NDP 2023: Full-scale contingents return to the Padang as S’pore turns 58, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

NDP 2023: Full-scale contingents return to the Padang as S’pore turns 58

It was a National Day Parade (NDP) of firsts and lasts as the Padang came alive on Wednesday with light, sound and colour to mark Singapore’s 58th year of independence.

There was a concert-like atmosphere at the annual birthday bash as a 27,000-strong crowd sang along to old and new local tunes.

Their LED-equipped drumsticks lit up the stands as they thumped to the beat with drum kits that came with each NDP funpack.

Many arrived at the Padang well before the festivities kicked off at 5.35pm.

Undeterred by the sweltering heat and enhanced security measures, which included checks on individuals and vehicles, thousands more gathered at nearby Marina Bay.

Some arrived as early as 3pm – about three hours before the party started.

They were well prepared with phones and cameras to capture the experience, including the 10-minute fireworks display at the end of the two-hour parade.

With “Onward As One” as this year’s theme, it was the first time that full-scale NDP celebrations were held at the Padang since 2019, after the Marina Bay floating platform had its swansong parade in 2022.

Spectators taking part in a Padang Wave ahead of the National Day Parade on Aug 9, 2023. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

The floating platform has hosted 11 NDPs since 2007. It will be replaced by NS Square, a permanent structure expected to be completed by end-2026, whereupon it will be the primary venue for future parades.

Wednesday was also the first time since 2019 that the parade and ceremony segment of the NDP featured full-scale physical marching contingents, comprising 1,700 participants from the military, civil defence, youth uniformed groups, and various social and economic groups.

Making its inaugural NDP appearance was the Digital and Intelligence Service, the fourth arm of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), which formed one of five guard of honour contingents.

It was also the last NDP for President Halimah Yacob as head of state – her six-year term as president ends on Sept 13.

She received a rousing welcome when she arrived, shortly after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and later inspected the marching contingents commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Ragumaran Davindran – the first army supply officer to be given the role.

A 21-gun presidential salute was fired from 25-pounder artillery guns stationed on military rafts near Merlion Park, and a video montage of Madam Halimah’s past NDP involvements as president was later shown as the crowd waved their national flags in tribute.

President Halimah Yacob waving to the crowd during the National Day Parade at the Padang on Aug 9, 2023. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Before her arrival, NDP attendees were entertained by hosts Joakim Gomez, Hazelle Teo, Eswari Gunasagar and Fauzie Laily, who kept spirits high with games and several rounds of the Padang Wave before the parade went live at 6pm.

Deyi Secondary School’s marching band, decked out in bright pink uniforms, had the crowd at the edge of their seats as 16-year-old drum major Caspar Ho executed a flawless series of mace throws.

Moments later, spectators watched in awe as eight Red Lion parachutists made freefalls from a height of about 3km – all landing safely to resounding cheers.

Then came the marching-in of the 34 parade contingents, the state flag fly-past and a bomb burst manoeuvre performed by a group of F-16D+ fighter jets in a soaring salute to the nation.

There was still more aerial action to come as the Republic of Singapore Air Force put on a thrilling display to commemorate its 55th anniversary. A highlight was a new cross turn and vertical climb stunt to signify progress and prosperity for the nation.

RSAF F-15s flying over Marina Bay Sands during an aerial display at the National Day Parade on Aug 9, 2023. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Another addition to 2023’s NDP was the Total Defence Parade, which involved 650 participants.

With six large, colourful floats modelled after everyday objects such as an umbrella and a barbell – each representing a pillar of Total Defence – the new segment gave a fresh, whimsical spin to the national defence concept.

A float representing Economic Defence on display at the National Day Parade on Aug 9, 2023. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

This was accompanied by a drive-past of military and civil defence assets from the SAF, Singapore Police Force and Singapore Civil Defence Force.

As night fell and the show segment of the parade got under way, another unique – if unseen – aspect of 2023’s parade filled the air.

During the show’s second act, titled Our Strength, a subtle floral fragrance with a woody undertone emanated through the stands at the Padang, evoking the scent of a flowering Tembusu tree.

The smell was specially created to accompany a blossoming flower dance by the Soka Gakkai Singapore Women’s Division and local dance troupe Dance Inspiration.

Those watching at home were given an augmented viewing experience, with each of the NDP show’s four acts featuring themed floor projections and 3D effects.

At the show’s climax, fireworks erupted over the Padang as screens showed an animated golden lion leaping skywards, symbolising Singapore’s youth leading the future of the country.

An energetic rendition of this year’s theme song Shine Your Light and a medley of past NDP songs followed, before everyone recited the national pledge and sang the National Anthem.

Ms Mira Lee, 28, who works in the events industry, said it was nice to see fellow Singaporeans out in full force despite the hot weather.

“Plenty of work has clearly gone into this to showcase some of Singapore’s best, and I am grateful for the show they put on,” she added.

Fireworks illuminating the night sky over Marina Bay during the National Day Parade on Aug 9, 2023. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Ms Joey Lim, 31, who last attended an NDP two decades ago, said she especially enjoyed the show segment because it was vibrant and colourful.

“The parade was just as great as last time, and I hope I can attend it every year,” said the administrative worker, who came with her family. “It has been a memorable day for me.”

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