It played in my head as if it happened only the night before. The crowd had come alive at Makansutra Gluttons’ Bay by the Singapore River and the queues grew as they snaked in front of the stalls offering a wide variety of Asian Food. I could not help thinking about the first time I set foot on this place three years ago. It was my first night outside the Philippines.
In 2009, I was one of the bloggers invited by Nuffnang to attend the Asia Pacific Blog Awards that was held in Singapore. The event itself was excellent, but what truly made that trip unforgettable for me was that it was my first trip abroad. On my first evening, I went to the Gluttons’ Bay for dinner with other Philippine delegates and spent the next couple of hours walking around the river area. It was still vivid in my head like a fresh work on a canvass with the paint still carrying a high potential to stain any surface that comes in contact with it.
Fast forward to 2012.
“I’ll just have some me-time,” I told my friends Ces and Astrid before I broke away from the group. It had only been three years, but I had visited Singapore three times prior to this trip. Singapore, as steel-cold and artificial as it appears most of the time, always manages to radiate a natural warmth for a nostalgic soul like me. Maybe it’s that I give too much value in it being the first country I visited besides my own. Or maybe because I just feel like I somehow belong here, in the middle of the towering skyscrapers and theme parks. The truth is, every time I had a new Singaporean stamp on my passport, this small city-state never failed to surprise me. Like that night when I chose to walk alone.
Small glass vials filled to the brim with colored liquid were weaved together to create a glowing fabric that made up the vibrant giant lanterns that abounded a park on the bank of the river. The lights shone as if summoning everyone. Come closer, these glass creatures hollered in silence. And I was drawn to them in an instant.
From afar, these enormous beast lanterns looked like constellations not only with dots connected but also the spaces in between shaded, spread out in a galaxy. The Chinese New Year had just ended, but its spirit still lingered in the area. The lanterns were probably just leftovers of what I bet was a massive festival. Nevertheless, the crowd delivered the energy needed to keep this galaxy spinning. Traditional red lanterns and more offbeat animal-shaped ones became the centers of attraction in this universe.
But these weren’t the only stars here. Not very far away, lights, like glowing spirits, escaped through the tiny windows that dotted the body of the skyscrapers that towered over the river. They joined the other lights that bordered the edges of the buildings and the ones that bounced on the river surface in painting a massive canvass of countless galaxies. The laser rays coming from the three bodies and the ship of the Marina Bay Sands beamed like fickle comets that cut through the darkness, as spectators watched the luminous cosmic display in glee.
I sat in one of the concrete benches that dashed the side of the river and kept on thinking about the first time I was here, the now, and the in-between. I let myself indulge in the thought that when I was a child, never did I imagine myself being in another country, much less coming back again and again. Never did I wish upon any star that I fly out of the country as I believed I would be reaching for the stars then. I guess I just got lucky.