[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Sunday, July 31, 2011

[Nik and Nadia at NDP]
Most people would not have heard of Nik and Nadia. It was by chance that I discovered them too.

This is Nik

It wasn't difficult to put Nik and Nadia together. After printing out the template, I cut along the lines and glue the flaps together. And the work is complete!

So here's Nik and Nadia at the NDP - among the countless Fun Packs - packed by men from 30th Battalion Singapore Combat Engineers.

You can download the templates to create your own versions of Nik and Nadia here.

Do note that there are additional fold lines for Nik which are incorrect so use your own judgement there.

And here's a look at what others have done (photos from mySingapore.sg).

Nik and Nadia at the KTM Railway tracks

Nik and Nadia at Jalan Besar Stadium

Nik and Nadia in front of Housing Development Board flats

If you want to see more of Nik and Nadia visit mySingapore.sg - check out the contests there as well!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

[Uniformed highlights]
Her involvement in this year's NDP will just be slightly more than the duration of the national anthem but the work is no less.

For C/LTA Nur Hafizah the perfect execution of her military drills is what she will be working towards in the lead up to August 9.

"Flag drills are new to me. I get nervous at times but it keeps getting better rehearsal after rehearsal," she says.

And the key challenge to making it perfect lies in communicating with the rest of the flag bearers.

C/LTA Nur Hafizah from National Cadet Corps (Sea)

Executing of flag drills for the Majulah Moment

The 20-year-old Republic Polytechnic student, who recently graduated with a Diploma in Sports and Exercise Sciences, will join 10 other students from various uniformed groups in the Majulah Moment - one of the highlights of this year's Parade and Ceremony segment.

Being part of this means that Nur Hafizah will be holding the state flag. This once-in-a-lifetime experience makes her feel "proud of her country".

1WO Eddie Heng from HQ Guards explains that eight students will unveil the flag while three others are responsible for raising it. The flag will be passed on by individuals from the older generation to the young students. This is done symbolically to share and pass on the Singapore Spirit.

The state flag being handed over to the students

Raising of the state flag

The state flag and 25-pounder guns (right)

Can you spot C/LTA Nur Hafizah?

Adding to the line-up of this year's Parade and Ceremony is the Onward March. This is executed by contingents from the Singapore Armed Forces and the Home Team.

Preparing to march into the midst of the audience

Onward March

Men from the Singapore Civil Defence Force preparing to march to the Gallery

Men from the Republic of Singapore Air Force marching at the Gallery

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

[Here's how you can watch the NDP without tickets]
Fret not if you are not one of the lucky 27,000 spectators who will be seated at The Float@Marina Bay come 9 August - it can only accommodate 27,000 people as compared to other venues such at the Padang and the former 55,000 seater National Stadium.

But you won't need a ticket to catch the highlights of this year's National Day Parade. And you might even have to choose from some eight events to soak in the mood and the nine screens that will be beaming the parade "live" as well.

These events include "Celebrate @ the Singapore Flyer", "Our Love Stories, Our Singapore at the Esplanade", HomeTeamNS-Youth Network National Day at the Event Plaza of Marina Bay Sands, "Made in SG" at Marina Barrage, National University of Singapore Students' Union Rag Day at the Promontory@Marina Bay and the Young NTUC Celebrates! National Day at the Padang.

Some key moments to take note while on the go are the ariel display (catch the F16 flypast and see the Red Lions burst through the air), parts of the Dynamic Defence Display and the 21-gun salute on water near Merlion Park. Also, don't forget the pyromusical just slightly after 8pm!

Resorts World Sentosa adds to the list with its celebration titled "Rejoycing with Singapore this National Day". Some 5,000 senior citizens will also enjoy free entry to Universal Studios and there will be a special fireworks display at 9pm at the same venue.

Now all you have to do is to let your legs do the walking - for now. Because the probability of you getting a ticket will just get better - when the Parade makes its way to the Sports Hub eventually.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

[Scaling heights at NDP]
I was priviliged to take a behind-the-scenes peek into one segment of the Dynamic Defence Display for this year's National Day Parade - one that is not for the faint hearted.

This requires the scaling of heights. In fact these guardsmen will be rappelling down some five storeys of The Cube.

The guardsmen

Before the stunt begins, the ropes have to be prepared. Two other guardsmen help the quartet with that.

The guardsmen do it best because rappelling is part and parcel of their training. At the sound of the cue they compose themselves and negotiate their moves swiftly.

