Posted by: rbbadger | January 2, 2009

Yesterday’s Activities

Well, yesterday, I went to quite a few places.  Indeed, my feet were aching by the time I arrived back at the hotel.  The hotel where I was staying was pretty OK.  Nothing special, but clean, nice, and most important of all, safe.  That being said, violent crime is truly a rarity in Singapore.  This country takes law and order pretty seriously.

Yes, Singapore is quite family oriented.  The Chinese have a very, very strong family culture that is quite similar to the Korean way of life.  Korea adopted the Chinese Confucian ethics in their strictest forms, so there are similarities between the cultures.  In this culture, families are more important than individuals.  While this influence has weakened, it is still strong.  Indians also have very strong families.  Again, the family is paramount, so arranged marriages are still common.  While arranged marriages in Korea are a thing of the past in most respects, no child would think of marrying someone his or her parents did not approve of.  The Malays are pretty much universally Muslim.  Uniquely, for a country with a Muslim minority, Singapore has a special Syariah (Shari’a) court which is devoted to mostly matrimonial matters.  Thus, Muslim divorces are not handled by the main court system.  They are handled by the special Islamic Court.  Additionally, every restaurant here carries certification as to whether or not the food that they serve is halal, namely permissible for Muslims to eat.  I really wondered how the Malay women could handle the oppressive heat, given that they always wear long sleeves and head coverings.  Maybe not all Malay women do this, but the majority seem to do so.  Yesterday, I saw a young Malay married couple.  The husband was in a short sleeved t-shirt and shorts.  His wife was in a long-sleeved shirt, jeans, and a head covering.

Singapore does take the importance of stable families quite seriously.  So it is a nice country to bring the kids.  But that being said, the government announced last year grand plans to build some casinos to increase the tourist trade.  Gambling is what keeps the tiny Macau SAR in China afloat.  However, with the financial crisis and with projections of negative economic growth next quarter, those plans have been put on hold.  I am not certain if Singapore would do with their proposed casinos what Korea and Monaco have done with theirs.  Monegasque citizens and Korean citizens are forbidden by law from gambling in the casinos in their respective countries.  The major exception in Korea is Gangwon Land, a ski-resort/casino in the backwoods of Gangwon Province.  That is the only place in the whole country where Korean citizens may gamble.

Yesterday, I saw quite a bit more than I had intended to see.  My first stop was going to be the Singapore Philatelic Museum, but I came across the tiny Armenian Church on the way.   The Armenian Church  was built in 1835  and is the oldest church in Singapore.  There are very few Armenians left, so the Armenian Apostolic Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator is not able to have regular services.  After visiting the beautiful Armenian Church, I made it to the Philatelic Museum, a nice museum devoted to postage stamps.  Following that excursion, I made my way to Good Shepherd Cathedral, the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Singapore*.  Unfortunately, it was closed, services having been over for the day.  After that, I made my way to the Pernakan Museum, a museum devoted to one of Singapore’s largest ethnic groups, the Pernakans.  The Pernakans were ethnic Chinese who married local Malay women.  The result is an interesting mixture of Chinese and Malay cultures.  The first prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew (prime minister from 1959-1990) is descended from the Pernakan people on his mother’s side of the family.  While the Pernakans seem to have generally adopted Chinese culture, you can spot some Malay influences.  Following the Pernakan museum, I took a break and generally just rested before the Mass at St. Alphosus Liguori Catholic Church (“The Novena Church”).

The Novena Church gets its name because it is a centre of novenas (prayers for nine days for a certain intention) and is sort of Singapore’s national shrine to Our Lady of Perpetual Help.  The church was one of the more unique churches I’ve ever seen.  I like to call it the veranda church.  On either side of the church, there are verandas cooled by fans where there are pews as well.  The doors along the walls leading to the verandas open into the main church which benefits from whatever breezes might waft in its general direction.  TV screens, strategically placed in different parts of the verandas allow the faithful outside to see what is going on inside.  Yesterday was the feast of Mary, Mother of God, one of the holy days of obligation in Korea and the USA, though not in Singapore.  Still, however, the church was packed to overflowing with people seated on plastic chairs below the verandas.  The Mass was in English.  The priest was Chinese, but like all Singaporeans, spoke excellent English.  It was wonderful to be there with so many people and to see so many young families.  There were Indians, Chinese, Filipinos, a few of us European and European-extraction types, and quite a few others.

I slept very well last night.  I leave Singapore tonight and will arrive in Seoul early tomorrow morning.  The flight is about six and a half hours in length.  I really was impressed with this little tiny country and hope to return someday.  I don’t know if I’d want to live here, though.  It is just too humid and too hot with nary a break in store.

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*The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore is a unique canonical entity.  Generally, several dioceses are grouped together in a province and the leading diocese, either in terms of being the largest diocese or the most prominent historically is an archdiocese.  Singapore is such a small country that there are no other dioceses in Singapore apart from the Archdiocese of Singapore.  Thus, it is an archdiocese without a province.  It joins the Archdiocese of Luxembourg, the Archdiocese of Monaco, and the Archdiocese of Vaduz (Liechtenstein) as being one of the very few archdioceses which has no province at all.

Currently, the Archdiocese is headed by His Grace, Archbishop Nicholas Chia, a native of Singapore.

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