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SINGAPOREANS from all walks of life united in jubilant celebration on Sunday, marking Singapore's 50th anniversary of independence with the grandest National Day Parade yet.
Returning to the Padang this year - a site of deep historic significance as the original venue for Singapore's first National Day Parade in 1966 - the parade saw more than 26,000 spectators seated at the Padang, along with at least 200,000 other revellers gathered at the Marina Bay Floating Platform and around the Marina Bay downtown area.
Foreign dignitaries from countries such as Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key flew in specially for the occasion to celebrate alongside President Tony Tan Keng Yam, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, local cabinet ministers, political office holders and Members of Parliament.
The crowd sang, clapped and cheered heartily through 21/2 hours of performances, including spectacular aerial fly-pasts and the biggest fireworks display in the parade's history.
Though the traditional jumps by the Red Lions were cancelled due to bad weather, the parade went on as scheduled, opening with a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday and this year's NDP theme song, Our Singapore, written by NDP creative director Dick Lee.
A video tribute to the late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew was accompanied by an unprecedented "Five Stars" tribute fly-past to Mr Lee performed by the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Black Knights.
Each jet salute was executed to signify Singapore's ideals of democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality.
Unfurled in six segments titled Beginnings, Progress, Strength, Unity, Identity and Onwards, the parade was a retrospective song and dance extravaganza tracing Singapore humble beginnings from Sang Nila Utama's discovery of Singapore in the early 14th century, through to its first steps into independence in 1965.
History came alive in a special nostalgia-themed vintage parade segment that featured over 450 participants from different sectors that contributed to the early growth of the nation, including pioneers from the Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF) veterans league, and veterans from the Singapore Civil Defence Force, the Singapore Police Force, and POSB Bank, each dressed in uniforms from the 1960s and 1970s.
As Singapore Airlines stewardesses in their iconic Singapore Girl uniforms paraded by on vintage trishaws pedalled by Third Battalion guards from the SAF, an SIA jumbo A380 aircraft soared proudly over the parade grounds, decked out in commemorative livery.
A marching parade comprising over 2,000 men and women from 16 contingents representing social and economic pillars of society - the largest contingent mobilised in the parade's history - later filed in to the backdrop of black-and-white video footage of National Day street parades from the early years of independence.
An unprecedented display by 20 RSAF F-16 pilots then lit up the skies by forming the number 50 to commemorate Singapore's 50th birthday. After Dr Tan's entrance and inspection of the troops, the Presidential Gun Salute led by army veterans from the 21st battalion Singapore Artillery was fired, for the first time, off a floating platform at Merlion Park to get it closer to spectators.
Returning for the first time in five years, a mobile column showcasing 179 combat vehicles from the SAF and Home Team - the largest number ever mobilised for a National Day Parade - then rolled by in an impressive showcase of Singapore's military might.
Further highlights that drew cameras skywards included the state flag fly-past by the RSAF's Chinook and Apache helicopters as well as aerial bursts and criss-cross formations flown by the Black Knights and combat manoeuvres by the F-15 fighter aircrafts that roared across the skies as the sun bowed a slow retreat over the Marina Bay.
Shortly after dusk, homegrown crooners Stefanie Sun, JJ Lin, Kit Chan and Corrine May roused the crowd with heart-stirring renditions of popular National Day tunes as dancers twirled across the parade grounds with elaborate floats bearing images of prominent Singapore landmarks, Singlish phrases, and beloved hawker food icons.
The festivities were brought to a flourishing finish with the biggest pyrotechnics display ever to light up the Singapore skyline. Set off from seven rooftops, two barges on the Marina Bay, the Padang, and the rooftop of the seating area at the floating platform, the fireworks bore never-before-seen designs in the shape of orchid flowers, hearts and the crescent moon and stars. The continuous blast of fireworks lasting four to five minutes.
Earlier on Sunday morning, a recording of Singapore's proclamation of independence recorded three years earlier in the voice of the late Mr Lee was broadcast for the first time over national television and radio as well as at National Day observance ceremonies islandwide.
PM Lee, speaking at an observance ceremony in his Teck Ghee ward at Ang Mo Kio on Saturday morning, said: "We have the opportunities, we have our resources, we are organised. I think we are in good shape, and our young people are well-educated with the world opening up in front of them. There is every reason why we should do well over the next 50 years."
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