NDP 2014: Stand-out people

NDP 2014: Stand-out people

It was a parade that celebrated Singapore's everyday characters and their resilience.

And there were highlights aplenty throughout the 21/2-hour event, from precision drills to new military and Home Team vehicles on display.

A seven-minute military band display that opened this year's parade and ceremony segment featured eight people from the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (Minds) performing on the taiko drums.

They provided the beats while the combined band and silent precision drill squad members organised themselves into a big heart-shaped formation.

And that was the theme that permeated last evening's show - in the next two hours, stories of day-to-day victories and triumphs were celebrated.

Music played a major role throughout last night's parade, with familiar national classics such as One People One Nation given fresh spins.

One tune - a remix of Dick Lee's 1996 song Big Island - stood out for its infectious vibe.

Spectators also saw history being made when the first female Red Lion, Ms Shirley Ng, landed in front of the float.

Across these two pages, The Sunday Times team brings you the highlights from the parade.

In sync: Precise moves, every single time


For military policeman Muhammad Shafiqu Noh, 22, the rifle exchange was the most challenging part of the precision drill performance.

The 36-man Silent Precision Drill Squad lined up in two rows to throw and swop their rifles with one another as Master Warrant Officer Low Soon Pan marched between the rows.

"You have to know how much strength to use when you throw the rifle to your partner... It could hit someone or it might overshoot," said Lance Corporal Shafiqu, a full-time national serviceman.

"It was difficult at first but once you get the hang of it, it is quite easy," he added.

He said he found it "both stressful and exciting" to perform the drills. The drill squad was part of the military tattoo segment that opened yesterday's parade ceremony with a military band display.

The tattoo was performed by 164 personnel, who marched into various formations, including the shape of a heart, symbolising "a parade with a heart".

History maker:  Red Lioness' dive is one for the books


THIRD Warrant Officer (3WO) Shirley Ng became the first female Red Lion to skydive at the National Day Parade yesterday.

She was one of the nine who made the plunge to the floating platform, as the crowd cheered and waved their flags.

The Red Lions are a perennial crowd favourite at the parade.

Said 3WO Ng after her jump yesterday: "I could hear people cheering for us from 1,000 feet (about 300m).

"That's the part when the adrenaline kicked in. Today, the wind was quite strong so it was very challenging."

It was the 36-year-old's second chance for a spot in the history books. She was due to make her parade debut last year, but poor weather forced her team of parachutists to abort their jump.

Yesterday, cloudy skies again threatened to scupper the team's jump.

To get around it, they jumped from a height of 1,524m instead of the usual 3,050m.

This meant that there was no time for them to freefall and they had to deploy their parachutes almost immediately.

It was, however, a situation the team had trained for, Ms Ng said.

She added: "I'm very happy to be given a second opportunity this year. I hope to see everybody next year, and the following year, and the following year."

As one: Marching together to one drumbeat

 In a first for the National Day Parade, 12 intellectually disabled Singaporeans from the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore, or Minds, marched alongside the Onepeople.sg contingent.

Eight drummers from Minds had also earlier performed in the military tattoo segment that opened this year's parade with a military band and precision drill performance.

The contingent from Onepeople.sg - a national body focused on promoting racial and religious harmony - was led by Mr Zuraimi Abdul Basheer, 40.

He said: "I have to understand their disability and their movements, and accommodate them.

"For example, I'll give them more time to learn the steps, and take smaller steps to help them catch up."

Dressed to impress: In their National Day best

The parade's five hosts - actress Siti Khalijah, actor Ebi Shankara, entertainer Hossan Leong and radio DJs Jean Danker and Joakim Gomez - stole the limelight this year with their dazzling array of outfits and costume changes.

At the start of the show, they emerged on stage in bold and bright colour-blocked outfits, in line with this year's pop art colour theme. In the fourth and final act, they came on in their red-and-white best as the show came to a climax.

Standing out from his co-hosts, Leong was dressed to impress. Looking smart, he sported a sequinned red blazer and polka dot trousers. The loud outfit certainly matched his livewire personality

Best gizmo: SCDF's 'remote firefighter'

Spectators on the front rows of the seating gallery had an unexpected shower when a machine that was meant to douse flames briefly sprayed water on them instead.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force was showing off its unmanned fire-fighting machine, which can be remotely controlled from up to 300m away in hazardous environments.

The 2.5m-tall machine can put out fires using water mist, jet spray and foam.

It is able to tap water from open sources such as reservoirs and swimming pools.

It can also be deployed to ventilate smoke-logged areas.

The machine was put into service in April this year and, within two weeks, it was put to the test during a warehouse fire in Tuas.

Sergeant Kamarul Hisham, 26, its operator during the parade's dynamic defence display segment, said a lot of time and effort was put into getting the timing right for the whole sequence.

"Having said that, safety is still our utmost priority and we have to constantly stay alert and sharp so as to prevent any mishap."

Signature song: Dick Lee's captivating remix

Music played a big part in this year's parade, but by far the most addictive was a remix of Big Island, a 1996 song by local singer-songwriter Dick Lee, who was the parade's creative director.

The song was a recurring motif in the show segment.

It was first played in Act 1 and came on again as all the performers gathered on the floating platform for the grand finale.

Inspiring story: Celebrating spirit to do well

The challenges faced by former convicts, the disabled or those who opt for less conventional careers took centre stage at this year's parade.

In a video played across the parade's various segments, multimedia director Boo Junfeng illustrated the struggles such people go through and used them to inspire others.

There was a former prisoner who had to face the stigma of his past at a job interview, a doctor who worried for her disabled son's future and a young man who aspired to be a professional dancer - but faced disapproval from his father. Each of them later found the determination and hope to follow their chosen paths.

"What we are celebrating is the spirit to do well and aspire... It is also about being inclusive," said Mr Boo, adding that the situations the characters encounter could be faced by anyone.

His film also highlighted real-life heroes such as navy serviceman Jason Chee, who lost both legs and his left arm in an accident, and former prisoner and aspiring lawyer Sarbir Singh.

Mr Singh, 25, has been in and out of prison since he was 15.

He is completing a law and management course at Temasek Polytechnic.

He said: "We all have our own struggles, but we also have goals. It's about never giving up, being resilient and setting out to do what we want to achieve."

 Seen & Heard

 Ms Salbiah Osman, 68, NParks Community In Bloom ambassador: "The last time I was at the parade was in 1997. I love being among Singaporeans on an important day like this."

Lt-Col (Ret) Swee Boon Chai, 68, from the SAF Veterans League: "I was in the first batch of Safti officers and marched in the very first NDP. I try to watch the parade every year. This year is special because I didn't have to look for the tickets, the tickets looked for me!"

Andrena Phoon, 10, Primary 5 pupil: "We're going to the Singapore Flyer area because we don't have tickets for the parade. My wish for Singapore is that it'll always be peaceful and all the races will always be in harmony."

Mr Clement Ng, 50, vice-president of a port machinery company: "My son is a flag-bearer in the Colours Party. I wanted to catch this year's parade because it's the last time at the floating platform."

Ms Mei Lee, 43, housewife: "It's great that they have given pioneers tickets this year. I wish Singapore a Happy Birthday."

Mr Alif Tabser, 28, logistics officer: "It's my first time at the parade. I've been balloting for half my life! I wanted to watch the parade live to feel the patriotism. It's different from watching on television.

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