Monday 10 August 2015

SG50 National Day Parade 2015: Happy 50th Birthday, Singapore

Singaporeans celebrate 50th National Day with nostalgic and touching Parade at the Padang
By Amelia Teng, Melissa Lin, Melody Zaccheus and Chew Hui Min, The Straits Times, 9 Aug 2015

Sunday's Golden Jubilee National Day Parade was a melding of old and new. It was both a nostalgic look-back at Singapore's roots as well as a celebration of how far the nation has come in 50 years.

A sea of red and white filled the Padang, where the first post-independence National Day Parade was held in 1966. Some of the 26,000 people there began trickling in as early as 3pm and waited under the sun until the Parade started at 5.40pm.

As Members of Parliament filed to their seats, local pop quartet The Sam Willows kicked off the parade with a folksy rendition of 1998 National Day song Home.

Unfortunately, the much-anticipated Red Lions segment of the Parade was scrapped because of safety concerns.

"The safety of all our Red Lions performers is our foremost concern," said Brigadier-General Melvyn Ong, chairman of the parade.

"Due to the low cloud cover which obstructed their view of the designated landing area, a decision was made to call off the jump to ensure the safety of the jumpers."

The last time the Red Lions had to abort their performance was at the 2013 parade, also because of the weather.

But the no-show didn't dampen the spirits of spectators at the stands. They waved their scarves and flags and sang along to National Day song Our Singapore.

Among the special guests who sat at the steps of the historic City Hall were three People's Action Party stalwarts - Mr Ong Pang Boon, 86, Mr Jek Yeun Thong, 85 and Mr Othman Wok, 90. They are the three surviving Old Guard leaders who signed the official document that marked the independence of Singapore 50 years ago.

Mr Othman, who arrived in a wheelchair, told The Straits Times: "I feel very honoured and touched to be invited to celebrate this landmark event. It's our 50th year of independence - a milestone that is especially meaningful for the generation of people who have seen Singapore grow since we became a sovereign nation."

Heads of states and foreign dignitaries from 18 countries also attended Sunday's Parade, for the first time since 1969. They included Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, who is here as Queen Elizabeth's representative.

A combined band and a precision drill squad, which made its debut in the Parade last year, combined rousing military tunes with popular Singapore songs.

The crowd cheered as drum major Muhammad Hafis bin Amrul, 33, spun and caught his baton to end a flawless routine.

Soon after, the audience turned up the noise as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong arrived.

But immediately after, silence fell over the venue as a video tribute to founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was played. Some spectators teared visibly as the video played.

Said manager Magdelene Soh, 59: "The whole tribute was very touching. It's so sad that he's not here today. I only wish (Mr Lee) could be with us every year."

Mr Lee, who died on March 23 aged 91, had attended every National Day Parade since the first one in 1966. Last year, his entrance at the parade had been met by rousing cheers. A sprig of yellow orchids occupied Mr Lee's usual seat, which was left vacant this year in honour of his memory.

At the end of the tribute film, aerial acrobats The Black Knights soared overhead in a "Five Stars" formation, symbolising the ideals of democracy, peace, progress, justice, and equality.

Majulah Singapura - Black Knights Style!
Wonder what it's like to be at the top of the world with our Black Knights on this National Day? Specially for you, we've put together their NDP manouvres - Bomb Burst, Criss Cross and the very special Five Stars Tribute Flypast. Now you can view Singapore through their eyes. HAPPY 50TH BIRTHDAY, SINGAPORE!!! :)What is your view of our aerial display #ThroughYourEyes? Share them with us right here on The Republic of Singapore Air Force Facebook!NDPeeps #NDP2015 #BlackKnights #SAF50 #SG50
Posted by The Republic of Singapore Air Force on Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Parade show started proper after this sombre interlude, in a segment featuring how Sang Nila Utama, Singapore's legendary founder, "sailed in" dramatically leading a fleet of ships. Three hundred performers from Republic Polytechnic decked out in elaborate costumes and carrying intricate props, portrayed early migrants, re-enacting Singapore's days as a bustling trading post.

What a wonderful Parade to mark our SG50 National Day! The atmosphere at the Padang was electric. I know many were with...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday, August 9, 2015

Then it was fast forward to 1965 as the vintage parade started to enthusiastic cheers. The segment was a throwback to the early days of Singapore's independence. It featured 450 participants - including policemen in old-time khaki shorts, firemen in olive-green uniforms, women from the People's Association in knee-high socks and flight attendants from Singapore Airlines (SIA) in their distinctive sarong kebaya. They were wheeled in traditional trishaws manned by soldiers from the 3rd Battalion Singapore Guards.

Video clips of interviews with pioneers preceded each Parade segment reliving the early days of Singapore's modern history for the audience.

As the Singapore Girls rolled past, an SIA Airbus 380 soared overhead, decked out in a special livery of red and white. This was the first time that any SIA craft has taken part in the National Day fly-past. The A-380 is the world's largest passenger aircraft.

"The parade is phenomenal. It's been very nostalgic especially when the veterans marched past during the vintage parade. The fact that they are still willing to come and March despite their age shows their immense love for Singapore," said polytechnic student S. Surrenthiran, 19.

