Thursday, August 12, 2010

The world in a bowl of laksa

Contrary to some people who insist that the Philippines is exceptional in all things despicable or idiotic, Singapore, like Australia, seems obsessed with being "world class." It seems its people know they have already achieved a level of development and excellence compared to its neighbors and contemporaries, but this doesn't mean it isn't aiming higher.

In a class last night, this was made evident to me when a Singapore national compared his country's "livability" vis-a-vis the ROW. Sure, in Asia, it is probably one of the best places to inhabit, but compared to the world? He shakes his head. Perhaps this obsessesion to be "world class" stems from the fact that such a small country seems to want to draw in as much of the world as it could.

I knew this country was multicultural, I suppose I was unprepared by just how much. I sense very little perturbance in the force however, and like Australia "multiculturalism" is now something of a state mantra. There are people of all shapes and colors on the streets and in the metro. It is quite fascinating to see really. Many of the signs in public spaces are in four languages - English, Chinese, Bahasa and a South Asian language I can't identify. Probably Hindi. What tensions I sense are usually directed at Malaysians. I haven't had a chance to watch local TV yet, but my Malaysian roommate when I stayed at a student hostel my first week here assures me all bad news are about Malaysia and all good news are about Singapore.

Last Monday the country celebrated its 45th year of independence. Forty-five years since Malaysia excised this little island from the rest of the peninsula. And look where they are now. The pride isn't overt, something which probably has to do with Asian tact, but it is there. I found the national day parade to be appropriately full of pomp, but in a muted, dignified sort of way. As the military hardware passed before my eyes and as the jets did acrobatic maneouvres overhead, I couldn't help but share the crowd's exhiliration. Forty-five years. One generation was all it took to achieve all of this.


R.O. said...

are they really multicultural, as in the four cultures fearlessly living with one another side by side, exchanging thoughts, ideas, feelings, love, words, who knows what else? i doubt it. filipinos -- now there's a truly multicultural people :)

Jon Limjap said...

The south asian language you can't identify is most likely either Hindi and Tamil. In fact you could've been hearing these 2 distinct languages and think they are one.