What the Singaporeans Learn from Us, and What We Learn from Them

Posted on September 5, 2017

Yesterday, September 4, 2017, the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) through its president Dr. Ricardo Rotoras, and the Temasek Foundation International of Singapore through its Chief Executive Mr. Benedict Cheong, entered into a partnership through a Memorandum of Understanding. The Chairperson of the CHED, Dr. Patricia B. Licuanan, was guest on the occasion. It was held on the 10th floor of the Gonzales Academic Hall.

Before and after the program I had the opportunity to have a chat with the Singaporeans. Having read several books written by the Singaporean great man, Lee Kuan Yew, and after having visited the country several times, I have some knowledge of the culture of Singapore. These are some of the things we discussed this afternoon during lunch with Chairperson Licuanan and Dr. Rotoras:

They give so much value to water. Water is mostly imported in Singapore from Malaysia. They told me that the contract for the supply of water from Malaysia will end in 2061. They therefore engage in desalinization of sea water. Water is so valuable that they could not afford to waste even a single drop of it. Our own water supply for the fast-growing population of Metro Manila and surrounding areas is becoming critically over-stretched. We must learn to save water ourselves.

The Singaporeans lack artistic works. They rue this fact and point out to the achievements of the Filipinos and the Indonesians in this field. Perhaps they are too busy with economic concerns that they neglect the arts.

Singapore is a very bright city; their stars are extinct. We must solve the problem of light pollution. I gave them a copy of my book on Campus Astronomy (and also a copy of the President’s Corner, Volume 1), which may not be very useful in Singapore because it is very bright, causing the extinction of even the brightest stars in the country’s night sky. I know this through personal observation. When I was in the Nanyang Polytechnic in February, 2010 I jogged every morning in the school’s track oval. Even on the clearest morning sky of this season I could not recognize any constellations, even the bright stars of Scorpius and Sagittarius which I knew should be visible in the mornings of February.

The Singaporeans are now way ahead of us in ASEAN sports. We used to dominate the SEA Games but after having won only 24 gold medals as compared with the 47 of Singapore, we are very clearly left far behind. Singapore, which has a population of 5 million as compared to the Philippines’ 103 million, can develop such tremendous athletic talents. The Singaporeans on the table revealed that the objective of their sports development is really to serve as a social bond to the people, to which I agree. Sports in the RizalTech, for example, give pride to the students.

I observed that Singapore has become a noisy place even before I saw a feature of this on Channel News Asia, a Singaporean channel. They got used to the noise, they said. Like us perhaps.

It was a short but fruitful exchange.

Categories: President's Corner