but being a killjoy (and cheap) I am, I decided not too. I’m not really a fan of heights and especially not a fan of a soaring price for entrance tickets (though I’m sure it would be worth it! Getting on top of Marina Bay AT NIGHT is highly-recommended)
Singapore’s proud, iconic Merlion stands against the backdrop of Collyer Quay and other attractions such as the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the Museum of Science (that half-egg shaped structure)
We walked through the strip of Raffles Place to where the Merlion is. If you’re coming from any part in Singapore, just take the MRT and get off at Raffles Station.
Garden by the Bay
We crossed the hotel to tour around the Garden by the Bay. It’s a recent addition to the Marina Bay attraction and you can get to park free (but some attractions have entrance fees)
For example, we took an aerial walk for the Cloud Forest for $10.00 (PHP300.00) and you can stay up there as long as you want. It’s a perfect place for selfie shots that I couldn’t resist one.
Chinatown is a perfect spot for gifts and souvenirs to take at home. It is also pretty accessible (via MRT or bus) and has lots of things to offer, especially if you are a bargain hunter like me. I managed to snag off 36 keychains just for $10 SGD (P300.00!) There are plenty of goods to choose from.
While we’re here, we also visited the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, a jaw-dropping four-storey Temple which stands as an iconic landmark of Singapore’s Chinatown. As a Christian, it was the first time I set foot on a Buddhist Temple and it didn’t certainly disappoint. A strong hymn fill the place, inspiring reverence and peace in one’s soul, even for just a while. We’re supposed to visit Thian Hock Keng Temple, the oldest Chinese Temple in Singapore, but we ran out of time.
Musings so Far
Like every traveler with a tight budget, I decided not to go to the world-famous Singapore Sentosa or to the Universal Studios but if you have money (and time) to spare, don’t miss out anymore than I did. To sum it all up, my Singapore experience is nothing short of memorable. Singapore is everything I expected and more. While you’re there, you can also cross over to Malaysia and experience two states at once. That will make the slightly expensive airfare worth it.
Other tips I must share:
- Nightlife in Singapore is definitely an experience you shouldn’t miss. It’s not hard to commute at night because of friendly drivers and safe streets. Garden by the Bay is especially beautiful at night.
- Aside from Chinatown, you should also take a look at Little India if you’re in for some authentic Indian food or goods.
- Always make sure to bring your passport as a tourist.
- Locals speak in Singlish (Singapore-English) Most of them understand and speak English very well. Signages and street posts markers have English translation.
- To eat cheap, you can get a decent meal at the food centers below high-rise apartments. Almost every building in SG has one. I heard from my aunt that many Singaporeans opt to dine-out instead of cooking their own meals (due to busy schedule and whatnot)
Being the most sustainable city in ASEAN, as well as the most developed city in the region, we Filipinos can definitely learn a lot from Singapore. Just by experiencing it, we know what to demand from our government because we know it’s possible to achieve it. YET, a big YET, what I’ve noticed from Singapore is that the people, in general, has the highest of respect to their city. They are more than willing to put up with all the rules just to live in harmony with other people. I guess it’s what spelled the difference between us and Singaporeans. They know Singapore wouldn’t become the Singapore now without their cooperation, their trust to the governing institutions and their sense of ‘community’ rather than the self-centric mindset prevailing here in the Philippines.
When Singapore broke away from Malaysia, everyone thought it sealed its fate. With hard work, unity and vision, it proved everyone wrong. Now, it’s time for the Philippines to do the same.
PS: For those interested, I only spent $25 SGD (PHP800.00) for a whole-day of exploring Singapore. Considering the number of places I’ve seen, not too bad, I guess.
Finally, after nearly a month of waiting, the official canvassing results of this year’s National Elections are out. The people of the Republic of the Philippines elected Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Congresswoman Leni Robredo as the President and the Vice-President, respectively.
As far as I can tell, Filipino netizens for the most part are satisfied with the results. After all the issue of cheating allegations especially on the neck-to-neck battle for the VP, none of the people I know bat an eye. Some even took to social media to celebrate the results, pining their hopes and optimism to the Ro-Ro duo.
