Quiet but dignified National Day ceremonial parade marks Singapore’s 56th birthday amid tightened COVID-19 measures
SINGAPORE: A quiet sense of pride hung in the air at a ceremonial parade marking National Day on Monday (Aug 9) - a pared-back celebration in line with tightened public health measures.
The Float @ Marina Bay hosted around 100 spectators - including Cabinet ministers, Members of Parliament and frontline workers - a far cry from the 27,000 people that the venue can typically accommodate.
The sparkling bay also formed the backdrop for 600 parade participants from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the Home Team - a figure less than a third of what previous parades at The Float have seen.
These reduced headcounts were among a slew of safety measures taken as the country marked its 56th year of independence amid a protracted battle against COVID-19.
SIMPLE BUT PROUD CEREMONIAL PARADE
At the ceremonial parade, an iconic part of National Day celebrations, a video montage of parade participants kicked off proceedings.
As contingents marched onto the floating platform under the blazing morning sun, they were - for the first time - joined by 200 participants virtually. These included members of uniformed groups from nine secondary schools, as well as 12 social and economic organisations, such as Singapore Airlines and Families for Life.
Parade commander Lieutenant-Colonel (LTC) Tang Wee Goh then led four Guard of Honour contingents onto the tarmac. Members of each contingent, standing at least a metre apart, donned white masks with their uniforms.
Following the arrival of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the combined band then played a rendition of this year’s National Day theme song, “The Road Ahead”, to enthusiastic applause from the small group of spectators present.
Shortly after, President Halimah Yacob arrived. As she stood on the podium, the national anthem began playing - also the cue for the state flag flypast.
In what has become, for many, a defining image of National Day, a Chinook helicopter flew over the cityscape with the Singapore flag billowing in the wind, while two Apache helicopters trailed behind it.
Those at home also got a chance to catch the helicopters as they flew across the eastern and western parts of the island.
Crowd-favourite fighter jets then made an appearance, roaring over the bay in a delta formation at speeds of more than 600kmh, before heading into the heartlands.
Organisers said that “the close formation” represented how Singaporeans, with “collective strength, resolve and unity, will always forge ahead amid challenging circumstances as one united people”.
As Mdm Halimah inspected the parade, a series of shots boomed from 25-pounder guns on rafts in the bay, creating billows of smoke over the water.
Returning to the podium, she then watched on as Guard of Honour contingents aimed their guns to the sky and fired off a cascade of shots that resounded through the empty stands.
As contingents then marched off, the ceremonial parade – simple but dignified – came to a close.
The morning parade will be complemented by a night concert, held by the Gardens by the Bay and Mediacorp at 8pm. It will be available for viewing on television or online channels.
The National Day Parade itself will take place on Aug 21, after the scheduled end of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert).