“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” ―
I grew up hearing about Singapore being a melting pot of different cultures. Research would eventually tell me that there are debates about whether the country is truly a melting pot or not. I guess, there are different opinions on what a melting pot truly means. What I do know is that Singapore is a country made more beautiful by the combination of cultures of its people.
When discussing the topic of culture, one cannot help but tackle religion. To this day, I still do not know whether culture influences religion or if it’s the other way around. I need more reading and research to do on those topics to widen my understanding. All I know is that when I was planning my trip to Singapore, I couldn’t help but notice the number of places of worship for different kinds of religion on Google Maps. That is why I decided to spend half a day trying to visit as many places of worship as I could manage.
Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple (Waterloo Street)
In March of this year, I went to Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple in Hong Kong, where I had my fortune told and made a wish. That wish I made came true two months later. Because of that, I tried to look for a temple in Singapore where I could also get my fortune told. I came across Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple in my research.
From J8 Hotel, I walked to Aft. Allenby Road and took Bus 857 to Opp Nafa Campus 3. A short walk later, I arrived at the temple’s area, packed with worshipers, sellers, fortune-tellers.
Dedicated to the Kuan Yin (also spelled Guanyin or Guan Yin), the Goddess of Mercy, this place of worship is said to be a bringer of good fortune to those who pray to the goddess. This Buddhist temple was built in 1884 and was reconstructed in 1895. Surely though, the place went through fixes and reconstruction over the years to maintain its structural integrity and safety.
Inside the temple is a wide area for those who wish to have their fortunes told through kau cim and jiao bei. It was exactly the same process as my fortune-telling experience in Hong Kong, so I did not have a difficult time figuring it out. I will share my fortune-telling experience in another post.
Sri Krishnan Temple (Waterloo Street)
Just beside Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple is Sri Krishnan Temple, the sole South Indian Hindu Temple in the country that is dedicated to Sri Krishna and Rukmini (Sri Krishna’s consort).
Established in 1870, this temple has a rich history from its establishment to how it finally came to look like the beautiful temple it is today. People leave their shoes outside before going inside to pray.
While trying to take a glimpse from where I stood, I noticed a topless man with a white cloth around his waist (called dhoti). At first, I couldn’t understand why he was dressed that way because I grew up hearing people always being told to cover up before going to places of worship. In my research, I always come upon two types of answers. The first is related to the chakras and the ability to connect to the energies in the temple. The second is something about stripping off your social status and humbling yourself in the form of taking your shirt off.
I didn’t go inside anymore because I wasn’t sure I have dressed appropriately for a woman that day and because I am not sure if they allow tourists inside like in the Chinese temple beside it.
Church of Saints Peter and Paul (Queen Street)
The Church of Saints Peter and Paul is a Roman Catholic Church that was built between the years 1869 to 1870. This makes the church much older than the first two temples I visited! It’s part of the rich history of the growth of Catholicism in Singapore.
I think there was a wedding going on, so I did not go inside the church anymore. I also noticed that some parts seem to still be undergoing reconstruction. Perhaps, I will be able to step inside when I visit Singapore again.
For some reason, I feel like Singapore is in the process of renovating or reconstructing their churches. You see, I was supposed to go to St. Joseph’s Church in Victoria Street, but it was closed for renovation too. I started feeling like I should have planned my church hopping itinerary better.
Cathedral of the Good Shepherd (Queen Street)
Oh, the history of Catholicism in Singapore just gets richer! This cathedral was founded in 1832! Can you believe it?! It started as a church and it was only in 1888 when it got elevated to cathedral status.
The cathedral was closed when I visited, or the doors may have been closed but not locked. I did not check anymore. You see, I am used to open churches in the Philippines and I didn’t want to risk making a spectacle of myself by lurking around.
I also noticed that Catholic Churches in Singapore love their steeples. I am not sure I notice the same in the churches in my country. I know a lot of churches that have dome-shaped ceilings, but I never paid much attention to their external architectural design. I guess I should be more observant from now on.
CHIJMES/ Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus Middle Education School (Victoria Street)
Technically, this is no longer a place of worship. However, it used to be a convent that was founded in 1852. It eventually expanded to house a school for girls in 1933.
In 1983, the school got moved to a new site because the government acquired the land that the convent and the school were on. Since 1996, it has housed establishments such as restaurants. Despite this, they preserved most of the original structure.
There’s a nice garden in CHIJMES where I was able to sit and rest my legs, which were already starting to hurt. I loved how spacious the area was and how freeing it felt to sit where a lot of little girls probably used to run around and play.
I decided that CHIJMES was going to be my last stop for my church hopping on my second day in Singapore. I decided to go to the grocery, then go back to the hotel to have my lunch. My legs were truly killing me from all the walking since the day before and I needed them to work for when I go to the Axe Factor to experience axe throwing.
Church of Our Lady of Lourdes (Ophir Road)
I was born on the 11th of February which coincides with the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. I remember that my aunt used to complain that I should have been named Lourdes because of my birthdate, just like how their aunt was named Lourdes for being born on February 11 too. While I did not have a particular liking for the name of Lourdes, I have always had a fondness for the story of the lady’s apparition in France.
Opened in 1888, the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes became the first Tamil Catholic Church in Singapore. It was of no wonder then that when I visited, the place was full of Tamil people hearing mass. Feeling a little out of place, I slowly turned around and left. After all, I wouldn’t be able to understand a word being said during the mass. I felt sort of an intruder at that time.
Before leaving Singapore, I made it a point to visit a church named after Our Lady of Lourdes. I felt compelled to talk to her in a church named after her. I was not disappointed because outside the church was a beautiful image of Our Lady of Lourdes. I went closed and found myself talking to her through the image, asking for her to pray for me and to always watch me and keep me from harm’s way.
To be honest, I am at this point in my life where I am trying to explore different faiths, hoping to find where I feel I belong. And while I still lean towards Christianity, I am glad to have seen and visited different places of worship where people are able to express and deepen their faiths. I can only hope that one day, I will find for myself the same strong connection to a specific religion or teaching and be able to express my faith as religiously as they do.