Thursday, December 28, 2006

Merry Christmas, lah!

The Manila Times
Business Times
Thursday, December 28, 2006

By Moje RamosAquino, FPM
Merry Christmas, lah!

WHEN I came back from a foray into a regular market here in Singapore, my son asked me how many new Filipino friends I made. I shook my head and said that I have been trying to spot them yet even after six days here.

Indeed Filipinos have the talent of a chameleon and more, lah. Until they speak in Filipino and in that loud manner, it is difficult to tell a Filipino from a local. They easily blend with the surroundings, lah. They take on the culture of the obtaining environment, lah. They acquire the accent and speaking habits of people around, lah. My son Adrian has been here for six months and when he speaks to the locals at the shops, he sounds like them, lah. Thus, we are able to get discounts on our purchases, lah.

Actually, there is no or very little bargaining because they quote you their last price. What you do is hop from shop to shop until you get an acceptable price. Electronic goods are definite bargains here compared to Manila, but everything else is expensive. One big plus is the clean restrooms in all malls with tissue paper aplenty.

Singapore is, indeed, very impressive. The infrastructures—physical, language and culture—are in place; thus, it is very convenient and comfortable to work, live and vacation here. What is more impressive is their attention to details. The nooks and crannies of Singapore are as well kept and tended as are the major visible areas. And Singaporeans are instructed to be nice.

I am pleasantly surprised at how Singapore celebrates Christmas in both spiritual and commercial levels. The emphasis is on “giving.” My son says Singaporeans are rich and are getting richer every day; thus, maybe, they want to pay back and what is more appropriate time than Christmas.

Singaporeans do seem to understand and imbibe the spirit of Christmas. The Good Shepherd Cathedral was jampacked during the midnight Mass. We noticed that the majority of churchgoers are Indians. There is no telling who are the Filipinos among the faithfuls, unless they speak in Filipino. There are lots of other nationalities too.

Hmmm, if Christmas is good for tourism and business, why don’t tourists come to visit the Philippines instead?

In Bangkok, although you hear Christmas carols all over the place, the Thais don’t really know what Christmas is. They see it as just another high point in their tourist arrival index and, therefore, mean more business. They are devout Buddhists.

“There are Christmas lanterns in some individual abodes and beautiful Christmas decor in big malls here in Singapore. There are all sorts of giant Christmas trees, even a pink one. They even have Christmas brochure entitled Blessing under a Star: Celebrate Christmas in Singapore.

Dr. Chen Tat Hon of Singapore Tourism Board writes, “Christmas is celebrated in a big way in Singapore. Visitors can enjoy the festive cheer together with local residents in celebration of this special season. Christmas in the Tropics has indeed become a huge draw for visitors. It attracts more than a million visitors from all over the world each year. One in five visitors surveyed last year said they had specifically planned their trips to coincide with the yearend festivities and 22 percent were repeat visitors. Orchard Road and Marina Bay transformed with festive street lightings and picture perfect opportunities for everyone to remember that special Christmas moment in Singapore.”

Rev Oh Beng Khee, chairman of Celebrate Christmas in Singapore says, “As Christians, Christmas is a celebration of God’s gift to man, the birth of Jesus into this world to die for everyone’s sins. Christmas brings forth this great and joyful news.”

Aren’t we the only country in Asia predominantly Catholics? The much ballyhooed Christmas street in Mandaluyong has deteriorated into one tiangge place with Christmas as an excuse for its being.

Again we are beaten in our own game, so to speak.

(Moje’s email is

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