Page 1

SINGAPURA: My first 30 days in Singapore


My first 30 days in Singapore

CB Pena, MDS 1

Contents day 1 mixed like the noodles i had along changi road 4 day 2& 3 the great singapore dream: a lot of eating & walking


day 4 the huanyi & my fried dumplings


day 5 dammit! my feet hurt


day 8 mediocrity creeping in: hey you, job! let’s do lunch


day 9 & 10 haphazardly delicious! 18 day 12 finally, a commentator during the mass 22 day 13 videoke & more 24


SINGAPURA: My first 30 days in Singapore

day 18 of starbucks, pâtÊ, french toast and dumplings, from simei and beyond...


day 22 topsy-turvy, happy-kinda-sad day 32 day 25 stones, paper and a kid under a table


day 26 when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.. to the coffee shop for some latte?


FIVE DAYS AFTER hosting, mcmuffins and the insatiable fear of falling face flat on the pavement



No part of this book may be replicated or used in any way without prior consent from the author. *photos by cbpena photography



My First Day In Singapore: Mixed like the noodles I had along Changi Road

when i boarded the plane, i knew there was no turning back. that morning before i was accompanied to the airport by my two bothers-in-law, i was wary. grace had been crying almost the whole night, and we cuddled in bed more than the usual times. i was more than sad when i left the house - i guess i was devastated. i knew that it would be the last time i’d ever see my kid again, sleeping soundly on the bed, with her gymnastic routines, and the last that i would have the chance to kiss my wife goodnight, and cuddle until i fall asleep. the ride was long and painful. the wind messed up my hair and that added to the remorse. i wanted to jump out of the car, and run back to lipa. but it was too late. before i knew it, we were on the SCTX. in an hour or so, i was already in front of gate 3 of NAIA terminal 3. my brothers-in-law scurried off in the car; i took a deep breath and made my way into the terminal. at gate e16, i had to wait for an hour before the check-in counters opened. during that time, i met a woman and her son who was an HRM graduate from fatima who was in the same flight as i was. her mother asked me to take care of her son during the flight. it turned out he was seated far from me. i checked in the bags at around 4am, then made my way to the immigrations. the immigration officer, a burly man in a black coat, asked for my passport and ticket. i told him i was visiting mg brother. he asked for an affidavit of support signed by the philippine consulate of singapore. i told him no one told me i need that. after a few more questions and some bantering, my passport got stamped and i went inside gate 115. i was forewarned that the officers in the budget terminal were fierce. on board, i felt a sudden chill come over me as i watch the petron gas tank fill up the airplane’s fuel tank. i was on flight 5J 801 bound for singapore at 6.25am. the journey was long and achy (since i could not recline my seat), and i found it difficult to pee in the available toilet since the ceiling was too low). i fell asleep praying the rosary, but i managed to finish it before i touched down on changi. at 10am, i was getting off the plane on gate 4 of the budget terminal. it 4

SINGAPURA: My first 30 days in Singapore

was the longest walkway ever. at the immigrations booth, i queued behind a seasoned female traveler who had been in SG before. after some chitchat with the immigration officer, it was my turn. i gave him my immigration card, passport and ticket. he raised the passport beside my face, smirked then stamped my passport with a 30day visit pass. he said nothing but welcome when i said thank you. before i went outside the airport, i bought an SG simcard for S$18, and had a couple of pesos changed for SG dollars. i took the cab to changi road, where my brother lived. the cab driver, a 60-something customs retiree whose sister-in-law was a filipina from bicol and had friends in sariaya, was very conversational. he had been a driver for 11 years, and once fell prey to the rantings of philippine customs officers. we had some chitchat about sepak takraw, and how filipinos did not like the game, and how filipinos in SG took over basketball courts, and manny pacquiao was now a congressman. i was in changi in a matter of minutes. my ab fare was S$13.80, so i gave the man S$14. he gave me change. 20c. i was amazed by the honesty. the house was a quaint suburban chinese house. it was owned by an old chinese couple, who spoke little english. i was led by the maid upstairs and was shown the room my brother rented. the room is spacious enough to have at least 3 people: two on a decker, and one single bed. after i put down my stuff, i decided to take a walk. besides, my brother was nowhere to be found (he had work), and so i didn’t want to just stay and linger around. a few SMS’ came, and i was invited for dinner by grace’s cousin, mythel and her husband onil. meanwhile, it was 5pm and my brother arrived home. i took the liberty of not wandering off too much, although i did get to go online, find a local mall, and several stops and a hawker station at eunos. oh, and there was this local dining spot where indians and malays hung out to eat. you would not imagine the variety of curry, coriander, oregano and every other known spice, which i inhaled. derek told me to stay away from the place, since the smell stuck to the skin. i might come back there again soon. derek and i rode the eunos mrt to joon koon, since i already bought an EZ line for myself. i was getting off at city hall, which was 6 stations away on the NE track. my brother was getting off at clementi which was 10 stations away. i got off at city hall, 3hours earlier than the agreed time for dinner, which was 9pm. so i waited it out in the mall. at city hall, there were two malls already: the raffles city shopping center (which looked like the block in north edsa only more posh) and the citylink mall, which reminded me of trinoma, only cleaner. needless to say, i allowed myself to get lost in the malls. i got as far as the doors to the theaters of the esplnade, but i stopped myself since i didn’t want to wander off too far. two hours to go and i leaned by the wall that stood in front of starbucks, and looked at the people scurrying home, carrying bags of food, looking all posh 5

and dashing in their limited edition apparel and their iphone4s. i looked at my two phones - a slide-up and an old bar. i wondered if i’d ever find work. gilbert was right; i was rushing it. man, it was my first day in singapore. i should’ve taken the time to at least appreciate the view.. but i was too busy crying, while i SMSed grace that i was growing jealous of the people who were on their way home, ‘cause i wasn’t. at around 7.30pm, onil arrived. mythel couldn’t get out of the office until 9pm, so were stuck together. he told me it took him 10months before he found a job, since they arrived april, three years ago, after the chinese new year. apparently, a lot of singaporeans resign after they get their bonuses during the lunar new year, and so he told me to expect a bulk of possible jobs the week after this. my hopes went up. by 9pm, mythel came, and the couple decided to take me out for dinner by the marina. at the makansutra gluttons bay, like the banchetta in ortigas and the night market in lipa, we ate real good chicken wings, pancit, liempo (courtesy of mang kiko’s chicken), a heap of yang chao rice and some iced tea. our background? the new marina buildng, the infamous merlion, the durian building and the rest of singapore’s main streets that were filled with lights and sounds because of the coming chinese new year. we talked and we laughed and the couple shared their 3-year romance with singapore. they were under a government program, so they were grated one year of stay in the island country. both of them found work, and now vow that so would i. after dinner, the couple took me to the esplanade, showed me some art, walked through the al fresco bars, then went to the merlion, whose spout ran out of water at around 11pm. mythel would not stop telling me that i would eventually find work, and that all i needed to do was to try and try harder. onil, on the other hand said i had to toughen up and believe that good things happened to good people in singapore. the couple was gracious enough to drive me home, up to the gate of the house i am now staying at. *** and so now, i look foward to the coming chinese new year. hopefully, people would start calling me next week. onil says SG is a frank city. if she didn’t like, she would tell it to my face. that’s why, he said, she wouldn’t be wasting my time as i look for work in her busy streets and by-ways. i still feel a little wheezy. this afternoon, after lunch at 1pm (i ate seven big squidballs - no rice, ‘cause it wasn’t available anymore at the ststion), i walked all the way to Lor Sarina(?), and bought a loaf of bread, two bottles of water, and some detergent. it’s gonna be a long february. but i guess i’ll be here for the ride. still here. hey. 6