I’ve drawn similarities and connection between the unlikely tandem: Duterte is a tough-talking, no-nonsense mayor with a down-to-earth personality (as his peers and the people of Davao attested). Right now, he clearly made it clear that lavish lifestyle will not be part of his 6-year term. He is now putting the Presidential yacht on sale, stated that he would donate the presidential choppers to the armed forces and outright refused to use the #1 plate on his car and even a convoy. Despite his tough-as-nails attitude and ‘dirty’ mouth, he has a soft spot for children, women and even the LGBT community. In terms of political stand, Duterte has a category of his own; he is progressive in a way that he is a strong advocate of family planning and even backed same-sex marriage. Yet, his critics described him as being too patriarchal in the conservative sense and he seemed to have a backward view on treating women intensified by his ‘rape’ joke that drew so much flak from women’s rights advocate.
On the other side of the table, you got Leni, a standard-bearer of the Liberal Party, a political party that grew increasingly unpopular with the masses even before the elections. She’s a mom of three kids and a human rights lawyer. Like Duterte, she didn’t hold any higher position than a senator. Even before she declared her bid to run for vice-presidency, Leni has won the hearts of Filipino netizens when a picture of her taking the bus home became viral. Her religion as a Catholic didn’t stop her from separating religion to public service – she has also stated her conviction to grant civil weddings to same-sex couples.
For the first time in a long time, we have two leaders who are so similar yet so different at the same. Both have extensive experience in grassroot communities and macro-management, both have served their respective provinces and both are respected figures by their constituents. The other one is rough around the edges, the other is an epitome of grace and diplomacy. I have no idea how this pans out but I can say one thing – this is going to be one interesting tandem and this is going to be one interest term.
Expectations are high from this two. I almost feel sorry for them. They may be good leaders but they are not perfect. They may have good experience in management but they are also prone to bad decisions with great consequences.
This is where we come in. Vigilance and critical thinking are not some filter we can just take off when we elect the leaders we want. No matter how we respect or even adore them, we must always keep an open mind on everything. We trust them to make this country good, but at the same time, we must always remember we are part of the process. A democracy that has been around for some time. We are still part of history in the making. Our voices, reflections, rants, criticisms and discourse still matter.
At the end of it all, we should be reminded that our loyalty lies on our country, not to our present leaders.
To my president, Madame Miriam.
Less than two weeks before the elections, I have made my decision. I will vote for no less than you.
My decision has not been an easy one. It took me awhile to think it over. It’s not that I have second thoughts about your qualifications, Madame. God knows how you passionately served the three branches of government in your decades of experience in public service.
Yet, issues like your health and your choice of Vice-President made me re-consider my option. Having known and respected you from afar, I wasn’t also able to delve deeper into your motivations for running. Surely, an esteemed, hard-working lady such as you deserves a happy and peaceful retirement with your loved ones, not the unpleasant duty of carrying all the problems of the country on your shoulders.
You are a cancer survivor, Madame. This job may prove to be more exhausting and draining to your health, and with the added frustration of the people, frankly I felt you wouldn’t handle it. When I watched the last presidential debate, I couldn’t help but to notice your lapses of silence, awkward pauses and moments to catch your breath. Truly, you weren’t as feisty as you were once been. Some friends who have been rooting for the other side remarked how disappointed they are in your performance. “Miriam isn’t up for it”, they say. “She’s not strong as she is before.”
But it was on the last debate, I was suddenly overwhelmed by emotions of how unfair it all is. There she is, the most qualified candidate of them all – standing on a podium after keeping an illness at bay, ready to serve once again. Offering herself for the people. I simply couldn’t understand why you decided to run – you have already made your mark in governance, most people admire and respect you and you will be forever remembered as the Iron Lady – the feisty senator from Iloilo.
Then it struck me how simple it all is. Instead of spending your retirement days with your loved ones, instead of spending your energy with the people closest to you, instead of doing things you want to do and relishing the fruits of your labor, you chose to sacrifice your life for the country once again.
By declaring to run, you allowed yourself to receive some unnecessary stress from other people. You opened yourself once more to the public, to black propaganda and insensitive rumors. To hurtful statements of you dying or for your lack of mental soundness. To people actually calling you a hypocrite after you declared BBM as your running mate.
Yet, you still continued. You still plow on. Despite what the “surveys” say. I wouldn’t be gushing about your achievements or how qualified you are (Goodness knows how many of your supporters have done this already) I wouldn’t be gushing about the bills you authored – or your brilliant moments during Corona’s trial.
In the end, you eventually won my vote with your drive – your relentless passion.
