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Friday, June 22, 2007

Singapore Sling

Unfortunately I haven’t tried the world famous “Singapore Sling”, a cocktail invented by a bartender at Raffles Hotel in the early 1900’s. But for four days I have seen much of Singapore, it’s a small country actually, with its vast system of MRT trains and a flawless transportation system which were operated by a steady stream of discipline. Going from one place to another does not present much of a problem.

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I tried drinking Tiger Beer though, I must say I still prefer San Miguel Beer. I still prefer our beautiful beaches and friendly camaraderie, pinoy foods still rocks my appetite. I tried a few local dishes but afterwards I craved for that Filipino adobo and Kare-kare.

But there are a lot of things that I’ve noticed that Singapore is doing really well. The concept of high rise apartment is one. Which makes me think whether the British are the better colonizers than the Americans. With the Americans we got the concept of suburban living, problem was, it takes a lot of space and suburban setting only appeals to the higher middle class. Poor people cannot afford to buy a lot for 300 square meters and build a house on it. Well we have the high rise residential buildings, but we call them as “condominiums” and are priced in the millions.

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Singaporeans, almost all of them live in these high rise apartment complex, that their Government and developers built to be able to meet the demands and afford ability of Singaporeans.

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The cost of living is much higher in Singapore, but who cares as almost all of them got jobs, old people drive buses and cabs, others work in the tourism industry as tour guides, ticket seller, ushers etc. Everybody are busy doing their own thing. Okay some say its a 0% unemployment rate, some say its 4%, I guess 4 days is not enough to cover all of Singapore, but it left me an impression of how discipline and following every rules can prove useful in the development of one country.

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A lot of people might say that Singapore is run by a tyrant style of government, especially those from the West. But what works for them works for them. Give them credit, the west cannot all the time dictate what kind of Government Asian countries should have.

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Culture, Religion and other traditions plays a part in this. Look at what the British and the Americans are doing right now in Iraq? They are implementing the western idea of democracy in a land and culture where it needs other thing aside from that.

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Back to Singapore, everything are planned, highways, parks, landscapes, bus routes, residential apartments to every detail. There is a solid leadership and also the intent to follow their leader. While we search for a decent leader to lead us, do we ask ourselves are we ready to follow? We always complain, radical leftist militants, all they know was to sour grape and complain everything from joint military exercises to foreign investors and the global market.

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Singaporeans are welcoming foreigner investors with a smile, notwithstanding their tough laws (cane whipping and death penalty). Now most of the world’s big corporations are either settling in Hong Kong and Singapore as their base of operation in Asia. Filipinos working in Singapore are slowly occupying professional positions.

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During my train ride I would hear conversations by Filipinos working in Singapore, they are dressed up in yuppie attire and I feel happy for them, getting that high paying job in a place much like the Philippines but at the same time different in a lot of ways.

What did these countries like Singapore, China, Thailand and even Vietnam are doing right? We were on the verge of becoming a tiger economy during the time of Fidel Ramos, lo and behold the Asian Financial Crisis befell on the whole Asian Continent. And as the case of wrong timing in epic proportion Erap took the presidency in 1998, dampening the momentum we have gained.

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We stayed in a hotel at Singapore’s red light district, this I will agree that Singapore isn’t all that perfect, it’s not an endless stretch of Orchard Road where malls and shoppers walk the streets. In Geylang road, at the onset of night Girls are lined up in every street corner, brothels are lit up like ordinary houses awaiting its guests. Pimps bothers tourists and locals alike by offering their working girls.

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So 0% unemployment rate is not real after all, because all these women will not take the hooker job if some other desk job out there is available. But still, over all Singapore is on the right track. Discipline, proper urban planning, mass housing program, foreign investor friendly laws, adequate infrastructure that includes highways, transportation system, all of these contributes to the development of Singapore.

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my older brother at the Orchard street sign

We, Filipinos sometimes lack discipline, if only we learn to instill discipline then I don’t see no reason why we wont succeed. I am proud to be a Filipino, but sometimes there are things that are going well with our neighboring countries that we still have to implement here.

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It’s one of those moments when you say to yourself “Why can’t we do this, and that?
Ironic as my brother told me that during Singapore’s infrastructure boom in the 1980’s and the 1990’s, Filipino Architects and Engineers are one of the main groups of people responsible for the concepts and designs of almost everything you see standing in Singapore today.

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Filipinos have the talent, skills and imagination to succeed, wish we could apply it all here in our country. Enough of the flawed bureaucracy, red tape, too much politics and corruption.

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