SINGAPURA: My first 30 days in Singapore


The Great Singapore Dream: A lot of walking and eating

it was my second day in singapore, and i woke up at around 8.30, surprised to see that it felt like the sun just rose. i didn’t give it too much mind. i was going out later the day for dinner with joei, a former dj i trained way back in 2003. she was now working at the changi airport, as the no.1 customer support ground stewardess. note: i’m so proud of her ;) anywho, i went around the city again, that was around 2pm. i didn’t take anything for breakfast and lunch. was still full from the night-out with grace’s cousins. this time walking to geylang serai, i passed by the varied merchandise shops until i reached tampines, and eventually ending up buying a loaf of bread, a bar of detergent and some water at the nearby 711 at Lor 105. i got home, and started eating lunch: 2 pieces of loaf bread. i didn’t have plans of eating, plus joei was going to treat me out for dinner. at 6pm, joei and i met at aljuneid station. she still had bandages on her right leg (she accidentally poured hot cooking oil on herself while she was making dinner for her housemate, who happens to own a posh condominium whose monthly rent is around S$7000. crazy right? the housemate is british.). she was still the quirky joanne (joei was the airname i gave her. she was part of the pioneer batch of djs i trained), and i was happy she stayed the same ol’d joei. we took the mrt going to raffles, got off, then took the mrt to orchard. and voila! i was right smack in the middle of singapore’s most posh area; it was highend stores from left to right. located alongside each oter was LV, dior, dolce & gabbana, cartier, ion, armani... and everything else. i was blown away. we scurried through the streets, went up the mall rushing to the bank because she had to send money to someone, incidentally bumped into an old flame, then finally went to the korean resto only to find that it closed early since it was chinese new year’s eve. so we settled for some big mac, chicken wings and fries at mcdonalds. it was fabulous. joei and i talked for around an hour and a half at macdonald’s then found the audacity to continue chatting at starbucks... it was wednesday, and 7

it was ladies night in singapore (all ladies get into clubs and get drinks for free; guys have to pay S$30/bar). well, joei wanted to go out, but her friend who hd all the passes for guys didn’t SMS back so we ended up going home... err, staying at the mrt station for about an hour, chatting. although not until joei bout me new shoes as her welcome gift for me in singapore. how cool is that!? you have to understand, joei was my first child in the radio. her and alex (jovelle) were the closest to me in the pioneer batch. anywho, after great talk and great finds, we bade goodbye and went on our way. it is day three of my stay in singapore. i woke up at around 6.45am and found that the sun was still off LOL aparently, the sun shines its big ol’ face here at around 8am, which explains why people start working at around 10am. i took a bath and left the house to grab some breakfast. my brother was still fast asleep so i didn’t bother him. i started walking, and walking, and walking. and before i knew it, i was at paya lebar. which was a station away from eunos. it was so cool to sit on one of the benches at a nearby park, watching some indian guys throwing fishing lines unto the river ducts that spanned that part of the city, and feeling the cool clean breeze kiss your cheeks, regardless of the fact that the park was right beside a busy street with trucks, buses and cars. yes, no pollution. i was blown away. literally LOL i had lotong for breakfast. it was like puto (rice cake) with curry sauce (like the consistency of the sauce of curry chicken that we have back home), some curried coconut shavings, papaya, fish paste (alamang; i miss my mother-in-law’s alamang) and tokwa. after a few bites, i couldn’t stand the curry anymore, but i had to finish eating it ‘cause it was S$2.50. good thing i had one sardines and one potato empanada with me for lunch. i was saved. on my way back home i bought some other things: a razor, an adapter for my handphone charger, water and facial foam wash. i got back at around 11am, ate my empanada and set off to do the laundry. yup you read that right. do the laundry. after a heap of ANTM cycle 15 (my brother was watching over youtube. com), i gathered whatever dirty whites i had to wash: 3sets of undies, 2 shirts, 2 sandos, and 1 pair of socks. i went downstairs to the laundry area and started doing the laundry by hand (i bought a detergent bar, remember?). you would not imagine ho surprised the maid was (who is names sitti, and she is from malaysia), seeing me sitting on the floor, scrubbing my dirty clothes. it was a riot LOL she had to close her mouth because she could not believe a burly man like me could sit down and scrub my clothes. i enjoyed every minute of it. after doing the laundry, i went upstairs and my brother was already prepping for work. he was on the night shift because it was new year. no chinese would come to work. but filipinos would, so he was on overtime in another branch of the posh resto he worked for. at around 4pm, after watching more 8

SINGAPURA: My first 30 days in Singapore

ANTM and checking websites for job placements, i decided to go out for dinner. i bathed, put on a pair of pants and a shirt, then scurried to the eunos mrt. my feet took me to city hall, where i first cried, in singapore. i went to the esplanade, and tried grabbing something for dinner. apparently, because it was chinese new year, almost everyone was also there. it was so stuffed with people. good thing ventilation was great, and people were gracious enough to queue. after much thought (of the budget), i decided to go for some dessert for dinner. and so i bought <span style=”font-style:italic;”>chendol</span>, a coconut-jam (that’s how the condiment on top tasted) inspired halo-halo. i ate then decided to leave, but then i noticed that there was an upcoming 7.30pm show. it was just 7.20, so i didn’t mind waiting for another 10mins. and yes, the sun was almost still up. after a few good songs, the band started to sing in chinese, which was kinda my cue to go. when i got home tonight, the landlord’s clan was here. imagine how embarrasing it was going through the living room, with all of them, staring at me LOL tomorrow is my brother’s day off, and he plans to go out with friends. i, on the other hand, plan to go back to the esplanade (after i post a few more CVs out there), and watch the live free shows, as part of the chinese art festival that would run until 13 february. how cool is that!? i get to watch movies, concerts, theatre performances, quartets etc for free. thank you Lord for the art revolution in singapore.. before i got to the house, i called my wife. it started out quirky, but then she burst into tears again.. and then i came back to earth. realizing why i was here for. i wasn’t here for the marina, nor the merlion or the fullerton hotel or the esplanade and its quirky band that reminded me of the days i sang in one, nor of the upcoming chinese art festival. i was here because of her. of ineng. because i need to find work and make sure they get a better life. and so i started to blog tonight.

still here. hey.



The Huanyi and my fried dumplings

it’s DAY4 of my great SG adventure (i make it sound like a safari LOL), and i woke up rather early today. my brother slept over his friend’s place, so i was left alone in the house. i took the liberty of going around the local produce providers in the area, and found some oranges that came cheap. i took the box (yup, the whole box. the seller was practically giving it away) home and went back to bed. at around 7.45, i got a cal from an employer: the one from robin’s (one of my former DJs) referral. the lady was calloing all the way from australia, and she was flying in to singapore around tuesday. she set an appointment for an interview, and my heart jumped. i told myself, “this is it.” after an exchange of thoughts, she ended the call and i jumped out of bed. i was energized; i went to the toilet to bathe, then set off for breakfast. on my way to the hawker centre in eunos, i bumped into my brother who was on his way home. at eunos’ hawker centre, i opted to try out something new. i ordered fried dumpling mee (a mix of thin noodles sauted in soy, topped with dumplings, ground pork and spring onions; it had a cup of soup as its condiment). i took out a S$5 bill and handed it to the lady. to my surprise, instead of a S$2-change, i was handed five 20c coins. apparently, the noodles costed S$4, not just three. i wanted to react, but the lady knew little english, so i obliged. i took my tray of food, sat at one of the tables and ate. and you know what, the noodles weren’t half bad. they were very filling. but i wanted to be adventurous so i walked further down the hawker centre and found EUNOS CRESCENT, which was also a part of the hawker centre, but catered to the muslims, both indians and malays. i walked around and saw S$1.20 nasi lemak (steamed rice cooked in coconut milk with fried egg, chili and peanuts, wrapped in banana leaves) and was tempted to buy. but the scrooge in me took over, and so i bought a pancake. it tasted nice, especially since sandwiched between the pancake was mashed peanuts, condensed milk and corn kernels. back at home, after changing back to my PJs, i ate two oranges for lunch, and dozed off. at around 3 or 4pm, i was awakened by the laughter of 10

SINGAPURA: My first 30 days in Singapore

my brother who was talking to our youngest sister over the phone. they were planning a lot of stuff, especially the things they wanted to do if and when my brother flies off to the philippines. inasmuch as i would like to describe in full detail what they talked about, i don’t want my sister to be put in uncompromising situations LOL (no pun intended) i was already on the mrt, on my way to the esplanade at around 4.30pm. i bathed before i took off, and so i was feeling kinda cocky since i was wearing better, more formal clothes now. the past few days was characterized by some raised brows and stares, seeing that i just walked around in jeans and shirts or shorts ans a shirt. anywho, i got to the esplanade, and immediately went to the announcement boards for the shows, and was dismayed to find that most of the shows today were ticketed. i sighed because i really wanted to watch TITUS ANDRONICUS, but the ticket was kinda pricy. plus it was sold out for the night. so i opted to watch a theatre production of the Theatre Practice, entitled XIAO LING’S new year, which was a story about the lives of war-torn chinese during the war and how their new year was celebrated with grief and sorrow. the cast starred a guy and two ladies, one of whom manipulated a little girl puppet who was xiao ling. it was quaint because they used a puppet instead of a little girl. the lines, although i couldn’t understand since it was in chinese, was moving and i guess, evoked emotions that were too complicated for a little girl to play the part. after the show, i went for some popcorn and some music at the waterfront theatre. the guitarist was good. he also played the harmonica. oh and he was blind. i walked around the bay, and went to the circus that was also in the area. i had dinner at the makansuntra gluttons bay, and had to pamper myself by eatingliempo and rice. you just have to understand, dawg, i haven’t eaten rice for three days. it was S$6 and my water bottle was s$1.30, but it was all worth it. but that wasn’t the last of it. on my way back, i bought some bread at breadtalk. the girl at the counter was pinoy, and so the sale was pleasant. little guilt LOL day4 wasn’t half-bad. the opportunity to grab new work came today.

still here. hey.



