It All Happened So Fast, Fireworks Over My Head (Working Title: Happy Birthday Singapore)

“You shouldn’t push yourself too hard.  You are still recovering,” said TK over MSN.  That particular week, I was resting and working from home most of the time.  That particular Saturday, my friend Mark has invited me to accompany him for a photo shooting session.  By the seaside overlooking the floating platform, where the rehearsal of the National Day Parade took place.  I’ve made a promise that as soon as he gets hold of the right gears, we would go for a night shooting.  Mark chose fireworks; and fireworks it was then.

I seldom shot fireworks and I certainly cannot measure myself up to Mark’s enthusiasm.  That day, he reserved a spot for us along the Nicoll Highway 2 to 3 hours before the fireworks took place.  I, on the other hand, turned up half an hour before the fireworks began.  Nearly missed the shot had the traffic jam was any worse.

According to Scott Kelby, I should bring my zoom lens for some tight shots.  If I was shooting fireworks at the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, it probably would have worked better.  In Singapore, we are pretty close to the action.  So, a zoom lens seems to be a bit too long.  Mark has done a much better job.  Check out his.  I really suck at shooting fireworks.  Like I said to Mark (and he disagrees), each photographer works within a certain set of genres.  I have a lot more patience shooting animals in the dark.  Or even the moon.  And I have better connection with nature’s creations or monuments that stand or will likely to stand the test of time.  My analogy is that I can comfortably write a piece of music in the Alternative Rock genre.  But I don’t think I can ever write a Jazz or Country song.

Below are some of the shots taken on July 25th (Facebook readers please view original post at my website).  It all happened so fast!  3 or 4 minutes was all it took for the 2 settings.  Each setting I reckon was a 1 minute of fireworks display.  When it was all over, Mark asked if I wanted to do it again for the next rehearsal.

Hmmm.  Maybe not.  And for the fireworks lovers, do drop by Hong Kong during the New Year period (Jan 2nd I think), July 1 National Day, or Chinese New Year.  Hong Kong has the mother of all fireworks I have seen so far.

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Ahead of my country mates’ entries, which I am sure you will see hundreds and thousands starting in the next 1 or 2 hours’ time, happy birthday Singapore!  I know my accent often confuses people.  And believe it or not, some friends of mine despite this “open secret” of I being a Singaporean still think that I hold a blue IC.  No.  I am pink.  I am very pink.  As pink as my IC can be.

For this National Day, I am thinking of doing something slightly different.  Having lived in Singapore for 14 years and have become a Citizen since 1998, below are the frequently asked questions when I told people that I hold a pink IC.

What happen to your Hong Kong Citizenship?  Do you need to give it away?

First, Hong Kong is not a country.  For those who are born in Hong Kong after WWII and before 1997, we are born as a British Subject.  What it means is that we had the right to reside in the then-British colony called Hong Kong.  That’s about it.  In short, we – or at least how I see it – are born with no country, and no religion.  Was I happy to toss the British Subject status away?  I was indifferent.

Were you running away from 1997?  The return of Hong Kong to China?

Not really.  I didn’t think that with such a strong economic establishment, China would want to tear it apart.  The Basic Law was enacted way before 1997.  While I wasn’t entirely bought into China’s promise on “50 years of life remains as it is (in Hong Kong)”, I saw this return to motherland part of a bigger plan to unify Macau and maybe eventually Taiwan.  So, was I running away from anything?  No.  In retrospect, I think China has done a pretty good job to Hong Kong and Macau so far.  It helps when China is rising, a trend as predicted a decade or two ago.

Ain’t you glad that you don’t need to do National Service?

It’s hard to say.  If I was born and grew up in Singapore, I would just do it like the rest.  But as a first generation immigrant who has passed the age of enlistment, I am not sure if I would be thrilled to do NS (however if I could bring my camera and blog about what I experience …).

But I guess we all do nation building one way or another.  And I always joke to my friends that those 2 years and more of working with the MINDEF as an external consultant shuttling between the military camps is my very own way of doing NS.  Sir, yes sir!

Why Singapore?

I chose this region because I love its diverse cultures.  I chose Singapore as my home because there is no other place I’d rather be living in for long term.  I haven’t lived in Africa or South America yet.  So my view may change.  But for now, I am still happy with that decision I made 11 years ago.

Would you return to Hong Kong or migrate to another country?

Probably not Hong Kong because Cynthia can’t speak Chinese.  And my sister has married my buddy in Singapore, most of my friends are from Singapore, I am pretty much rooted here.

I guess my question is: How long can I afford to live in Singapore?  The other day, I was asking my Singaporean friend how much I need to survive in Singapore.  She tossed me some six-figure numbers judging at my current lifestyle (because I said I want to retire now … ha ha ha) and it was kind of depressing.  Jokes aside, the government’s message is clear: We shall remain as productive for as long as we can.  I read those news of sixty odd seventy odd years old people still happily working.  For me, I don’t think I want to work for money till that age.  I reckon I will have many ways to keep myself productive.  Will I have enough money to live in Singapore looking at the rising cost of living or will I have a much better quality of life elsewhere with the finite amount of savings I have?  I have no clue.  I need to do some serious calculation first.

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It all happens so fast.  Time to celebrate Singapore National Day again.

PS. Because of this National Day entry, my usual Spanish holiday photo entry will possibly be postponed by 1 day (Aug 10).  Thank you for your understanding.

Singapore Needs More Good News, Perhaps? Happy National Day, and Others

OK.  It’s the first time in my life seeing a Singapore flag sticking up from someone’s head.  Cynthia couldn’t resist to take a picture; I can’t resist not to share.