Guardsmen rappelling down The Cube

Sunday, July 10, 2011

[Gearing up for NDP]
The mood is tense at gate G2. Some are eagerly waiting for their turn to perform while others zip through as they exit from the stage. Blasting music can be heard. It is far from being calm.

Some 50 students from Junyuan Secondary School and Bendeemer Secondary School dressed as Jellyfish and Merkids - wait patiently for their turn to go onstage. This is the scene at the Concourse of The Float@Marina Bay.

Being part of the NDP is a waiting game. But Aqilah Adawiah, a Secondary 3 student from Junyuan Secondary School is raring to go. She is dressed as a Jellyfish.

Soon the Primary 5 students at the National Education Show today - a yearly feature in the NDP calendar - will catch her in action.

Students waiting patiently for their turn at gate G2

According to 3SG Poh Guo Hao from 1st Battalion Singapore Infantry Regiment the students have been at the holding area since noon.

But 3SG Poh is not complaining. The Section Commander used to lead five men for outfield training before he was roped in to help out for NDP.

"I'm excited. It's not all the time that you get to be involved in NDP. I'm priviliged to be here," he says.

And neither are the students. They find time to occupy themselves - some play card games while others wait for their turn at the make-up area.

3SG Poh and commanders from his unit have been working hard at this since May. Each week, they accompany the students from their schools to the rehearsals and back. And before the students arrive, they spend their time ensuring that the students' props are in good condition.

While the work is not tough, the responsiblilty is heavy as it involves the safety of the students.

By 6pm the commanders and students assemble outside the F1 Pit Building in an orderly manner.

Performers assembling outside the holding area

They spend the next 15 minutes taking a short stroll to their respective gates for entry onto the stage. There, the student performers await instructions from the cue master.

A performer waiting for his cue to go onstage

As the cue master at gate G2 puts down his red light stick, a green one is waved. Within seconds, the students transit into Act 3: Growing Up.

While 3SG Poh and his team stay behind, the end is not in sight. The students are scheduled to make an appearance during Act 5 - and the waiting begins again.

Friday, July 08, 2011

[Stage secrets revealed]
You might think that the stage for this year's NDP looks ordinary.

But if you go beyond the facade your perspective of the stage will change.

My journey behind the scenes begins as I tread on the actor's bridge. Then after a turn a metallic structure that floats on water follows.

The walk doesn't take long. Just a few minutes or so. But the transformation is vast. I suddenly find myself some two-and-a-half meters below the stage.

Metal structures are everywhere. And soon I discover some secrets. Like how props suddenly appear onstage. It's not magic! You will see why.

All this was made possible by the efforts of the Infrastructure & Decorations Committee - from the planning stage to what it is today.

And before I catch my breath, it is time to head to The Cube. I take a short walk up another ramp and arrive at the foot of the seven storey structure. There are props from the various segments of the show hidden away - a mock MRT train, a glittering "ship" and kampung houses.

The "ship" hidden under The Cube

A kampung house hidden behind a Stage Drawer

On the second floor I enter into one cube - known as the "Mother Cube" where Mother (played by Sharon Au), frequently appears throughout the show.

This is the "Mother Cube"

Mobile Cubes (left and centre) and a Mobile Standee (right)

And as I climb up the floors I see more and more Mobile Cubes. The projections on the Mobile Standees are created by tiny light emitting diodes and projectors.

So when you catch the NDP you will know how the special effects are done. Hope it doesn't spoil the fun. It is amazing how everything fits nicely into one - and that is The Cube.

Until the actual parade, one will never truly discover every secret. This is because, like they say, change is the only constant.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

[That's Nathan Hartono]
Jazz singer Nathan Hartono will be up to something different at this year's National Day Parade. For those that recall, he charmed spectators at the NDP 2008 with a jazz rendition of "Where I Belong".

During an interview with him in 2008, he said that he wasn't stressed with his first major appearance at a National Day Parade. Though he had performed during the heartland version in 2006, his stint three years ago was his biggest involvement so far. Here's what the Anglo-Chinese Junior College student said back then.

"(I’m) …definitely very proud because it is a big show and it is for the country and I have never done anything (of such a) wide scale. Also, it is ‘live’ TV so it is very scary but let’s wait and see what happens."

This time, Nathan, who is serving his national service at the Singapore Armed Forces Music and Drama Company, will be rapping instead! Although he tells me that he would not be on stage come 9 August, his vocals and footage of the music video that was shot previously will be seen and heard by spectators in Act 4: Progress.

Singapore's transformation into a metropolitan city is depicted in this act. And the rap is about the MRT.

