Due to a request to post up my mypaper NDP 09 essay, here it is:

My Most Memorable National Day

At the age of ten, I had no concept of what National Day was about, much less why it called for such a major celebration every year. I just loved belting out Stand Up for Singapore with my entire class, red-shirted and with our arms around each other. But that year, it turned out, I was about to learn what a national identity was, and why everyone wanted to claim it.

I was still a wide-eyed child then, a bumbling primary school kid just eager to go on a field-trip with my friends. An entire day without school? Plus, excursion buses and clappers from the goodie bag? Sign me on.

So, blithely, my friends and I trawled through our goodie bags, had fun with the clappers and finished the food we brought within the first couple of hours we were there. There was the video montage of Singapore’s history, the arrival of the President’s motorcade that had all of us craning our necks for a better look, the impressively flawless military parade and flypast, and aesthetic performances that leapt to life with vibrancy and vivacity, a glorious display of colours and movement.

I was enraptured. But little did I know that the climax lay in the finale. By then, the skylight had dimmed. Twilight soon settled in. There was magic in the air that night. Everyone was on their feet as they sang a medley of national songs, boldly waving their miniature flags. Meanwhile, the first fireworks shot into the sky and burst into a starry shower of colours. Our voices were loud and our love strong.

My little heart was bursting with pride. I was honoured to have been there, to be Singaporean. Because it isn’t just about clappers or wearing a red shirt. It is about belonging.

Lots to update today. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Blogger has gone nuts. I can’t upload pictures because the toolbar is gone. So for now, you’re subjected to my wordy rambling.

1. My dad and I went to watch NDP 09 on Sunday! This year, it was held at Marina Bay, which, I must say, is a vast improvement from NDPs at the Stadium. It was next to the sea, so it was much more cooling and airy. They had nicer seats too, more spacious, and there was a nicer view of Shenton Way and Fullerton Hotel.

I wasn’t expected to be wowed by the military display, to be honest. It all seems a little braggy, to showcase all your military might at one event. But now, at the hormonal age of 18, I find that army guys – and seamen, and pilots, and policemen, and practically any guy in a well-starched uniform – are hot. Artillery and ammunition don’t hold my interest at all. The last time I watched it, I thought the parade was rather boring, because all they did was march around.

But, like I said, it was a lot more captivating this time around, maybe because I find that the uniforms look better on guys as I grow older (wink). All in all, it was an impressive display. And those boys are HOT. Wow, so that’s where all the cute guys are hiding: in camp! All tanned and toned….

Moving on.

The spirit at Marina Bay was amazing. All through the Parade (and the one hour plus of waiting beforehand), I was close to tears and could cry at the drop of a hat. I just felt so proud to be there, to be Singaporean, amongst my own people, hearing pockets of conversation (littered with Singlish) around me. We were a sea of red, displaying national pride, rooting through our funpacks and exclaiming, “Wah! Got Khong Guan biscuits! And NeWater!” Me? I had fun waving the flag and watching it ripple in the late afternoon breeze, while my dad went shutter-crazy.

They played some National Day clips made by students. You know, the one where the bunch of kids are supposed to create an art-piece about National Day, and this special little boy made a collage of a hand, which the teacher initially didn’t understand, until she looked in the mirror and realised it was a fist over her heart. Yeah, along with that were others. One was where this NS boy was tearing parking coupons in the car with his dad.

“Time? 2.21.”

“2.30,” said his dad.

The boy points at the carpark attendance, upon which his father gets out of the car and squabbles with the ‘auntie’. And then he launched into his rendition of the pledge with regard to the coupon-parking system. And let me tell you, 2700 people laughing is really infectious.

Another clip was where they asked kids what their aspirations were. There were the usual: lawyer, doctor, pilot, nurse, teacher, etc. And then this last boy was like, “When I grow up, I want to be the president of Singapore.” And this bunch of aunties behind me went, “Wahhhh.” I wonder how our leaders felt when they watched that. Hopeful? Assured?