Another first, the Parade featured the largest number of civilian contingents - 16 - in the Parade and Ceremony. There was a total of 37 contingents on parade at the Padang, comprising four Guard of Honour contingents and other uniformed groups.

Lieutenant-Colonel Alvin Tjioe's voice boomed across the Padang, moving with precision the more than 2,000 men and women who were part of the parade. He also announced the arrival of President Tony Tan.

Crowds burst into rapturous applause and cheers as 20 F-16 fighter jets whizzed past the Padang in a 5-0 formation. Six F-16s then executed a "bomb burst", where they fan out in an aerial salute.

After a 21-gun salute from the waters off the Merlion Park, the President Tan inspected the parade, rounded off by the celebratory volleys of a feu de joie - French for "fire of joy".

The roar of jet engines entering the City saw spectators crane their necks to catch a glimpse of the second aerial display of the Parade.

In total, 50 aircraft of various types took part in one of the largest aerial displays ever at the Parade. In particular, the criss-cross manoeuvre of the Black Knights, the Republic of Singapore Air Force's popular aerobatics team, was a crowd favourite.

The soaring finale was performed by a solo F-15SG fighter aircraft making a combat turn over the Padang, showcasing the aircraft's precision and agility. The performance culminates with a dazzling near-vertical climb with afterburners.

In another nod to NDP traditions, the Mobile Column made its return this year after five years. A convoy of 179 vehicles rumbled past the Padang in four segments, making the line-up of this year's Mobile Column the most diverse.

Twenty-six vehicles made their debut, including a combat ambulance, an armoured engineer vehicle used mainly for clearing mines or demolishing wire obstacles, and a latest version of a battle tank. A 22m-long specialised marine craft, which is used for the defence of bases, was also unveiled for the first time.

To pay tribute to the pioneers, a retired colonel Goh Lye Choon, 74, who took part in the first mobile column in 1969, joined others to lead the convoy. He rode alongside the Mobile Column Commander Lieutenant-Colonel Lim Kah Kheng in a Leopard 2SG Main Battle Tank.

A section of the 2km-long convoy also passed through the Marina Bay area in the impressive show of military hardware.

But it was not just the vehicles that featured in the Parade. Nine families who have served in Singapore's security forces made their appearance in the last column.

The first fireworks went off as Singapore pop star Stefanie Sun concluded her performance of NDP songs We Will Get there and One United People.

More than 800 performers from the Singapore Soka Association created a mass display forming words in Singapore's four official languages - unity, progress, success, and ending with Majulah Singapura - Onward Singapore.

Then it was a tribute to all things Singaporean as over 500 performers from the People’s Association put up a lively dance number around a dozen brightly-lit floats that included an ice kachang, a durian, the Changi Airport control tower and national mascots over the years like Singa the courtesy lion. Even Singlish phrases, the use of which the Government once tried to discourage, made an appearance.

The crowd sang along with wild enthusiasm as familiar favourites from Singapore Town to Munneru Valiba were performed. The PA performers ended with a display of a tree that represented our diverse roots to Corrine May's Song For Singapore from the 2010 NDP.

Then, 600 primary school pupils dressed up as stickmen in costumes that resemble space outfits. Their costumes were lit with neon LED colours, which changed from red to blue to green with a touch of a button.

In a sea of lighted stick figures and glowing stars Mandopop superstar JJ Lin, 34, performed this year's NDP song Our Singapore. The segment ended with a bang with an explosive array of fireworks. 

Spectators at the Padang were hit with another jolt of nostalgia when singer Kit Chan came on stage during the finale act to perform the National Day Parade hit, Home. Many people in the stands sang their hearts out, accompanying Ms Chan, who first performed the song at the 1998 parade. Penned by veteran musician Dick Lee, Home was voted by readers of The Straits Times in 2013 as their favourite NDP song. Ms Chan, 42, had told reporters after last week’s preview show that this year’s parade will “likely be her last”, as she wishes to end off in the year of the Golden Jubilee.

The show’s last segment saw performers from the previous acts returning to the stage. Some 1,200 of them formed a mosaic of the national flag and a map of Singapore, as the crowd recited the pledge and sang the national anthem.

As the fireworks began overhead, the crowds rose to their feet to catch the dazzling colours lighting up the Marina Bay area. PM Lee and the ministers got on their feet and joined hands while holding up their “Singapore” scarves, swaying along to the beat of a fast-paced Stand Up for Singapore. This year’s pyrotechnic display is Singapore’s biggest and grandest to date, with more than twice the amount of fireworks set off last year.

Many craned their necks to catch the five-minute grand finale, which began with a burst of the characters “SG50” in the sky, followed by a special Golden Jubilee shell of gold-coloured fireworks designed for this year’s celebrations.

A multi-coloured rainbow of fireworks exploded in a fan shape across Marina Bay along a 300m platform, and the display ended with a salute to the nation.

As President Tan took his leave, he was mobbed by the performers and stopped to take selfies with many of them.

The recording, made in 2012, was broadcast at 9am on local radio and TV channels, and marked at National Day observance ceremonies islandwide. Participants at the ceremonies also sang the National Anthem and recited the pledge.

