Singapore Day 1: Arrival

 Friday, May 4, 2007

Note: I will insert photos between paragraphs and these photos are not related to the paragraphs. I’m just too lazy to elaborate the stories behind these photos so I’ll just let them speak for themselves.

It was my first time to actually travel alone, without my Chinese-looking mom to get me through most Asian countries this time around. If she’s not the one I’m usually with, it would be work colleagues for business trips. Anyway, traveling on my own made me learn a few things:

If unsure of the procedures, come at least 4 hours early. And bring at least P5,000 and $3,000 broken down into tens.
I bought my ticket over the internet and I read that I should have about P1,600 for Philippine travel taxes and terminal fees. I brought more Benjamins than Ninoys so after checking in, I ended up looking for a working atm because the fees information I had gotten was a bit outdated. Turns out that only one of them, in the entire NAIA, actually worked. When I got to the immigration counter, the queue was so long and it was already 10:39. Boarding was supposed to be at 11. I made it in the nick of time (10.57). And to think I woke up at 6AM and got to the airport before 9.30AM. Geh.

I was taking a picture of the airport when I finally saw Janice approaching. What was supposed to be a serene facial expression turned ecstatic. (That was a really unflattering light and I had a really weird expression, but I did not care.)

Filipinos are sooooo friendly.
They weren’t kidding when they said that Filipinos are hospitable. In fact, I made two friends–one preggy girl who called me “Baby Face” and one father of two kids (both are a good deal younger than me and they were surprised to find out my real age)–all in the aiport. There was also this time when I had to buy food inside the Jetstar plane and my pesos came up short. I asked the flight attendant if she had change for $100 (the lowest bill I have on me). She didn’t, but the guy beside me had tens so I was able to take my lunch. (Credit card was an option but there’s a minimum $20 purchase required…I’m not about to treat my seat mates to lunch.)

At the Esplanade. Inside are beautiful artworks.

In relation to 2, the immigration officers of each country will give you an idea as to the personality of the locals.
The Philippine immigration officer I lined up for looked really tough. She was unsmiling and she sounded like she asked nerve-wracking questions. But she cracked up after asking me where I taught and what subject I was teaching. I explained to her what eCommerce was and this seemed to amuse her. She commented about people these days adding the letter “e” in everything. ePass and now eCommerce. She said that maybe someday these “e” things will replace people like her, although she claimed to have been working for the government long before I was born.

Now the Singaporean immigration officer rudely separated my passports, threw the old one down, and told me that this is Singapore so visas from other countries should be shown to other countries. Ok. Smile. Nervously. Then she asked me how much money I had on me. I told her I only brought $200 cash. Even in the Philippines and in the US, I don’t go around bringing hefty sums with me.

She huffed, “You’re staying at the Mandarin Hotel. That’s not enough.” Actually, I wasn’t going to stay in any hotel but I had forgotten to get Janice’s address so I just scribbled “Mandarin Hotel” on the form. I told her I had credit card. “That’s still not enough.”

I wanted to snidely ask, “Why? Mandarin Hotel no accept credit card, la?” Besides, what problems does she have about me not having money when I have a return ticket staring at her in the face? But I reminded myself that this isn’t my country and being sassy might get me detained. So I smiled and just said that I’ll just borrow money from friends if I need it.

 Evolving glass art.

While there are really nice Pinoys…Some Pinoys have no manners.
Why is it that the atmosphere suddenly changed when I landed in Singapore? The really nice Pinoys  I talked to were suddenly gone and a bakulaw took their place. There’s this Pinay who went beside me while I was filling up some forms and she just nearly demanded I let her borrow my form/card so she could fill hers up. She just grabbed my card and asked questions in a manner that made me want to slap her silly. (“May trabaho ako dito! DH ako! Bat ano bang gagawin mo dito? Bat apat na araw ka lang?”) Woman, I did not do anything to deserve this kind of hostility! I was feeling a mixture of pity and disdain for her when I realized that her agent just made a TNT out of her. She had no idea how long she was going to stay and she had a tourist visa. I told her that the officials will grill her (and might even throw her in jail) if she told them that she has a tourist visa but is expecting to work. After wasting my time trying to tell her the kind of situation she was in, while she stubbornly insisted on what she wanted to do, I took my card and left her there. Bad trip. Later, I saw her asking a few Filipino-looking people (but they were carrying foreign passports) about her case.

Not all Pinoys abroad are like her, though. I met some really friendly DHs in Hong Kong (not to mention, most of my graphic designer friends are cheerful OFWs in Singapore) about a decade ago (I was still a teenager then) and we had the most enlightening conversation. It turns out that they used to be teachers. Gosh. I wish something could be done so we don’t lose the precious ones to other countries. We need people like the ones I met in Hong Kong…Singapore can have all the bakulaw they need.

(Note about this photo on the left: It’s actually composed of uninterrupted lines and loops so detailed that it took my breath away. You must see it up close to appreciate it.)

I love how efficient Singapore Changi Airport is.
There’s wifi…Mi-Chan just won’t connect. The terminals and seats are so purty! The guards are kind and helpful. The currency exchange girl was insanely nice and strangely enthusiastic about her job. Some immigration officers are nice (I just happened to fall under the cranky old spinster). I’m actually just waiting for Janice to pick me up and I’m crossing my fingers that Mi-Chan will be able to pick up other wifi signals. If I can’t surf the internet, bringing him along is useless.

Singapore is so OC…Ahlavet!
You use one card for trains and buses. Buses are numbered. You can count by the number of bus stops, keeping visitors from getting lost. The low-cost housing don’t look like low-cost housing. There are playgrounds everywhere! The place is so gaddamn clean. The wifi has 12MBPS connection speed. Beggars need permits. You can use credit cards for taxis. Singapore’s so organized and positively OC…I love it!

 The view from Janice’s apartment. ^.^

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