Maids dancing at Ion Orchard

From ‘Amusement or a nuisance’, article by Joyce Lim, 9 March 2011, The New Paper

…Before Ion Orchard was built, Filipino maids gathered at this busy junction on Orchard Road and held picnics on the grass patch behind Orchard MRT station on Sundays. The spot, which they called “Gulong Park” (Gulong is Tagalog for roll) has been developed into the current premier shopping mall, carrying some of the world’s top luxury brands.

Last Sunday, when The New Paper on Sunday team was there, we saw hundreds of maids turning the former Gulong Park into a rock ‘n’ roll party scene….More than 500 maids had parked themselves outside Ion Orchard – some were sitting on the steps, others were on their feet, grooving to the “live” music.

…Shopper Kelly Chen, 38, a communications director, said: “I feel that they are downgrading the image of Ion Orchard. I’ll avoid going there on Sundays now.”

Lawyer Amolat Singh is more concerned with the potential law and order problems.

He said: “When authorities organise parties on Orchard Road, a lot of effort has to be put into crime prevention.” Mr Singh added that if the maids created a public nuisance, the police could act. “One could also argue that these women are providing public entertainment by dancing in public.

Heads will roll

There was a time when public spaces were meant for more intellectual pursuits, the simple enjoyment of a string quartet, the random discourse of speakers on a podium, strolling couples discussing philosophy and politics, or men of science pondering the perturbations of a pendulum or observing the length of their shadows. Today, a city cannot be called dynamic or vibrant unless you have at least a few couples spontaneously dancing to busker music every now and then, not to mention stiltwalkers, fireeaters, struggling pantomime artists, and shaggy prophets bearing signboards making witty commentary on how ‘nigh’ the ‘end’ is. In Singapore, you probably need a permit even to demonstrate card tricks in public, which explains why it takes the vivacity of the Filipino mind to get jiggy with it using nothing more than a guitar and a space to prance about, putting the rest of us unimaginative, straight-laced,  boring, Ai-watching slobs to shame.

Still, a dozen or so strangers engaging in spontaneous hedonistic activity is a breath of fresh air. 500 domestic workers thronging the front of a shopping mall is a security issue. Or a decapitation, as Guyong (Rolling) Hill was once made infamous for in September 2005 (Body parts murder – Did maid kill, dismember her rival in love?12 Sept 2005, Today). Not sure if the generation of workers today are familiar with the Guen Garlejo Aguilar case, but given the significance of the location in the social dealings of maids at the time, it is certainly worth giving a grisly , though party-pooping, reminder that the vicinity and its activities are not all innocent fun and games as it’s made out to be. But of course, no haunting threats of ghostly heads swirling around Ion would deter a bunch of spontaneous upstarts from having fun, while the rest of us dabble in pretentious flash mobs, expensive social dancing lessons, and complain to no end about maids getting in the way of our shopping when clearly most of the shopping at Ion is done INSIDE the building and can be accessed underground from Orchard MRT without seeing them in action, or sunlight for that matter.

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One Response

  1. Pinoys are the best, we will take over Singapore!

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