Sunday 11 August 2013

Had a bad National Day? Have an extra long weekend

And another National Day is over.

So how was it for you? Did you enjoy the parade?

Or did you give it a miss and take advantage of the extra long weekend by leaving Singapore on its 48th birthday to go on a holiday?

I understand. There’s an NDP every year. But getting back-to-back public holidays on Thursday and Friday is rarer than a wig-wearing St Margaret’s Secondary School girl.

And if nothing else, getting out of the country means you don’t have to hear this year’s much-loathed National Day song one more time.

Speaking of One Singapore, I wonder how National Day was for the performers in the music video for the song, which has been so viciously slammed by apparently no less a luminary than Hong Kong movie star Stephen Chow.

Even more brutal is this YouTube comment: “This is the only song I know that is worse than Justin Bieber.”

Being the hardened professionals that they are, One Singapore composer Elaine Chan and lyricist Selena Tan have likely brushed themselves off and moved on to the next project.

But for the 68 amateur singers, many of whom are very young, it must have been traumatising to experience such vitriol their first time in the national limelight.

And they all look so happy in the video and at the NDP, as they should be, singing about “sharing the love with all that we do”. They must have been blindsided by all the hate.

I feel bad for them, having worked so hard on the song only to have their well-meaning efforts publicly mocked by the likes of me

I imagine that their family and friends remain supportive except maybe that one jerk who believed that honesty is the best policy and told them the song really sucks (which I don’t think it does more than any other NDP song).

Instead of feeling proud of their National Day contribution, will future National Days only bring back bittersweet memories for these 68 Singaporeans?

This reminds me of a guy I marched with in the navy contingent 12 years ago in the 2001 parade.

Actually, he didn’t exactly march in the parade. He attended all the rehearsals just as I did. But on National Day itself, just minutes before we were to march into the yet-to-be-demolished National Stadium, something happened.

First of all, for people who have never participated in the NDP before, let me tell you that rehearsals and the parade itself involve a lot of waiting.

So to keep himself occupied, this guy would put on earphones and listen to a small radio he kept in his pocket. (Yes, people still listened to pocket radios back then. This was before iPods and smartphones.)

Before the parade, our Encik, the contingent commander, reminded us that for security reasons, we were not allowed to have our mobile phone or other electronic devices inside the National Stadium.

Well, you can figure out what happened next.

As we were about to march into the stadium, the Encik spotted the guy listening to his radio, snatched the electronic device and angrily threw it into the sea.

(Yes, we were near the sea. Don’t ask me how or why. It was a dozen years ago. We were the navy contingent.)

The guy was furious and demanded the Encik pay for his radio.

Clearly in no emotional state to be marching in front of the President, ministers and the rest of the nation, the guy was taken out of the parade literally at the last minute.

I never saw him again.

In his defence, I can understand how when the Encik said mobile phones and other electronic devices, the guy probably thought “other electronic devices” meant a pager and not his radio. (Yes, people still used pagers back then too.)

Also, the guy had his radio with him in the stadium during previous rehearsals and no one said anything.

It was just horrible luck that the Encik only noticed his radio on the big day itself.

I felt bad for the guy. Three months of gruelling weekly rehearsals and it was all for nothing.

At least my family got to see me on TV, even if it was only my crumpled pants from the back. I saw myself in the parade on videotape. (Yes, people used videotapes back then.)

Since then, I’ve wondered how the guy feels every time Aug 9 rolls around. What does National Day mean to him?

I wouldn’t be surprised if he skips the parade and goes on a holiday - whether it’s an extra long weekend or not.

At least he wasn’t in the One Singapore video.

- Published in The New Paper, 11 August 2013

EARLIER: In defence of the new National Day song, One Singapore