Singaporean-Filipino Reveals the Reasons Why PM Lee Kuan Yew Brought Filipinos to Help Build Singapore

A Singaporean national with Filipino descent and the son of a lecturer who taught architecture at the National University in Singapore, Jose Cruz revealed some of the most interesting participation of Filipinos during the rebuilding of Singapore as he revealed the reasons why Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew brought Filipinos to the island-state.


Siinga According to Cruz, shortly after their arrival, his father joined the Filipino Association of Singapore and quickly made friends with the Filipino Architects, Engineers, Designers and Accountants who like him were brought in to help build Singapore's infrastructure.



The Singaporean national also revealed that during the 1970's Singapore was less developed than the Philippines but today Singapore has a first world infrastructure, world's best airport, one of the most modern and efficient transport system, modern skyline and iconic buildings.

Jose Cruz also noted one of the most interesting statement ever stated by no less than Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

“Filipino professionals whom we recruited to work in Singapore are as good as our own. Indeed, their architects, artists and musicians are more artistic and creative than ours.”

Read the Complete Statement of Jose Cruz:

Jose Cruz 1974-present

I’m a Singaporean of Filipino descent and the son of lecturer who taught Architecture at the National University of Singapore for 12 years since 1974. My father was one of the first few Filipino professionals brought in by Singapore’s founding father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew to help build Singapore after Singapore’s independence from Malaysia.



Shortly after arrival, my father joined the Filipino Association of Singapore and quickly made friends with the Filipino Architects, Engineers, Designers and Accountants who like him were brought in to help build Singapore’s infrastructure. We were a close-knit community and had a lot of lively family gatherings in our large colonial bungalow residence near The Botanical Gardens and friends’ homes all over Singapore. My mom had lots of noisy mahjong sessions with her friends replete with all the latest gossips and punctuated with excited shouts of “pong!”.

Back in the 1970’s Singapore was less developed than the Philippines with few tall buildings, lots of farm land, slums and lots of gangsters terrorizing its citizens. Today, Singapore has a first world infrastructure with the world’s best Airport, one of the most modern and efficient transport system, modern skyline and iconic buildings (eg Marina Bay Sands), The Jewel etc.. In 2018, Singapore was ranked as the number 1 place for expats to live in, based on a survey conducted by HSBC.

It was the excellent work and attitude of these early Filipino professional that helped to open the doors for future professionals from the Philippines which today number in the thousands and includes a wide range of professions like IT, Hospitality, Healthcare etc.

My dad really loved his work and wanted to improve the lives of Singaporeans so he jumped at an opportunity to join a select committee to help suggest improvements to the qualtiy of living in HDB (Housing Development Board) flats where 80% of Singaporeans live.



I remember him coming home one day, feeling depressed that his suggestion to build slides and swings for children back in the seventies was shot-down and even laughed at by government officials. Today however, you will find slides and swings in every HDB community. I’m glad that his suggestion was eventually accepted after all; he just happened to be ahead of his time.

Looking at what Singpapore has become today, I cannot but help feeling proud of being part of that early Filipino community who played an important role in transforming Singapore to what it is today. I’m thankful to Lee Kuan Yew for his foresight and resourcefulness. I would like to add here a quote from the late Lee Kuan Yew’s biography “From Third World to First” where he made reference to Filipino professionals:

“Filipino professionals whom we recruited to work in Singapore are as good as our own. Indeed, their architects, artists and musicians are more artistic and creative than ours.”

This insight from one of the World’s most brilliant minds is probably the most important Singaporean opinion of Filipino professionals and gives hope to many Filipinos still living in the Philippines to one day have their very own renaissance.

To all Filipinos who wish to come here to work, I suggest that you first learn the local cultures and languages and behave just as you would like others to behave when they visit your own country.

Source: Jose Cruz FB Page

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