Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Happy National Day!

belatedly, of course. but i was at the National Day Parade yesterday, and got home far too late to blog anything coherent. so i put it off til today, when back at my desk at the office, i have the time and the coffee-induced wakefulness to post my impressions of National Day.

i've always enjoyed being at the parade, though i much rather be in the gallery seats than the grandstand seats. this sentiment got me some rather bemused looks and remarks yesterday ('are you crazy? there are backs to those seats and you get a great view!') but it's true -the gallery seats are where the people really participate and enjoy themselves and the kids are all excited (though i must say the people around us yesterday were rather subdued) while the grandstand seats are filled with VIPs and foreigners and they don't jump around waving their flags and throwing their noise-makers when the Kallang Wave goes by. so there. =) and being at the parade with a bunch of gung-ho friends who are willing to be silly and wave flags in unison and sing songs and at the same time make cutting remarks about subliminal messages in the mass displays is awesome.

some impressions: getting off the train at kallang mrt station and seeing a sea of red getting off with me; walking to the stadium with bazillions of small children wearing their bright red five-dollar-hang-ten tshirts with 'Singapore' emblazoned on the front (more red than i had ever seen in one place at one time before!); walking into the stadium and watching it fill slowly with thousands of red people waving flags; sitting on the east side with the sun full in our faces, hiding behind umbrellas, shades and the goodie-pack-issue red Singapore cap and feng-yuan's spray-on sunblock. wincing at Sharon Aw's hyper-i-am-a-stupid-ditz enthusiastic MCing. jumping around with the flag and screaming when the kallang wave went by, and booing the grandstand directly opposite for not being enthusiastic enough.

watching the Guard of Honour contingent marching in, and being all excited by the solid block of pure white uniforms created by the Navy contingent (the divers! Nalcom! erm...random other blocks of people). watching the colours come in, disappointed that because we were sitting opposite the grandstand they would not march past us. screaming with delight at the fly past, and the Red Lions falling out of the sky carrying their Total Defence banners, and army men rappelling down the light towers so close i could see their expressions, and more swarming down from the roof of the grandstand into the middle of the VIP section.

standing up and screaming when PM Goh arrived; standing at attention for the National Anthem as the super pumas pulled a huge flag across the stadium. singing crazy Singapore Songs about 'wo men shi zui hao de pen you' (we are the best of friends) with arms around one another, swaying from side to side as if we were at a Faye Wong concert; making cutting remarks about losers and quitters while watching the mass display ('this is what we are! a bird in a cage! this is what happens when you try to run away...[massive gridlike picture on field]' 'how is this a picture of unending resilience?' 'well, it's unending, anyway.')

the stadium slowly going dark after a spectacular sunset, and slowly being filled with pinpricks of light from the torches-shaped-like-cellphones (how appropriate! for singapore), like all the stars of heaven; singing the old favourite Singapore Songs in the old familiar way -not the hiphoprapcrap that they've mangled Home into this year- Stand Up For Singapore, and This Is My Country, and One People One Nation One Singapore, and finally Home, with Kit Chan. singing the Anthem again after taking the Pledge, to the rippling flag on the giant screen. (they used to do the flag-flyby at the end of the parade. perhaps they didn't want have to light up the flag any more.)

the tribute to PM Goh at the end - surprised i could remember so many of the things he said while in his early years in office - 'run the next lap together' - and despite not being here for the National Day Message and Rally last year, recognising that the final screen shots -of PM Goh waving to his people, wearing a bright shirt and a brighter smile- came from then, after SARS, after economic recession, with a note of optimism and hope for a discouraged nation. he, receiving the crowd's tribute of applause and flag-waving and noisemaking, and a handshake from SM Lee, taking his leave of the parade for the last time as PM.

and of course, who could forget -leaving the National Stadium and trying to get home after the parade, along with 60, 000 other people who want to do exactly the same thing at the same time. Singaporean mobs are the most well-behaved in the world -where else would several thousand people obediently stop at the roadside and wait for ten minutes because a single policeman -just one- told them to wait while letting thousands of other people by, and buses and cars containing just oh, one or two people per vehicle. even though it gets restless and noisy, there is precious little pushing or poking, and no fear that you are about to be trampled beneath several thousand pounds of enraged human beings. being pissed off because trains aren't arriving often enough -stupid SMRT. walking through Geylang to get to Aljunied -thinking that if this were Chicago i so wouldn't be walking to another station -i wouldn't know if i would die -here we just followed the tracks and stuck out in approximately the right direction and hoped for the best.

that was my National Day Parade.

much as i dislike many things about this nation, and these people, there are things to be proud of and to love as well. it's good to remind myself, once in a while, that these things and these people exist - that for a small, threatened nation that shouldn't -by all rights- exist and thrive and flourish we have accomplished very much and come very far in a short time - and remember that i call this place home.

Happy 39th Birthday Singapore! may you have many many more happy ones to come. =)

adendum, because i meant to earlier and forgot:

'...it takes passionate pilgrims, vague aliens and other disinherited persons to appreciate the "points" of this admirable country' -Henry James, English Hours
appropriate to our little island nation as well, is it not?


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