Singapore Urban Legends (Dagli sa Krisis column)

by rolandotolentino

Unang Bersyon:

Mga nasagap kong balita sa Singapore:

1. Uso pa rin ang pamamalo. May iba’t ibang laki at taba ng yantok na mabibili sa mga lumang tindahan, depende sa laki ng batang papaluin.

2. Hindi pwedeng pag-usapan ang yaman ng pamilyang Lee, ang namumuno sa bansa.

3. Bawal ang chewing gum. Ang gum na maari lamang ibenta sa Singapore ay para sa medikal na pangangailangan.

4. Multikultural ang Singapore—parang 60% Chinese, 25% Malay at 15% Indian–gayong 80% ng nakakulong raw ay Malay Singaporean.

5. 100,000 raw sa tatlong milyong Singaporeans ay nakakulong.

6. May gangs sa Singapore! Karamihan ng nakakulong raw ay gang-related ang krimen.

7. Meritokratikong lipunan ang Singapore. Bata pa lamang ay paratihang na a-upgrade ang matalinong estudyante sa pinakamabuting eskuwelahan sa bawat antas. Ganoon din sa pinakahuling mga estudyante. Kaya raw walang mga tunay na kaibigan rito na aabot hanggang grade school ang pinagsamahan dahil parating naglilipatan ang mga estudyante.

8. Kapag mataba kang bata, inihihiwalay ka kapag recess para mag-ehersisyo at dumaan sa programa hinggil sa tamang pagkain.

9. Mga Filipino raw ang unang nag-landscape ng Singapore bilang garden city. Kaya pala pamilyar ang mga halamang nakatanim sa kalsada.

10. Mga alas-siete sumisikat ang araw kaya kapag gumising ka ng ala-sais ay madilim pa ang paligid.

Bakit hindi ito sinabi sa kontratang sinang-ayunan ko?

Ikalawang Bersyon:

Prior to my teaching at ^&*, my acquaintance of Singapore has been largely to participate in academic conferences. It seems to be a happening place in terms of scholarly exchange. But I would just fly in and fly out for the conference. Glimpses of Singapore were limited to the conference participation.

When I was invited to become a visiting fellow at the #$% Department, my attraction to accept came from the scholarly efficiency and academic reputation of ^&*. Having also taught at the Osaka University of Foreign Studies, I thought I had enough background to interact with foreign students.

It is now my second semester of teaching at ^&*, and it is still a learning grove for me. Associate Professor summed it up in a conversation, teaching is culture-bound. ^&* has a different set-up of student learning—big lectures and smaller tutorials. My teaching experience at the University of the Philippines never prepared me for this set-up. Students there learn in small lectures that also act as tutorial sessions. It may not be the most efficient way of learning but it has its advantages, like a more intimate learning environment, close monitoring of student’s progress, and quick response time to problematic areas, among others.

Leading the lectures here entailed a different set of skills. One had to act “big” in front of a class of 150 or 200 students. It is quite difficult to ask students a question other than those answerable by short responses. It is usually a show of hands that I get students to participate in the lectures. The tutorials too had their own dynamics. Lectures discussed an argument, tutorials explained the finer points of the readings and allowed students to reflect more freely with the connections being made between theory and their own lives.

What I had expected to be a parochial existence in Singapore proved to be wrong. A lot of events happen simultaneously in this small city state—from the art events at Esplanade, to discovering new cuisine in various food outlets, to interesting seminars sponsored at the Art Institute or by various non-governmental organizations. Even at ^&*, I am the one who has to turn down participating in a lot of seminars and colloquia because there are just too many of these happening on campus, frequently at the same time.

Like in most new places I have been too, I bask in the pleasure of discovering something new in the process of exploring Singapore.

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