Dammit! my feet hurt

it’s day five of my stay here in the lion city, and boiy was today tough... for my feet. i woke up around 7.51am, and my brother was ranting in bed. apparently, his timer didn’t set off and so he was late for work at 8am. after he scurried off to the toilet to bathe, he took time to choose what to wear and then went off. i, on the other hand, was lax. i had a preliminary interview today at aljunied, and it was for an agency. i was having second thoughts, but i was pushed out of the bed by my hiya. after praying to st. therese (yes, i pray. whatcha think of me!?), i reminded myself to buy a copy of the straits times, so i could browse over the classifieds. anywho, i bathed, put on neat clothes (kinda ‘cause it was in a dark gray and black palate), and made my way to the eunos hawker centre. there, i ordered the usual fried dumpling mee and some water. after that, i tapped in, and went to aljunied. at aljunied, i exited towards bus line no.2, crossed the overpass, and waited for bus 125. the lady who texted me from the agency told me to get off after five stops. and so that was what i did. i waited for the bus to stop fie times. stupid me, she meant five sheds. at bendemeer, the “fifth stop” of the bus, i started to feel uncomfortable with the fact that there was no green building in front of or at the back or side of the shed. i called ad SMSed the lady from the agency, and lo and behold, apparently i went three stops too much. and so i freaked out a bit, then composed myself to ask someone for directions. an old chinese man was gracious enough to give me directions, saying that i went too far, and that genting lane was the other way- going back. and so, i walked back: passed by bendemeer, and mcpherson road, and finally reaching the post office the old man was saying, which led to genting lane. sadly, i did see the post office but i did not see genting lane. after much ado, i went on a side track, and found a bus stop. i called the agency and told them i was lost. that time i was in kailang way in front of infineon. she told me i had to take the bus back to aljuneid and start the journey 12

SINGAPURA: My first 30 days in Singapore

all over again. i felt dismayed and disheartened. i told her i was kind of tired from all the walking (since i walked more than five kilometers, going in circles and through back alleys, and i felt i wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t find their office. she told me they could give me 30minutes of rest time when i arrived. and so after mustering enough strength, i walked, and walked some more, until finally i found traces of the streets bus 125 passed through, including kallang way 1 and 2, and kallang 1, 3, 5 complexes. i stumbled upon an indian guy who said he knew where 128 genting lane was, and so he gave me directions and walked some more. 128, 124, 120, 118, 100. it felt like the road was never gonna reach 80 genting lane. but it did. it was a big old green building in tannery road. just like what the lady from the agency said over the phone. i went to the lift platform and punched number 4. in a matter of minutes (and after i washed my face in the nearby toilet), i was inside the recruitment agency. inside where two tables, seven applicants, five chairs, two secretaries and one child. aside from the child, who was indian, the rest were pinoys. i could hear the two secretaries lecturing the applicants about posture and how to properly make resumes and stuff that i taught in class. i was amused. the little nine-year-old indian kid was angeli. when i started talking to her, she was playing a mind game in the GERONIMO book series, which apparently was as big as harry potter, since their booksâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; prices were both pegged at S$20+. we talked a bit, while i filled out the application, and found out that she was the daughter of the owner of the agency. and that she had a twin. i started to miss my own kid. angeli was very witty, and she had a pretty smile. minutes later, all of the other applicants left, and it was my turn to get interviewed. the interview didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t last long, since the secretaries were overwhelmed with the credentials i showed them (no, i am not bragging.). apparently, this was the first time someone with PhD units applied for a job through them, and they would not accept that i be placed in f&b. i asked why, and they told me i was overqualified and that some of the employers in singapore did not like it when their employees had better credentials than them. i was pleased, but took note of the comment. after a few more exchange of thoughts, the other secretary gave me an address and a company who was in need of administrative and training staff. she told me i was perfect for the job. she also told me that it was a direct hiring slot, and that they gave it to me because they got a good laugh talking to me (in a good way). i said thank you and asked how i could get back home to eunos. she told me to get a bus 125 at the front gate of the building. lo and behold, when i got out of the building, i was at the junction of tannery road and kailang way. the same street i was three hours ago. i took the wrong turn, and so i went in circles. i laughed it all out, although my feet kinda 13

hurt from all the walking. at aljunied, i bought some lunch. i felt i deserved a good lunch, so i bought some rice LOL it was a vlue meal worth S$2: buko-pandan flavored (you read that right) rice, fried egg, a frank, two slices of chicken fillet, and some chili paste on the side. at eunos, i did some groceries; i bought a 1.5L of water, 3 cups of instant noodles worth S$1.05, some detergent, chopsticks and some stackable microwavable containers-- all for just S$6.50. i rushed upstairs, turned on the PC, and skyped with ineng and grace to tell them all about what happened to me today.

still here. hey.

This lowly chair rests itself on the ground floor of my officeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s building, semingly waiting for its master.


SINGAPURA: My first 30 days in Singapore


Mediocrity creeping in: Hey you, Job. Let’s do lunch!

it is my eight day in singapore, and things are turning for the mundane. i am starting to develop a pattern of activities: breakfast at eunos crescent, takeaway for lunch, bread for dinner. and then there’s the occasional travel to either aljunied, bugis or the esplanade. i didn’t expect that the chinese new year fever has a grace period of 15days (the celebrations will end thursday next week, and so expect the occasional lion dancing and drum beating in street corners and in front of commercial buildings here). yesterday, i went to dhoby ghaut for a walk-in interview with a telecommunication company. they were supposed to open at 11am, but i came 30 minutes earlier. so, i decided to wander in the mall the office was located at. i chanced upon an appliance store, and started looking at the netbooks and laptops and found a cute silver netbook for a little less than S$600 (it was the cheapest). and so i vowed to myself i would buy one when things start turning out better. (i also attempted to buy some clothes hangers but decided they were way too bulky and heavy for me that day.) when the store opened, i queued with everyone else, and was issued a number: 1012. i sat momentarily, and looked at the CSOs that lined up the service bay. they were all women. and were conversing in filipino. i panicked. i don’t know what came over me. i suddenly felt like i wanted to run away and find a small cave where i could hide. i was annoyed with the fact that i wanted to back out. well, ten minutes of cringing later, i went back to the store and waited for my turn. when my number flashed on the board, i approached the CSO and greeted her in filipino. she was surprised, meeting a filipino at the service bay, and so i told her my reason for dropping by. she smiled aptly (btw, her name was diana said the tag on her desk) and said i shouldn’t have queued anymore and went straight to her when the store opened (i couldn’t tell her i chickened out early in the day). she bade me to sit in one of the empty cubicles, and went to the office at the back of the service bay. minutes later, i was filling out an application form 15

which he handed me. a few minutes after i handed her my application form, a tall indian guy bade me to come into a small conference room. he was the attending supervisor for customer support. he was very amicable, explaining to me thoroughly the rigors and requisites of the job (it was quite funny how he emphasized that “some” customers complained and demanded from the store just for the heck of demanding LOL). at the end of the interview, after we exchanged some thoughts, he told me he was going to refer my application to the manager, and asked me to wait for a call until afternoon today. (honestly, i don’t think he’s gonna call back). *** FLASHBACK that morning, before i went oto dhoby ghaut, i received a call from one of the assistant supervisors of the person i am meeting thursday. she told me that the boss was apologetic that she called me up at 6 in the morning. i told her it was no biggie. she was also looking forwards to seeing me thursday. in all honesty, so am i. the possibility of working, writing and teaching all the same time thrilled me a bit. i hope the offer would be good. *** i had some bee hon with tofu for breakfast. haven’t had lunch, since i’m still feeling kind of full. i guess this is how singapore has affected my eating habit. now i hope it pushes me to lose weight LOL oh, and i bought my first pair of pants here, for a measly S$10. yey.

still here. hey.


