I am a Red Dot Juanderer. And this is my Singapore story.
With over 180,000 Filipinos living/working in Singapore and contributing a billion of US dollars worth of cash remittances to the Philippines last year (one of the highest globally based on 2016 data), the country is undeniably an important partner for the Philippines. For Philippine Ambassador to Singapore, Antonio Morales, this serves as an opportunity to strengthen ties between the Little Red Dot and his own flock, the Filipino community. For someone who has traveled the world and has been stationed from the east to the west, eventually landing as an emissary to Singapore has never been more compelling.
My Singapore Story:
I’ve spent a total of 25 years in foreign service starting as a Vice-Consul in Ankara, Turkey back in 1995. I then transferred to Rome, Manila, Kuala Lumpur, San Francisco, Milan, and Beijing (as a Deputy Chief of Mission). I eventually moved to Singapore and have been an Ambassador here for three years now.
Best Thing About Being An Ambassador:
The most fulfilling is being able to serve our country and the Filipinos living in Singapore. Singapore is very important to the Philippines: to promote trade, investments, and tourism. [I’m here] to also strengthen the friendship between the Philippines and Singapore, as shown by the visit of His Excellency President Duterte last December 2016.
Vision For The Filipinos In Singapore:
My vision is for the Filipino community to be constantly upgraded and integrated into the Singaporean society. And for us to contribute to the development of Singapore and the Philippines as well. I hope more and more Filipinos will ascend the corporate ladder and they’ll become executives of multinational companies. [I hope] that they will continue to be respected and looked up to in this country.
What’s My Typical Day Like:
On a weekday, I constantly go to the embassy to make sure our services are okay. I also meet officials visiting the Philippines, Singaporean government officials, and businessmen. I attend seminars, symposia, and conferences. In the evenings, I attend diplomatic receptions and national day events of other countries. On weekends, we have Filipino community meetings. I attend anniversary celebrations, beauty contests, religious services, film showings, and the likes, [as organized] by various Filipino organizations. Like today (March 25, 2017), there will be a boxing competition (the World Boxing Council in Singapore) with Filipino fighters, and so we will also be there.
My Rest Day:
Some Saturdays are generally quiet, but Sundays are definitely working days for us because of various events held, and also, most of our countrymen are free on Sundays. We all look forward to Saturdays.
My Advice For Kids Who Wish To Become Ambassadors:
I will advise them to study hard, be widely read, and know more about what’s happening in the world. Having backgrounds in economics, law, and international relations will be good. A master’s degree or graduate studies will also be very helpful. [One must] constantly have this yearning to learn new things, to read, to be informed of what’s happening around, and to have this curiosity to learn.
My Childhood Dream:
When I was a child, I’ve always wanted to become a lawyer, and I grew up becoming one. I [then] became interested in international law. I started traveling and getting scholarships as a young student. And so I said, it’s a good thing to be living abroad and getting exposed to [various] cultures and ways of life. It wasn’t really my childhood dream to become an ambassador, but later on, I developed this liking to become one.
My Favorite Countries:
I like all the countries I’ve been assigned to. They have all their different “pluses” and “minuses.” I like Singapore for many reasons: safe, secure, very close to the Philippines, and you never feel homesick. I also like Malaysia. I like San Francisco as the weather is nice. Europe is nice too with its history, architecture, and cuisines. I cannot really say which one is my favorite — they are all my favorites. At certain times, I like to be in a cold weather, [yet] sometimes I like to be in a warm place. They’re all beautiful and special in different ways.
My Favorite Singaporean Dish:
I like Chili Crab, although it’s not good for me as it’s high in cholesterol. I also like Chicken Rice and Hokkien Mee.
Favorite Hang Out Places in Singapore:
I walk up and down Orchard Road. I also like MacRitchie Reservoir and Henderson Waves. I like to walk a lot and jog if I can.
One Thing I Miss About Home:
I miss my family, my parents, and other siblings.
If I’m Not An Ambassador Today:
I would probably be a practicing lawyer. That was my childhood dream: to be in court and to argue cases. To represent people. I think that would be my profession.
What If I Can Invite Three Important People For Dinner (Living/Dead), Who Would They Be?
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte — to express my full support for his leadership and his mission for the Philippines. Albert Einstein — to thank him for his contribution to science. Jose P. Rizal — to talk about the history of the Philippines and its future.
About the Red Dot Juanderer:
We are constantly on the lookout for inspiring, aspirational, and relatable stories from our fellow Juans living and working in the Little Red Dot. If you know any Filipino in Singapore that should be our next Red Dot Juanderer, email us at [email protected] // Interviews and photos by Paolo Avis; Assisted by Jaypee Quitco.