The original reading of the Proclamation over Radio Singapore 50 years ago was made by radio anchor Steven Lee on behalf of Mr Lee.

Over in Tanjong Pagar, the ward of the late Mr Lee, residents filed into Lower Delta Road to listen to the recording of the Proclamation. Across the island, from Jurong West to Marine Parade, stadiums and community areas became a sea of red-and-white, people clad in the national colours attended 82 grassroots-led ceremonies.

<<NDP 2015 – Looking Forward with a Tribute to LKY>>We received many compliments for the NDP and co-celebrations...
Posted by Ng Eng Hen on Sunday, August 9, 2015

A fitting, teary tribute to Mr Lee Kuan Yew
By Kelly Ng, TODAY, 10 Aug 2015

Silence fell over the Padang just before nightfall, with spectators’ and performers’ eyes glued to four LED screens playing a tribute to founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew at the National Day Parade (NDP) yesterday.

The three-minute tribute film comprised scenes of the late Mr Lee in his — and the Republic’s — younger days, including his proclamation of Singapore’s independence. It rounded off with interviews with Singaporeans after Mr Lee died in March.

Faces in the audience were solemn, some teary-eyed, as the film played, to the tune of this year’s NDP theme song, Our Singapore.

Mr Lee, who died at the age of 91 on March 23, had attended every NDP since the first one in 1966. His usual seat at the Padang was left empty yesterday, marked with a spray of flowers as a token of remembrance.

After the film, the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s Black Knights streaked by in a “five stars” formation representing democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality, also as a tribute to Mr Lee.

An empty seat, a spray of orchids. Three Old Guard comrades who signed the Separation Agreement watching the jubilee...
Posted by MParader on Sunday, August 9, 2015

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, speaking after the parade, said it was a tribute to Mr Lee’s leadership and “how he rallied our pioneers who were determined to stay the course as one united people”.

“I was very moved by the tribute and sad that Mr Lee could not be here with us ... The best tribute we can pay to Mr Lee and our pioneers who gave us the first 50 years is to stay united and commit ourselves to do our best for Singapore,” said Mr Heng, who was Mr Lee’s principal private secretary between 1997 and 2000.

Member of Parliament (MP) Inderjit Singh (Ang Mo Kio GRC) said the scenes depicting the early days of the nation’s independence showed Mr Lee’s confidence.

That it was witnessed by three Old Guard leaders — former Cabinet ministers Ong Pang Boon, Jek Yuen Thong and Othman Wok — who signed the Independence of Singapore Agreement on Aug 9, 1965 made it all the more significant. “The presence of Mr Lee’s comrades reminds us that we need a group of very committed leaders for progress, and moving forward, we also need a good team to make it happen again,” said Mr Singh, who announced his retirement from politics two weeks ago.

Tampines GRC MP Irene Ng, another outgoing MP, said: “I missed seeing him enter and hearing the rousing roar of the people to welcome him.” When the tribute began, she could not help tearing up. “It captured his spirit and his ideals for Singapore, which live on,” said Ms Ng, a former journalist who had interviewed Mr Lee at length.

Watching in the audience, technician Thomas Lee said the film was a fitting reminder of Singapore’s independence. “I feel sad that Mr Lee is not here with us, but the tribute also makes me feel more Singaporean. I am proud that we are still moving forward, not keeping still,” he said.

Student Alex Cheng said he was very touched by Mr Lee’s contributions to the nation. “It is because of him that we can study peacefully with classmates of different races, and even become best friends with them,” said the 13-year-old.

Three Old Guard ministers honoured
The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2015

Former labour minister Jek Yeun Thong started his preparations to celebrate Singapore's Golden Jubilee about a week ago.

The 85-year-old, who was one of three Old Guard ministers honoured at the National Day Parade yesterday evening, enlisted the help of his wife, Madam Huang Kek Chee, 81, to get his outfit ready.

On Wednesday, Madam Huang went shopping at fashion retailer Uniqlo and a department store in Bugis Junction, to pick out two red shirts for her husband. She also bought a white adidas sports cap to shade Mr Jek, whose movements are laboured, from the elements.

It took some persuading to get him to wear both red and white because the PAP stalwart - a member of independent Singapore's first Cabinet - said he was used to wearing "just white".

Said Madam Huang: "I let him pick from two red polo T-shirts. At first, we thought the style was a bit too young for him, but we wanted him to blend in with the rest of the VIPs."

The two other members of the Old Guard honoured yesterday were former education minister Ong Pang Boon, 86, and former social affairs minister Othman Wok, 90.

The trio, who arrived at the VIP grandstand with Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, were helped to their seats. They sat next to a chair that was kept empty in honour offounding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who died in March.

The three men are the last of the 10 men in the founding government to have inked the Independence of Singapore Agreement on Aug 9, 1965.

The other signatories were Mr Lee, former deputy prime minister Toh Chin Chye, former finance minister Goh Keng Swee, former law minister E. W. Barker, former culture minister S. Rajaratnam, former health minister Yong Nyuk Lin and former national development minister Lim Kim San.

