Over the past couple of weekends, we did something we don’t usually ever do — We joined the crowds that thronged the Marina Bay to watch the action from the National Day Parade rehearsals from the fringes. The husband is extremely crowd averse and while I LOVE the National Day Parade, if I don’t get tickets to the main show (which I haven’t since they started the balloting system, *sob!*), I’m not one who would usually go jostle with crowds just to see fireworks.
It started with a casual invitation from our friends at Life’s Tiny Miracles to join their family on a Saturday evening stakeout on the Jubilee Bridge. A couple of weeks later a handful of Mei’s classmates gathered for a picnic by the Promontory. Then the following week, my parents and sister booked themselves rooms at the Marina Mandarin for the NDP Preview (one of the hotels we featured in our petite travellers’ NDP fireworks special!) and we went to join them for a view from up high.
More than the fireworks, it was really the aerial displays that held me quite spellbound. This being the super SG50 edition of of the NDP, there was lots more to see than during a normal parade! From the significant “five stars” tribute to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, to the awe-inspiring jets flying in the “50” formation, to the impressive lineup of planes and choppers for the aerial mobile column, there was plenty for the spectators without tickets to the actual show to enjoy.
I don’t have many pictures because I wanted to watch, not snap. But here are the few I took for memory’s sake.
L: The “five stars” tribute to our first Prime Minister; R: The state flag flypast.
The jets in the precision “50” position. This never fails to take my breath away, even after repeated viewings.
The F-16 bomb burst.
All eyes in the sky!
Floating platform for the 21-gun salute.
A combined helicopter formation in an “Arrowhead” formation.
A KC-135 tanker aircraft and a G550-Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft, escorted by four F-5 fighter aircraft flying in close formation.
The Black Knights with four planes in a criss-cross formation and two making a near-vertical climb.
I didn’t manage to snap Noey’s favourite moment near the end of the aerial flypast— a solo F-15 fighter aircraft performing a turn around the Padang before soaring up in a near-vertical climb with afterburners firing. That was really WOW. You had to be there to see it.
Being a newbie at camping out to catch the NDP action, I was surprised by the comfortable, almost festive atmosphere around us. There were groups of friends and families just like our own picnicking, with kids playing and scooting around. There was a sense of expectation in the air as the skies darkened and cries of excitement as bursts of fireworks started to light up the sky. There were many small bursts every once in a while which was a bit confusing because we kept wondering each burst was THE moment! (It wasn’t.) It was clear when the finale eventually arrived and we were all treated to a big and glorious burst of colour that had everyone applauding at the end of it.
We went the first time out of curiosity, then later in part for the spectacle, in part for the company, and in part to celebrate our nation. Watching planes shoot through the sky and seeing the national flag fly past, one cannot help but feel a sense of national pride. We witnessed the multiple rehearsals and stared awestruck at the precision flying, all timed to perfection, and congratulated ourselves on how this is the way we do things Singapore. During the NDP Preview, we realised that there was a second set of fireworks being fired from the waters near Gardens by the Bay since these fireworks could not possibly be seen from the Padang, felt gratified that additional fireworks were being shot so that more people could enjoy the them even if they were not part of the main audience. And yes, both sets were perfectly coordinated as well.
Like any other Singaporean, I have my gripes about this place. I complain when the weather gets too unbearably hot. I get frustrated when places are too crowded and trains are too packed. I get unhappy when I have to battle bad traffic despite our COEs and ERP. I wonder why school has to be so difficult and why everyone has to be so kiasu.
Parades are by nature celebratory, and with the spectacular show and the strains of national songs playing in the background, it is easy to express a patriotic fervour for our country. Such emotions naturally come to the fore during jubilant moments. But loving and appreciating your country is more than just watching fireworks and the once a year NDP high. When the fireworks settle, that’s when the real Singapore steps forward.
Watching segments of the NDP from the fringes, it was undeniable that we have hardware to be proud of. Glistening skyscrapers, a sparkling bay, impressive aircraft, an unending supply of fireworks. This year more than any other however, I’ve seen Singaporeans step forward and provide the heartware for the nation. There were those who rushed forward to help lift a trailer truck to free a man who was pinned under it in a road accident. There were those who, despite suffering the frustration of an MRT breakdown, displayed acts of kindness in a difficult situation, giving free rides to stranded folk, distributing drinks and even giving food and thanking SMRT staff who had to pull extra hours in the crisis. There was the National Gallery, which held a Construction Worker Appreciation Event after the completion of its restoration that I think is all kinds of awesome. If such behaviour is a part of the social fabric then, to borrow the words of one of NDP songs that I’ve been hearing on repeat, We Will Get There.
Happy SG50, my Singapore. 50 years young and looking better than ever.