Back in 2010, most Filipinos chose PNOY as the leader, brought out by the emotion of Cory’s loss and EDSA Nostalgia. I often criticized the reason for that vote – a baseless emotion and nothing more. My friends and I lamented for six years how most Filipinos vote due to emotion – not reason, and that explains why we’re still here.
Personally, my vote for you is more of an emotional one, and I like to think of it as a good one. I can tell you are sincere and you’re as equally as frustrated of this country’s cancer just as I am, but your way of doing things is rooted on the law and Constitution. You are not serving anyone’s interest apart from the youth’s, you are a ‘green-minded’ individual and you have always been a consistent advocate of women’s rights.
Heh, my vote doesn’t sound emotionally stupid now, is it?
Back in 1992, the year I was born, I heard you also ran for president but was ‘cheated’ by your opponents. You were branded as a lunatic due to your high intellect and temperament. I couldn’t help but to wonder if you won that year and how it must have turned out for the country.
On May 09, I will vote according to my conscience. Not because of cold logic. Not purely out of emotion. It’s because for me, you are the right person to lead us out of this misery.
Even if you lose or if the candidate/s I’m not fond with eventually win, I won’t leave the country. After all, this is what you fought so hard for, isn’t it? To never give up fighting for your country.
And this is what you inspire me to do, Madame President. What you inspire all of us to do.
Fight the good fight.
A random Millenial
So if you haven’t been living under a rock these past few days, you already know that Mayor Duterte has apparently surpassed former frontrunner Grace Poe in the latest SWS and Pulse Asia presidential survey. With less than four weeks before the May 09 elections, are we finally going to have a president coming from Mindanao?
Duterte’s soar to fame came hardly as a surprise. First, he’s got this tough-talking, no-nonsense bravado going on. For most, he acts and sounds like your typical Filipino father figure in movies and TV shows with his fearless banters, crude quips and frank one-liners. His leadership in Davao City and his simple lifestyle endeared him to the masses in a way traditional politicians didn’t quite expect.
He’s not my candidate, though he supports Federalism which I’m a firm advocate of and I also grew up in a city where discipline is part of the city’s tagline. I have decided to vote Miriam and that’s it. Still, that didn’t stop me from speculating how and why Mayor Duterte seemed to be this election’s choice of the masses. Here’s my tw0-centavos:
Back in 2010, Filipinos were tired of countless corruption cases hounding ex-President GMA’s term which is a whirlwind of electoral scandal, shady helicopter dealings and basically her family’s questionable acts (especially that of her husband’s) When PNOY came along, looking pristine and fresh, with his ‘Tuwid na Daan’ platform where he promised to get rid of corrupt officials from the government, many of us bought it. I, myself admit it was promising, and if PNOY had have an illustrious political experience and achievements as Mar Roxas have, I would have voted for him too.
But when Tuwid na Daan failed to answer the problems regarding transportation, traffic, sub-standard Yolanda rehabilitation shacks, the massacre of 44 SAF in Mamasapano and the latest Kidapawan massacre of farmers, the Filipinos now want a leader who embodies all the traits PNOY don’t have, do all things PNOY couldn’t or wouldn’t.
And that’s what Duterte apparently represents. Decisiveness. Experience. Unafraid to get his hands dirty. If this is a comic book universe and if Philippines is Gotham City, Filipinos view Duterte as the frickin Batman and elect him as their mayor despite how grossly “unsuitable” Batman is for the job.
I guess that’s my take with Duterte. While his critics talk and rave about the extrajudicial killings he masterminded in Davao, how immoral he is, how his crude speech and lack of tact can be a source of national embarrassment later on, how he views Marcos as the best president of the Philippines, etc., I’m all past that. What I’m most concerned about his brand of leadership most Filipinos aren’t prepared of, one I will talk about more about in a separate post.
I’m not judging his supporters though. In fact, most of my relatives and friends are voting for him in this coming elections and even after I try to convince them to vote for Miriam, them sticking to their original choice is fine with me. I just remind them that you can’t expect Duterte to be this messianic figure who will suddenly uproot the ‘system’ and make our country a better place to live. Change is a process that requires the cooperation of all entities and if you remain as an irresponsible, undisciplined citizen you are, even the great Duterte himself can’t change anything.
As election time draws near, never have I felt political tension and drama in my Facebook and Twitter feed than what is happening right now. Yes, it is actually happening. We are judging the intellect, ethics and sanity of one another simply because of one’s choice of a presidential candidate.