One great thing about having your website is that you can almost trace back on what you’ve done the same day last year, the year before, and etc.  This year there is no jamming session for me.  Instead, I am glued to the TV watching the Beijing Olympics.  Weightlifting games (Women’s 48kg today) captivate me, move me to tears.  The tearful joy of the Turk (silver), the fighting spirit of the Taiwanese (bronze), and the celebrity-like entrance of Chen Xiexia (China) whose first lifts placed her wide ahead of her opponents.  One moment I was wondering if China was going to participate, another moment Xiexia came in and grabbed the gold medal, unchallenged.

And that is precisely my dilemma here.  The Beijing Olympics seems like a bigger event to me today rather than our National Day Parade.  The Obama versus Hilary race seems like a more entertaining piece of news to follow than our local news.  Even our neighbor’s how-many-times-a-man-can-be-charged-with-sodomy is certainly juicer than anything we have here.  Go Anwar, go!  Reformasi!

Change, we can believe in.  That, is one helluva tag line from Obama’s presidential campaign.  Give the polar bears back their homes.  That, is from my recent video blog.  Thank you for not hating it.  End of commercial messages.

So, in this fierce competition of global news squeezing its way into my radar of current affairs, what sort of local news sticks to my mind?  Mas Selamat?  Certainly.  The rise in the price of a bowl of rice and the arrays of electronic road pricing (ERP) gantries added in around the city center?  That too.  And to quote from a gas station attendant in my area: our oil price goes up in a lift and comes down by stairs. 

But there must be some news worth celebrating, right?  After years of dispute with Malaysia, the tiny faraway island Pedra Branca belongs to Singapore.  The catch is, it is not final, awaiting for new evidents to be uncovered.  From this episode, I have learned a new Latin expression: terra nullius.  It means nobody’s land.  Actually, there is one more for you: a titre de souverain.  Go figure.

Now, back to the Beijing Olympics.  I don’t think it is an understatement that the Chinese has waited for hundreds of years to have a moment like this.  Sure, it is the pride of a nation, pride of a race.  And why the Western’s negative media coverage day after day?  Like my African boss said: If you watch CNN and believe that that is Africa, you are so wrong.

Face it.  There is a reason why the smart ones from the West are moving into Asia for a better career and financial opportunity.  The world is changing; China is rising; not even the Western propaganda is going to reverse that.

Anyways, happy birthday Singapore.  What talking me in this post?!

National Day Jamming Session Once Again

This year is the second year my band gets together and jams it out at my home studio on National Day. Looking at the pictures from last year, boy, I looked much older now younger then.

(Pause … texting my guitarist to ask if I can break this big news in my website … the last time I accidentally leaked some info out from my site, I have to retreat it back and pay one million dollar fine … ha ha ha … kidding on that one million dollar fine)

Okay, this is official. My guitarist Jason and his girlfriend Selrol is getting married! Wow … it all started with a demo tape I have recorded a few years back. Another story one day.

Jason has bought a brand new guitar. I have lost track of how many guitars he has. If you pay attention to the bands that perform live, the guitarists always have lots of guitars to switch during the show. This new semi-hollow electric guitar of his is custom-assembled by a Singaporean for a very reasonable price. The guitar sounded well in the acoustic mode. Jason must have in mind that we are performing unplugged soon. Good thinking!

Ah … how about some captions for the photo above. From top to bottom, left to right: (1) our bassist Cynthia who claimed that because of this shot, she was distracted and plucked the wrong note, (2) Cynthia with Selrol while holding out the score of “I Erase Your Face” (3) Me … duh! (4) Jason’s new guitar, (5) My Gibson guitar, (6) Jason the “dark” guitarist, (7) Jason and Selrol who has just tied the knot, and (8) my side view.

So before I sign off this blog, I wish to say … congratulations to Jason and Selrol! To Jason … you lucky bloke and to Selrol …

… told you he will propose!


Vidoes And Pictures From The National Day Parade Preview, Enjoy!

Greatings people! I have finally sorted out my pictures and did some basic video editing. Hopefully you will like it as much as I do. Enjoy!

To recap, this is how I got my precious pair of preview tickets and this is how I felt after the preview. I know you all must be rushing to click on the play buttons below but I do have some nice pictures to share together with a short journal. Please do …

I must apologize for the quality of the video as this is the first time I have used my 3x optical zoom camera to take video. I had no idea what format the video would be (I don’t have the software to edit certain formats) so I tried to keep each clip as self-contained as possible. And I had no idea that I cannot zoom once I start video recording. Duh!

So, the first clip was shot far far away. The famous free fall display by the SAF Parachute Team known as “Red Lions”. This year, the platform is a small area floating by the bay and as you can see in the video, at the perimeter of the stage there are tall structures that can be dangerous for the team. Since the background music is a bit plain, I have decided to mix DJ Tiesto’s new track “Driving To Heaven” into the clip.

And then, the “Red Lions” dived again … in the dark. I quickly took out my camera and after the first landing, I regretted because it did seem a bit too far away in the dark. I zoomed in and restarted the filming. The background music was good so I have decided to retain the original film. Check out the UFO-like objects towards the end of the clip. What the heck are those?!

Of course, what is National Day Parade without the fireworks display, even for the preview?

PS. This blog is dedicated to my friend GS who is now stationed in Vietnam and she is going to miss the actual NDP on TV. She loves Singapore as much as I do. I have been really excited and honored to be involved with her switch of career. She is determined to get immersed in the industry outside of Singapore and in a couple of years of time, she shall return and contribute much to our nation. Also, to my friend JT whom I have the honor to work with and is now stationed in India. She is going to miss the NDP broadcast as well. Good news is, she will be back next year – after her 3 years stint.

National Day Parade Preview – How I Felt After The Event

Click to see larger print

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.