CAN you take the Singapore out of Singaporeans who’ve been living away from home? Leon Saw was at the NDP 2012 Melbourne celebrations to find out.
Not even Melbourne’s customary, dreary weather was going to dampen the spirits of the Singaporeans here as we flocked en masse to Waterfront Venues at Docklands to celebrate the country’s 47th National Day.
It’s been said in Singapore if there’s a queue, there must be something at the end of it that’s well worth the wait.
Judging from the line that had formed outside the venue since its doors opened, it’s safe to say everyone was eagerly anticipating an evening of fervent patriotic cheer.
The early birds each received a huge goodie bag, which looked like something issued by the military, except it was bright red. Perhaps a not-so-subtle nod to the compulsory two years all Singaporean males have to serve in the Singaporean armed forces.
The queue outside was significantly dwarfed by the one inside for dinner – a testament to the Singaporean enthusiasm for food. Party-goers ignored the bar and dance floor while they waited patiently in line to be served. Or maybe it was our pragmatic and prudent upbringing, avoiding alcohol and vigorous body movements on empty stomachs.
But boy,was dinner delicious, not to mention plentiful, as tray after tray of rice, vegetables, meat, and curry, were wheeled out from the kitchen to replace the empty ones.
The irony that the feast was catered by Malaysian franchise, Papparich, was ignored by all as we dug in.
Following dinner was the highlight of the evening – the live screening of the 47th Singapore National Day Parade. The organisers, Singaporeans Of Victoria, clearly underestimated the response because the function room where the live screening was to take place couldn’t accommodate everyone.
“We expected 500, but right now, I think we have 600,” explained Singaporeans Of Victoria President, Gerald Leong.
“We didn’t want Singaporeans here to lose their identity.”
“We wanted to allow Singaporeans to reach out to other Singaporeans to keep the national spirit alive.”
Those who made it into the room, myself included, were squished together like sardines, not dissimilar to taking the Mass Rapid Transit in Singapore during rush-hour.
Still, everyone was drunk on gorgeous food and in relatively good spirits.
Singaporean guest celebrity musician Nathan Hartono, got the crowd warmed up, belting out familiar National Day tunes such as Home and Stand Up For Singapore, and exhorting us to sing along with him.
During the show, the loudest cheer was reserved for when the founding father of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, appeared on screen, soundly debunking internet rumours of his demise. There were plenty of good-natured jeers, as well, when the broadcast froze or dropped out.
The evening winded down with a rather subdued after party where people mingled over yet more food and this time, some alcohol. However, not even the infectious beats, spun by the other Singaporean guest celebrity, DJ Tinc, could get us reserved creatures to get down and boogie on the dance floor.
Despite Singapore’s flaws and however the country has changed, the prevailing sentiment of the day was perhaps best encapsulated by University of Melbourne commerce student Si Hui.
“Everyone’s speaking singlish, the company, and the food, it all reminds me of home,” she enthused.
“I love Singapore a lot, there’s nothing about it I don’t miss.”