A sign of a vibrant democracy? Maybe. This goes to show that we aren’t at least operating under a mob rule and we give each other different perspectives on viewing a certain issue or a candidate. At least, it shows our maturity in how we value and practice democracy.
But some of us may have taken it a little overboard. As election draws near, social media increasingly becomes toxic, dare I say, a frightening place in expressing one’s political opinion.
Recently, I’ve read an article of how a climate change advocate received cyber threats simply because she criticized Mayor Duterte, the candidate I believe to be one of the masses’ favorite choices due to his tough-talking stance against crime.
I sympathized with her plight and I admired the way she never backed down on her political opinion. Some of the so-called threats are even amusing to read, some are really pathetic, and some…well let’s just say they shouldn’t have been introduced to Facebook in the first place. The comments of each photo are understandably unkind: “Dutertard” “Dudirty” etc.
There is no excuse in the way how a certain candidate’s followers are acting. Who wouldn’t be angry if someone, a complete stranger at best, wishes you to be raped? Who wouldn’t be frightened if someone pushes a candidate in your face and calls you a complete moron just because you don’t want to vote for the same person?
And then we generalized. How we Filipinos just love to generalize! Like how a certain group of supporters generalized all UP students for being disrespectful all because one of its students cut in one candidate’s speech because “they are running out of time” in an academic forum. We generalize Binay supporters as “Binayarans”, Mar suppprters as “Yellow Zombies” and Poe supporters as “un-Filipino enough for supporting a candidate with American citizenship”
We never thought for a moment the reason why. Provided of course that vote-buying, personality-over-platform mentality and “hakot” crowd are still rampant, I believe (desperately hoping so) that for this coming elections, most of us will be more conscious with our votes. Most of us are aware that the leader we will choose on May will be a defining moment of what our future is going to be.
Filipinos are emotional voters, but for this 2016 elections, our emotions will be closely intertwined with our priorities. Some of us wanted the Tuwid na Daan continuity, we vote for Mar. Some of us wanted a fresh beginning and an advocate of a transparent government, we vote for Grace. Some of us wanted a system overhaul through Federalism and ease the crime rate in our country, we go for Duterte.
These priorities have different factors in them and you cannot simplify that these people don’t think as well as you do just because they don’t share the same views. It’s a matter of how these people think differently from you. It may be that they came from this particular social class, or they live on a certain region, or this candidate did something in their lives on the past and the experience still has an ability to affect their choices now.
We can campaign for our presidential candidate all we want, in Facebook, Twitter, heck even on the streets, but we can do it without stooping down to the level of our critics who would resort to petty name-calling, threats or pathetic insults. At the very least, what we can do is to engage them in a conversation on who they are voting for and why. We can discuss platforms and compare the priorities of our candidates. We can still debate and argue without disrespecting one another. This is the heart of a healthy discussion. We can make statements attacking the issue, not the moral code or the intellect of a person who do not believe the same things we do.
To top it all of, I’m just going to leave this status of my friend here for you to think about.
Nitong mga nakaraang buwan, medyo nag lay-low na din ako sa pagiging critical sa gobyerno, tutal two months na lang naman si PNoy. He’ll be out of our hair soon and we’ll be out of his hair na din (pardon the pun) Na-realize ko, nakaka-stressed lang maging reklamador. Balewala din naman sa mga taong tinitira mo.
Medyo positive na nga ako ngayon. Nageeffort na ako maging optimistic at hopeful sa magiging future ng ating bansa. Alam kong mapupunta din tayo doon. BALAng araw…
Pero pagbigyan ninyo na ako. Tutal two months na lang. Pagbigyan ninyo ako, kahit isang hirit lang.
Isa lang naman ang masasabi ko tungkol sa administrasyong ito: BALA.
Nitong huling taon ng 2015, Nobyembre. Lumantad ang isyu sa publiko na may nagtatanim ng BALA sa NAIA. BALA sa NAIA. Only in the Philippines! Sadyang may mapaglaro lang talagang engkanto sa airport na nagtatanim ng bala sa bagahe mo. Ang nakakatuwa pa, malalaman mo lang yun pagkalabas ng bagahe mo sa X-ray machine. MAGIC! May bala ka palang souvenir mula sa pinanggalingan mo?!
