SINGAPORE-Two months ago, I was in a quandary. Luckily, my best friend based in Manila was in town en route to a holiday in Phuket. As we ate barbecued stingray and xiao long baos for dinner and extended the conversation chomping on Garrett’s Caramel popcorn outside Universal studios, she left me with a nugget of wisdom to chew on. Oddly, this wisdom came from my own book, Six Degrees of Expatriation.
“Remember that chapter with the French guy. He just ate enough, not till he was full,” my friend Rissa reminded me. In the book I captured my French friend Guillaume’s words: “ The French say you have to leave the table still a little hungry. If you eat too much, it is not good.”
Rissa has been following this Parisian’s wisdom in her eating habits. She feels light and healthier. But these words were exactly what I needed to do with my life. I could no longer ignore my restlessness. I sensed it was time to leave Singapore. It is wise to leave when you still crave to have a tiny bite more. Don’t leave when you are miserable and raring to go. Until this afternoon, I longed to bite a bit more of Tiong Bahru's fascinating hawker center. The uncle told me how the 50 year old tradition of Tiong Bahru Paos were all hand made. But what I loved was the smokey flavor of the chariew (barbecued pork) filling. So good, I ate a pao every day (often more) for the past six or seven days. (Is that an addiction?)
My dear friends, it is time for me to go. A less than 24-hour trip to interview a lady in Hong Kong surprised me with a job offer to be editor for an Asian food and wine website. On Friday, I will be leaving Singapore. Judging from the number of boxes I had to sort and pack (don’t even ask how many), it is hard to believe I moved here with only a 20-kg suitcase.
Three years later, I leave richer with so much experience. Everywhere I turn, there are memories. Strangers are now friends. The Starbucks baristas know me by name, and I know them, too. I said my goodbyes to my friends, to the choir, and even to my favorite dishes. I got choked up in the bus three nights ago. I realized that soon I won’t be able to run anymore to my dear photographer friend in Ann Siang for advice or just vent freelance woes. I met up with two friends to eat stingray and wash it down with ice-cold beer in a hawker centre. Over the long weekend, I had an extra long coffee at Cedele as we had many times in the past. For hours, we talked about family, friends, and faith. I sang one last time with the first choir I ever sang with, FX choir. And one last time, we all happily feasted on Crispy Pata, Chicharon Bulaklak, and Sinigang, Filipino dishes transporting us back home. I returned to my favorite weekend haunt, away from the maddening crowd. I visited my sanctuary once more. In this sacred place, I cried, gave thanks, or just sat quietly. Tomorrow night, I will stroll one last time by the most magical part of Singapore. It is the Singapore River, the heart of the city. I ran here several times to sort out my thoughts. Other times, I shared it with a fellow writer, talking about past lives, lost loves, and laughter. Somehow, the river always dazzled me in the evening.
As I looked at the photos in my laptop, I am in awe. Thank you, Singapore. Look how far we’ve gone on this delicious journey.
|MY FIRST DAY IN SINGAPORE: On the day I arrived, I 'gate crashed' a Hungry Ghost feast|
at an HDB deck in Jurong West
|My first visit to a Chinese Wedding Store|
|My first taste of Kaya Toast and learning the lingo; Kopi-O, Kopi-C... ping|
|amused at my first encounter with snow skin mooncakes. Pastel colored erasers or edible desserts?|
|The Singapore River's festive glow|
|The famous Tulang from Golden Mile, I sprained my ankle for...|
|Falling in love with the museums... In this case going Greek in the National Museum|
|Trips near and far: visiting wats in Bangkok|
|Quick getaways to nearby Batam, Indonesia|
|Homecomings to the Philippines and her gorgeous sunsets (take in Guimaras)|
|Eating my way from Bangkok to Singapore, starting with High tea at the Author's lounge in the Oriental Bangkok then the legendary Orient Express|
|The Katong Laksa Wars: soup so good vendors argue who is the best|
|Must see :the zoo|
|Odd finds like a Frog Farm|
|A bottle tree park|
|DIVERSE CUISINES: Here I am giving a Talk on Filipino Cuisine at the SINGAPORE National Museum|
|Kuehs at Hari Raya|
|My book launch at Borders|
|Trailblazing: My book the first ever book sold in Starbucks Singapore, and such lovely baristas|
|Starstruck with famous chef Ferran Adria|
Singapore, what a delicious spread you have set before me! Thank you...Taking the cue from my wise French friend, it is time to leave the table. Thanks to the dear friends I have made in Singapore, and every one I met along the way.
|Cheers, Singapore! Thanks for the memories....|