If someone was to ask me couple of years ago how I felt about National Day Parade (NDP) as a first generation immigrant, frankly speaking, I could only connect at that symbolic level. Not that being symbolic diminishes the importance of the event. Quite the contrary, the power of something as symbolic as a country’s flag and the image of her leader raise emotion and brings hope to the citizens. Question reminds: how can I get connected to even this symbolic level as an immigrant?
I was born as a British Subject and brought up in an environment when people worship money as God. I have lived, studied, and worked in various different countries excluding my tour destinations (in chronicle order) – Hong Kong, United Kingdom, France, Canada, Singapore, United States, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Mauritius. There is no perfect world. However, whenever I returned to Singapore after an overseas trip before I took up the citizenship, I always felt at home. And still am. There are many things that Singapore is not. For me, I love what Singapore is. And I have accepted what Singapore is, is not, and her past as one single package. No one has asked me to be a citizen. When I have counted exactly 2 years of stay from my passport (I had many business trips back then), I headed to the then SIR building on the next day with all my papers ready – alone – and sent in my application. Now you see why I have no problem in connecting to this symbolic level from day one.
In the past couple of years, I have had the honor and opportunity to work with the Singapore Armed Force (SAF) in the capacity of an external consultant. I have visited units across the three services and met with officers from the ground to the top. SAF Officers are all humans, of course, just like you and I. They all have their worries and concerns (like the early retirement at 45 that was not what they signed up for), some may wonder what the non-military jobs are like for them, but they do share a strong set of core values that I witnessed throughout my course of work. And it is because of all these great people I have met as well as the people from the unit that leads the NDP effort for the second consecutive year that give me a new perspective on what NDP is about.
NDP is part of nation building. It is also part of the effort to raise image (under the umbrella of “Total Defence” as well as the government) and identity (of citizens) that in turn, links to nation building. By definition, a nation comprises of people who speak the same set of languages, culture, and history living in a particular area under the same government. And it is what NDP is about – people. It is because tickets are not sold but rather distributed, at the preview, I have seen the very young and the very old. I have seen people from all walks of life. To me, it was as though we have taken a small portion of Singapore – be it as people, or the Total Defence force, or our military assets, or our government – and put it into one area for this special celebration that people all connect with one another. But that was not all. As the event of the actual day will be broadcast nationwide, viewers from home will be joining the celebration as well.
A lot of people have put in a lot of hard work to make it happen. My heartfelt thanks to all of them. Is it an event worth celebrating at this scale? Sure it is. It is the founding of our nation. And how would you feel if you have to participate in organising the event including all the previews (extra work on top of your normal work duty and you have to start doing it one year in advance) not just for one year, but two? After the show, I messaged my friend from SAF (who helps organising the event) to thank him for the tickets and told him that I have thoroughly enjoyed the event. His reply was:
Me too. Every show is a wonderful journey of a brand new experience.
I don’t think all who participate in the event actually think like he does. Would have been nice though.
Now, I have actually wanted to include some videos and pictures I have taken into this blog but it will make this blog a bit too long to read. And since I am still in the mist of sorting the videos out, it may take another day or so for me to publish them in my website. But I promise you, the videos and pictures should be out as soon as possible. Thanks for reading and your patience. Staying tuned.