Singapore marked its 53rd year of independence on Thursday (9 August) with festivities that celebrated the achievements of everyday Singaporeans, while Halimah Yacob made her debut appearance at the National Day Parade as President.
Some 3,378 participants from institutions such as the Singapore Armed Forces, Institute of Technical Education, Ministry of Education and the People’s Association came together for the annual celebration at The Float. In a reflection of the times, some 5,600 security personnel were also on duty in the Marina Bay area.
The highlights of NDP 2018 included a 10-minute show film helmed by the parade’s creative director Boo Junfeng, which tells the real-life story of five Singaporeans who overcame adversity in their lives. They included pioneer female athlete Mary Klass, who defied her parents’ wishes to become an Olympian in the 1950s, and blind busker Mashruddin Saharuddin, who performed at the parade with his son Nizaruddin.
Boo, a critically acclaimed director, previously spoke of the “timelessness” of the five stories. Attendees such as Huang Zijuan, 35, responded well to the storyline. “The short film was very cute and moving. It had a bit of humour too, and even my six-year-old boy liked it,” said Huang, who works in the investment field.
Asked if the parade felt different from the previous year’s edition, the mother of two replied, “Not different lah, it just makes everybody feel very good about being Singaporean.”
Another new element of this year’s show: a placard challenge, where attendees were led to hold up a double-sided placard with their personalised message for the nation. Several attendees were also plucked out by the emcees for a singing challenge with traditional NDP songs.
This year’s event had fewer cheesier elements unlike previous editions that once featured local actress Koh Chieng Mun singing “I Will Survive” in a sea of pink, and floats adorned with Singlish words. First-year medical student Benedict Lim, 21, told Yahoo News Singapore, “Yes, there is less kitsch this year. But I guess you always need a bit of kitsch because you want to cater to everyone.”
So it went, with student performers dressed up as gyrating samsui women, construction workers and shipyard workers, as well as performers from the People’s Association whose yellow, red, gold and blue costumes resembled that of the Power Rangers.
There were also perennial crowd favourites such as the fireworks display and the Red Lions, who executed a wingsuit jump from a height of 12,500 feet towards the NDP platform. For the first time, they were joined by combat divers from the Naval Diving Unit, who jumped from a height of 6,000 feet into the waters next to The Float.
Among the audience, there was a somewhat muted response at the arrival of Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who sparked controversy with his remarks this week about ministerial pay. But there were plenty of cheers for Halimah, who rose to the presidency last year amid heated public debate after she became the only candidate certified eligible to run.
Marsiling resident Nur Farisyah, 20, was enthused to see the former Speaker. “This is my first time watching President Halimah here. (She) used to serve our community in Marsiling…(and) her contribution to Singapore is very huge for all of us,” said Nur.