SINGAPURA: My first 30 days in Singapore

A daisy which was part of the display at the opening of a new hawker centre at Bugis. 17


Haphazardly delicious!

intercontinental, malay street, iluma, victoria, queen, waterloo, bugis square, national library, raffles hospital. darn it! where do i begin? DAY 9 i had a feeling that i had to come to the interview early because the office would be hard to find. and couldn’t be anymore correct. from the bugis station, according to the map, i had to walk pass victoria street, then queen street, then i would reach waterloo street, which was where the waterloo complex (obviously) was located. and so i set out walking outside the mrt station, following the signage that said victoria street...and the raffles hospital. big mistake. when i got out the starwell, i walked a bit and i was overwhelmed by this huge mall at the corner of victoria and ophir (?). i was amazed with the posh interiors and the beguiling lighting scheme only to be amazed to realize it was a hospital. you read that right. it was the raffles hospital, complete with shangri-la mall-like facilities. i was laughing my ears off to myself. who would imagine: a hospital with mall-like facilities and features. only in singapore. anywho, i crossed the street, looking for victoria, through the guidance of a stocky old indian man, and made my way through the street. sure enough, after victoria street was queen street (such subtle puns), passing by the Our Lady of Lourdes Church, which was the first catholic church for the catholic indian community in singapore. i was getting kinda cocky, because i was pretty sure that waterloo would be next, and yea, it was not. my world crumbled. i scrambled, scurrying, asking people where waterloo street was, but like me, everyone else was clueless. eventually, there was this middle-aged indian lady who prophesied it might be somewhere down the road i was at. i said “thank you” and walked straight ahead. passing by bencoolen street, i almost tripped on a gutter, and there it was... the stanford building, with the address: waterloo street. i was thrilled. and so i walked a little bit more, and found two beautiful buddhist temples. i stopped for a moment and paid my respects, and then trodded on. on the corner of mid18

SINGAPURA: My first 30 days in Singapore

dle road and waterloo, there it was - the waterloo complex. contented, i started to walk the way back. passing by the intercontinental hotel at victoria street, moving towards the national library (which i would like to note, had really spacious lobby interiors and greenery). i asked how i could get to the bugois mrt station, and found myself passing by iluma. iluma was a massive structure of two buildings. one part had a geometric, earth-toned pattern to its walls, while the other was a whimsical, almost appliquéd exterior of what was similar to capiz lanterns. i was amused. but there was more to come, little did i know. after i found the bugis mrt station, and realized i should have taken the right exit going up bugis square instead of the left exist going to the raffles hospital, i decided to trod back to bugis square for some window shopping. along the way to the mrt station, i passed by BGH and the malay street - a covered walkway similar to that of vegas, only smaller. it was just one whole block of food stalls, giordano, hypnosis (the store, which was on post lunar year sale; the dresses, which my wife would adore, were as cheap as S$5! honest.), M1 and starhub (phone service providers). i was enjoying cool breeze that led to bugis square, when i decided to leave and walk back towards iluma. it was such a splendid idea. lo and behold, the iluma, with all its “capiz lanterns” were lit up, in a sequence of patterns every other minute, and it was like seeing stars dance right in front of you. it was drop-dead amazing. that moment i wished my wife and kid were with me. they would have loved it. after that, i knew i had a place in singapore. i had to prepare for the interview the next day. i had to be READY. DAY 10 it’s officially my tenth day in singapore and i had an interview today at waterloo complex in waterloo street (obviously), near bugis mrt. i put on my trusty purple, long-sleeved shirt, some trousers and formal leather shoes and went straight to eunos to grab breakfast and go to the interview. as usual, i had some bee hoon and tofu for breakfast, with some bottled water that i had to spare. after that, i went up to the platform and waited for the train to arrive. and boy were there a lot of passengers. i forgot that 8.30 was rush hour, and so i had to wait for about 7 trains to pass by before i actually got a train to ride (the trains arrive every 2 minutes during rush hours; not bad eh?). i got off at the bugis station and found my way to the waterloo complex. i was an hour early for the interview (the train takes usually 2-3 minutes to reach another station), and so i went to a nearby food stall for a drink, and bought some iced tea. and here in SG, i found out, when you say iced tea (or milk tea), it means tea (like lipton’s), smothered with milk and placed in a glass with ice. ansaya! 19

At Victoria Street, this man rests on his bike, while waiting for the traffic light to go green.

so i went up to the office on the third floor, 30minutes earlier than the 10am call time. i got in (the guard let me in the number-coded door), and sat. immediately after i sat down, this young lady (who was, i found out, was named CHAR) offered me some warm water for my itchy throat. i obliged and she came back with a green cup filled with warm water. after a few more sips, i was done drinking. while i was drinking, i commented that char’s shoes were nice (a pair of red stilettos with small blue polka dots); she said “thank you” and told me the girl in the other cubicle gave it to her because they were too big for her feet. the other girl, jessica, peeped through her cubicle, asking “are you here for an interview? ‘cause if you are and you get hired, i’ll give you shoes too.” i laughed heartily and told her i wasn’t a stiletto-type. she irked, saying “oh, you’ll get used to it.” i was starting to like the office. the publisher arrived at around 10.33am, and she was more than apologetic. she asked me to take a seat in the conference room first since she needed to freshen up. she was a petite singaporean lady, with brown and tan curly hair. she started the interview but first laying down what the company was, where they’ve been and wheat she planned to do. it was a quirky conversation, because it was refreshing to talk to someone with so idealistic at the same time, forward views of how singaporean education should be, compared to the current mandate of the ministry of education. at the end of the interview, she told me that she was actually talking to 20

SINGAPURA: My first 30 days in Singapore

two other people for the job (one of whom was already outside the door when i came out of the confab room), but she also told me that she had affinity towards filipinos because of the warmth and sincerity, and that she understood my english LOL overall, she reckoned i was 80% there. but she had to talk to two more people and call me up tomorrow afternoon for the results. and so, after the interview, i went back home. i dropped by eunos crescent, grabbed me a bite (guess what? LOL) with some roki prata (dough made from flour, water and sugar that’s kinda like a pancake) which was sandwiched with an egg (which the guy scrambled with his bare hands) and some white onions. at home, i took a quick nap, and before i knew it, it was 3pm. i had to get ready for the quite bite robin arranged for us that afternoon. at the station, i got off at the tanah merah interchange, and took the connecting train to changi airport. after the train stop at singapore expo, the train went really fast, and finally reached the airport mrt terminal. i went up the escalator, and then found myself lost. again. i was supposed to look for a watson’s pharmacy but found myself misreading the map, and so i got so far from the phramacy, robin had to meet me halfway LOL finally, we made our way to the crowne plaza. the flooring, the walls, everything was ritzy. and i wasn’t surprised when i saw the menu card either. drinks at around S$12 up, cake slices, S$20 up. robin ordered two slices of honey pecan cheese cake, and two tall glasses of the house’s favorite mocktail rule240 (a drink made of apple, passion fruit and dragon fruit). we talked a bit, ate a lot, and then robin offered to show me the standard rooms in the hotel. i obliged, and we went upstairs together with one of the other guest relations officers (there were only three of them; all of them are filipino). robin told me she had to start at the bottom, and made her way up. i was inspired altogether with robin’s success story... anywho, back to the rooms. the standard de luxe room, which retails from S$350 to S$450 (not including taxes etc.) depending on the bulk of clients, had a great view of the pool on the third floor and the changi airport, an a transparent wall that gave people who bathed a view of the TV in the bedroom. the executive suite was a whopping S$750/night, complete with two T&B’s and it’s own living room and dresser. after the tour, we went back to the lobby bar, and the filipinas who were there (richelle and pinky) gave me a complementary treat of pistachio and chocolate chip cookies to take home, wrapped in a clear plastic with gold lines tied by a white ribbon with the name of the hotel printed on it. needless to say, i was thankful. sabi nga nila sa akin, “feel at home sir kasi andami nating pinoy dito sa hotel.” today and yesterday were days of extremes and delicious adventures. i hope tomorrow would be just as great.

