#SG50: Filipinos: Governance is best lesson from Singapore

For  its 180,000 Filipino workers, Singapore is an ideal workplace. At the same time, they wonder if the Philippines will ever attain the success the Lion City is enjoying now.

But Singapore's top intellectuals say the Philippines can learn from the smaller country's effective governance.

Ayee Macaraig reports.


One of Singapore's few female executive chefs is proudly Filipino.

Karla Mendoza opened celebrity chef Mario Batali's first venture in Asia, Pizzeria Mozza at the Marina Bay Sands in 2010.

The restaurant's staff is 80% Filipino, reflecting Filipinos' mark in the city-state's food and beverage, and services sectors.

KARLA MENDOZA, EXECUTIVE CHEF, PIZZERIA MOZZA SINGAPORE: Filipinos are able to do anything and everything. We're more well-rounded. And service I think is really so natural for us. It's not much of a stretch that you're doing it in a hotel setting rather than just a smaller restaurant setting. Most of the junior and even senior managers here are Filipino.

The Filipino community in Singapore grew from the initial domestic workers to include professionals, and highly skilled workers.

There are now 180,000 Filipinos in Singapore with their own Little Manila, the Lucky Plaza mall on Orchard Road.

Just a 4-hour flight from the Philippines, the city-state where East meets West appeals to them as an ideal workplace, despite recent restrictions on foreign talents. 

ELLA BARRIENTOS, HOTEL MANAGER: My exposure here in Singapore helped me a lot in terms of dealing with guests or people from all walks of life, people from all over the world. When I was working in Manila, it was different because you were working with Filipinos as well so the environment was different so even the procedures of how you do things back in Manila is more different so it's more the exposure overall, it really helped me upgrade myself. 

As Singapore celebrates its golden jubilees, Filipinos here wonder when their home country can succeed like the former British port that is now a global economic powerhouse.

Many are skeptical but Singapore's top intellectuals say the Philippines can learn from the small nation's effective governance.

KISHORE MAHBUBANI, FORMER SINGAPORE AMBASSADOR TO THE UN: Filipinos are among the most talented people in the world today. If you travel around the world, you go to New York, California, you will see how successful the Filipino communities are and so it shows you the potential of the Philippine population is enormous JC I think if there's one country that will definitely succeed with meritocracy, pragmatism and honesty, that's the Philippines.

Filipinos wish the efficient services and discipline in Singapore will not just be a dream for the Philippines.

A meticulous chief working in a perfectionist society, Mendoza says it is not just government but Filipinos and their mindset that must change. 

KARLA MENDOZEXECUTIVE CHEF, PIZZERIA MOZZA SINGAPORE: I think it's more attitude. They had a plan and they really ticked it off, done, done, done. And then they were able to tick it all off. Tayo parang the okay na iyan, the pwede na iyan really goes away. You can't settle for just so, so. We really need to aim higher. Pwede, of course.”

From Singapore, Mendoza plans to bring Mozza and her world-class experience soon to Manila much like many Filipinos who intend to bring valuable lessons back home.

What's the secret behind Singapore's vaunted success story?

Singaporeans say the city-state's rise from being an accidental country to this sleek Asian financial hub in 50 years is no mystery.

The same long-term vision and forward-thinking that transformed this reclaimed area from water to an iconic landmark can help other countries move forward.

While the Singapore experience is unique an honest and competent government, planning, and the iron will to get things done are lessons that endure from Lee Kuan Yew's days and beyond.

Ayee Macaraig, Rappler, Singapore.