Aug 11, 2014

    4.9 things that make S'pore unique

    THIS was going to be a list of five things, but the whole play on $49 or $4.90 is infectious.

    My daughter is beginning to think that everything in Singapore costs either $4.90 or $49.

    After I bought her some patriotic T-shirts at $4.90, she wondered if she could also get a One Direction concert ticket and a curved TV set for the same price. But it's easy to be cynical on the weekend of the nation's birthday.

    It's a time for celebration, reflection and mild condemnation for the national holiday falling on a Saturday. The flags are everywhere and folks have been peering out from every nook and cranny, trying to catch a glimpse of military helicopters performing the flypast.

    Post-National Day Parade MC syndrome usually strikes about now. Personally, I need several weeks before I stop randomly shouting: "Singapore! Are you ready to partaaay?"

    So let's rejoice by focusing on what makes us really special.


    When I returned from the World Cup, the auntie at the minimart said: "Wah, you back, ah? Brazil, eh? So, how much you make, ah?"

    She didn't ask about the football, the cuisine, the culture, the samba or even the beach bikinis. She cut to the chase.

    "You must make a bit, right? Sure take Germany, right? If never make money, then go Brazil for what?"

    The football gambling/kelong fixation is about as uniquely Singaporean as it gets. I've suggested incorporating this into the next tourism campaign, but the Singapore Tourism Board is not keen on me plagiarising the Malaysians with my slogan "Football betting, truly Asia".


    Forget all those award-winning United States commercials before the Super Bowl. Singapore is in a league of its own. Personally, I thought the island surpassed itself with the gem produced for the Philippine tourism market.

    You remember the Filipino couple strolling through Gardens by the Bay, then having a romantic dinner in a cable car? He gives her fancy jewellery. She gives him a urine-stained stick. Singapore makes babies in one free and easy trip.

    But that ad was nothing compared to the marketing genius of Andy's dad. Would you believe I first saw that anti-gambling ad in Brazil?

    Knowing that I had tipped Argentina to win, my daughter now wants to be adopted by the boy's dad. Old Nostradamus can pay for her university degree.


    In recent weeks, there were grounds for changing the most uplifting line of the national anthem to Majulah Spheniscidaeaphobia. Loosely translated, that means "onward phobia of penguins".

    Never mind all that cutesy Happy Feet stuff - those birds have got us messing our underwear. Stick three on a book cover and we're running for the hills.

    We've all calmed down, but we're moving Oscar-winning documentary March Of The Penguins to the adult DVD section - just in case.


    Singaporeans stop at nothing to make their talents a hit. We would happily spend half a million dollars allegedly on unsold Mandarin CDs to allegedly ensure that a local singer enjoys an allegedly successful singing career.

    I've produced a number of Singaporean works in the last decade, and no one in my family ever supported my literary career by bulk-buying my books. In fact, my stepfather once returned his free copy to me, suggesting I pass it to someone who intended to actually read it.

    So, if any proud patriot wants to spend half a million bucks on buying my unsold Singaporean titles, please go ahead.


    We live in a country not embroiled in a longstanding conflict with no obvious resolution. We are mostly spared the natural disasters and weather extremes endured annually by our neighbours. We are an economically and politically stable country (with a few kinks and quirks, of course; nobody's perfect).

    We mostly take our personal safety for granted (after five weeks in Brazil, I certainly don't). We are reasonably healthy, well-fed, safe, secure, educated and gainfully employed. And… we complain when the MRT is five minutes late. We wouldn't have it any other way.

    Happy Birthday, Singapore.