Speaking to The Straits Times earlier yesterday, Mr Jek said he was looking forward to seeing Mr Othman, whom he had not seen in six months. "My health has not been too good in the past few years, but I'm happy that I was invited to celebrate Singapore's Golden Jubilee."

Mr Jek's day started at 11.30am, when he had home-cooked beehoon for lunch. At around 3.30pm, a government car went to his Bukit Timah home to take him to the Padang. His granddaughter Amelia Jek, 24, who recently graduated from university, helped him into the car.

Mr Jek said: "Seeing the citizens, as well as my younger comrades, I feel that Singapore has a great future because we are united, and we have the spirit of perseverance. I believe Singapore will be able to overcome any difficulties, and prosper."

Meanwhile, Mr Othman said Singapore's 50th year of independence was "a milestone that is especially meaningful for the generation of people who have seen Singapore grow since we became a sovereign nation". He added that he had "no doubt" Singapore would make it this far.

"Singaporeans have always been a hardworking people, and they genuinely want to build a better Singapore, so I was confident, even back in 1965 when we became independent, that we would go far," he said.

Polytechnic student Amir Azman, 24, who was at the parade, said he was looking out for the three men as they made their way to their seats.

He said: "I'm very glad we've taken the time to honour our pioneers and remember their contributions. After all, they are the only living legends left."

HAPPY NATIONAL DAY SINGAPORE!With love from the NDP 2015 Organising Committee, we would like to extend our heartfelt...
Posted by NDPeeps on Monday, August 10, 2015

Friends from afar
The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2015

Dignitaries came from neighbouring Malaysia, and as far away as Russia and Britain. One was even born on Aug 9

They came from distant lands, some from sprawling nations anchored by centuries of history and sovereignty, to a little speck on the map celebrating its fifth decade of independence.

Foreign dignitaries from 18 countries - from nearby Malaysia to far-flung Russia - sat in the grandstands at the Padang yesterday as the nation marked its Golden Jubilee. This is the first time since 1969 that foreign leaders are attending the National Day Parade (NDP).

They sat with local leaders, including President Tony Tan Keng Yam, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and ministers and MPs who turned up in force.

The dignitaries included Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak, Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key.

Others included Chinese Vice-President Li Yuanchao, Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla and Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, who is here as the representative of Queen Elizabeth II.

Dr Tan hosted the foreign guests to lunch at the Istana yesterday, where he thanked them for their steadfast support and friendship through the decades.

"A Golden Jubilee is a significant milestone, particularly for a young nation like ours," he said.

"We are delighted to celebrate it with our friends who have made important contributions to our development."

He also made special mention of the countries which established diplomatic ties with Singapore in 1965 - Australia, Cambodia, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, Thailand and Britain, and of Mr Key, who was born on Aug 9, 1961.

Dr Tan arrived at about 6.45pm yesterday, pulling up to the Padang in his Presidential motorcade to cheers from the spectators.

MPs said they had been looking forward to the NDP - Singapore's biggest yet - which did not disappoint. The tribute to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who died some months short of Singapore's 50th, stood out for them.

Many also praised the military parade and precision on show.

Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Second Minister for Home and Foreign Affairs, said he has loved watching the contingents and armoured vehicles on parade since he was a young boy.

The mobile column was also a favourite item with Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng.

He said: "This shows our resolute determination to defend Singapore and what we have built up over 50 years."

For Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, a former Chief of Navy, this NDP brought back memories of the past parades he took part in.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong found the parade both emotional and exhilarating. "The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's absence was keenly felt, but it also reminded us that much of what we have today is because of him and our pioneers.

"I particularly liked the mobile column, which included some veterans," he said.

"Our founding leaders and pioneers brought us together as one people. Our destiny is a stronger Singapore from here."

Many months of preparation, hard work and sweat has finally come to fruition. From the Vintage Contingent to the “50”...
Posted by Singapore50 on Sunday, August 9, 2015

Yesterday once more
450 people representing sectors like the SAF and POSB march in their former uniforms
By Audrey Tan and Lim Yi Han, The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2015

For the past four months, corporal Putra Muzhafar Razali, 20, had been leading a double life.

On weekdays, he was a trooper with the 3rd Battalion Singapore Guards - doing everything from foot drill to combat training and firing rifles. But on Saturdays, he was a trishaw rider for a few hours.

He was not moonlighting, but getting ready instead for his debut at the National Day Parade (NDP).

Yesterday, Mr Putra and 19 of his comrades formed a neat contingent in a vintage display that is part of this year's parade.

"We were specially selected to be the cyclists for the trishaws for the vintage parade, which is one of the highlights of this year's NDP... I'm very honoured," said Mr Putra, who is an NSF. They ferried 20 Singapore Airlines stewardesses in a scene reminiscent of famous SIA advertisements of the past.

The vintage parade was a throwback to NDPs of the 1960s, and featured policemen, nurses, firemen and soldiers in the uniforms they wore back then.

About 450 participants took part, forming nine contingents that represented sectors such as the Singapore Armed Forces, the Housing Board and POSB. Madam Nora Kang, 60, a branch service manager at DBS Bank which operates POSB, was among 50 bank employees marching yesterday.

