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Filipino American Expat in Singapore

Earlier today I popped by the Fragomen office at the spiffy South Beach Tower to pick up a documents package containing my In-Principal Approval, declaration form, and medical exam results for the issuance of my S Pass.

What’s an S-Pass?

The S Pass is a category of mid-skilled non-Singaporeans/PR who are working in Singapore. It’s been my pass category ever since I started in Singapore in 2012.

Similar to my previous employer, Fragomen was the go-to consultancy which worked on my S Pass application. I was really relieved my processing would be handled by them because my experience in 2014 (and renewal in 2016) was flawless. I was so appreciative that I even chatted up the receptionist.

After collecting my documents package, I booked a cab to get to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). Cue: Thunder SFX. I just love the name… it sounds so powerful and dramatic like something out of a Harry Potter movie.

This brand new facility (at least to me, because the last time I went to the “MOM” was when it was still inside an old building near Keppel/Tanjong Pagar) has three great halls (sounds like Harry Potter, eh?). I was informed by Fragomen that I needed to proceed to my scheduled appointment at Hall C.

In true Singapore efficiency, my appointment was at 3:40 PM but I was admitted at 3:31 PM. The entrance area has beautiful padded seating for those waiting (no one was waiting). I barely rested my butt on the soft padding… a lady smiled at me and told me to go to booth “B12”.

Oh don’t get me started on entering this gorgeous government facility. Having survived the steaming sauna of Land Transportation Office or LTO in Kawit in September… as well as the 1930s-esque NOT-A-NEWSROOM Bureau of Immigration Manila (with some of the smug faces)… here I was entering an office area where the booths seemed to be designed like floral pods. Even the fluorescent lights emerged from… tropical-looking pink sculptures. If it weren’t for the computer screens all around… you’d think you were here to buy jewellery.

In my booth was your almost stereotypical office auntie (and i don’t mean that in a bad way… she carried herself like everyone’s favorite office auntie)… noticed the jade in a corner. Some feng shui thing maybe. A tiny cup of packed fruit mints. A blue ballpen with excess scotch tape sticking out of its sides. The neighboring booth person had to step out… heard her say something like “shopping!” — and she walked away. Her shift must be over.

To my right was a man of South Asian descent in a crisp white shirt. In another booth nearby was a Chinese fellow fixing his specs for the camera.

I sat there patiently. No, wait. Gleefully. YES. Gleeful in a government office. Gleeful at the MOM. Why? Because here I was… not only with an approved S Pass so I can continue enriching my career (and contributing to a robust Singapore)… but because I really appreciated how efficient everything was. Like… for once… someone, some country has it figured out. Because weeks ago I was frustrated at renewing my driver’s license in the Philippines. Frustrated when my mom had to fake chat with the immigration officer at the Bureau… the same immigration officer who many years ago had asked for my mom’s earrings while we were transacting at the window. The fact that the woman is still there made me sad.

The MOM officer (okay i’ll stop calling her office auntie) was very kind to me. Having had to repeat the biometric on my left thumb since my thumb was too dry. She patiently helped me rub a bit of lotion on the finger. No rush at all. She wasn’t rushing. I wasn’t rushing.

The whole process took no longer than ten minutes.

She passes me a paper which indicates that I am cleared to commence working. And that my physical S Pass card will be sent to my office. I smiled at her. Because I felt absolutely grateful that this felt like a system that works.

As of this writing I’ve signed my contract, cleared my medical exam, and filed for the physical card. I’ve invested more time into reading materials (Marketing magazine for a pulse of recent news + Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan for enhancing my vocabulary). I’ve attended some workshops in digital marketing, data analytics, and creative producing.

I’m ready.

George Sig