still here. hey. 21


Finally a commentator during the mass

it is day12 of my stay in singapore, and i decided to hear mass at the st. joseph’s church in 143 victoria street, near the bugis station (the address was easy to remember since valentine’s day is around the corner). for breakfast, i had some, well, bee hoon and some roki prata (read my previous blogs to know what that is), and some ice-cold soya milk. and since it’s a saturday, i also bought a copy of the straits times, hoping that there was some odd job out there that was meant for me. i took a quick stroll to buy some bottled water, tag-priced at 80cents. i got home and had breakfast. my brother hasn’t come home for two nights now, so i reckon he’s probably spending the weekend over at a friend’s house. he hasn’t SMS’d either, so i also think he doesn’t want to be disturbed. after breakfast, i started reading the papers, and browsing the classifieds. i did find some interesting job vacancies and listed them down on my planner - all 13 of them. invigorated, i started emailing my CVs to the companies. one particular application though, for a local university, took forever to send, since the company had a separate template for applications. sadly, the template encountered glitches along the way, doubling my entries every now and then, and entering (and saving) wrong data which i did not type not selected. eventually, i told myself, maybe the job wasn’t for me. it was as part-time lecturer for communication arts. pun intended. after an hour of sending out CVs (since i had to edit cover letters etc), i took a quick nap, forgetting lunch for the meantime, and woke up at around 3pm. i had lunch. no it wasn’t bee hoon. it was ramen, and loaf bread with apricot jam. i finished almost the whole pack of loaf. please, do not judge me. LOL at around 5pm, after a bathed and all that, i set my course to the church on victoria street. i discovered the church while looking for a shorter route going to the interview i went to for the children’s magazine i was applying a job for. this church, with its magnificent steeples, is located in front of the neo-classic singapore national library. i got in, and the mass started. i was so pleased to know that there was a 22

SINGAPURA: My first 30 days in Singapore

commentator for the mass. sadly though, it eventually became apparent that he was more concerned of his singing (and waving his hand to conduct everyone), instead of doing the commentator’s work LOL he went to the extent of rehearsing the crowd for the psalm response and even busier making sure every one was in perfect during the singing of the hymns. i was delightfully amused. no, not in a sarcastic way. the mass was going along just fine, when, during the prayers of the faithful, i was struck by the third prayer: “for the currently unemployed, so that they may find gainful work...” i grew teary-eyed and thanked the Lord for that. it suddenly occurred to me that the Lord does joke in odd ways, and He did to me today, reminding me that i wasn’t supposed to stop. i had to trod forward. the other readings talked about the power of prayer, and of the things we needed to sever to refrain from making sin, i.e. sinful eye, poke it out; lustful hand, cut it and throw it away etc. i was on my way home when i glanced at a signboard. it said, “hold on.” i felt like the Lord was telling me what to do. passing by the malay street and iluma on the way to the bugis mrt station, i was welcomed by dozens of shops that were on-sale and was even tempted to buy a shirt. but i had enough strength to stop myself. more than a shirt, i needed a nail cutter, since my nails were kinda long, and were starting to accumulate dirt. eew, i know. reaching eunos, i dashed to the crescent and bought, well you know what, with some chili-and-lemon-grass-spiced chicken wings, and a sling bag of icy-cold soya milk. i was expecting my brother to be home by now, but apparently he’s not. that’s why i got to blog tonight. tomorrow, i am going out with former high school classmates who have settled really well here in singapore. one is an avp for an accounting firm (i think; she makes tons of money), and another one is an engineer for a PC company. i hope i land on a job soon. i really want to go to little india and buy that wedding band for my wife. oh, and i want a new set of shirts too, plus have the audacity to buy from starbucks 24/7.

still here. hey.



Videoke and more

it was my 13th day in singapore, and i went to see a couple of friends and former kids from the radio. i went to the eunos crescent to grab some breakfast: the usual. and SMSed a friend of mine, asking if the after-lunch meet-up was going to push through. he obliged after a few minutes, and so i went home to prepare for that. 1pm. first up was a lunch with my high school buddy, gilbert. on my way to orchard road, since we were meeting at the ion, i took the city hall interchange going to orchard. when i boarded the train, there was an old couple who were around 70 or 80 years old, already inside, clinging with their flimsy, old arms and hands to the center railing of the train. i was reminded of my own grandmother at home, and so i smiled at both of them. along with me went in a younger couple (compared to the two who were already inside; they were around 50). the train started moving and the lady of the younger couple lost balance and moved towards the older lady, almost squashing her to the railing. the next scene startled me. although she spoke in chinese, i could decipher from the hand gestures and tone of the voice that the younger lady was blaming the older lady for having been there, like it was her fault she almost got squished. i was speechless. when i arrived at orchard, i went straight to ion (this is my first time to go to ion, and only my second to orchard road; i am so glad singapore is riddled with signages). i went up the escalator and the swarovski store welcomed me to ion. i let out a grin. gilbert SMSed and asked me to meet him in front of the Rolex store near the entrance to LV (are you reading this!?). we took an escalator up to food republic and he treated me to apparently the most-soughtafter noodles in that part of the orchard, hokkien mee (fried shrimp with noodles), along with a drink made of carrot and oranges, plus poppia, which was like the lumpia back home. it was a scrumptuous lunch. gilbert then took the liberty of touring me around the malls in orchard road, inclusing takashimaya, ion, tangs, wisma atria and the infamous lucky plaza (where i 24

SINGAPURA: My first 30 days in Singapore

could hardly breathe with all the kababayans who were there to buy) suka, toyo, boy bawang, chicharon, shingaling and everything else pinoy. (lucky plaza was indeed sort of the little philippines of singapore). around 3pm, i got an SMS, and i had to rush to clementi to borrow a laptop, to see what the buzz was (and whether the email was good news or bad news). i bad gilbert goodbye, and thanked him for the great company, as always. at that time, joei, my former DJ from lybat, who now works as a CSO in changi airport (you can find her easily; just ask around for the star of terminal 2), was well on her way to clementi. and so i rushed to the mrt station. below the station was a bus station, and joei was there waiting for me, and for bus78, which led to jakeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s house (another former DJ of mine). at clementi, jake was gracious enough to cook dinner for us - heaps of macaroni. joei had her MAGIC SING with her, and we sang a couple of songs. and celebrated some good news. after a few hours, we went home... with jake offering that i use her laptop for the time being since i had none to use. i was hesitant at first, but jake insisted, and i was more than thankful to accept her offer of using her vaio. on the way home, i realized how lucky i was, compared to other people who came to singapore empty-handed. i had the support of friends, my radio kids, my wife and kid, and everyone else whom i carried with me when i came to singapore. honestly, i only have money that is enough to keep me going for a month or so. but He makes ways to make sure i get by day-by-day... plus He also keeps watch of my two girls back home: grace and carla. still here. pray for me. itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll be a helluva week. hey.


The Waterloo Centre, and yes, those are clothes sticking out of the windows.


SINGAPURA: My first 30 days in Singapore


Of starbucks, pâté, french toast and dumplings, from simei and beyond...

i wanted to start today’s blog with a question which i formulated while i was riding the train back to eunos after having dinner at simei (i’ll tell you more about that in a bit): do you own a fish in a bowl at home? laugh as loud as you want people, because the perplexity is just starting; trust me, there is a point. at home, we own a red brazilian fighting fish we call “fishie” (for the lack of an appropriate name for it, and because it was the name my daughter gave it). because of his nature, fishie lives alone in his small fish tank. every so often, back when i was home, after i cleaned up his tank, i would look at how fishie would swim back and forth after i changed his water. at some point, he would stop, look through the glass wall, and stare at me. at times like that, i would get to thinking: is it me looking at fishie, or is it him looking at me. perspectives. THIS MORNING i woke up at around 6:30am, prepping up for today, since i had to drop by the office. to my surprise (and pure revelry), my IPA (in-principle approval) was approved late afternoon yesterday after it was applied for early morning of the same day (ate nanette, a fellow filipino who was working in the company i was hired at, SMSed and called me up all enthused since the pass was approved so quickly. i have talked with her before, when i was starting to be interviewed for the position, and she was more than gracious to share her 15 years of experience in SG). this morning, i was supposed to drop by the office, get the specifics of the IPA, and process my medical exams. revved up as i was, i was already at the eunos crescent at around 7:30am, and had some stir-fried ramen topped with veggies for breakfast. i bought a bottle of mineral water on my way out of the hawker centre, and proceeded to the mrt.lo and behold, regardless of whether i let three trains pass by, i still arrived at bugis station a tad earlier than the agreed time of 9am (i was already at bugis by 8:10am), so i decided to sit outside the st. joseph’s church, and read the newspapers i got for free at eunos 27

