Sunday, March 30, 2014

Exploring Singapore in three days, part 1

I was in Singapore in January to attend an MBA orientation for prospective students at INSEAD. While there, I took the time to explore the city and learn a bit more about its history and culture.

I did stay away from many of the tourist must-sees listed in travel books but I think I ticked off a few sites in my list of cultural landmarks. I ended up seeing art galleries and the national museum for most of the short time I had spent in Singapore... This means only one thing: I have a reason to go back and explore it again!

Art galleries
It's fascinating to see how people express themselves in the visual arts. Singapore is relatively young and is still in search of its identity as a country cherishing its position as a mixing pot of different cultures and ethnicities. I didn't see many European Renaissance art pieces in the galleries I've been to but I did see a strong pull towards Asian artistic styles... something I don't normally see in Philippine museums (except for the pottery collections). And in many exhibits from the modern/ contemporary artists, I see (again) a propensity of sad/ dark colored pieces that make me think that artists generally see the world with a lot of pessimism. 

Months later, I was discussing sad music with Matty and he said, if I interpret what he was saying correctly, that there's more depth and beauty in notes that sound sad. Perhaps this is also how visual artists think. Or maybe in their attempt to inject social relevance in their artwork, these artists depict a darker picture of the world we live in. I really am not sure. The thing I was happy about after my visit to these art galleries and museums was that there is still hope that I'd get to appreciate modern art the same way I am a fan of Impressionists and Cubists (Monet and Manansala are my favorite artists, by the way).

Singapore National Museum
Since I was following the culture track, I might as well drop by the Singapore National Museum, right? It turned out to be the right decision because the exhibits were all good. I was particularly fascinated with the audio tour of Singapore's history from when it was discovered by the Europeans until it gained its independence all the way to the modern era.

Watching how Singapore's history played out, I couldn't help but compare it to the Philippines' path to the modern times... Singapore being the only other Southeast Asian nation that I was really able to visit the cultural landmarks of. I did visit historical sites in Hanoi but 30 minutes of walking a day to see the place is not the same as really taking the time to stop and absorb the culture (and I don't think I have even scratched the surface of the Singaporean culture... I only had a peek).

And the icing on the cake during my visit to the museum was the exhibit about food. Yes, there's an exhibit about Singaporean food!! If that wasn't enough, there was a section in the museum where you could smell the different fruits and food items that are eaten regularly in Singapore. Heaven for someone who's into sensory evaluation, right?