Singaporeans ‘saying No’ to Philippine Independence Day

From ‘Filipino group gets online flak over event’, article by Royston Sim and Amelia Tan, 16 April 2014, ST

The Pilipino Independence Day Council Singapore (PIDCS), a group of Filipino volunteers, put up a post on Facebook about the event last weekend and drew fire almost immediately. Negative comments from Singaporeans flooded in, with Facebook page “Say ‘No’ to an overpopulated Singapore” urging locals to protest on the PIDCS page.

The page, which has 26,000 “likes”, is against the celebration of the Philippine Independence Day here and said that festivities should be confined to the Philippine Embassy compound.

It took issue with the PIDCS for using the Marina Bay skyline in a logo for the event, which is meant to celebrate the Philippines’ independence from Spain on June 12, 1898. It also opposed the PIDCS using the terms “two nations” and “interdependence” in posters for the event.

The PIDCS decided to take down the Facebook post after it drew hundreds of anti-Filipino comments, with many slamming the PIDCS for holding the celebration in Orchard Road.

…Ms Cecilia Lim, 28, a self- employed Singaporean, felt some of the online comments were excessive. She said: “People should have the right to celebrate their independence day if they are granted the permits, just as we celebrate Singapore Day overseas.”

Our Intolerance

The first thing I noticed about this article is whether ‘Pilipino’ was a typo or just how Filipinos pronounce their own nationality. Turns out that Pilipino is the official name for the national language, or an enhanced variant of Tagalog. And what about the missing ‘s’ from ‘Philippine Independence’? How many of those celebrating it spell ‘Philippines’ as ‘Phillipines’? A LOT, judging from this Twitter feed and the hashtag #phillipines.

Your spelling pail

Your spelling pail

This weekend, Filipinos (not Philippinos, or Pilipinos) will be celebrating another holiday that most Singaporeans are unaware of, and it’s apt that in the light of the online kerfuffle over their Independence Day, 19 April 2014 (this Saturday) is known as BLACK SATURDAY. PIDCS intends to celebrate Philippine Independence Day on June 8th, which happens to be a SUNDAY. I’ve been to Orchard Road on a Sunday, and to me, it doesn’t make a difference if it’s Independence Day or Ninoy Aquino Day. It feels like crowds of Filipinos are ALWAYS celebrating something on Sunday anyway, whether they’re having a roadside picnic or dancing outside Ion. With Orchard being the default Pinoy haunt, it’s just going to look like any other weekend really, except with maybe flags, buffet lines and ‘cultural dances’.

One of the first reported local celebrations of such a holiday took place in 1946, where ‘100 representatives from all communities’ joined with hosts ‘Mr and Mrs Anciano’ at a cocktail party at the Far Eastern Music School. Philippine ‘Independence Day’ then was in commemoration of the formation of the Republic, when the US granted the islands ‘true’ independence (4 July 1946). The number of Filipinos in Singapore then hovered around the 500 mark.  Today, that’s the estimated number you’ll find in the stretch between Lucky Plaza and Ngee Ann City alone on a Sunday. According to the website ‘Positively Filipino‘, that number has risen to almost 180,000 in 2013, with 100,000 of those as professionals and executives.

In the 50’s, Filipinos dressed in their national costumes to attend church, and began having outdoor picnics at places like Pasir Ris. In 1962, the date was changed from 4 July to June 12, when General Emilio Aguinaldo led the revolution for independence from the Spanish in 1898. (Some commentators believe that this was a mistake, that the Treaty of Paris signed then really ceded the country to the US as an American ‘commonwealth’, and that PIDCS is in fact celebrating a misnomer of a holiday). At a Hyatt hotel reception attended by bigwig PAP politicians like Richard Hu and S Dhanabalan in 1987, guest performers from the Philippines sang ‘lusty’ renditions of the national anthems of BOTH countries, a typical Pinoy gesture of warm, fuzzy diplomacy. More recent celebrations include song-and-dance festivals at the Singapore Art Museum and Hong Lim Park last year. Hong Lim, ironically, being the same place where the people behind ‘Say No’ will be having a 1 May protest about 6.9 million again. Why didn’t they make a puss, I mean, FUSS, over the Filipino ‘invasion’ of their ‘territory’ then?

So people, top PAP brass included, have been celebrating Philippines Independence Day in Singapore for LONGER than our very own National Day. The last event in 2013 was even jointly sponsored by household brands like Singtel, Starhub and Singapore Post. Are angry Singaporeans going to boycott both telcos for ‘betraying’ the nation? As for the unhappiness over the word ‘Interdependence’, I wonder how many of those in the petition have never ‘depended’ on a Filipino maid or nurse in their lives, celebrated the success of Ilo Ilo or laughed at Leticia Bongnino’s jokes.

Instead of voicing our displeasure at foreigners staking their claim over our motherland through the use of a MBS backdrop and sitting around our shopping areas eating lechon (a pork dish), how about putting your patriotism into action by giving some love to the nation on 9 Aug, outdo the PIDCS event with a riot of national colours and jubiliant song-and-dance, instead of planning a protest only to go on a quickie overseas vacation like some whining Singaporeans would?

