AGER crowds clamoured to capture that perfect selfie with the Sultan, as thousands of people from Brunei-Muara filled Taman Hj Sir Muda Omar 'Ali Saifuddien (SOAS) yesterday for the annual meet-and-greet with His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.
Held in conjunction with the monarch's 69th birthday celebrations, the event marked the last of four district meet-and-greets the Sultan held with his people.
His Majesty arrived at the padang at 9am, accompanied by His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, HRH Prince Hj Jefri Bolkiah and HRH Prince 'Abdul Malik.
The event kicked off with a dazzling stage performance coordinated by Origin Management, featuring silat athletes, ballet dancers and gulingtangan music.
Actress Liyana Yus, star of the Brunei martial art film Yasmine, led the way in an electrifying display of silat moves.
Origin's Siti Kamaluddin, who directed the stage performance said, "Initially, we planned to have 69 kids participate from silat clubs in local schools, but in the end we had over 80 kids."
The next segment of the production featured ballet dancers in red and gold traditional dress, acting out scenes from Brunei in ancient and modern times.
"We wanted to represent the old Brunei with the water village and the padian, but if you watch the dance carefully this performance was done en pointe by dancers from a ballet academy in Brunei," Siti explained.
"Even though the performance looks traditional, it is modern at the same time but still with Brunei flavour."
The director added that children were specially selected for the production after going through an audition process, and they committed to months of preparation for the event.
In the performance finale, glittering confetti and red, yellow, black and white balloons - representing the colours of the Brunei flag - were released into the air, providing a burst of colour into an otherwise overcast sky.
The performers then led the crowd in three cries of "Daulat Kebawah Duli Tuan Patik!" (Long Live His Majesty).
His Majesty then ascended the stage to congratulate the performers on a job well-done and accepted a pesambah (gift) of a painting from local artist, Fairuz Zabady Hj Zaini.
Anxious crowds began to surround the Sultan, eager to shake his hand and grab a photo with the monarch.
The Sultan then toured the padang, where more than 90 associations lined up for a chance to wish His Majesty 'Happy Birthday' and present him with birthday gifts, some sourced from all corners of the globe.
The Tiong Hwa community presented him with a porcelain sculpture of a polo player, purchased from Spain. The Indian Chamber of Commerce gave His Majesty a 24-carat, crystal encrusted Al-Quran. Other gifts included local antiques, paintings and framed photographs.
In three hours it took the monarch to make his way through the crowds, he happily obliged requests for photographs, stopping every few steps to take photos.
Touching on this, Acting Brunei-Muara District Officer Mislee Hj Abd Karim, said: "This moment of joy is eagerly awaited by all the citizens and residents of Brunei-Muara. It reflects the caring leadership and affection His Majesty has for the masses."