The mother of two donned POSB office wear which she wore in the 1979 parade, the first time the bank took part in NDP. Madam Kang, who volunteered for this year's NDP, said: "It's very nostalgic and it's a rare opportunity. This is easier than before because it's a shorter distance and it's less formal."

For Ms Christine Ng, 31, an SIA cabin crew member of nine years, the parade offered a glimpse of another side of Singapore's pioneers.

Said the first-time NDP participant: "There was an air of exuberance among all the participants. This was expected in the youth, but I didn't expect to see that in the pioneers - they went around giving us high-fives!"

Majulah Singapura - 50 for 50!
You've just seen the '50' Formation roar past the Padang in a Salute to Our Nation! Ain't that AWESOME?! Let us relive the moment once again for all to share in the Singapore50 joy! And we even have some EXCLUSIVE behind-the-scenes footage!We salute our airmen and women across the Air Force, who have been training and working tirelessly over the many weekends to put up this perfect show for our Nation's 50th Birthday! Let us drop them a shoutout too!NDPeeps #SAF50 #SG50 #NDP2015 #NDP
Posted by The Republic of Singapore Air Force on Sunday, August 9, 2015

Display of derring-do
'50' formation and Black Knights' bomb burst among highlights
By Yeo Sam Jo and Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2015

The crowds squealed with delight when 20 F-16 fighter jets zoomed over them in a "50" formation.

Marking Singapore's 50th year of independence - and also the Golden Jubilee of the Singapore Armed Forces - the warplanes soared at 600kmh, bringing spectators to their feet to snap the best pictures.

But bad weather denied the Red Lions, a perennial crowd favourite, the chance to wow the spectators.

The parachutists' jump had to be called off due to low cloud cover which obstructed their view of the landing area. The chairman of the Parade's executive committee, Brigadier-General Melvyn Ong, said the safety of the Red Lions was its "foremost concern".

Monitoring the goings-on of the aerial segments was fly-past marshal, Lieutenant Colonel Benny Lui, who also had his eyes on the clock before him.

Dubbed "Mother Goose", he had to maintain communications with all 51 aircraft involved in the show and ensure that their entrances were spot on. One second too soon and the effects would have been ruined. One second too late and there would have been awkward pauses.

"Can you imagine if the helicopters carrying the state flag arrived before the National Anthem?" said the 46-year-old. "We strive to get the timing down to the second."

Singapore Airlines also made its debut at the parade with its Airbus 380, the world's largest passenger aircraft. The plane soared past the audience sporting a 10m-tall and 47m-long Singapore flag-themed design on both sides of its fuselage.

The Black Knights, with their bomb burst, criss-cross and near-vertical climb manoeuvres, also drove the audience wild.

Healthcare worker Lee Koon Tan, 47 , said: " What they do is difficult and amazing. I love the sound they make too."

But it was those at Marina Bay Sands SkyPark who got closest to the aircraft, including 25 children from the Children's Cancer Foundation and Dyslexia Association of Singapore, and their parents. MBS reserved an area for them and arranged for a live Parade screening.

Lee Shawn Kit, 10, a beneficiary from the Children's Cancer Foundation, said: "The fly-pasts were very cool. I'd never seen them up close like that before."

Show of pride
The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2015

Families serving or who have served in SAF, SCDF and police join Mobile Column convoy

When Captain Timothy Low looks back at this year's National Day Parade (NDP), he would likely recall thundering down the Padang with his father in a war vehicle.

The time they spent together in the Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicle allowed Capt Low, 26, a first-time NDP participant, to appreciate what his father, retired colonel Edwin Low, had done.

Said Capt Low, an assistant operations officer on the Republic of Singapore Navy's RSS Intrepid frigate: "Being part of the Mobile Column, seeing the display of the strength of our assets, I realised we've come so far because of the hard work of the earlier generations.

"There's definitely a sense of pride about being able to take part in it with my father. I've seen the kind of operations he went for, for example, going to Indonesia in 2004 after the tsunami.

"The kind of things he did really made a difference, and that was a deciding factor for me in joining the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF)."

Mr Low, 56, who retired as a medical officer in the navy 10 years ago, said being in the Mobile Column with his son was "interesting".

"It's unique - SG50 doesn't happen every year. It's very significant... And to (be part of the NDP) with my son is a doubly unique experience," said Mr Low, now chief operating officer of the SingHealth Regional Health System.

The Lows were part of the Mobile Column, in a segment called "From strength to strength". Nine families from the SAF, Singapore Civil Defence Force and Singapore Police Force who have served or are serving took centre stage.

The Mobile Column, which returned to the NDP after five years, involved a convoy of 179 vehicles. They included 26 types of vehicles in the line-up for the first time, making this year's Mobile Column the most diverse yet.

Many waited for hours to catch the convoy. Mr Anand R., 46, was at Raffles Boulevard with his wife Merlyn Talaba, 38, and their children Darshini, six, and Giresh, five.

"We couldn't get tickets to the parade so this is the next best thing," said Mr Anand, who is self-employed. "I wanted to give my son a taste of what I experienced as a combat engineer in the army. I'm feeling a bit nostalgic now."