UPDATE: Both Tan Chuan Jin and PM Lee had strong words for the ‘bigots’ and ‘trolls’ who complained about the event. TCJ thought the response was ‘repulsive’, while PM called it a disgrace and lowered our ‘standing’ in the eyes of the world. The latter went on to cite London as an example of the warm hospitality shown by countries who hosted the Singapore Days of the past, i.e treat your guests as you would like to be treated overseas. We forget, however, about what happened at Singapore Day 2013 in Victoria Park, Sydney, when an Australian named ‘James’ accused organisers of being RACIST for not allowing Caucasians in, even though it’s a public place, on National Radio. I wonder if there were Australian ministers as eager as ours to come out and slam him for making a shameful nuisance of himself. Unlike having to register for Singapore Day and there being a limit to how many non-citizens you can bring,  the PID organisers have declared that ANYONE is free to join the 10,000 strong crowd at Orchard Road if they so wish. Or should I say, Little Philippines.

UPDATE 2: Organisers decided to withdraw their application to hold the party at Ngee Ann City (Filipino group drops plan to hold Orchard Road event, 26 May 2014, ST). Xenophobes everywhere rejoice.


7 Responses

  1. Singapore independence Day will be well celebrated if we felt there is strong connection between the people and the country. Unfortunately such bondage has been diluted for reason everybody knows why – a dying Singapore core. Why did pinoy became so united? because they love their country with caring govt always stand for their people and the people stood among its own people and their govt stood among its own people. Unfortunately, ours, is far from it. The day Singaporeans really stood up as a nation, we can call our own where our efforts are not stolen and diluted by some foreign agents and our govt stop hitting at Singaporeans, is the time we think this home is worth cherishing. Look at Singapore in the 70s and 80s, that is what Singapore is about, proud to hang our flat when National Day came. Now, they don’t even wish to lift a finger on it but to rely on Grassroot (thru paid foreigners) to do the job of hanging flat. Such stark difference is worth noticing and solving at its root cause.

    • And do you seriously think that our government is so deserving of your scathing and mindless criticism? Compared to the Philippines government, our government is so much more effective and efficient in taking care of the citizen. Have you seen the slump and living standards there?

      And yet many seems to be taking it for granted and think that Government owe them a living.

      While PAP is not always right and there are many areas which I will criticise them for (the lack of foresight in forward planning and letting in too many foreigners into the country in too short a time are just ONE of them), I CANNOT agree with your statement that they are not deserving of our trust or that because of them we should not be united as a country. That is a foolish statement and an emotive one that is devoid of logic.

    • Did you even go to school LOL

  2. Do you truly understand what “interdependence” means? It means two parties who need each other because there is no alternative. There is a commercial transaction between the filipino workers and their employees, it’s not an interdependence relationship. There are alternative available. If I accept what you said I would have to say we have an interdependence with the hawkers, the cleaners and so on.

    And why should we have to compete with the foreigners on sovereignty on our own soil. It’s like the children within a family have to compete with the neighbors kids to do better in the exam in order to have their place in the family.

    And what about the poster showing the superimposed filipino flag over the Singapore skyline? And is that also acceptable? Do you think Singaporeans can print a poster showing our flag superimposed on NYC skyline, and call the relationship with the Americans “interdependence”? They will cut your balls in a NY second.

  3. “And what about the missing ‘s’ from ‘Philippine Independence’?”

    Philippine is to Philippines as German is to Germany.

    • Two issues here; 1) Re the question on putting s or no s to Philippines, iknow that “s” is placed if the word Philippines is used as a noun in itself, like the Philippines as a country name. We take out the “s” when used as a descriptive noun, say, Philippine mangoes, Philippine flag, Philippine beaches…etc. Perhaps, repeat..perhaps ha, like Lao and Laos…Lao republic, etc…now, 2) I need to gather some diplomatic elan to reply to the racist” issue. Wish me luck coz i am so offended as a Filipno. That is so unlike the image that Singapore would like to portray of its beautiful country…I thought you want to be classified as world class, global, classy, sophisticated, educated, kind ..? True, The whole has overtaken its parts. Many have remained neanderthals in mind and action. Thank you to PM Lee and those Singaporeans who have exhbited not only dignity and broadmindedness but also kindness. Thanks to the kind support and replies as well.

      I recall an anecdote when i was still in this lovely country that was published in the lifestyle section of the straits times. It was about a singaporean poet who was invited to the philippines for a literary event. In his first person account, he confessed that before the trip, they, (yes they were a group of Singaporean poet something), thought of bringing their glossy literary pieces to boast to their hosts and their guests perhaps or what they thought were “deprived” Filipinos (yes, the word deprived he really honestly used). Here is the twist, when they finally met their Filipino counterparts, they were humbled (his words again). They realized how amatuer they were in literature and poetry when they saw for the, selves the richness of Filipino literature and the mastery of our own literature icons. Ending, according to this guy, they ended up taking home to Singapore carts of master literary pieces…glossy or not. O, ha!

  4. I think the Pinoys should be allowed to celebrate their Independence Day in Singapore. But please, be considerate and choose somewhere lah. It is bad enough that they are hanging along Orchard road on Sundays. Went to Botanic Gardens today and realised they have extended their turf to there as well. they were singing, dancing and changing their clothes behind the Bougainvilleas and ofcourse their Indians or Pakistani boyfriends were around.
    Instead of chiding us, I feel our political leaders should try to get to the rootcause as to why a part of Singaporeans do not react positive or support such events.

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