I’ve never had a greater sense of my own mortality than this weekend. Thankfully it was neither through a near-miss accident nor a health-related scare. In fact, it happened quite unexpectedly during a lull over this Golden Jubilee weekend on Singapore’s 50th Birthday.
We had spent the past 5 weekends ‘chasing fireworks’ – a family tradition of sorts to view the National Day Parade (NDP) from various places along Singapore’s stunning Marina Bay. The penultimate was last week where a friend decided to bless our family with the NDP Preview Tickets barely 2 hours before the parade started. Needless to say, we had a blast.
The ultimate was saved for the long Golden Jubilee Weekend, which stretched from 7 Aug till 10 Aug 2015. We did the unthinkable – we went to watch the stunning aerobatic displays by the RSAF Black Knights on three consecutive days. Yes…three times with the kids in tow.
Our first attempt on Friday was a washout, literally. We parked at GBTB East and cycled to the Barrage. But torrential rain drove the eager crowd at the Marina Barrage indoors for shelter after a 20 minute abridged aerobatic display (kudos to the Black Knights for not letting the crowd down but honestly, we were concerned for their safety!). We were stranded for an hour as we waited out the rain after the show.
Day 2, Saturday. We had no plans so at the drop of a hat, we ventured out to see the Black Knights again! This time the weather held up and we watched the full breathtaking display over at Marina South Pier. The crowd held its breath and cheered after every maneuver. The patriotism vibes were palpable and additive. It was fantastic to be greeted with a sea of red everywhere we turn, a mark of solidarity in proclaiming that ‘Hey, we’re fellow Singaporeans too!’
After the aerial display, we commenced our staycation in a city hotel as we wanted to be to near the NDP actions. True enough, on impulse, after checking-in, we decided to head to the Esplanade for the 6:30pm session of the Open House – an hour long program to introduce the public to the inner workings of the concert hall as well as hear some local groups perform. For that, we were thoroughly educated and entertained. We felt the pulse of the people who thronged the bay enjoying the many outdoor concerts and fringe events that were specially put up for the Golden Jubilee weekend. I don’t recall feeling so festive as one nation ever.
Day 3, Sunday. 9th August 2015. This is it. The day every Singaporean has been waiting for. We woke up early to watch the Proclamation of Singapore’s Independence on TV. It was recorded in 2012 by our late founding father, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. For us, to hear his voice again evoked a flood of emotions. It makes us so proud and thankful that Singapore is our home and our children’s future is secure and safe.
After breakfast, guess what. Yes, you guessed it. We made another impromptu decision to catch the Black Knights (again)! This time, we opted to go via public transport to avoid the traffic jam and parking congestion. Only after we set foot into the MRT station did we realise it was FREE public transport day! How nice!
We arrived at the Marina Bay Pier MRT station at 11:30am and families, young and old were already waiting. We walked to the breakwater, found ourselves a spot to sit, chatted with an elderly uncle who was there alone and waited for the show to start. The Black Knights were absolutely astounding!
By the time it ended, we took the MRT to Orchard for a quick lunch at Food Republic and headed back to hotel to freshen up. Soon, it was almost time to leave for the Promontory where we will watch the NDP 2015 Parade ‘LIVE’ with fellow Singaporeans, organized by Young NTUC.
It was during this car ride to the Promontory, meandering through the busy streets of National Day Singapore, that our daughter, Dana asked, “When it’s SG100, I’ll be 57 and Daddy would be?” As she was doing the mental sums, I knew the answer – either 94 or dead. After giving the correct numerical answer, she then went on to count my wife’s. I felt a lump in my throat.
Ever since Dana was 2, we’ve been bringing her to watch the NDP fireworks. This year was no different. For us, it was more than just nurturing a sense of patriotism and loyalty to country, which is often an understated value in this volatile world. More so, we have wanted a special event each year for her (and eventually Buddy) to remember us, their parents, and how much we’ve loved them. More than just any random event, National Day would be THE event where we hope they would recall those crazy times camping out in the sun waiting for the fireworks and soaking in the NDP spirit. We know all too well how dear NDP is to us as we’ve just lost our Grandma this year, someone whom we’ve always brought to see fireworks every August.
This year, at the Promontory, we celebrated NDP 2015 as part of the Young NTUC ticketed event. Though we didn’t get the Parade@Padang tickets, we were happy to celebrate among friends and among the extended ’family’ of Singapore workers who form the quality workforce that is critical to Singapore’s ongoing success.
Watching the parade with thousands of families clad in red and white just makes it so extra special. The organisers did an excellent job in the programming and crowd control. In the “A “Celebration of Unity” segment, everyone had to light a candle and passed it around the crowd until the entire Promontory was kindled by a sea of candle flames. This annual Labour Movement signifies our support for one another as fellow Singaporeans and it reminds us that we are dependent on one another to keep the fire going as one Singapore. How meaningful.
After the fireworks, while the public outside dispersed, we were entertained by the bands brought in by the organisers. They were really good in rallying the crowd. We partied, danced and sang. No one was in a hurry to leave. We ended Singapore’s 50th Birthday celebrations on a high note, making it a celebratory weekend to remember.
Day 4, Monday. 10th August 2015. As we settled down at home for dinner last night, the conversation topic revolved around the Golden Jubilee weekend. We asked Dana if she had enjoyed herself to which she said, “Mommy, Daddy when it’s SG100, you’ll be there with me right?” Her Mommy, the realist, replied, “Probably not.” Dana quickly added, “I’ll pray to God that you will.” On that note, I told my daughter, “When it’s SG100, you will be 57 and your brother 51. Mommy and Daddy will always be with you, in your hearts. You must remember that you are each other’s best friend…you are family. If you do that, then wherever we are, we will be very proud of you…”
Just like how our founding Prime Minister LKY and the pioneers had built Singapore with a dream, we too must be aware of the legacy we leave for our children. For in the next 50 years, not only will our influence be seen in our kids, God willing, it would be seen in THEIR descendants. It is our hope that one day, Dana would be able to tell her children and her children’s children these NDP stories…how she celebrated SG50 fifty years ago when SG100 rolls around.
This is why, every NDP (or for that matter, every moment where we can), we should make it count towards molding the character of our children and forging stronger family ties. It’s not what we do – the crazy amusement rides, the thrilling aerobatic displays or the enjoyable holidays we take. It’s never about the events; it’s all about the connection we make through the memories. So make this SG50 year count for your family too as a new chapter in our nation building begins.
Happy 50th Singapore! May your 100th celebrations be even more spectacular!