Love at First Sigh: A Memoir of Singapore


Aisa Villanueva

     I’ve lived most of my life in the Philippines. It is part of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), which in a smaller way is like the European Union (EU), in that it facilitates smoother travel for citizens of member nation states with the removal of visa requirements for tourists within a given number of days or weeks. My parents found such a fact favorable for their wanderlust-ridden feet. Whenever the opportunity and the right timing presented themselves, my parents grabbed them and took us kids along on their quest to set foot on the lands of all our Asian neighbors.

     Around two years ago, I found myself being whisked away to this tiny island south of the Malay Peninsula called Singapore. I understood then why the country is most known for its “no gum chewing in public” law. The country’s systematic schema of rules paired with the stringent discipline exercised by the people overwhelmed me, but also enlivened my adventurous spirit. The order helped preserve the pristine beauty of the land’s natural sights and looming skyscrapers. It made the area a very tourist-friendly place, which was accentuated further by the accommodating smiles of kindhearted Singaporeans, who go out of their way to willingly help lost tourists.
     What’s wonderful about Singapore is that it is a land created from fused, diverse cultures. Having four official languages–English, Tamil, Malay and Mandarin–is a testament of this fact. Being so, one can expect such variety from its food selection too. What sealed the deal and left me entranced and wanting more was when I had my very first chili crab, which is often touted as the country’s national food. The first whiff of the crab down to the last finger lickin’ of the chili sauce sent me on cloud nine. It had captured my stomach’s fancy and with that, my heart.
     Apart from the chili crab, two other foods made me giddy from their unique tastes. They have the utterly scrumptious, Hainanese Chicken Rice, an off-shoot of chicken cooked in Hainan, China that was brought in by Chinese immigrants. Another famous delicacy is one that has its origins in Japan, and this is the yakiniku burger, or the “rice burger,” that can be bought from the franchise, MOS Burger. As the name suggests, the burger is composed of buns that are not bread, but sticky rice. It may look disgusting at first, but the orchestrated tastes of the rice and chicken/shrimp/beef marinated in soy sauce won me over.
     Aside from the obvious food binge that I had during my stay in Singapore, other activities kept my family busy, one of which was hopping from one tourist attraction to another. Notable places are the Merlion and the Esplanade and Orchard Road. The Merlion is the imagined, national symbol of Singapore. It illustrates the title of Singapore as a “lion city” with the symbol being that of a lion’s head with the body of a fish. Presently, there are five recognized statues of the Merlion, but the best one to go to is the original, which can be found a few throws away from the Esplanade. The Esplanade contains Singapore’s theater buildings and concert halls. Akin to the Sydney Opera House, it is highly-recognized for its unique architectural design.
It is a quintessential tourist must-do to pass by Orchard Road. The street alone contains thirty plus shopping malls, which sell items from luxury goods to electronically forward gadgets, all at very low prices. What is an even better incentive to go shopping in Singapore is that if you are a tourist, all you have to do is present all your receipts to a counter at the airport before your flight out and they will reimburse all the tax placed on your goods.
One day, I plan on visiting Singapore again. This magical country and its culture is just to captivating to ever forget and let go.