Nathan Hartono (right)

Since he won't be performing, what will Nathan Hartono be doing on National Day then?

"Gather some friends and maybe catch the parade on TV," he says.

[Still caught in a Bad Romance?]
While netizens are caught in a "Bad Romance" between a certain NDP song and its lyrics, it is important to bear in mind the bigger picture - the nation's birthday - and show solidarity, embrace the Singapore Spirit and deal with what lies ahead.

Just like what Creative Director of the NDP11, Beatrice Chia-Richmond said at this morning's Media Brief. When asked if she would step up and be part of the team a year ago she told the audience that she "said 'yes' (to the offer) in a heartbeat". In A Hearbeat is also the title of this year's NDP Theme Song.

Having had a sneak preview of NDP, I am pleased to note the many breakthroughs in terms of the creative elements. And effort has been made to stick to the storyline of the show in various aspects - bits of the Theme Song anchor emotional moments in the integrated musical and will be interspersed on screens during the performance.

NDP11's Multimedia Designer, 31-year-old Brian Gothong Tan, explained that he had made an effort to keep to the storyline of the musical in his direction of the music video for this year's Theme Song.

Shot over three days in various parts of Singapore (including Pulau Ubin and Seletar Camp), the music video depicts a boy's life set against the backdrop of Singapore's changing landscape from 1965 and beyond.

Another creative element which will wow the audience is the floor projections. These will appear in various segments.

Floor projections add colour to the stage

The multimedia team comprises national servicemen, students from Nanyang polytechnic and Singapore polytechnic

Together the images on the stage floor and visual effects on The Cube, a seven-storey structure, will add to the ingredients of a spectacular show.

Now, if only we could put that "Bad Romance" behind us and bask in the atmosphere of our nation's 46th birthday. Oh o o o o o o o o

Sunday, July 03, 2011

[How you can participate in NDP11]
Whether you are watching this year's National Day Parade live from The Float@Marina Bay or on television, be prepared to interact and participate. This is because there are more opportunities to do so.

Kicking off the parade is a segment of popular songs - so get ready to sing (and dance) to the beat. There will also be a funny Fun Pack Song and a special MRT rap which you can learn and sing along too.

As this year's show is a musical in five acts, do also expect to have some emotional moments as the story revolves round a family and its community. Relive past memories of Singapore's history as these are weaved into the story. Overall, it is a good attempt to string various segments into a coherent story. And sing along with the cast comprising familiar faces on television and the arts industry.

Towards the end, the Pledge Moment is another area which everyone (in Singapore) can participate in. You will know that it is time to say the pledge when you hear the SCDF siren on 9 August.

[First look at NDP11]
At every National Day Parade, the focus is usually on the main characters such as the Chairman EXCO, Parade Commander, Parade Regimental Sergeant Major and the key actors in the show segment. And not forgetting the widely anticipated singer of the theme song.

Having covered two parades (in 2007 and 2008), I will attempt to start my posts this year on another aspect of the people that make it happen.

Also since this year's NDP theme is Majulah! The Singapore Spirit, it is key to put a finger on what The Singapore Spirit is all about. If you have examined past NDP themes closely, you would find that they are usually based on the Prime Minister's National Day Rally (NDR) speech the previous year.

In PM's NDR speech last year, he posed a question on what The Singapore Spirit means. In essence, he feels that it is based on these spheres: shared elements, determination, competence and confidence.

"It is based on deeper things which we share, shared values like multiracialism or meritocracy or respect for every talent; shared loyalty and commitment to Singapore; shared responsibility for each other and pride in what we have done together; shared memories as well as dreams and aspirations. It is the determination that makes us press on when things are tough, like in the recession last year, the trust that keeps us together when forces try to pull us apart, like when we encountered extremist terrorism after 9/11. It is the competence and the quiet pride and discipline that make sure that things go right, like when we hosted the YOG. It is a confidence that we will prevail come what may. It is this spirit in each of us which makes Singapore work the way it does and which makes Singaporeans special."

To me, the Singapore Spirit is based on unity - how people from different backgrounds come together to attempt to create success.

The ushers who guide spectators to their seats

The motivators who add colour to the NDP experience

The people who toil behind the scenes

This area covers roles such as traffic control, drivers, food and beverage providers, liaison officers for performers, logistics support and not forgetting the audience that adds to the mood of the parade. The list goes on.

So whether you watch the parade from The Float@Marina Bay, at Merlion Park, SkyPark at Marina Bay Sands, hotels and offices in the vicinity or on television at home, do think of these individuals and how they work together to define The Singapore Spirit.