and at bugis (i love it when they give free newspapers in the morning). at around 8:45, i walked towards the building where our office was located - just adjacent to the church. convenient eh? when i arrived, catherine, my boss, was already busy talking to clients over the phone. it took well over five to ten minutes before i went in to her office, and yes, she was still talking to someone over the phone. after a few more minutes, she was off the hook, and she came to me with the results of the application for my s-pass. she told me that i had to finish my medical exam first, then get my pass, before i could “officially” start, although i had to check in early next week, since we had a brainstorming session on monday at 9am, and a meeting with our distributors the following day (tuesday actually has a conflict, since i was supposed to accompany sofia, the girl i was replacing, to the graphic designer’s house). after a quick meeting with everyone, i was discharged and i ran back to eunos to get my medical exams done. at eunos, i went to one of the HDB clinics which catherine advised me to go to (since clinics in malls charged heftier). i gave my specifics, and waited for my turn. after 15 minutes, i was called by the attendant to enter the doctor’s office. in all honesty, i was a bit surprised to see that the doctor who was supposed to do the medical exam was like twice as young as the doctors i’ve encountered back home. she was relatively young. her name was dr. kim. she started by taking my blood pressure, which was 120/80 (event though i came in the clinic panting because i walked a couple of meters from paya lebar), and then she asked me to lie down so she could listen to my heartbeat. after checking for vital signs, dr. kim started pressing on my tummy and asked if i felt any discomfort. i jested her saying, she wouldn’t feel anything else around my tummy since it was all fat. she smiled and said, “fat is not bad.” the doctor, being young as she was, i felt, had a different perspective.”i neeed to lose some weight,” i said. but the physician rebutted, saying “you should change your perspective. instead of saying ‘need’, say that you ‘want.’ people accomplish a lot of things when they want something.” i smiled at her in agreement. afterwards, she asked to get back to my seat, and she extracted around 5cc of blood from my left arm. she got a circular bandage from a small drawer below her, and said, “uhm, where did i poke you?” i had to stop myself from laughing. she was so, well, young. i left the clinic and ran to eunos to grab a bus going to bedok (since the clinic didn’t have an xray facility). this proved to be a tough challenge for me since i had to get off at bedok interchange and look for the princess building which was adjacent to the bus terminal. i instinctively went straight to the eunos rotunda, thinking that the bus nos. 7, 26 and 30 would route there. lo and behold, none of the buses where there. i asked around, and i was instructed to take a bus to upper changi road, get off after two stops, then ride the buses i needed. 28

SINGAPURA: My first 30 days in Singapore

and so i hopped on a bus154, and counted two stops - i was back to where i almost got off, at joo chiat. there, i waited for bus 7, 26 or 30. bus26 came after a couple of minutes. i asked if they were going to pass by bedok interchange, but the driver prompted me to the other side of the rode. i climbed up the overpass to the other side of the road, thinking maybe the guy was wrong. a few mores steps later, and i was on sims avenue, and then it hit me: why the hell was i going towards paya lebar when all the while bedok was two stations away from eunos, going to pasir ris. i was stoked. i ended up riding a bus7 which passed by the eunos bus stop, which i did not mind passing, on my way to the bus rotunda. darn it. LOL four and a half kilometers after, i was at bedok interchange. i found the clinic immediately, but the lady prompted me to go to the second floor for the x-ray exam. lo and behold, no stairs (or at least i didn’t see it). i ended up going around the building, looking for a stair case, asking the crew and managers of mcdonald’s, only to be told that beside the main door of the clinic was a door that led to the second floor. i felt like such an idiot LOLupstairs, i went through the x-ray in a breeze. i was a ssisted by a filipina, who didn’t feel like she was a radiologist at all (since she was in a business suit, not a scrub suit). i paid the man S$12.84 for the x-ray and left. they were to forward the results to the clinic in changi, who in turn would finalize my medical exams. everything cost me S$43.84 to be exact. before i went to the mrt station, i walk around bedok’s hawker centre, which looked a bit cleaner (if not more elevated) that that of eunos’. there was little garbage, nor people who loitered and did not eat at all. it was lunchtime, and so a lot of people where at the centre. i was amazed at the wide selection of food, but prompted myself that i had to buy food at eunos when i got back, so i wouldn’t have to buy food twice (plus i already bought sardines and potato pufss, err, empanada which i stowed away in my backpack). a few stops later, i was at eunos. i bought a serving of nasi lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk, topped with chili, peanuts, scrambled egg and cucumber) and a tall plastic cup of soya milk (which i bought instead of the sling bag since i need a glass to drink my remaining coke from). when i got home, i feated over the nasi lemak (incidentally, nasi is al capampangan for “rice.” funny how our languages are connected eh?) and the puffs, while watching x-factor reruns and glee performances on hioni’s pearly pink vaio (which she lent to me almost a week ago so i would have a chance to skype with grace; i am so lucky with my kids!). THE AFTERNOON i was actually hounded by a personal dilemma this afternoon, and so i had to call some people to help me iron things out. in the midst of it all, onil, mythel’s husband (who is my wife’s first cousin), called me up and asked if we could 29

meet late in the evening over dinner, so we could talk about the problem that i had. i was more than happy to oblige, seeing that i owed both of them so much, and now he had offered to help me out yet again. i was late for the 8pm appointment (since i did not catch the mrt immediately and had to wait for another four minutes for the next train to come by), but onil still greeted me with a smile when we meet at 711 in simei. he asked if i had dinner (which he already asked when he called me up around 7:15pm, telling me that we could meet by 8pm at simei mrt station), and invited me to see the hawker centre at their part of singapore. i was blown away. why? the primary hawker center, which was dubbed “foodshare” (since it was, i would believe, a project of the fairprice enterprise in SG) was fullyairconditioned with selections of chinese, korean and japanese cuisine. i was more than delighted to see the smorgasbord that was before me. in the end, the filipino tummy took over my decisioning prowess, and so i ordered a japanese bento meal of chicken pâté and crispy-fried salmon with a heap of rice and pickled veggies (cabbage, mainly), which onil graciously paid for. he also bought two glasses of lemon iced-tea, and for his dinner, a bowl of noodles and dumplings on the side. all throughout dinner, he kept asking me if i needed anything else, and i was too shy (and too full) to oblige. afterwards, we waited for mythel (my wife’s cousin, remember) at starbucks, still just outside the mrt station. onil ordered a mocha frappe and a chocolate cream chip frappe for us.


Inside the atrium of the Waterloo Centre.

SINGAPURA: My first 30 days in Singapore

we started chatting again, when we sat down, talking about stress in the office, how i was already on my way in building the dreams i promised my wife and kid. stuff that would normally make me cry at night when i’m alone in the room (because my brother does extreme overtime and sometimes doesn’t come home from work for two days straight). at around 9:30pm, mythel came and we started saying “congratulations” and “thank you’s” again. mythel (and onil) could not have stressed so much that i was fortunate to have found work so fast, with a pass approved at such pace. mythel told me i was also fortunate to have my kids here in singapore, and i should start planning for my family’s vacation here in singapore, instead of me going home every so often. at the back of my head, i knew she hit the bullseye on this one. she was more than right. a few more laughs and tips, and it was time to go home. the couple had to take a bus home, and i had to take the mrt back at eunos. while on the mrt, i stared blankly at the passangers who were seated at the coaches in front of mine. i couldn’t stop myself from wondering how they felt, rifding their coaches, fidgety as they were, wiggling left and right as the train traversed the stations simei to tanah merah to bedok to kembangan to eunos. but then it hit me: was i seing them wiggling left to right, bumping, grinding on the metal, or was i seeing how stable their coach was, only that i was the one who was wiggling to and fro? i guess like fishie, and the coaches of the train, my life in singapore will be a matter of perspectives. i have a meeting i’m more than excited to attend this coming monday, but mythel was right: it’s a little bit of both excitement and fear. it would just be a matter of asking myself to settle on the perspective i want to bank on. some people, onil said, sell carabows and cows just to muster enough to send them from the provinces to manila. i, on the other hand, was already in singapore. and because i have the opportunity, only i have the power to shift or manipulate my tonight, i ask you: are you looking at a fish through the glass walls, or are you the fish looking outside the person on the other side?

still here. hey.



