Nasty comments mar Filipinos' Independence Day preparations

by Arlene Burgos,

Posted at Apr 15 2014 11:39 PM | Updated as of Apr 16 2014 05:09 PM

SINGAPORE – Efforts by Filipinos here for a celebration of Philippine independence in June have hit a snag caused by people saying they are Singaporeans who think the planned festivity is improper.

Yet organizers are hopeful plans for the June 8, 2014 event will push through, said Rychie Andres Tuesday. He co-chairs the Pilipino Independence Day Council Singapore (PIDCS), along with the cultural section of the Philippine embassy here.

The event was envisioned to include cultural performances like native Filipino dance tinikling and ati-atihan, and performance by a local drumline – an ensemble usually composed of young Singaporeans. It is to be held in the Takashimaya department store area along Orchard Road, a major shopping district here where many Filipino workers would converge on their rest day.

An announcement by the PIDCS about the event on its Facebook page has received unfriendly comments from people claiming to be Singaporeans opposed to the celebration.

The poster carrying this year’s Independence Day theme of “independence and interdependence” appeared to have been given a different meaning by those who posted criticisms.

"It is unfortunate that the images and words used give the impression of the Philippines planting their flag onto Singapore soil and declaring it as part of their own. There seems to be no sensitivity in it. Almost like it was done on purpose," said one comment. This pertained to the event poster bearing the words, "Two Nations, One Community" beside a logo of a rising sun above two crossing hand palms made to shape like a blue and red dove beside a silhouette of Singapore's signature Marina Bay skyline.

"Don't let them celebrate their independence day at Takashimaya[.] We should stop them and throw them back to their country," said another.

But Andres explained the theme of independence and interdependence were meant to convey positive relationship between Filipino citizens and their host city-state.

“When you say interdependence, it does not mean dependence is one way; it is a two-way street. Aligning ourselves with ASEAN and the coming (2015) integration, that’s where we could start, the nations start in helping each other,” Andres said.

“That is reaching out to everyone… We are here to thank Singapore for having us here. A simple gesture is this,” he added.

Andres’ group had a series of “give-back” activities in the run-up to the June event. They have visited a home for elderlies where PDIC brought meals from a Filipino restaurant here, conducted cultural performances for children, and organized a blood donation drive. On April 26, PDIC will visit children with special needs.

“We want to create a framework that other Filipino organizations can follow when they want to do outreach… This is part of our social responsibility. Ang target beneficiaries are elderly, kids, persons with disabilities, youth… It’s our own way of reaching out to the community,” Andres said.

The posts on PIDCS’s Facebook account have been hidden, and the poster taken down to avoid heated discussions, Andres said.
But not all Singaporeans feel adversely about the Filipino community’s celebration.

During random interviews, several citizens said the Philippine event should not even be an issue.

“I don’t understand why it’s an issue. I don’t see that as an issue,” said Joe Liew, 20, who said he knows some Filipinos from his volleyball games.

David Ong, 21, who has just finished military training, said, “it is not necessary to talk” about the matter as it is not significant.

His friend Brenda Ng, also 21, agrees. “As long as it does not affect anybody, you should be free,” she said.