All photos by Tristan Zinampan/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – In the Philippines, fiestas are as common as jeepneys. They're filled to the brim with people, they are often colorful, and it’s almost impossible for any town not to have one.
But even with its ubiquity, we are not a people to miss out on a chance to celebrate. We take the time to flock them. The most famous locally being the likes of Sinulog, Mascara, Panagbenga, we even turned Labor Day into a beach fest.
If we want a bit of international flavor, we schedule trips to Bangkok to experience Songkran, or to Taiwan for its Lantern Festival.
Well, a new festival is opening up in the ASEAN region, and it’s just a few hours plane ride from Manila. Yes, Singapore just revamped its iconic Great Singapore Sale (GSS) into a month-long celebration from June 21 - July 28.
From Great Singapore Sale to GSS: Experience Singapore
Launched in 1994, the Great Singapore Sale was envisioned as an “opportunity to add more value to the country’s shopping experience, as well as give overseas visitors a reason to come to our ‘little red dot,’” said R. Dhinakaran, President of the Singapore Retailers Association – the GSS; main organizer.
However, for the past two years, the famed annual event has been experimenting on how to refresh itself for the new age – first going digital with the GoSpree app in 2017.
This year, the Great Singapore Sale is rebranding itself as GSS: Experience Singapore. By going by its acronym, the event wants to distance itself from merely being the ‘Sale’ in its name.
The famed discounts are still present (for starters, expect to save an additional 7% on GST [Singapore's version of Value Added Tax] as they will be absorbed by participating outlets), but GSS hopes to be more than that. It is an immersive experience – one that wants locals and tourists to bring home a slice of Singapore whatever activity of the festival they chose to take part in.
Orchard Road revamp
Though the celebration may be shorter this year – cutting the yearly 10-week-long event to 5 weeks – GSS believes it can live up to the saying “half as long, twice as bright.”
To kick things off, and to prove that GSS is transforming shopping into an all-encompassing experience, from June 21 - 30, Orchard Road was turned into a giant playground.
Officially opening GSS: Experience Singapore, on the afternoon of June 21, 100 models stopped traffic by strutting the newest collections from some international designers and mostly local ones like David’s Daughter, Weekend Sundries, and Depression.
Showcased too were the works of fashion design students from Singaporean universities Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Raffles Design Institute, Temasek Polytechnic, and Lasalle College of the Arts. Additionally, these students’ designs will be exhibited at specially-marked “Windows ALIVE!” storefronts.
GSS’ organizers also sought to cater to foodies. To ease their search, the nearby Grange Road parking lot was turned into food park collecting a wide range of Singaporean favorites – from craft beers, lala clams, to Ah Hoi’s famous Chili Crab.
GSS: Experience Singapore aims to be an adventure that cuts across shopping, culture, arts, food, and even history.
As part of this initiative to keep Singapore’s culture alive, for the first time, GSS extended their activities beyond the usual sphere of retail outlets. This year, one of Singapore’s oldest urban precincts, Kampong Gelam, became a partner in organizing GSS.
On July 5 - 14, you can join specially-curated Kampong Gelam precinct tours. The tour can be experienced either via bicycles or Vespa sidecars and will take tourists to discover the quarter’s spice gardens, bazaars, and cuisine.
Bringing Kampong Gelam into the fold of GSS is merely a pilot for a larger initiative to make GSS country-wide, incorporating its cultural sites.
In the coming years, the plan is to extend the celebrations to Singapore’s Little India and Chinatown.
Evolving to the times
In a statement, Dr. Tan Wu Meng, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Trade and Industry, said that GSS’ major revamp is a means of evolving Singapore retail industry.
In a world where one can get everything online, convenience becomes both a strength and a sin. On the one hand, whatever you think of is available. However, we also forget the serendipitous experience of stumbling upon something enjoyable, something great.
GSS: Experience Singapore hopes it reminds people of that joy this year and hopefully for the years to come.
As Dr. Tan emphasized, “Experiences are still about the physical world, physical places. There is still a lot of room to innovate today.” – Rappler.com