9 Aug 2015 marked 50 years of nation-building. To celebrate, National Day Parade 2015 was one of the grandest and most...
Posted by cyberpioneer on Sunday, August 9, 2015

Let us relive some of the moments of the grandest National Day Parade that Singapore has ever seen! For those who were...
Posted by The Republic of Singapore Air Force on Monday, August 10, 2015

Biggest show of the year
It's dedicated to the idea of Singaporean-ness and what makes us all Singaporean
The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2015

Home-grown musician Clement Chow, the original singer of Count On Me, Singapore, never expected "in a million years" that the song would take on a life of its own.

To Chow, the song, which was penned by Canadian copywriter Hugh Harrison in 1986, sounded more like a jingle."But it's not just a song now, it carries a national message. It's about how each of us can do our best and more, even if it sounds cheesy. It's about how we can do better with our families, and at work," said Chow, 54, who first performed the song in 1987.

At the NDP yesterday, people were up on their feet, singing ditties like Tamil folk song Munneru Valiba and stirring NDP tunes, such as this year's theme song, Our Singapore, by pop star JJ Lin.

Said Lin, 34: "It's not an easy song to sing as there are a lot of off beats. But the 'oh-oh-oh-oh' part is a point where everyone can sing along to. That's the most important part."

The parade's fifth chapter is also dedicated to Singaporean-ness, said NDP creative director Dick Lee. "It's about what makes us all Singaporean. We have Singlish, our unique language, tracks from TV themes and campaign songs... all these things that are idiosyncratic to us will make you smile," he said.

The parade's multimedia director, film-maker, Boo Junfeng, 31, said: "Whether in the way we speak or the way we've always grown up with public campaigns, I think it's great to be able to laugh at ourselves."

The Padang's performers were not the only stars of the hour.

About 600 performers from the People's Association PAssionArts Community Singing and Ukulele Network and the East Coast Choir belted out a medley of hits at the Floating Platform.

Local celebrities such as Ah Boys To Men actor Tosh Zhang, Mandopop singer Ferlyn Wong and hip-hop artist Shigga Shay also got the 25,000-strong crowd tapping along with their performances.

While they might not be part of the main Padang parade, they do not feel like they are a sideshow. Part-time customer service officer Siti Samiah Junid, 62, said with a smile: "At Padang, there are so many performances. But here, there's only us. That makes us a bit special. It's smaller here, so everybody looks at us."

Singapore celebrates 50 years of independence:
Posted by The Telegraph on Sunday, August 9, 2015

Helping hands for stars of the parade
By Melissa Lin and Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2015

Ms Angie Soon, 48, is a make-up artist, while Mr Muhammad Ridhwan Mohamed Hussain, 26, is a spotlight operator. Both have a similar mission: to make the performers of this year's National Day Parade (NDP) look good.

For Ms Soon, chief executive of make-up training provider Cosmoprof Academy, the challenge is to keep the make-up worn by performers bright enough for the audience at the Padang, but not overwhelming for TV viewers.

"The performers are so far away from the audience.

"The make-up has to be bright enough such that the audience can see it, yet not so exaggerated that it looks bad on TV."

The 120 make-up artists under Ms Soon started work from 1pm.

"Because the make-up goes on early, we have to ensure that we use strong products that won't melt in our hot and humid climate," said Ms Soon.

As for Mr Ridhwan, his job is to sit atop a 16m light tower and ensure that the spotlight is on the celebrities and special guests when they make their appearance.

While it is a stressful job, he gets the best seat in the house.

"I have a very good view of the entire parade from up there.

"I get to watch the show and be part of it.

"This makes the job enjoyable."

While some 9,000 people behind the show ensured that everything went on without a hitch, those who enjoyed last night's extravaganza also did their part to make this year's parade a clean one.

Students Tan Jie Ying, 17, and Ang Ye Xiang, 14, bagged their rubbish as they were leaving the Padang. Said Jie Ying: "We are just doing our part for a cleaner environment."

Accountant Chan Cheng Fei, 44, cleaned up to set an example for his 10-year-old daughter, Joey.

He said: "I have been brought up to always remember to pick up my rubbish."

A nation at ease with itself - quirks and all
By Ignatius Low, The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2015

About two hours into yesterday's National Day Parade, I realised what the most important achievement of our young nation was as it celebrated its 50th birthday.

It was a segment that started with overseas Singaporeans talking about what they miss about their country. Invariably, it started with laksa, nasi lemak and various other local dishes.

They went on to the national pastime of queueing, of "chope-ing" or reserving seats using umbrellas and packets of tissue paper, and Singlish, our unique vernacular, which they said was a sure-fire way to recognise their fellow countrymen wherever they may be.

Then a giant lighted durian was wheeled out onto the giant Padang stage, complete with dancers frolicking around it, followed by a giant bowl of ice kachang. Amid the pulsating soundtrack, someone was chanting "char kway teow", "fish ball mee" and "chicken rice" with all the religious intensity of a monk trying to reach nirvana.

Later the soundtrack changed and classic campaign jingles from the 1970s and 1980s came on. I was amazed that I still knew all the words to the "Courtesy is for free" and "Good, better, best" jingles, and even the Mandarin chorus of the Speak Mandarin Campaign song.

