I’ll come clean: my big adventure today involved a trip to the Singapore Philatelic Museum. In layman’s terms, that means that I went to a museum dedicated to stamps. It’s not on the usual tourist path (or any other path that I know of). But it’s pretty interesting.
As the museum says, “Philately is … More than just Stamps!” They didn’t actually explain what that meant, but I interpreted it to mean that philately is art and design and history and nationalism and finance and travel and collecting and global studies all in one. Maybe I’m over-reaching, but I feel like you can take away a lot from learning about postage.
For example, you can learn a huge amount about Singapore’s sense of itself and its history. Sure, Singapore has its share of stamps dedicated to orchids and fish and sports and food, but its very first stamps were dedicated to trying to promote racial harmony. The goal was to try to get the Chinese and Malays and Indians to live happily together. Here’s one with a smiling multi-racial group cheerfully on their way to work together (and look at the industry and development in the background!):
Singapore has promoted ethnic inclusivity by issuing stamps with masks and dances of different cultures, from China to Malaysia to Indonesia to India …
… and stamps with different religious places of worship here in Singapore (a Chinese temple, a mosque, a Hindu temple, and a cathedral).
They have created stamps to promote unity (if this looks vaguely Soviet, don’t be fooled — Singapore was virulently anti-communist when this stamp came out in the 1960s):
They have also develop stamps to inculcate good morals on the people of Singapore. In 1981, the National Productivity Board came up with Teamy the Productivity Bee (definitely my favorite) and slapped him all over people’s postage:
They’ve also had Singa the Courtesy Lion:
I’m wondering if we’ve come up with equally wacky ethics-building mascots in the US that I’ve just ignored, or if things like Teamy and Singa are uniquely Asian somehow.
It wouldn’t be Singapore if you didn’t promote housing developments and public transportation on your stamps:
And there are also a number of stamps reminding citizens of their public duty to get behind National Service, which requires all males after high school to join the Singapore military for two years (and to stay in the reserves for many years thereafter).
But it’s not just young men who should be protecting Singapore — it’s every citizen, every person on the island (and they should smile while they do it):
The stamps above taught me about Singapore’s program of “Total Defense”: psychological defense (“Singaporeans must be mindful of their personal safety & that of their fellow citizens”); economic defense; military defense; social defense (“respecting all creeds & races contributes to a harmonious and gracious society”); and civil defense. Phew — that’s a lot of defending!
Singapore is proud, proud, proud of its early history (that’s probably true of every country, and every country probably has similar commemorative stamps):
After all that hard work and nationalism, someone in the Singapore stamp department decided to get a little whimsical. Can you find your pet on these stamps?
And while it’s entirely unrelated to Singapore, I thought I would share with you the most unexpected stamps of the day, courtesy of Portugal:
Yup — ham stamps.
Where was Prescott during all of this? At improv practice — one of the local troops asked him to sit in today and to play a show in two weeks. So he missed seeing the stamps. He also missed my visit to the Armenian Church, the oldest church in Singapore, founded in 1835 . It looks New England on the outside …
…and vaguely Eastern European on the inside (architecturally, at least — but it’s missing the relics of a European orthodox church):
I sang in it for a little while — neat acoustics! I then wandered around the little graveyard out back. Favorite names on the headstones included Catchick and Parsick (both first names), and the excellently dubbed M.C. Mackertoom.
The churchyard is a lovely place to sit and rest.
Prescott and I met up at a mall — he needed new pants and we were going to the movies (plus, it seems you always end up at a mall at some point during the week in Singapore). We stopped to have a prata snack and then went to see Star Trek Beyond. Such a good movie, even if we saw it in the front row with Chinese subtitles. If it’s still out in a week or two, I want to go back to see it in 3D. Great entertainment!