Despite being a father of two and spending most of my nights parenting them, I sometimes find myself guilty of the trait that irks parents all over the world:
Some weeks ago I headed down to the basketball courts for a decent evening’s workout, but found the community centre transformed beyond recognition. Though these two basketball courts were well frequented by teenagers who lived in the east, I wasn’t prepared to see a whole carnival of around 50 Filipino men playing full-court basketball on both courts.
A wave of heated emotion ran over me, and I let my temper simmer within me.
“Our community centre got overrun”, I thought to myself. Many other ugly thoughts clouded my mind, most of them revolving around having a country which I paid for in time (national service) and taxes forcibly taken away from me by a swarm of locusts who were using my home as a stepping stone to a better life…yadda yadda yadda.
I felt like gatecrashing - just standing at the rim and shooting my basketball without caring about whether these Filipinos were in the middle of their game. Heck, I’m a true-blooded Singaporean; surely I deserved that right.
I sulked for quite a while, before a few of the Filipino men called out to me and asked me to play with them on the next team. I accepted the invitation, bitter taste still lingering in my mouth.
It only took a few minutes before we were passing the ball around, engaged in the pretty universal dance that basketball is. We were laughing at each other’s misses and high-fiving when a good play was executed well. And I began to remember how different we are, compared to them.
It’s an odd thing, because you’d assume that when I was done sulking, I’d have this whole revelation about how we’re all one, kumbayah sorta thing. But when you’re really in the zone, you realise that harmony is not achieved through enforcing uniformity, but through the celebration of diversity. Through the course of our game, I learned how warm the Filipinos are as a people; how seriously they take their basketball, but also how they prize the playing of the game over its outcome.
I learned that I have much to learn from them.
It would be a mistake to expect the different cultures within Singapore to assimilate into one singular identity and erase the diversity that has made us strong. We ought to forge a home where we can accept others for who they are, and expect the same kindness and freedom to be reciprocated unto us.