One can feel the energy in Singapore building and almost every resident you speak to is over-excited. What is coming up the long weekend of 7 to 10 August 2015 is Singapore National Day’s Golden Jubilee, the 50th celebration!
The eOasia team is similarly excited, though as expats based in this great city we are not yet very informed about the actual meaning of the SG50 celebration, as it’s called by the locals. So we go out onto the streets of Singapore to find out, where we meet a local 66-year old man who is happy to explain about the meaning of this special day. Expanding on our only current knowledge of that it is held in commemoration of Singapore’s independence from Malaysia in 1965 and has been celebrated ever since, now with a growing list of SG50 events all over the city.
All weekend celebration
The local man introduces himself as Ker Lin, his grandson Clem sitting next to him eating a big bowl of noodles, with one hand tightly on a bag with the text “I love Singapore”. Ker Lin explains us that they just picked up the SG Funpack filled with goodies that every Singaporean and permanent resident household receives for the celebration. The Singapore National Day is celebrated every year on August 9th, but due to the Golden Jubilee (50th celebration) this year the celebration lasts all weekend from 7 to 10 August 2015.
Ker Lin himself was 16 years young when Singapore became a sovereign, independent nation on the 9th of August 1965. Together with many others, he even still remembers the tearful announcement in a televised press conference of Lee Kuan Yew, the man recognized as the founding father of independent Singapore and was to become the first Prime Minister of Singapore. For that special announcement on the day that became the historical Singapore Independence Day, Ker Lin and his family went to a friends’ house that had a television, a rare commodity those days.
Uncertain times for Singapore
Ker Lin remembers the uncertain times Singapore was facing just after gaining independence. His father lost his job – unemployment rates were very high at the time – and a serious concern was the lack of natural resources and land. But Singapore immediately sought international recognition of its sovereignty and joined the United Nations on 21 September 1965 and joined the Commonwealth in October that same year. The foreign minister headed a new foreign service that helped assert Singapore’s independence and establish diplomatic relations with other countries. Late December 1965 the State of Singapore became the Republic of Singapore. “So much had happened in only three and a half months. And that was just the beginning!” exclaims Ker Lin.
Singapore’s situation improves
Singapore faced the dangers of a military attack by Indonesia and forcible re-integration into the Malaysia Federation on unfavorable terms. As a teenager Ker Lin was mostly impressed by the rapidly establishing Singapore Armed Forces (that today is among the best-equipped in Asia) with military practices that could be seen at the seaside. Making use of its location and port, Singapore also attracted big oil companies to establish oil refineries that by the mid-1970s became the third-largest oil-refining center in the world. Thanks to this development, Ker Lin’s father found a new job with Shell and the situation at home improved immediately.
Ker Lin himself got his first job as a teacher of English, which was the adopted language of instruction by the government. This was to emphasize practical training to develop a competent workforce well suited for the industry. Later he also started teaching history, which explains the incredible knowledge and his eagerness to tell us the story of Singapore.
After this interesting history lesson on the streets of Singapore told to us by a local Singaporean, slurping noodles not taking our eyes off Ker Lin’s talking mouth, we now understand the big idea around this celebration. With such a history, Singapore deserves this celebration and Ker Lin deserves a place on stage to tell his story to the (younger and foreign) people! The only question left to ask this man with so much experience on Singapore Independence Day is about his recommendations to celebrate in style.
Singapore National Day song
To our great pleasure, Ker Lin instantly starts singing the Singapore National Day song and his grandson joins him with joy. Each year since 1985, the National Day Parade Executive Committee has designated one song as a National Day Parade theme song, which usually gets broadcasted a month before the celebration. This year’s theme song is “Our Singapore”. Obviously both of these men have been practicing hard to learn this year’s song by head again!
SG50 National Day Parade
The biggest event during this day is the National Day Parade, a national ceremony that – as its name implies – includes a parade in commemoration of Singapore’s independence. This is usually held in the Padang (formally known as the Padang Cricket Ground), the National Stadium or The Float at Marina Bay. The Parade evolves around the theme that guides the planning of the parade and show. This year’s National Day Parade will take place in and around the Padang.
Firstly there is a pre-parade that includes entertainment like choir performances, school band displays and other light-hearted performances to entertain the crowd prior to the parade. The Parade has been a national staple of Singapore National Day and participants include members of the Singapore Armed Forces, Singapore Police Force, Singapore Civil Defense Force, representatives of the People’s Action Party and more influential people. Once this group is complete, the Prime Minister and President of Singapore arrive which marks the moment to play the national anthem, give a presidential 21-gun salute and for the Parade Marchpast to take place continuing into the city of Singapore. The Air Force Flypast has been a regular favorite of the public, as well as the spectacular show segment that follows the parade and ceremony ending in the climax of fireworks displays.
The Red Lions
The Singapore Armed Forces Parachute Team, known as the Red Lions, is made up of members from the Singapore Commando Formation. To celebrate the Golden Jubilee, the Red Lions will be executing a jump to make their well-anticipated entrance at the Padang during the introduction of the National Day Parade.
The Sing50 Concert, held at the National Stadium on August 7th in the evening, will show Singapore’s own international and local talents showcasing 50 years of Singapore music. With a line-up of over 70 artists, a 1,000 strong choir, pianists, rappers and the Metropolitan Festival Orchestra, this is a concert not to be missed!
Clem now finished his too big a bowl of noodles and starts poking his granddad’s arm to tell that he wants to move on. If it weren’t for him, Ker Lin would have filled many more hours with his interesting stories about the SG50 celebration and tips on things to do in Singapore this long weekend. We thank Ker Lin dearly for all this valuable information and watch him and Clem walk off, leaving us with the feeling like we just met our long lost friend.
We head back to the office with our heads buzzing with all this information on the 50th celebration of Singapore National Day. With only a few days to go until this year’s special celebration of Singapore Independence Day starts, we all decide to go to bed early to save as much energy as possible for all the SG50 events that will soon be waiting for us to enjoy! And we will certainly keep an eye out for Ker Lin celebrating his celebration…
If the SG50 is still not your cup of tea after all Ker Lin’s interesting stories and you might decide to take advantage of the long weekend, take a look at this inspiring article to choose one of these “15 weekend destinations with a direct flight from Singapore”.
Happy SG50 weekend!