Sunday, June 18, 2017

Filipino Foreign Worker in Singapore - Part 1

What is it like to live in Singapore? This was a question that has been answered for me since moving here the start of 2017 for work. I am now officially an Overseas Filipino Worker or OFW for short. Although I have only been here for a short time to give a really comprehensive assessment, I believe my short experience so far has given me a lot of insights as to what I can reasonably expect in the long run.

I have to say that it was not a totally new experience when I moved here. I was coming over every now and then for about two years prior to my permanent transfer. My trips were rather short since I was based in the Philippines and still reported to our Clark office. Still, several one-month trips had served as preludes to my eventual residency. I knew what I was getting into and I knew what Singapore had to offer.

I have read people saying that Singapore can be compared to a well-maintained garden. And they are not wrong. Singapore is neat and clean! It is a city of order. Everybody follows the rule and most people seems responsible to ensure the orderliness of the city. For sure there are significant penalties for violations. This was what Lee Kuan Yew learned during the Japanese occupation. Imposing discipline will be effective if done right. That means, considerable punishment and consistent implementation.

I like that I don't need to drive in Singapore. Not because cars are super expensive (they are) but because public transportation is well-designed, efficient and comfortable. I can take one bus ride to my work place or I can ride the MRT to catch the company shuttle. Both are no-hassle options. These buses have designated pickup locations and can't get extra passengers just anywhere along the way. You would think that that is plain common sense in a public transportation system but wait till you see how it's done in many parts of the Philippines and you’ll be surprised.

Another good thing about Singapore's public transportation is the use of tap to pay cards. This facilitates the payment system and does away with a conductor. I have the impression that the government designed and refined the transportation system and that they don't stop trying to improve it. They know that they need to determine the optimum number of buses to serve the needs of commuters without causing too much traffic congestion. Such an analysis is not beyond the brain power of Filipinos. But unfortunately the culture of excellence is not valued in our own government. That's not how the Philippine government operates. It is frustrating but we are resigned to it.

I rent a room here because a whole apartment is just too expensive. Housing is generally expensive in most cities and Singapore is no exemption. However, house prices can be influenced by the government due to its considerable housing involvement. Unlike say Hong Kong where most residential properties are built privately which is not good for supply, Singapore is comparably cheaper with the government willing to reign in housing prices by building more. On top of that, houses built by the Singapore government cannot be owned for speculation. You can only buy one for your family. So a market bubble is less likely to happen.

Nonetheless, I pay 650 SGD for a common room which can be considered average for the price. That same amount (equivalent to 23k PHP) will afford me a big beautiful house where I live in the Philippines.

The food options in Singapore are second to none. At least with respect to all the places I have ever been to. And if you are budget conscious like me, there are plenty of places to offer you food for reasonable prices. As such, it wasn’t a big deal that my landlord doesn’t allow cooking by tenants. I don’t need to cook with so many places that offer good food. I also don’t really want to cook since I really don’t know much about it. Moreover, I would really prefer not to work on the mess cooking leaves behind. Ten dollars per meal should be more than enough to cover food expenses for most people. Unless you are the type who likes to experience fine dining on a regular basis, then that would have to be taken into account when budgeting for meals.

With so many things to be said, I realize that this article can be rather long. So I will stop for now and continue the rest on a succeeding post. Honestly, I like writing about this to remind myself about my experiences which I could easily forget as time passes by. I find this exercise worth doing because of this so I hope I will find the time to keep at it.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

How to Solve Difficult Problems Using a Simple Engineering Design Process

Being able to solve difficult problems or even easy ones for that matter is crucial to our survival. It’s beyond important. It’s what our lives depend on.

Imagine for instance the problem of food. When you are hungry or thirsty, you should know how to solve that problem. You should know that you have to eat or drink. If not, you will die.
But not all problems are as easy to solve. In fact, some are quite difficult to figure out. And when they are difficult to figure out, there is a tendency for us to try to ignore them or wish they would go away.

How do we raise our kids properly for example is not so easy to answer. Or how do we ease traffic in the city is a huge challenge for public officials.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Surgery for a First-Timer: Mastoidectomy and Tympanoplasty

March 5 of this year (2016), I underwent a medical operation called Mastoidectomy and Tympanoplasty at the De Lasalle University Medical Center (DLSUMC) in Dasmarinas, Cavite. It was the first surgery that I ever had. Prior to it, I was still able to claim that I have not been subjected to any medical operation in my life. It was a bragging right proving that I was as fit as can be. Not anymore.
Photo Credit: oldgreentree (Creative Commons)
Now, I can no longer say that. All I can brag about is having the courage to have gone through a major surgery that most are not willing to do out of fear. And who can blame these people, really. Going under the knife can be terrifying. If you think about it, not only will your body be opened up, they will do risky stuff inside of it that you can’t even begin imagine.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Being Content vs. Striving to Improve - Why We Need Both

Most people want to live as happily as they can. They want to get the most out of life because they realize that our time is finite and short. And because of that, we better do what’s right.

But there are certain ideas that can confound us as we search for happiness. One of which is the concept of contentment versus improvement.

There is an often-stated maxim that says to be happy is to be content. And I would bet that you’ve heard this mentioned more than a few times before. Maybe it was told to someone who’s trying to do too much but still can’t find satisfaction. Or to overachievers who can’t seem to get enough of what they want in life and therefore always need to have just a little bit more.

On the other hand, there is also a totally contrarian view that can be found in the heap of self-help books available today. This philosophy is based on the premise of self-improvement. People are being goaded to continually strive for betterment. To not be satisfied with what they’ve got but to aspire and work for something better.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Why We Should Focus on Our Strengths (Not Our Weaknesses) to Contribute

All my life I’ve been trying to change myself by focusing on my weakness. I have been constantly concerning myself with ways to improve my flaws for I believed it would help me achieve more.

For instance, I was pushing myself to learn sales. I’ve read several books on it and even did a part-time sales job. I knew I wasn’t good at Sales.

Photo Credit: KayVee.INC (Creative Commons)
I thought that it was a roadblock that has kept me from being more successful. I was of the impression that Sales is the one area where I needed to excel to develop myself fully. I thought it would improve my communication skills and my people skills.