My last 2 days in Bukit Merah

This quiet neighbourhood is a refuge for me. I moved here two years ago after a traumatic ghosting which put me in a very dark place. It’s here where I regained confidence again. It led to finding love and finding a cool job.

I call my room here Red Keep because of the towering view outwards. I’ve said this before, but you can spot HDBs of different shapes and sizes across the horizon. If you look beyond the concrete walls of distant buildings, you can see the trees of Mount Faber. The sunsets are extra beautiful.

It’s time to leave Bukit Merah. I need to cut costs due to my unemployment.

This means I am moving in with PJ. We’ve been together for 20 months and it makes sense for us to finally move in together. I’ll be moving to Tampines on Sunday.

***

Singapore is under a “circuit breaker” partial lockdown. It means everyone must stay home. They are only allowed to go out to buy groceries or to dapao (takeout) food. I’ve checked, moving houses is still allowed. I rushed my move to an earlier date because new restrictions might make it harder in a few weeks.

One nice thing that the government has done is to provide reusable masks for registered residents. I took my IC with me to the nearby community club to get my mask.

Singapore residents: From 5 April (Sunday) to 12 April 2020 (Sunday), residents with registered home addresses will be able to collect one (1) reusable mask at the designated CCs or RCs. Learn more at maskgowhere.sg

Wherever you are in the world… stay safe and take care.

I am on my own path.

TECH. My CV wouldn’t have landed on my manager’s desk at this tech company if it weren’t for me getting referred in by Alfred. Alfred forwarded my CV to the hiring team at this tech company and he sent me a “jobvite” or a referral.

PINK. I never knew about Alfred until we met each other at an LGBTQ networking event a few years back. We were seated next to each other during a Pink Dot orientation session for organisations that are sponsoring the annual gathering. I was at this event by myself (I didn’t know anyone). Alfred was there too, by himself. Both of us were representing our companies at the time. We became friends at that event and had remained in contact since.

INTRANET PAGE. No one in my previous company (a large broadcasting MNC) had utilised the intranet system to create a “employee resource page” for LGBTQs in our Singapore office. I guess people were too busy. I had extra time on my hands to create a page called ‘Out@COMPANY NAME’ and somehow it got picked up by LGBTQ counterparts in the States. Suddenly, I was starting the Singapore chapter of our LGBTQ employee resource group. Since I started the page, I was de facto the founder for the Singapore chapter. We were now doing film screenings, inviting LGBTQ speakers to the office, and our proudest achievement? We got to sign up and be a sponsor at Pink Dot.

LINKEDIN EXERCISE. I wouldn’t have had an opportunity to work for the large broadcast MNC if it weren’t for my strategy to “add five people on LinkedIn” every day. It was in 2013, while rendering videos on Final Cut Pro from a tiny edit suite on Caldecott Hill, where I practised this “add 5 people” on LinkedIn exercise. For each confirmed contact, I would add 5 more. It became this little game. My sleepy LinkedIn network expanded quickly. Then, one afternoon, I got a call from an Irish-sounding HR person on the other side. “Would you like to try out for a producer role for large broadcast MNC?” – it seems expanding my network on LinkedIn had put me on that HR person’s radar.

FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD. I was so anxious in the months leading to my big move to Singapore in 2012. I remember I couldn’t sleep. I was worried what would go wrong or what would happen if I’d fail. I remember how anxious I was. I was leaving behind a wonderful broadcast job in Manila to fly to Singapore… and literally live out of my luggage. But I still took that Cebu Pacific flight on March 1, 2012. Arriving in Singapore’s budget terminal (since demolished and replaced with Terminal 4). Life was simple: chicken rice, Old Chang Kee meat skewers, and Tori-Q. I loved Tori-Q… affordable yakitori. And while I squeezed every peso into living that experience, waiting night after night for a phone call or email reply to a job application… I landed one. It was for a producer job at a reputable local company which was headquartered at Caldecott Hill at the time. I went in for a job interview, did my copy tests, and I got the call that I was “in”. I remember how happy I was. I remember how I had visualised wearing that company’s lanyard. And fuck it, I was wearing that lanyard a few weeks later.

Everything happens for a reason.

I have to trust that my path is MINE to walk. And that my journey is unique. It may not be as flashy as the other people in the room. But it is my own. ❤

*Alfred is not the person’s real name.

Lucky before the “lockdown”

Non-essential businesses and workplaces are closed starting today. Tentatively scheduled to resume from May 4. These are new measures popularly known here as the “circuit breaker” that PM Lee and his ministers announced last week for the people of Singapore.