Somehow, I teared up at that. Because it’s promising, knowing how many youths out there love their country, and understand how much it has done for them. The country doesn’t owe us a living, but it has given most of us Gen Y a comfortable life, thus far. It’s just gratifying, knowing there are people my age out there who realise that, and know where their loyalties lie. And are proud of that. Like a journalist said in the Monday paper (Home section), patriotism is not uncool. Why should we be ashamed of what we root for? I love Singapore, and I’m not ashamed to proclaim it.

And watching those boys in the parade made me proud of them too, especially of those who constantly put their lives on the line to protect us, to protect our country, and the ones they love. They deserve our respect. Because they are driven to do that, why?

Following that was a clip of Singaporeans (students, etc) abroad, wishing Singapore a happy Independence Day. I teared up because they still call Singapore home. Those people who set their alarm clocks and woke up especially for the Pledge Moment, those people who picked up the phone so they could recite the pledge with their family at 8.22pm, those families that congregated on that day to place their hands over their hearts and meant what they said. They make me proud of them. Like they say, you can take the person out of Singapore, but you can never take the Singaporean out of the person. No point denying who we really are, Chinese, Singaporean… We are what we are, and nothing we do can change that; so we might as well embrace it. And be proud of our identity.

It was an honour being at NDP 09. I’d like to thank mypaper for giving me and my dad a chance to be there to celebrate our nation’s 44 years of freedom, equality, justice and success. May Singapore continue to prosper in the years ahead, and be blessed with a non-corrupt, forward-looking government, as well as informed individuals who make the right decision in voting. Happy 44th Independence Day.

2. My entire family (well, apart from a few members, who were busy) came down on Saturday. And just looking at my cousin, Jasmine, made me feel bad about myself all over again. I think I’ve mentioned before how, since we were young, she’s always been prettier and more outgoing than me, and all my aunts love her. She’s in SMU now, taking a major in Accountancy. And she’s just as pretty, just as confident, meshes just as well with my aunts, etc. I don’t know why I’m bringing this up. Never mind. Moving on.

3. Went to the Bird Park with daddy on Monday, since there was this 1-for-1 promotion. I’ve always preferred the zoo to the Bird Park, if only because it is bigger, and offers more attractions. Birds are more boring than animals, in my humble opinion. The only ones worth seeing are the raptors and Birds of Paradise. And even then, they were all trapped in cages with grills so thick you can barely see anything. In the zoo, there are pumas and leopards and snakes and meerkats and tigers and HORSES! Lovely, graceful, beautiful, friendly horses. But it was still a good day, all in all. Dad and I later met his friend (they’ve been friends since secondary school) for steamboat dinner at Beach Road (YUM). And that concludes Monday.

4. Just came back from school. Lecture at 10 am, was slightly late for it, because a) jam in Orchard Rd, where my dad had to pass by on his way to work (he drops me off at Tiong Bahru Station, which is near his office at Havelock Rd), and b) I got off the bus at the wrong stop, and had to wait for the next bus. Thankfully, this senior directed me to LT 11, and when he found out I was a freshie, he said, ‘Welcome to NUS.’ Which was nice. Some seniors are lame enough to screw with you and direct you to the other end of where you’re supposed to go.

So my very first lecture for this semester is Nature of Language, taught by this Japanese lecturer, Mie Hiramoto, who grew up in the city of Hiroshima, which explained why she was super-paranoid and went through the Civil Defence Emergency booklet with us for 15 minutes. Another half an hour was spent highlighting the bone of contention, punctuality. And another 15 minutes on administrative stuff, like grading, plagiarism, etc. We only began our lecture 1 hour later. It was all phonemes and morphemes. We skimmed through what we were about to learn. It is the first lecture of the semester, after all.

5. Went for my swim straight after I came back home. Saw the cute guy, and another one. I wonder how old they are. They seem perhaps a year older than me, but don’t they have school or something? Anyway, why am I complaining? Thank you for being there today, eye candies!

Tomorrow’s lecture will be Cultural Studies, which, hopefully, will be less dry than today’s. Right now, I’m dying to have an orange.