To say that Singapore’s National Day Parade (NDP) is a complex machine with multiple carefully-choreographed moving parts is a gross understatement.
While those of us in the audience – whether at the Marina Bay Floating Platform or at home – are wowed by what we see onstage, not all of us are aware of the methodical hubbub of activity that takes place offstage and under-stage to manage a multitude of things:
The smooth flow of human traffic; the movement of participants and props onto and off the stage; and even the delicate execution of codes by mechanics during the show.
These are just some of the duties taken on by the Show Management team led by LTC Wayne Ho, who is also the Commanding Officer of the Second Battalion Singapore Infantry Regiment (2SIR).
Some of the battalion's soldiers are also involved in NDP as performers and flag bearers. In fact, watch out for a gigantic flag measuring 40m x 30m, that will be carried out on stage by over 120 soldiers, and unfurled by them in a matter of seconds.
It’s LTC Wayne's first time participating in the NDP as an organiser, but he is visibly calm and collected, thanks in large part to a steadfast and highly trained team split between the Control Room above the seating gallery and in the wings offstage and underneath the performing area.
The 33-year-old, who is an avid photographer, shares with us the intricacies of his team’s role in the show as well as an inspiring anecdote involving a particularly committed and passionate NSF.
How is NDP an extension of what you do on a day-to-day basis?
For us in the Second Battalion Singapore Infantry Regiment, as a military unit, on a day-to-day basis, we're contributing to the peace and stability of the nation. NDP 2022 gives my soldiers a great opportunity to participate and contribute to the nation in a very direct manner.
They actually see the fruits of their labour paying off when they hear the cheers in the crowd, when they see the excitement of the crowd when watching NDP. It gives them a sense that they are directly contributing to the nation on a national level.
What are some of the challenges that your NSFs face and how do they overcome them?
The main challenge we face right now is balancing both training requirements on a day-to-day basis as well as the rehearsal requirements that we have at NDP. So a typical day in a 2SIR soldier's life looks like this:
They wake up, go for their physical training, do their arms training in the daytime. Then in the evening, they'll change to their red polo tees and transit over to the Float, and participate in NDP rehearsals. So it's a very packed schedule.
It's certainly not easy for the soldiers, but every time I go down and visit them, I do see excitement in their eyes. They're very happy to work here at the Float, so I'm very heartened to see that. And my soldiers are very proud of the commitment that they have in contributing to the nation on her birthday.
There's an NSF who is a flag waver in Chapter Four [of the show]. While the rest of the performers normally come out for Chapter Five's finale, there was a consideration earlier on in the rehearsal schedule, whether or not to have these flag bearers come back out for the finale.
The soldier was quite disappointed with the fact that they almost wanted to pull them out because there were too many performers on stage. So, he put up an appeal through his chain of command.
I thought that was a really heart-warming story. And it really shows the level of commitment and heart that the soldiers have participating in this NDP show.
This is your first time involved in NDP as an organiser. What's been the most eye-opening part of this experience?
To me in the show management role, especially, it would be working with people from many different backgrounds from various departments across the entire NDP committee.
We have committees from the military side, creatives from the civilian side, other technical producers, etc. And we all come together to produce this one show. People have different working styles, but somehow we all find that common thread that ties us together.
We work very closely with Show Support, which is led by LTC Emerson Ang (above) and his battalion, 40SAR. They prepare the performers at the F1 Pit, and bring them over to the Float.
We take over and direct the performers to the exit that they are required to go to, and make sure they get onstage on time, make sure that they are executing their performances safely, and make sure that they leave the floor safely after that.
What would you like to say to your soldiers?
I just wanna say that it's been a fantastic opportunity to come down here to the Float, and really, it makes me tremendously proud and happy every time I go backstage and see my boys giving me a thumbs up, giving me a smile, hitting the cues on time, getting the props out on time. It really gives credit to the amount of effort they put into this entire NDP.
How do you usually celebrate National Day if you aren't involved in it?
I'm a photographer. So, one National Day, I came down to Marina Bay Sands, took photos of the fireworks and the planes flying overhead.
I also live pretty close by at Pinnacle. So, on National Days when I'm off, I will call my friends over, and we'll go out to the rooftop, and try and catch the fireworks.
Actually every Saturday, in the lead up to NDP, I do see the Chinook and the State Flag flying pass my home. It's a wonderful view!