I rushed to Lucky Plaza to pick up balikbayan boxes at LBC. Apparently, they have not received instructions yet if they will shut down as they deal with logistics. Other stores at Lucky are closed and I started seeing signs posted. Jollibee, like many restaurants on the island, will remain open for takeaway or deliveries.

Mood was sad. Add to that a rare evening thunderstorm that happened over rush hour. Since I was at Lucky, I topped up on my supply of Filipino-style white vinegar and soy sauce. I haven’t cooked adobo in a while. I also added some cans of Ligo and Mega sardines. And, 900g of spaghetti noodles!

The next few weeks are crucial to contain the new wave of growing COVID-19 cases in Singapore. I’m obv staying home through this or spending it holed up at PJ’s. Gov’t says stay with family and this is the family I have here. Priorities now are to 1) ensure my kitchen shelf and PJ’s shelf are well-stocked, 2) communicate regularly with family and loved ones in isolation, and 3) continue my employment search. Keeping calm is necessary. I struggle with anxiety. I am learning to “let go” of control and to be kind.

7 Studio Ghibli films I’m watching to help me stay calm in a pandemic

Today, a record 120 new cases of COVID-19 was reported in Singapore. That’s a daily record and it’s the first time since the first case in late January where we’ve seen more than 100 cases in one day. Many of the new cases are unlinked. This means the virus is spreading without any known links to existing clusters or positive individuals.

As if we’re not already deeply concerned, today’s news seems to be another cherry on top of this situation. I learned earlier that PJ’s flat will be taken back by the owners. Which means, PJ and his flatmates will need to relocate to a new flat soon. That’s on top of me moving in with them temporarily as I’ve had to let go of my Bukit Merah flat due to tightening my finances.

Non-essential businesses are closing on Tuesday. They will remain closed for a month. This is the closest Singapore has now to a lockdown. Nobody is calling it a lockdown. But it feels like we are inching towards it day by day. I still feel Singapore is one of the safest places on Earth to ride out an outbreak. But I feel for Singapore. It needs to protect its citizens. Every measure must be put in place to “break the circuit”.

More sentiments in my previous posts here and here.

***

Because I’m mentally drained by news after news of COVID-19, my looming unemployment situation, my status in Singapore, etc… I’ve been binge-watching Studio Ghibli with PJ the past three days. We’ve covered seven films so far.

  1. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
  2. The Cat Returns (2002)
  3. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
  4. Ponyo (2008)
  5. The Wind Rises (2013)
  6. When Marnie was There (2014)
  7. Spirited Away (2001)

The films are an ESCAPE. It feels like entering one of those really beautiful postcard drawings. The stories are out of this world… which is fine… because everything happening in the real world feels out of this world. The characters are charming and inspired. I would recommend Studio Ghibli films for those who haven’t seen any yet. They are a welcome distraction from the bad news out there.

***

If the cases in the next few days don’t simmer down, I’m expecting even more drastic measures to be in place. Will we start seeing military on the streets? Will the buses and MRT lines be closed? Will there be a curfew?

We’re already in unprecedented territory with the closing of Singapore’s zoos, schools, and malls (except for essential services). At times like these, I miss being irritated by the simplicity of the haze.

Trip to the groceries

Non-essential businesses will close from Tuesday. The new measures will be in effect over a month. People are advised to stay home and avoid meeting with friends. People are to stick to immediate family members.

Except for us non-Singaporeans, we’ll be staying home. But not with family. We live with flatmates, partners. I get a little anxious if the government will monitor S or E-pass holders. Or if Aunt Lydia will be waiting at the void deck. There are many things I appreciate and admire about Singapore’s response to this crisis. But I’ve seen too many episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale. The scenes in the Gilead grocery store… felt that earlier. Like CCTVs, social distance ambassadors in plainclothes. Lol.

Absolutely horrible time to do the groceries earlier. We went to the Fairprice at Bukit Ho Swee which is 24/7. We went around 7:00pm. The vegetables are sold out. The meat sections were almost empty. The mood inside the store was sombre.

Here’s the thing. You enter the grocery store with a list of ingredients you need to complete a meal plan. However, with empty shelves… you end up scrambling discreetly (aka looking calm but screaming inside) to grab whatever is left and then while you’re queuing to pay… you’re wondering “okay, what I am going to do with this minced pork without onions or vegetables”.

We ended up cooking pork adobo.