Parade or Farce?
That's what I asked myself after watching an encore telecast of our Nation's 44th Independence celebrations a.k.a. the National Day Parade.
To begin with, the traditional march-past was relegated to a minor episode in the shindig -Chapter 3 for the record. Now, Singapore's defences may not be much, unlike Brazil or Argentina who, when they celebrate Independence, they trot out all their colours and it takes all day to march past. But this is a parade, hello-o-o-o?
Instead, what we had was a history of Singapore "told in 10 chapters" according to the commentators. First up, founding our Island Nation with ham actors Mark Lee and Suhaimi Yusof playing Parameswara and Sang Nila Utama respectively. Backed by a swirling melange of secondary school students -this year's "choir"- they hammed it up big time. Oh well, I guess there are worse ways to narrate history.
And that "choir"! Now yours truly was honoured to be in the very first parade that incorporated a choral element way back in 1981. We not only had to sing the newest songs composed for the nation, but re-learn existing ones with 4-part harmony! A very Villa-Lobos-esque moment occurred in 1983 when we were told that the pledge for that year would not be recited but sung! Anyway, this year's "choir" did more running around waving great paws made of some strange orange material rather than singing! And if a choir's not to sing, then WTF are they there for? They did not even sing the National Anthem!
The second chapter is a long drawn out affair on "Defending Our Nation". All I can say is that its elaborately staged, interspersing CNA-esque footage with our "military assets" (commentator's words) doing everything from neutralising bombs to disarming terrorists. Hey, they'd better be as good if the real thing comes along!
This year's highlight was to have been a united Pledge Moment at 8:22pm on the day itself. I was at the supermarket with my mother at that exact same time and, do you know, even when it was announced, no one stopped to recite the Pledge? Talk about National Solidarity!
I won't say anymore. Patriotism is fine when you are swept away by the heat of the moment, i.e. watching the parade at Marina Bay itself. Cast in a colder light the "parade" um ... doesn't hold up. They've had their share of lulus in the past, such as an enormous cake-like edifice that was the crowning glory of the 25th Parade in 1990; or the appearance of the season 1 Singapore Idol finalists in 40th year parade. But this!
I won't be a sourpuss so ... Happy 44th Birthday Singapore!
But we'll certainly have to do better with a display which is more National Day Farce than National Day Parade!
(image courtesy of Channel News Asia)