Topsy-turvy, happy-kinda-sad day

i had home-made apple pie, home-made chocolate chip cookies, tomato and cucumber salad in a tangy vinigrette, basmati rice (very long grain rice from thailand), vietnamese coffee, 1 can of tiger beer, loads of chicken adobo cooked with distilled vinegar and spicy indian fish balls for lunch. i got wet through and through by the rain along keppel road for merienda. i had bad news for early dinner. i will blog about everything when i muster enough strength. thank you, soo and joe for being gracious hosts. still here. hey. HERE IS PART 1 OF THE STORY. the day stared off with a meeting with my company’s distrinutors. i was supposed to “not” attend the meeting since i had a prior engagement with the magazine’s graphic designer who live in tanah merah. anywho, i was asked to join my boss and ms nanette, our senior programme director for the meeting. the meeting itself was kind of light, since one of the distributors was very quirky. she was laughing almost half of the meeting, cracking jokes that only her and the other chinese folks understood. but i figured they were really funny (judging from my boss’ reactions as well as the other distributors who were present - a girl with a bob cut who wore a white blouse, a tall chinese guy who wore a striped red long-sleeved shirt with squre silver cuff links, a sassy girl with bangs who wore a strapped top and wrapped herself in a kashmir shawl and an old guy who wore a plain white long-sleeved shirt). the meeting progressed, and it was light, seeing that my boss had been working with them for quite some time. it was nice that instead of throwing a lot of questions at us, the distibutors were throwing questions at each other, looking at major points like pricing, combination marketing, and market strata. i left at 11am so i could catch up with the 12nn lunch meeting with soo 32

SINGAPURA: My first 30 days in Singapore

young, our graphic designer, at tanah merah. as usual, i got lost looking for the mrt, and was lucky enough to find the lavander mrt station. i hopped on the mrt and got off at tanah merah. i took bus9 to jalan chempaka, making sure i counted the stops and the turns right, so i wouldn’t get lost. although i enjoyed getting lost in singapore, i didn’t have time to wander around since i was told that soo was very particular with time. after a few stops, i got off where soo instructed me to, and found her house. sofia (the person i replaced) was already there, and she greeted me at the gate with soo (a petite woman of around 55 who wore glasses). soo greeted me and said, “i was having a hard time visualizing you. you look friendlier in person.” i said thank you and went to the foyer. hers was a quaint house. lining the short path to the main door were granite slabs embedded onto the soil, with bermuda grass seeping through the spaces in between. flanking the granite pathway, on both sides, were tall birds of paradise. to the right of the path was a small koi pond with several fishies. the veranda also served as a foyer where a metal table and chair dining set was placed, along with a comfy sofa set. inside the house was an array of rondallas and bandurias, two or three cellos, and a bunch of guitars. a long electronic keyboard was set in front of a white board that had traces of lines and musical notes. soo’s husband, joe, had a PhD in music technology and headed the music department at the national university of singapore (he finished his master’s degreed in UP diliman, while soo took an interior design course in pasong tamo. they met in the philippines. they’ve been together for 25 years. they have no children, only cats). soo made a hodgepodge of treats for lunch: home-made apple pie, home-made chocolate chip cookies, tomato and cucumber salad in a tangy vinigrette, basmati rice (very long grain rice from thailand), loads of chicken adobo cooked with distilled vinegar and spicy indian fish balls. joe had just come from vietnam (soo says her husband is too asian since he has a lot of friends in the region; joe is indian), he offered us vietnamese coffee and a can of tiger beer (my first in singapore). it was a great lunch meeting, with soo and i talking about the specifics of the magazine while i voraciously (the term soo used to describe how i ate) devoured the adobo she made (she said she felt relieved i loved the adobo - which was fabulous), and jo, sofia and i talking about the jasmine revolution in the middle east and how it might creep into asia. that was by far, one of the best lunches i have ever had in singapore. i’ll tell you more when everything is ironed out. still here. hey.



Stones, paper and a kid under a table

i was tasked to observe a class the other day, as part of evaluative measures to develop and enhance programmes that we have. by chance, i bumped into the teacher (his name is KH) i was supposed to observe, when i got off at pasir ris mrt station. we talked a bit and then looked for the bus terminal. a few more minutes and we were riding bus358. it’s the first time i was working with KH, so i interviewed him a bit. he told me he taught drama full-time in another school at bedok, where he lives. he got married last year, at the age of 40. he was into film and poetry, and had no kids. we got off the bus after two stops, and walked toward the school. at the gate, we got visitor’s IDs from the guard and went straight to the general office. there, we had to surrender the visitor’s IDs and got another set of IDs for people who were allowed to go around campus. the lady in the office explained the reason why, and KH and i just smiled and nodded (weird lady; why did she have to explain? hehe) KH and i came into the room, and started setting up. we had another teacher setting up in the i-mac lab on the third floor (it was crazy. they had around 40 i-mac units for the kids to use, and by kids, i mean 6-12yo kids). at around 11:15am, the kids started coming in, and the teachers asked them to sit on the floor near KH. during the class, these were the most memorable quotes i heard from our teacher and the teachers-in-charge:

“take that piece of paper away or i’ll shove it into your mouth.”

“you have the memory of a goldfish.”

“use that little brain of yours and keep working on your answers.”

“very you know more than just talking.” 34

SINGAPURA: My first 30 days in Singapore

(pointing to the kids) “you shut up.. you shut up... you shut up too.”

“i am talking... and when i talk, you all should shut up and listen.”

KH went on with the lesson, telling kids to answer and flip through the pages of the modules which we gave the kids. a little over an hour of the session, he turned off the lights and asked the kids to watch two video clips about kids who liked sports. afterwards, he asked them to answer questions on the module that asked for values which the video portrayed, all the while not asking whether the kids truly understood what they watched. i was also amused at how one kid hid under the table while the names were being called one by one for attendance. the kid named ADAM, looked like he was anxious about being in the class in the first place. he was a shy 11yo boy who liked basketball, but didn’t want to talk about it (part of the class introduction, which was setup like a recitation, was to tell KH which sports and give 3 reasons why). i went home reminded of my first grade teacher who pinched my ear twice when i was young. the educational approach is top-down, which is ironic because teachers expected students to learn to speak their mind and present themselves with vigor and confidence, and yet all they do is yell at the kids, ask them to be quiet, and pay attention like automatons. where is creative learning there? hehe that’s where my job comes in. darn it. it’s going to be a bumpy ride though LOL still here. hey



When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.. to the coffee shop for some latte?

I had a rough morning today. I woke up around 5:30am, made some quick noodles, bathed and flew to Tanjung Pagar to fix what I could for my S-Pass ID which still wasn’t released prior to the submission of my MA certificate. I got in early, got number L0004 and sat down. When it was my time to get processed, lady named Florence took my papers, breezed through it, and then told me I could not get my ID processed since I didn’t have my certification for my PhD. I told her the company logged in that I wasn’t through with it yet and so on, but she told me that the company needed to send the documents to MOM so they could process it again altogether. She told that she has told countless Filipinos (we were singled-out) kept putting things in their applications but could not produce certificates for them (I did, but mine was a certificate from the University Registrar of PLM stating the number of units I’ve taken for my doctorate), which included me. I dashed toward the exit, and immediately after I made my first step on that flight of stairs, I started crying. No, I was sobbing. So hard was my sobbing that I had to take a breather by walking towards the parking lot at the back of the complex, and sat on the sidewalk. I tried calling the boss, but I guess she was busy prepping for the 10am talk at Holland Grove, so she did not answer. I called Ate Nanette afterwards (she is a Filipino, and is the senior programme director of the company I will officially work for starting March 1st). I told her the predicament, and she urged me to stop sobbing, literally. She told me that my problem had a solution, and that the company would back me up. Ate also told me she could talk to the boss about the pay, which was the most crucial issue resulting from the dilemma. I thanked Ate Nanette and put down the phone, making my way back to the MRT station. All the while I was thinking of how I would tell the wife, and how messed up I was. I took some time off and sat at the flight of stairs near the tap-in at Tanjung Pagar MRT, and started to collect myself. Ate Nanette told me that the predicament could take just around a week or two to fix but that it was doable. 36

SINGAPURA: My first 30 days in Singapore

A mural along Cityhall MRT Station.

