Red, white and now gold!
One of the only Singapore National Day celebrations in the UK was held on Saturday on a verdant knoll in Regent’s Park, four days after the actual National Day, 9 August.
The event was delayed, likely in attempt to place itself on a work-free Saturday, but somehow through luck of the draw, it coincided with Singapore’s own swimmer Joseph Schooling clinching a gold medal on that very morning by butterflying his way past Michael Phelps. This has given the Singaporeans at Regent’s Park another reason to down another packet of chrysanthemum tea under the 19-degree sun.
The celebration was packed with activities that were authentically Singaporean: our anthem, pledge, songs and a lot of Singlish. All guests were absorbed in the festivity, unadulterated by Pokemon Go, a rare sight these days.
This sold-out event was organised by the Singapore UK Association, endearingly acronymised as SUKA. Click here to see the definition of the Malay word ‘suka’.
Food is to Singaporeans like water is to fish. We would risk our lives (and lives of our pet kittens) to get to good and affordable luncheons. Neither do long queues daunt us whatsoever. And while we stuff ourselves with delectable South-East Asian dishes we would talk about where we’d like go for dinner that same evening.
Getting Singaporean food in London may prove to be fiscally unwise. But over here today we got Chicken Rice, Nasi Lemak and Mee Goreng.
Just to clarify, Singapore noodle is not from Singapore. No kidding. So I was happy to enjoy some of those nostalgic food at the celebration. Many people have also been spotted to ‘dabao’ (takeaway), an underrated virtue that Singaporeans like me possess, and there is absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about if I may say so, agitatedly.
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Apart from the familiar community songs, there was also live music entertainment. Our homeboy Ziqq performed a few of his originals for everyone with a stylish and delicate musical sensibility. I made his acquaintance after the event, oblivious to the fact that he is not only a musician, but also the founder of Design Says Hello and is one of the youngest and most promising designers to come from Singapore. Check out his Youtube page here.
It is in our nation-building manifesto to have at least one lucky draw in every family celebration.
Everyone waited with bated breath and clenched fists as the first prize of the raffle was being announced: a return ticket to Singapore sponsored by Singapore Airlines. A unison of ‘ai-yah’ was groaned, followed by a round of sincere applause. I never realised that disappointment and joy could mingle so convivially.
President of SUKA Sharliza Rahman said, “It’s good to ignite people’s patriotism in Singapore. Singaporeans all around the world are accomplishing great things, as we have learned this morning from Joseph Schooling being the first Olympic gold medallist for Singapore.”
“SUKA primarily brings Singaporeans and friends together, so it’s not just Singaporeans who are here today… We try to educate people who are not Singaporeans into our culture and I believe they definitely got a big dose of it today. We’ve got the Yeo’s, we’ve got the flags, we’ve got the songs, we’ve got the pledge!”
A progressive island city with his landmass less than half the size of London’s, Singapore epitomises the dictum ‘size doesn’t matter’.
Happy 51st birthday, Singapore.