Someone had definitely turned up the kitsch factor because a giant lighted Singa the Lion was wheeled out on stage. Then the productivity mascot Teamy the Bee. The next bit of wildlife to emerge was, bizarrely, a big squid - with the words "Blur Like Sotong" on it, as the focus shifted to favourite Singlish phrases that Singaporeans use.

By the time singer Corrinne May emerged atop a dragon in the shape of the slides that used to feature in iconic HDB playgrounds of the 1980s, the "rojak" or pastiche of random Singapore symbols was complete.

There is nowhere else on this planet, I think I can safely say, where a packet of tissue paper (with the word "Chope!" on it) would feature as a national symbol in a country's all-important Golden Jubilee celebrations. But there it was, in all its giant lit-up glory - its symbolisation of the national "kiasu" spirit so instantly familiar to Singaporeans.

Finally, the dancers onstage formed themselves in the pattern of a tree, with its "roots in the national identity", said the parade commentators . One by one the lit-up symbols - Singa, Teamy, the bowl of ice kachang, the durian, the sotong and yes, the packet of tissue paper - became the "fruits" at the tip of the tree's branches.

In that borderline madcap moment, as I wondered briefly what this must look like to the foreign dignitaries attending the parade, the significance of Singapore turning 50 suddenly dawned on me.

Crazy as they are, these are some of the key symbols of our national identity. We may have been embarrassed by them at some point, but we are over that now.

We now have enough self-awareness to laugh about them, and even quite fondly accept them as part of our history and our DNA. And we also feel relaxed enough to celebrate them on the national stage in what is arguably the pinnacle of the Golden Jubilee celebrations.

At 50, not only has Singapore created a national identity, but we've also become mature enough to be happy with it.

To be frank, I was a little worried about this year's National Day Parade. I was afraid it was going to be one long history lesson about how the nation was built from nothing and how far it has come.

That it was going to rehash the traumatic events of the 1960s that led to Singapore being part of Malaysia and then separating from it. That we were going to see image after image of HDB estates being built, the start of National Service, the industrialisation of Jurong - you know, the usual events associated with how Singapore went from "Third World to First" in one generation.

We are, after all, at the start of election season and the ruling People's Action Party will want to remind voters again of its pivotal role in Singapore's success, especially that of the Republic's first Prime Minister, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

It is not that the story of how we built the nation is unimportant. It is just that it is one that has been told many times in the run-up to this SG50 year, and most Singaporeans were also reminded of it during the national week of mourning when Mr Lee passed away in March.

Instead, the SG50 National Day Parade focused on the people of Singapore, letting them explain what it is they like about their way of life on this tiny island and how much it has changed over the years.

In line with this, the organisers cleverly weaved into the pomp and pageantry some nice touches.

The mobile column of tanks and trucks that rolled past City Hall, for instance, was the biggest and most impressive display of hardware I had ever seen. But I felt a surge of real pride only right at the end, when nine relatively nondescript vehicles rolled past, with sets of real-life fathers and sons (who were both in the force) saluting the grandstand.

It showed that a country can have the best weapons and tanks that money can buy, but its defence is only as strong as the willingness of subsequent generations of Singaporeans to man them.

A parade like this is also the epitome of seriousness. Everything is done with military precision according to the book. So it was a pleasant surprise to see members of the SAF band put down their instruments in the middle of their segment, whip out fans and do a fan dance to the strains of "zhi ma lui dou", the theme song of the popular Channel 8 drama Neighbours.

A few of the primary school pupils were spotted on television totally out of sync with the music and the others, but they looked like they were having fun.

It was these offbeat moments, as well as other surprises like the "vintage parade" and an out-and-out rave version of Count On Me Singapore, that made NDP 2015 a more playful affair than I thought it would be, and a fitting close to the SG50 nationwide celebrations.

We've come this far as a result of hard work, careful planning and disciplined execution. But if you think this is all that Singapore stands for in the next 50 years, think again.

Padang, venue of the first and 50th NDPs
The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2015

Singapore celebrated its first birthday in front of City Hall on Aug 9, 1966, when more than 20,000 people came together for a thunderous rendition of Majulah Singapura.

Contingents of parade participants lined up on the Padang in their now-vintage uniforms to mark the momentous occasion.

In the five decades since, Singaporeans have come together every year, rain or shine, on that date for the nation's birthday bash.

March-pasts, military vehicle displays, mass performances and fireworks are perennial crowd-pleasers that add to the pomp and pageantry of each celebration.

The event has been held at the Padang, the old National Stadium and, in the past decade, at The Float @ Marina Bay.

That allowed the parade organisers to take advantage of the water element that the venue afforded, with naval displays in Marina Bay.

This year's Golden Jubilee edition makes a return to the site where the very first NDP was held - at the Padang in front of City Hall.

It featured a vintage parade segment, where pioneers marched in their old-fashioned uniforms, from policemen in their khaki shorts to firemen in their now-defunct helmets and nurses in their vintage white caps.

More than 26,000 spectators watched the SG50 parade at the Padang, while another 25,000 caught the action at the floating platform.

