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We jammed along to the multilingual performances that lit up NDP 2023. IMAGE: NICHOLAS YONG

My First Time… Attending The National Day Parade At The Padang

I still remember my first time watching the National Day Parade in person (okay, it was just last year, but hey, it’s a core memory). I’d seen it on TV a bunch of times, but sweating beneath the sun with other red-and-white-clad spectators, and grooving along to the performances live just hits different.

I had such a swell time that when I got the opportunity to go again this year, I said yes - after all, I’d never seen NDP at The Padang before. Better yet, my colleague, Nicholas, was going too - and it was his first time watching it ever.

Getting hyped

Diane: How excited were you about NDP? And what did you expect going in? I’ve heard that the Padang’s red and white glow-up is pretty epic so I was thrilled to see it for myself.

Nicholas: I was a bit worried about the crowd, but mostly super excited. Leading up to the big day, you can already feel the patriotism everywhere. HDBs proudly displaying the Singapore flag, and makan places serving up National Day specials. I’ve already eaten the Nasi Lemak Burger 3 times!



The red-and-white arrival

Nicholas: There's nothing quite like seeing the Padang transform into this massive sea of people from all walks of life. This is the only time where I will see Manchester United, Liverpool, and Arsenal football fans together. Red and white everywhere. And everyone was so orderly finding their way to their seats.

Diane: The Padang has a more historic, intimate vibe compared to The Float@Marina Bay. As much as I missed the sea display, seeing the National Gallery decked out in Majulah Singapura made the parade feel majestic even before it started.

Nicholas: I wonder why they won’t keep those words up there. Maybe it’s so that NDP at the Parade will feel special.


A visual and auditory feast

Diane: I’m dying to hear some of your first impressions.

Nicholas: So funny when the crowd just wouldn’t stop the Padang Wave! The NDP medley by The Island Voices gave the feels, especially during the few lines from The Road Ahead, my favourite NDP song. But I have to say lah, Shine Your Light is way too catchy, I can’t get the song out of my head until now.

Diane: What was the best part? I was shook by majesty of the Parade & Ceremony last year

Nicholas: Yeah, the parade itself. Wah, it was something else. Got the patriotic feels. All the military folks showing off their moves, macam a giant mashup of Singaporean spirit. Tbh, I was shook when they did the 21-gun salute. For me, the best part was the enhanced aerial flypast for the RSAF 55th anniversary. Fighter jets tearing through the sky, that was so awesome to watch.

Diane: I liked how after the more solemn parts of the ceremony, there were moments of levity and charm even amidst the show of strength. The creativity of the Total Defence Floats floored me, especially once the Digital Defence float came into view - scams as mosquitos! So accurate.

Nicholas: That video they played for the Total Defence Parade (TDP), the one where the boy was trying to find the meaning of Total Defence, that one really funny. Got Singa the Kindness Lion too, did you know that the man within the costume was an earthquake survivor?


Diane: One thing that surprised me about NDP last year is that it’s not only impressive, but it’s very touching! Did you feel the same way at any point last night?

Nicholas: I felt it during the heart of the show, “Building Our Shared Future as One” by Royston Tan. I was so moved. The multilingual musical performances, each song feels like it transported us to a different facet of Singapore's heritage. Reminding us that despite our differences, we are all part of this remarkable nation. I found myself humming along, even if I didn't know all the words.

Diane: Act 2, Our Strength, moved me a lot. While most NDP Shows include an aspect about overcoming challenges as a nation, I appreciated how this year’s edition took an abstract approach by illustrating our resilience through dance. Seeing the performers from Sokka Gakkai Singapore (SGS) and Dance Inspiration move in ways that resembled water, grass, and foliage reminded me of how every season gives us an opportunity to band together as one.

Nicholas: I wasn't prepared for the rollercoaster of feels that NDP turned out to be. There was pride bubbling up as I watched my fellow Singaporeans doing their thing. Gratitude hit me too, thinking about how far we've come as a nation.


The epic finale

Diane: What is your biggest takeaway from experiencing NDP in person?

Nicholas: The most impactful part of NDP this year, to me, was when we were heading back and the national anthem played. Everyone completely stopped moving, and sang Majulah Singapura once more, loud and proud. I swear, you could practically feel the heartbeat of the entire nation. Also if I ever go again, I need to bring more water.

Closing thoughts

Diane: Finally, because I was asked this last year - from a scale of 1-10, how patriotic do you feel after watching NDP IRL?

Nicholas: Definitely 10. Maybe 11 after seeing all the soldiers and kids from Heartware waving bye-bye as we made our way back. Forgive me for being corny, but there was just something magical about NDP at the Padang. The vibe, the pride, the sense of belonging, hard to put into words unless you were there itself. As I left that night, I felt a renewed sense of what it means to be a part of this incredible nation.

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