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Citizenship test: Five myths you should know if you’re Singaporean

Posted on 25 February 2013

In 1985, the second series of coins featuring local plants and flowers, were released to depict Singapore as a garden city. This year, the third series features Singapore’s national icons — the Merlion, Port of Singapore, Changi Airport, HDB flats and the Esplanade.

Missing from the list are the icono casinos Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa, as well as the outsized ferris wheel, the Singapore Flyer.

and $90,000 COEs

and ERP gantries

and Pulau Tekong…

and the list goes on.

“Coins reflect the events, persons or symbols significant to a nation. The new series coins depict local icons and landmarks that are familiar to Singaporeans and reflect various aspects of Singapore’s progress as a nation,” said Ravi Menon, Managing Director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

Which still doesn’t explain why these five icons were chosen over others.

New Nation‘s hypothesis is simple: Each icon has an epic story behind it, which makes for convenient citizenship testing should you be unable to tell the difference between a Chinese and a Singaporean Chinese, a Malay brother from a Malay Malaysian dude, Tamil-speaking Singaporeans from Indian nationals… and so on.

Here’s five epic myths of how Singapore’s national icons came to be. But only one of them is false. Have fun.

#1 The Esplanade

5 cents

When the $600 million Esplanade was first launched, it used to leak buckets whenever it rained. Which was a great source of embarrassment for many a Singapore Tourism Board bureaucrat. After repeated attempts by contractors to seal the leaks, the luckless administrators decided that they needed to consult a Feng Shui master to turn their fortune around.

And the verdict?

Grow some coconut trees around the Esplanade to suck out the moisture from the Durian.

#2 HDB flats

10 cent

When Housing Development Board flats were first built, they sat unoccupied as people still preferred living in Kampongs (or “slums” if you happened to be a development worker). This led a desperate PAP government to hire an arsonist to set the Bukit Ho Swee area ablaze in 1961, forcing hundreds of villagers to move into the most available form of housing at that time — the uninhabited HDB flats.

After a period of skoffing and moaning about the loss of the “kampong spirit”, the skeptical villagers were eventually won over by the acceptable livability of public housing life.

And as they say, history was made.

#3 Changi airport

20 cent


In 2006, 15-year-old Jonathan Sng won S$2,000 in cold hard cash, plus a 3G mobile phone in a competition to name Changi Airport’s terminal for budget airlines.

His entry? The deeply profound “Budget Terminal”.

According to the judges, the name succinctly reflected the terminal’s purpose, “which is to provide simple airport facilities at a lower cost to its users”.

#4 Port of Singapore

50 cents


Before it was found by Sir Stamford Raffles, Singapore was a sleepy little village occupied by fishermen and their pet lions. It was only in 1819 that Singapore, under the auspices of the British East India company, began flourishing as an international trading port. But to ensure the safety of the traders and sailors that passed through, Raffles then dictated that all lion had to be confined within designated jungles on the island with a select few specimens kept in the Singapore Zoo.

#5 The “Ba Gua”

one dollarBack in the 1970s when Singapore digging an extensive underground network for the Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT) project, Singapore’s economy dipped into a recession despite the hefty fiscal stimulus on railway infrastructure. Concerned with the economic downturn, then-PM Lee Kuan Yew sought the advice from a monk, who explained that the recession was caused by the digging from the SMRT project.


Singapore was apparently built upon 8 “Dragon Veins” or “Energy Lines” and the SMRT project had apparently pierced these veins through the extensive digging, creating havoc. To rebalance the energy flow in the country, the Reverend advised Lee to provide every person in Singapore with a Chinese octogram to neutralize the negative elements brought about by the SMRT project

And how do you make sure all 3.5 million people on the island (this was in the 1970s remember?) carry a Ba Gua? Stamp it on a coin.

This post was written by:

- who has written 268 posts on New Nation.

Joey is an intern at New Nation. He hopes to be as funny as Belmont one day and get laid at least twice a month.

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  • CruEL

    $1 coin not 70s lah, early 80s!

    • Editor

      SMRT began digging in the 1970s what…

  • Chicky

    The coin was invented be coz of mrt jus not ur story.its be coz of opening of bushman mrt which many say is dirty as bushman used to b cemetery. Therefore fengshui consultant came up wif tis idea of a ba gua on a coin.

  • Chicky

    Issh…auto spell,I meant bishan mrt

    • LibraryUncle

      Bushman MRT station would be awesome.. I would dress up to go there

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