Betty Lee was overjoyed to continue her annual practise of spending her special day at the National Day Parade (NDP) with 26,000 other revellers despite the blistering heat.

Since she was in her 20s, Lee, who turns 57 this year like Singapore, has gone to the parade every year with the help of friends who always manage to secure her tickets.

The administrative support staff has attended more than 30 parades, but this year’s felt particularly significant because festivities were back at the Marina Bay Floating Platform in full force.

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2019, voting tickets have not been available to the general population.

Since frontline workers and their families were the only spectators during last year’s march, Lee predicted that everyone would experience some sort of emotion because of what they had experienced together throughout the pandemic.

Many of the guests, many of whom crowded the stands and arrived as early as 4pm when the gates opened, agreed with Lee’s comments.

The nation’s pandemic and the lessons learned were major themes of this year’s National Day Parade, which had the theme Stronger Together, Majulah! The event’s organisers described it as a “rallying call” for Singaporeans to work toward a better future as the country recovers from the pandemic.

Adrian Pang, an actor who also serves as artistic director of the regional theatre company Pangdemonium, is the show’s creative director this year.

The crowded march made 76-year-old Thomas Ho feel proud of how far Singapore had come in its struggle against Covid-19.

“Everyone has had their vaccinations and is now out in the open to take in the procession. I’m so relieved that we overcame this, the retiree stated.

“Back when it was held at the Padang, I attended NDP years ago… Then, we were confined to our homes to witness the Covid-19 attack. Ho, who was seated beside his wife, son, daughter-in-law, and two grandkids, expressed his happiness at being able to attend with his family.

Even straightforward mass exercises like “the wave” during the pre-parade phase, in which spectators synchronise standing and sitting to generate a wave-like motion across the arena, elicited enthusiastic cheers from the crowd.

Student Haziqah Auni, 18, said she was thrilled to attend her first National Day March. She attended the parade with five family members.

She referred to the safe distance measures that had been in place over the previous two years, saying, “Because of the pandemic, our complete family couldn’t even rejoice together.”

The Red Lions, who are always a fan favourite, hit the stage after the hosts Joakim Gomez, Sonia Chew, Siti Khalijah, and Rishi Budhrani warmed up the spectators. The crowd cheered as each Red Lion landed down, shaking the floating platform.

The last of 10 parachutists to land, 3rd Warrant Officer Jeffrey Heng, had to be stretchered out following his landing, which caused shouts to be replaced by gasps.

He is receiving medical care and is in a stable condition, the emcee Joakim Gomez assured the crowd.

The entire nation wishes you a quick recovery, he said, adding, “Sir, if you are seeing this right now.”

Two F-16 fighter planes flew in close proximity as they performed a vertical ascent through the air, the first time such a move has been exhibited at an NDP, captivating many in the audience after the arrival of Members of Parliament and the parade inspection by President Halimah Yacob.

The F-16 fighter jets, according to Lee, were the show’s high point for her, especially after watching the recent blockbuster Top Gun 2.

The crowd enthusiastically cheered when the entertainment portion of the procession began, with most of the cheers going to a group of older female dancers. The music playing was the Kpop hit Boombayah by the girl group Blackpink.

“I was most anticipating the performances after seeing the popular TikTok about them. According to Vivian Ong, who was in the parade with her parents, brother, and fiancé, “the ‘aunty’ performances’ are very adorable.

After the dance part, a live dance performance was included into the film Connections, which was written and directed by Singaporean filmmaker Ken Kwek.

The movie showed Singaporeans from all walks of life and how they were connected by the pandemic’s effects in various ways but remained together in their determination to support one another in times of need.

Maggie Mar, a nurse who is 30 years old, claimed that the movie spoke to her and that it was what made this NDP stand out in particular.

She continued, expressing how nice it was to watch the movie since she felt that the contributions of nurses like herself were honoured. Others also thought the movie was realistic and accurately captured the difficulties caused by the outbreak.

Morgan Udaiyar, a 47-year-old civil worker who watched the parade with his five children, wife, and parents, stated, “The video and the entire performance really emphasises the theme of resilience… it’s definitely the finest NDP ever.”

His family as a whole, or “kampung,” “liked the show,” he claimed. “My daughters were overjoyed and expressed a future desire to participate in the march… They yearned to leap onto the stage and join in the dancing.

The theme song Stronger Together, which is inspired by the nation’s recovery from the epidemic, was performed by former Singapore Idol Taufik Batisah to close the section.

2,000 volunteers from different schools and organisations performed five actions that they had diligently practised over the previous months.

Abdul Halim Rashid, a 35-year-old performer and account manager, experienced a surge of emotions even though this was his 14th performance when the lights went down during the third act and he held onto his final position.

Abdul, who was wearing a traditional Malay attire, said: “There’s a moment of happiness when you watch the throng fill the (Marina Bay Floating Platform) compared to the last two years… finally hearing the audience waving and dancing along was great.”

With her hands raised in the final posture, Buddhist organisation Soka Gakkai Singapore performer Kek Tzee Yee, 25, felt as though she and her team had won.

It was a big victory for us to perform for our country, she added. “Months of hard work, practising twice a week nearing the performance work, all paid off when we made that closing stance.”

A melancholy mood pervaded the platform as the final parade to be staged there came to an end. Redevelopment work on the Marina Bay floating platform is scheduled to begin in March 2023 in order to transform the site into the NS square.

Around 8.40 p.m., as the show’s final act came to a close, a spectacular fireworks display lit up the sky, eliciting cheers from the audience.

When the fireworks started, five-year-old Armand Izwandy, who was at the parade with his mother, could not contain his joy and got up to dance. He wished that there will be more fireworks in Singapore the following year.

The crowd enthusiastically sung the national anthem after the fireworks show.

The cameras captured what Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong referred to as “one of the iconic images” of this year’s National Day Parade — that of a spectator in tears. The image later went viral online and gave rise to numerous memes. Many in the capacity crowd were visibly moved.

 

 

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