She reminded me of how other people had it worse, and that some had to exit a couple of times and so on. My case, she highlighted, already had an IPA and WSPC. All I had to process was the ID. I collected myself, and went on my way. I grabbed some coffee on my way to Buona Vista, which was the nearest MRT station to the school. When I got to the classroom where my boss was doing the talk with parents, she greeted me with this big smile. I came in, sat beside her on the teacherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s table, and I told her my predicament. She told me we could talk about the loopholes of the dilemma on Monday, but that in principle, I was still coming in March 1st. The talk was jam-packed. There were around 30 to 40 parents in the classroom; some were couple while others had children with them. After the 40-minute presentation, questions were entertained, and we got quite a number of people who had queries. But it was after the presentation that was more interesting. Flanking me on both sides, with another Caucasian woman listening in, two women approached me, each battling for my attention, asking me about why the educational system here focused primarily only in science and math. That went on for quite a while, and ended up with me giving the three women my HP because they felt like it was interesting to have guys teach creative writing. On the way back to the office, my boss told me that the company would submit what needs to be submitted to MOM, and that we could talk about my 37

appointment papers this coming Monday after I come back from the rehearsals of the awards day I was co-hosting at the Woodlands this coming March 5th. She told me that all problems had solutions, one way or another, and if they had no solutions, they weren’t problems at all; instead, they were things we had to live with and accept. On the way back, I bought a S$30 top-up card, only to realize that it did not add value to the card, instead merely gave me outgoing calls and SMS, no incoming calls/SMS. I was saddened even more, since it meant I had to but another card to top up my incoming calls, and then went home. I bought some bee hoon with tofu, and some soya milk on my way home. *** The boss told me to go to this website which measured one’s strengths and weaknesses, she asked me to print a copy of the results. Here are my top 5 strengths, which the boss wants me to focus on: 1. Love of learning - You love learning new things, whether in a class or on your own. You have always loved school, reading, and museumsanywhere and everywhere there is an opportunity to learn. 2. Capacity to love and be loved - You value close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing and caring are reciprocated. The people to whom you feel most close are the same people who feel most close to you. 3. Appreciation of beauty and excellence - You notice and appreciate beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in all domains of life, from nature to art to mathematics to science to everyday experience. 4. Gratitude - You are aware of the good things that happen to you, and you never take them for granted. Your friends and family members know that you are a grateful person because you always take the time to express your thanks. 5. Humor and playfulness - You like to laugh and tease. Bringing smiles to other people is important to you. You try to see the light side of all situations. *** Today, I realized that being blessed doesn’t mean you get it easy all the time. Being blessed is being surrounded by people who are nice enough to tell you the truth, and tap you on the back and say things’ll be alright eventually.

Still here. Coping. Hey.


SINGAPURA: My first 30 days in Singapore


Five days after: hosting, mcmuffins and insatiable fear of falling face flat on the pavement

A sausage McMuffin with egg for breakfast. No coffee, no hashbrown. Just the burger. S$3.90 = P132.60. Buhay-singapore. Nakanang. Kaya nako nagbibihon araw-araw LOL *** It is my 33rd day in Singapore. And to appease myself, I started compiling all the blogs I wrote for the past month – from Day 1 to Day 26. And although some of the dates were missing, I really didn’t mind. A lot of things had happened in 33 days, and are still happening as I write this final piece to the chronological puzzle I am trying to piece together. Today I went to Woodlands, at the Regional Library inside Causeway Mall (which apparently was just a 20-minute bus ride away from Malaysia), where I was to co-host an awards ceremony for young authors. I came in a bit late for the call time, since I underestimated the train ride – not realizing that the distances between, for example Bishan and Khatib, were not the same as that of Eunos and Aljunied (for cross-reference, please refer to the Singapore MRT system map). I was 15 minutes late, but was still earlier than the rest of the other people. Fran, the production manager (a Canadian who was married to a Singaporean Chinese teacher, whose work for today brought her to Malaysia) was already there, arriving at around 7:30am (since he had to accompany his wife to the bus going to Malaysia; they left the house at around 4:30am); he was the earliest. Nanette (the other Filipino in the company) was also early, as was the boss, and Spark (the guy who designed the company’s website). Kendrick, a former awardee of the ceremonies a few years back (he was interviewed in Channel News Asia’s Primetime Morning when he was just 12 years old right after the first awards ceremonies in 2007) was also early, helping out Spark set-up the exhibit panels (he was the usher for the day). 39

The program started almost on-time. It was late by 5 minutes, since the special guest, the Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Israel, got caught up in traffic (she was driving alone, in her own car, and was stuck because she “relied on GPS” to find her the shortest way to the venue). The program ran for a few hours, with a 20-minute tea break at around 10am. They served (guess what) bee hoon, some small éclairs bars topped with strips of milk chocolate, meat balls and lumpiang shanghai. The other guests were the same people whom I was in a meeting with, after the ceremonies, a managing director of a music company that utilized a lot of apps in their musical productions, and two hotshots from a company that specialized in apps for iPhone4 and Androids (needless to say, my nose bled). I went home after the meeting, taking the Circle Line. From Woodlands, I got off at Bishan, took the train to Dhoby Gaut but got off at Paya Lebar, then took the green line to Eunos. I bought some French baguette, and then made my way to the house, only to find out the HDB whose corridors and by-ways I used to pass through was already barricaded. So much for easy access. Now I have to go around the fences to get to Changi Road. Grr. ***FLASHBACK: TWO DAYS AGO My boss, together with Nanette, Adieline (our illustrator who has a degree in fashion design from Australia, and whose uncle had a second stroke just this morning, after he was diagnosed with cancer a few months back) and I, had lunch at Aunt Mary’s, a quaint little cafeteria which served home-cooked meals. While Addie had a fill on the chicken, Nanette and I had some beef (which was cooked in a rich curry sauce). Our boss had chicken which was something similar to adobo. She also bought us a platter of petite curry puffs and a serving of radish, chili and hard-boiled egg, stuffed in small, edible and crunchy cups (which tasted like Pinoy, the mamiso-pack chicheria). Later that evening, the four of us – Fran, Adie, Charlene (a Mass Comm graduate who works for the company as editorial associate) and I – went to the launch of Media Fiesta 2011, a month-long celebration of varied media platforms, which had both free admission and paid admission events. The launch was held at the third floor of the SCAPE Mall at Somerset Rd. To tell the least, the launch was highly formal, since the event had the Minister of Information, Communication and the Arts as the special guest. But that wasn’t the nice part. The nice part was the host of the launch. For one, he had a Duck Tails hairstyle. Second, he talked funny ‘cause he spoke in phrases. Third, he called the minister up the stage three times to do a couple of things – his keynote speech, the launch of the Media Fiesta (which he did by pressing his palm on 40

SINGAPURA: My first 30 days in Singapore

a console set on-stage), and open a box that had the logo of TEMASEK (a MMPRG that featured the history of old Singapore, whose original name was Temasek) in it. THREE TIMES. Hello, high-ranking official!? fter the launch, we were led to the dining area at the second floor. They served tempura, tons of canton, coleslaw, fried chicken, burgers, and fish balls. And yes, I ate a heap of everything, except for the tempura, and gulped three glasses of pomelo juice. We wanted to mingle and exchange cards with everyone else, but the party felt like they just wanted to remain in their own cliques. So we left and went home. ***FLASHBACK: YESTERDAY I met with a Filipino clinical psychologist who taught in the National Institute of Education. The boss wanted her to be part of the editorial board, so she sent me to talk to her. She was supposed to join the awards ceremony today but she backed out, last minute, last Friday. Thirty-three days, and counting. I still have jitters for Monday though. Pray for me. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll let you know what happens.

Still here. Hey.


My name is Evilreborn. I have lots of rants, unheard of since childhood. I am a TATAY to hundreds. And a FATHER to one. i am a DJ. a CREATIVE EDUCATION MANAGER. a ROCKER by soul. a TEACHER by heart. i live for the fun of it. and for the smiles in between. i may not seem happy at times but thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s what life is. s**t happens. we gotta learn to live with it.

Originally an associate professor in media studies and communication arts, Carlo has a decade of experience in teaching, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Education, focusing on curriculum development. As an academic, he has created compiled modules for learning English as a second language, as well as lecture-series for mass communications. As a tri-media editor, his experience as a former desk editor and radio station manager in community-based media outfits has diversified his methodologies and practices in teaching both children and young adults alike. All rights reserved 2011 42


A book by Carlo Pena, MDS