(Featured image by Jared Ng via unsplash.com)
Who would have thought that I was once afraid to go to Singapore, when I have already been to this very progressive Asian country several times now? I was in high school when news about a certain Filipino was hanged there and that gave me a bad impression about this nation. I remember the case of Flor Contemplacion being the topic not only in class discussions at school, but also at church sermons (I was still a Catholic then), and certain public places. At home, my parents and I would also discuss it, watch the news together to see the development of her case, and even include her in our prayers. Hence, when my husband told me about a job opportunity in Singapore that he wanted to pursue several years ago, I was at a crossroads and had to pray so hard about it.
I believe I only began to see this country in a different light when a good number of my friends started going to Singapore to work, too. My husband has also convinced me that it was really a nice place to work in, even raise a family, since the country is peaceful, pollution-free, yet more advanced in various ways than our homeland. He would show our girls and I his surroundings via FaceTime or Skype and assure us that Singapore is a safe place to live in and the only time you should fear anything is when you break their laws. Moreover, he himself has started to make good friends with the locals and has earned the respect of both his co-workers and those working for their clients.
By the time I finally had the opportunity to travel to Singapore and visit my husband, all the negative thoughts and anxieties I used to have against this country and its denizens were gone. I must admit that I even felt peace and excitement from the moment I first glimpsed of this country from the plane. In addition, it seemed like all the people I encountered during my first visit to Singapore were rather friendly, and that must have made a huge impression on me. Every year, since 2013, I have looked forward to visiting my husband and seeing some of our friends (and relatives) who have come to work and stay in this country, too.
During my last travel to Singapore, I decided to stay a day longer than I normally would. Unfortunately, my husband couldn’t get a leave off work on the weekdays that I was scheduled to visit him, so I had willed myself to explore the country by myself and start learning their transportation system – the only thing that really bugged me before. As I prepared for my trip, I tried to recall the things that I already knew about Singapore to put my mind at ease, and these are the very things that I would like to share with you, especially if you’re a Filipino traveling to Singapore for the first time.
1. Safety. I’m sure you’ve already heard or read about Singapore being one of the safest cities on earth. Indeed, very young children could walk around the neighborhood and go to school by themselves, commuting, without the fear of being ran over by motorists or worse, kidnapped. You would also find CCTVs all over the country. Knowing this helps me feel much less apprehensive about roaming their streets alone.
Moreover, random interviews conducted by young police officers and college students in military training are a common sight at MRT stations and other crowded places, in the evening and on holidays. From what I’ve heard and seen, they tend to stop and question those who are rather noisy, look untidy or drunk, and seem to be wandering aimlessly. Of course, there may be occasions when they would just pick any foreigner at random, too.
Although there’s nothing wrong about being questioned, it could still be a frightening experience for a tourist, right? Remember to always bring your passport with you then, in case you get stopped and questioned by an officer, and do pay attention to your appearance, try to speak quietly when talking to someone, walk confidently, and make sure you’re not committing any infraction.
2. Language. Most people in Singapore are bilingual and can both understand and speak English, not to mention street signs are in English too. You might encounter some, however, who aren’t that well-versed in English, so you may want to speak in the simplest or shortest way possible. For example, if you must ask the bus driver to drop you off at Waterfront Park, simply say, “Waterfront, can?” If he replies, “Can” or “Can, can”, that means yes (whereas no means no). Continue reading “12 Things to remember when traveling to Singapore for the first time”