SINGAPORE: With the introduction of new elements in a dynamic display of Singapore’s military capabilities, unmanned drones setting the night sky alight with formations and crowd favourites like the Red Lions staging a triumphant return, this year’s National Day Parade was a resounding success with the 25,000-strong crowd of spectators at The Float@Marina Bay.
The parade made a return to The Float this year, with Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen noting in a Facebook post last year that the floating platform was a favourite for Singaporeans “and should be used while we still have it”.
In a first in the parade’s history, 300 unmanned drones formed vivid symbols like an arrow, a heart with a crescent and five stars, and an outline of Singapore’s island as part of the show segment. As the largest such performance in South-East Asia to date, the aerial antics impressed the audience, and 'oohs' and 'aahs' were heard as each new symbol was formed.
Themed "One Nation Together", this year’s parade was a rallying call for all Singaporeans to stand together and overcome all odds together, and to remind Singaporeans that regardless of origin and background, everyone belongs as one people and one nation.
PRE-PARADE SEGMENT LIFTS SPIRITS
Even before the parade officially began, those who came early were kept well entertained with singers belting out crowd National Day favourites like Count On Me Singapore.
One new feature was especially well-received by spectators: The hug cam, the parade’s own version of a Kiss Cam, an American staple during sports games. As parade hosts Joakim Gomez, Julie Tan, Nurul Aini and Subramaniam Narainda encouraged spectators to embrace each other as cameras focused on them, many people gamely obliged.
This year’s spectators did not only get a welcome from the human hosts, but also a robotic one, made in Singapore three years ago. Named Edgar and sporting a Singapore flag on his arm, he was eager to prove how Singaporean he is. "I know all about Sang Nila Utama and where to eat the best chicken rice - any self-respecting Singaporean can tell you that,” he said, eliciting laughter from spectators.
Parachutists - and perennial crowd favourites - the Red Lions from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) made a triumphant return this year after taking a break for the past two years. Last year, the Red Lions could not parachute into the National Stadium for safety reasons. And during the SG50 celebration at the Padang in 2015, the jump had to be called off because of poor weather.
The excitement was palpable in the air as spectators craned their necks and waited for the Red Lions to become visible from high up in the sky. And the crowd responded with a roar with each successful landing.
A Singapore special also returned with a twist. Being at The Float did not mean there was no wave this year. While it was not the Kallang Wave, Singaporeans in a sea of red rose together to create a “Marina Wave”.
SPECTATORS EXPERIENCE SIMULATED TERROR ATTACK
Spectators were kept on the edge of their seats this year with the introduction of a new segment during the Dynamic Defence Display: a simulation of a terror attack. The scenario, which was an opportunity for Singapore to display its integrated response should such an incident occur, was a realistic simulation of such an attack complete with a simulated television broadcast and “perpetrators” firing blanks into the seating gallery.
But the simulation ended in success, as the SAF and Home Team swooped into action to apprehend the “perpetrators” and bring the situation under control.
The simulated terror attack was the second segment in a two-part display for the first time this year. The first focused on the role of the SAF as the guarantor of Singapore's independence was a display of assets from from the Army, Air Force and Navy.
Prominent among the display was the now-familiar Terrex vehicle - nine of these Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles were detained in Hong Kong for two months from Nov 23 last year while transiting through Hong Kong from Taiwan. They arrived in Singapore in January this year.
In total, the Dynamic Defence Display featured more than 50 assets, the biggest number to date from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and Singapore Police Force (SPF).
The segment also included seven types of vehicles appearing for the first time in the parade, such as the SAF's Belrex Protected Combat Support Vehicle, the SPF's Tactical Response Motorcycle and the SCDF's Fire-Medical Vehicle.
But in between the two defence display segments was the familiar parade segment, which featured 31 marching contingents and about 2,000 participants representing the five pillars of Total Defence.
Traditional celebratory elements such as a military tattoo performance, the State Flag Flypast and the Salute to the Nation performed by the five Republic of Singapore Air Force F-15SG fighter aircraft did not fail to thrill.
The military tattoo, despite being a yearly affair, wowed with its precision, as performers formed perfect images such as the Merlion, the Singapore city skyline and the words NDP 2017. This year’s, comprising about 170 performers, was the largest military tattoo performance in NDP history.
A key theme of this year's parade was the tribute to 50 years of National Service. To mark this milestone, a NS50 tribute video was screened, with older NSmen sharing their experiences with their sons. NSmen in the audience were also honoured, as they were asked to stand and given a salute from the parade.
SHOW DAZZLES WITH LIGHT, COLOUR AND ACTION
And as the sky grew dark, it was time for the light-sticks to come out and the show segment to begin. This year’s show covered six acts: Living together, growing together, thriving together, celebrating together, progressing together and one nation together- this year’s theme.
The show was a culmination of colour, lights and imagination, befitting the city’s 52nd birthday. From two dancers suspended in the air in an ethereal scene, to giant mosquitoes running around, it was a spectacle to behold.
The mosquito segment, which highlighted Singapore’s environmental challenge, involved the spectators, as they had to clap as loudly as they could to an upbeat rhythm in order to get rid of the mosquitoes. In another segment that involved Singaporeans, they were invited to toast to the nation, and that they did, with a hearty “Yum Seng”.
The many children who took part, including 400 Henry Park Primary pupils added a touch of youthfulness to the show. But veteran celebrities also held their own, standing on rising podiums while performing.
Veteran sports commentator and radio presenter Brian Richmond belted out a catchy song on Singapore while 81-year-old Mary Ho, fondly known as Grandma Mary, gave an electric guitar performance that had spectators bobbing their heads. For the first time at an NDP held at The Float @ Marina Bay, an aerial system was integrated into the stage design to elevate performers and props 20 metres above ground.
The show paid tribute to Singapore’s heroes, both conventional and unconventional, from swimming stars Joseph Schooling and Yip Pin Xiu to hawker Chan Hong Meng of one-Michelin-starred Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle.
During the segment, performers climbed a mountain, symbolising the struggles and effort by Singaporeans to achieve success.
Short bursts of fireworks delighted audience throughout the parade, but it was when the parade was winding down, with a medley of National Day songs like Home and We Are Singapore, ending with the national anthem, that the magic really happened.
A spectacular display of fireworks in brilliant shades of red, green and orange against the Marina Bay skyline enthralled the crowd, capping yet another exciting parade.