Hindi lang ikaw ang biktima e. Pati mga turista galing pang ibang bansa, hindi sinasanto. Na-feature na din tayo sa CNN, Fox news at iba pang international news dahil dito. May Amerikano pa ngang nag-publish ng blog post on “4 Effective Tips to Curb Laglag Bala in NAIA”
Collective shame natin ‘to. Kahit Ninoy Aquino International Airport ang pangalan niyan in honor of our president’s late father na namatay dahil sa bala sa ulo, pero para sa ibang bansa, ito pa din ay kilala bilang airport na nasa Pilipinas.
Ano’ng nangyari? Pakinggan mo na lang ang mga salitang ang sarap pakinggan. Probe. Investigate. “Watch the Watchers”. Pero hanggang doon lang tayo. Di na siya mainit. Di na siya trending. Siguro dahil lagi tayong sawi sa ating mga lovelife at madalas nating pinipilit ang sarili na mag-move on, mas mabilis na din tayong mag move-on mula sa mga isyung pa-tungkol sa lipunan.
April 01, 2016. Kidapawan. Nag-protesta ang mga magsasaka, ang mga magtatanim ng ating bigas, dahil wala na silang pangkain sa kanilang mga pamilya. Ano ba ang laban nila sa Kalikasan? Ano ba ang naging paghahanda natin sa El Nino? Sa halip na pakinggan ang kanilang hinaing, BALA at dahas ang sumalubong sa kanila.
April 01. Nakakalokong isipin. Ang mga “nagtatanim” ng BALA sa NAIA, sindikato o opisyales, hindi man lang nakasuhan. Walang nasibak. Wala man lang pray-over kung engkanto ba yan o ano.
Pero ang mga totoong nagtatanim ng bigas na nagiging kanin na kinakain mo ngayon, pinaulanan naman ng BALA.
Kidapawan. Hacienda Luisita. Lupao. Mendiola.
Ani ng iba, komunista ang nasa likod ng mga yan. Etong mga NPA na ‘to. Mga balakid sa pagbabago. Hindi ninyo sana sila makukumbinse magprotesta kung wala silang hinaing at pangangailangan sa simula pa lang. Hindi ninyo sana sila ‘maloloko’ na ibuwis ang kanilang buhay sa pagpoprotesta kung sila ay ‘kuntento’ na sa kanilang pamumuhay. Bakit ba kasi kayo mga sawsawero’t sawsawera?
Anim na taon. Simula pa lang daw ang Tuwid na Daan. Madami pa tayong kakaining bigas para makamit ang tunay na ginhawa. Sana hindi lang pinagpapapatay ang ating mga magsasaka.
Mr. President, narerecognize ko naman na mabuti ang iyong intensyon *hindi na ako sarcastic at this point on* Pinilit ka nilang tumakbo, kahit ayaw mo naman sa simula, at ginawa mo naman ang iyong makakaya. Na-appreciate ko yun at kinikilala ko naman ang iba sa mga magaganda mong ginawa, ang pagiging masipag at mahusay ng ibang kawani ng iyong gobyerno.
Nakakalungkot isipin na nabalewala ang competence nila dahil sa gross incompetence ng iba. Dahil malambot ang iyong puso, kahit alam mong may pagkukulang sila, hinahayaan mo lang na sila na ang bumitiw. One More Chance, nga diba?
BALAng araw, sana ma-realize mo…hindi lahat makakamove-on sa mga isyu na ‘to. BALAng araw, sana hindi maabutan ng mga magiging anak ko ang ganitong klase ng pamumuno.
How do we fit the concept of ASEAN identity in our warped sense of nationalism?
We Pinoys have the strangest sense of nationalism there is. It’s quite a study, really. We display pride over our history, heroes, resources, food, culture and even talented individuals with even the slightest pint of Filipino blood in them. Our sense of tribalism (or regionalism) is so great that when a foreigner shows even a slightest sign of disdain over our glorious land or to even one of us, we grew collectively angered as if we are the ones who are offended in the first place. It’s literally us against them.
That was my prevailing mindset too, minus the whole bordering-to-stupid Pinoy pride thing. I love my country, I recognize its milestones in history as well as its failures. Needless to say, I relate more to my fellow Filipinos. I dreamed of becoming part of a change to help my less-privileged countrymen. It’s like I live in this dilapidated house filled with different kinds of people – though some of them I can’t stand, but they still remain as part of a family – and I dreamed of a mansion for all of us.