Just heard a piece of good news! A total of 129 #Singaporean babies were born in hospitals across #Singapore on...
Posted by Grace Fu on Monday, August 10, 2015

129 Singaporean babies born on National Day
By Toh Yong Chuan, Manpower Correspondent, The Straits Times, 11 Aug 2015

The maternity wards of hospitals in Singapore were kept extra busy on National Day.

A total of 129 Singaporean babies were born on Aug 9, up from 91 who were born on National Day last year.

The number of babies was announced by a happy Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu yesterday.

"Congrats to all the parents," wrote Ms Fu on Facebook.

The minister, who oversees population matters, also posted on Facebook a video on the SG50 babies and their parents.

On Sunday, Ms Fu visited two newborns who were born at the stroke of midnight on Aug 9 and their parents at the KK Women's and Children's Hospital.

She presented the SG50 Baby Jubilee Gift to them.

The gift set comprises eight items: a medallion, shawl, baby sling, set of baby clothes, diaper bag, scrapbook, family photo frame and set of baby books.

All Singaporean babies born this year will get the set.

Some 33,000 babies were born to Singaporeans last year, up from 31,000 the year before.

The increase pushed Singapore's total fertility rate (TFR) up to 1.25, from 1.19 in 2013.

In 2012, Singapore's TFR - which is the average number of children born to a woman who completes her child-bearing years - was 1.29.

Singapore's TFR declined steadily from 2.11 in 1976 and it has remained well below the 2.1 replacement level since, hitting a record low of 1.15 in 2010.

Over the years, the Government has pulled out all the stops to encourage the stork among Singaporeans. It introduced financial incentives as well as social media campaigns such as to coax parents to have more babies.

What a Jubilee Weekend we had! From our Old Guard leaders marking this historic moment, to our pioneers in uniform...
Posted by Heng Swee Keat on Monday, August 10, 2015

PM thanks organisers, Singaporeans for ‘electric’ Padang atmosphere
Mr Lee Kuan Yew “would have been proud”, says Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
By Siau Ming En, TODAY, 11 Aug 2015

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and other ministers were all praise for Sunday’s National Day Parade (NDP), and on Monday thanked the many people who pulled off the Golden Jubilee celebrations.

What a wonderful Parade to mark our SG50 National Day!” Mr Lee wrote on his Facebook page. “The atmosphere at the Padang was electric. I know many were with us all over Singapore, and the world, when we sang and waved our scarves and flags.”

Mr Lee, who attended the first NDP in 1966, recalled how Mr Lee Kuan Yew personally supervised the rehearsals “because he felt it was vital for Singaporeans to feel united and confident as a new nation”.

And the Prime Minister said his father “would have been proud” of the unity felt this year: “We celebrated as one people. When Kit Chan sang ‘Home’, we all joined in, and could hear our voices resound around the Padang.”

Among the many Mr Lee thanked were the organising committee, parade participants, performers and volunteers. And he extended the thanks to the many others who “worked hard to make the Jubilee Weekend memorable”, such as organisers, staff and traffic police.

He ended his post, which contained a number of photos he had taken, by thanking Singaporeans for joining in the celebrations.

NDP 2015 and the festivities over the Golden Jubilee weekend was a feast of vivid pictures. It is a unique moment in...
Posted by Ng Eng Hen on Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen also thanked the organising committee and creative director Dick Lee for pulling off the largest NDP ever.

“I suspect it will be the largest for a long time to come, perhaps even up till SG100,” Dr Ng told reporters after a constituency visit.

It was a “massive undertaking”, he noted. At the peak of Sunday’s celebrations, close to 250,000 people turned up at multiple sites such as the Marina Bay Floating Platform and the surrounding area.

“To me, the most important thing the NDP achieved — and I want to thank Singaporeans for it — is that they made the show their own,” he said. “They put emotions into it, and from that point of view, that was the greatest success in my mind.”

For instance, Singaporeans reminisced when the veterans from the vintage parade marched past, they gushed when the aerial display was up, and some cried when the tribute film for Mr Lee Kuan Yew was aired, said Dr Ng.

Singaporeans also sang the songs with gusto, he noted, adding that he was initially concerned that during rehearsals, they did not sing very loudly. “I was glad that I was proven wrong,” he said.

On his Facebook page, Dr Ng also said that in the planning for this year’s NDP, which came soon after the death of Mr Lee, he urged the organisers to ensure that Singaporeans look forward and that the NDP should “end on a high about our future”.

Looking ahead was something the Education Minister Heng Swee Keat hoped as well that Singaporeans continue to do, with the SG50 year not yet ended.

“We still have many exciting things coming up, like the Jubilee Walk and an exhibition showing our hopes for our future,” he wrote on Facebook as he added his thanks to the various SG50 organisers as well as the Old Guard and pioneers for making Singapore’s short history a proud one.

“I have confidence. We are a young but special nation. There are challenges ahead, but we have the heart and the spirit to take Singapore onward.”

President Dr Tony Tan and Mrs Mary Tan hosted the National Day Reception at the Istana last night.Caught up with...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Monday, August 10, 2015

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