If there’s a TV station for Filipinos (The Filipino Channel), Singapore’s Filipino mall is the Lucky Plaza.
You can find this old mall at Orchard, sticking out like a sore thumb among luxury malls like Ion, Ngee Ann City, Paragon, and the forever-under-construction Tang.
It stands proudly at the center of shopping action and tourist attraction, making Orchard one of the best places for Filipinos who are missing home, because come Sunday/Saturday, you can hear Tagalog being spoken everywhere. I could also understand some Ilocano (Mama’s an Ilocana) and recognize Bisaya, so I have a rough estimate of the Filipino demographics in my head.
The sad picture that Lucky Plaza paints for me is how every salary day, millions (ok, that’s hyperbole–hopefully) of Filipino laborers all come down here to send money to their families. What’s wrong in the picture? I was in a long que in the restroom and I heard women talking, one said, hawakan ko muna ‘to para maramdaman ko naman nagkapera ako (laughs); another said, ganon talaga, mahal mo sila e, malayong pag-ibig (laughs).
If only the Philippine government can take care of its people, the diaspora of millions of OFWs, many of which are domestic helpers, can be avoided. Looking at the sheer number of Filipinos lining up in remittance centers, I thought, I am witnessing the country’s bloodline sending blood via wires to a patient living on an artificial life support.
But, being the Filipinos that we are, sometimes we just laugh out loud during crisis and find time to release stress. At Lucky Plaza, the Filipino laughter and chika are best heard at the basement over a steaming bowl of beef bulalo shared by overseas friends.