But when you open the windows of your house and sneak a peek outside, you’d realize that you are surrounded with other houses, all roughly the same size, its occupants as boisterous and vigorous as your own.Though strong fences were erected throughout the years, there is a subtle sense of community – a fact that you belong in the same neighborhood battling the same elements. Suddenly, it’s not about just your house anymore. Whatever happens in the neighborhood will affect you in some extent, whether you like it or not.
Back in 2012, I joined the ASEAN Community Facebook page, the largest Facebook community for ASEAN back then. Because I don’t have resources for travel back then, I gained knowledge and perspective about my southeast Asian neighbors only from snippets of trivia and photos shared by the moderators who took turns on posting information each day. (Monday is Malaysian-related info and photos, Thursday is Philippines). As a student who had nothing better to do that time, I spent countless hours scrolling the page, reading the comments and conversations (sometimes, flame wars), and noting with great amusement how similar we are. Joining the community expanded my view of what ASEAN really is and like many others, I look forward on the future where we can form a sustainable economic community.
But we all have to open our eyes to the reality. The Facebook page celebrates the idea of oneness and shared culture, but it also highlights the overwhelming differences. There’s still some degree of distrust and suspicion hinted between countries (or governments of that countries) and many even resort to racist remarks. I have seen my fellow Filipinos commenting about our ‘superiority’, like how we are the only Christian country in the whole region, or how we stand as a landmark of democracy, or even how ‘blessed’ with talent and diligence our race is. Some of us don’t mean it at all or are expressed in jest, but our remarks are on a public site, free to be interpreted by anyone with a smartphone and a high-speed internet connection (one thing most of our Southeast Asian counterparts enjoy now but one we don’t presently have)
In addition to that, we are focused in our own tracks of growth and development. We view the future from our side and we are only concerned of our own statistics and figures – what is our latest GDP, how are we faring versus the dollar, are we receiving more tourists per year, etc. Of course, it’s only natural to be happy for your own progress but if we only focus in that aspect, we’re missing the big picture. Competition with each other is healthy but our myopic sense of nationalism would never prepare us to handle future problems in the long run, much less, help us recognize opportunities along the way.
So far, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are currently doubling its efforts to increase the awareness of a southeast Asian community. Conferences are organized, various international exchange programs are amplified, and even the country’s respective governments are providing their support. Youth leaders and youth organizations were also quite involved and with the social media as a powerful tool, the call for an integrated regional cooperation would spread like wildfire.
Having spent the last two years working for a non-government organization, I would always imagine how an ordinary Filipino from a farming village could receive the idea of an integrated regional community. No doubt, the information will reach him. Someone would enlighten him about the other countries. He would be informed of how the integration can affect agriculture, in particular, and the opportunities he may get as a farmer. The farmer would be pleased of this, but at the end of the day, he knew words from actions. Until tangible efforts were made, he would just return to the field and focus on more important matters of his work. Life goes on.
The monumental shift of ASEAN from a body of policy-makers discussing issues behind locked doors to an acting, living organism of concrete actions and plans recognized by all its member-states is an important factor in instilling a sense of community. Civic organizations, community leaders, youth organizations, the local government, schools and the media can make ASEAN relevant, but not for a long time. ASEAN is founded in the principle of non-interference and this allowed its member-states to focus on its own national growth and development, but if it can implement action plans that would encompass every sector – from an ordinary farmer, student, historian, academician or doctor – regardless of which country he/she is from, then you would be exploiting one thing these people have in common with for good use. You are enticing them to be part of a community that transcends beyond cultural and historical differences. If you present a unifying goal shared by all, people would look beyond their own differences and hopefully work together for that goal.
And what goals are those? Plenty to choose from.
You can only build a sense of community if you involve everyone, every country and sector, to a cause that would benefit all, not just for a specific few. The concept of ASEAN identity may be too hard to grasp for others now, but if you utilize a Goal, a vision, and share it with others who care enough for it, you are off to a good start.
And slowly, over the passage of time, you’d realize that the fences separating you from your neighbor’s weren’t that high anymore.
Last December, I joined the Association of ASEAN Youth Leaders – a band of bright-eyed folks, students and young professionals, movers and dreamers, who envisioned a future of regional integration for sustainable development. It was one of my highlights for 2015. I learned so much from my fellow youth and felt so inspired to join the movement for regional collaboration. You can find more information in our Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/AYLA.Philippines