As a newbie to the Overseas Singaporean Unit, I struggled to understand the hype behind Singapore Day. I stepped into OSU’s office one fine day in late May last year, where everyone was revelling in the high of Singapore Day London 2018. They spoke with such fond memories of it, making references how great it was, and to this fresh new face in the office, I was thinking, “isn’t this really just another picnic?”.
Fast forward a couple of months and the team was already hard at work and planning was underway for Singapore Day Shanghai 2019. I was part of the Marketing and Publicity team, and I have to say, the enthusiasm for Singapore Day was infectious in deed. I could not help but get excited as we had countless of meetings pouring over the activities that will be showcased during the event. The meetings ranged from discussions about hawker food preparations, to concert artistes, from the joys of getting new partners on board, to minor hiccups like the unavailability of stingrays (thus, sambal sotongs!). We contacted many other agencies, to see if they wanted to be a part of the fun! Many of them jumped in with great ideas! ActiveSG came up with an activity trail, where participants could stand a chance to win Shanghai Disneyland annual passes. Many of the other ministries also stepped in. Ministry of Defence had a paper craft segment for kids, and created photo opportunities for both adults and kids alike!
The kids having a blast at the GameOn Nila Trail organised by ActiveSG, where they collected points through an app by playing games around Century Park.
MINDEF had a paper craft booth for kids, where they could build their own LMV, Terrex, RSAF50 F-15SG and even some cute paper soldiers! Adults joined in the fun with their trick eye photo ops!
Many local brandsalso came on board! Singapore Airlines (our country’s pride!) sponsored return tickets from China to Singapore for the lucky draw. Crowd favourite The Golden Duck was part of an exciting charity retail “Shop for Good”, where a portion of sales proceeds went to charity! Other retailers include local brands such as Naiise, MUSEUM LABEL, The Art Faculty, JUMBO Seafood and Nodspark. The hawkers arrived days earlier to prepare for the big day. It was a mad flurry of chopping, marinating, and preparing their ingredients, just to serve their best dishes to our fellow Singaporeans at Singapore Day. While all that was happening, the artistes rehearsed relentlessly to perfect their performances for the big day. It was all very exciting indeed watching this event unfold before me!
And finally came the morning of 13 April, it had been a gruelling few months of preparations, but the atmosphere was insane. The team arrived in the park on a slightly chilly morning, but heartened at glimpse of blue skies! As the day went on, the weather only got better, it was sunny and warm, perfect for Singapore Day.
Bright and early, these early birds were amongst the first to reach the park! And for good reason, asqueues for the hot favourite food stalls gets crowded quickly!
Ah, the excitement of this true blue Singaporean lady! I remember her egging the crowd around her right before “doors” opened!
By noon, Century Park was bustling with activity, amidst the crowds queuing for Hokkien Mee and Nasi Lemak, we could hear the familiar twangs of Singlish, peppering the conversations throughout the park. “Wah very long never see you leh!” “Did you try the sambal sotong? Damn shiok!” “You go chope the spot in front of the stage, I go queue for Laksa!” To us folks back home, this may be a regular sight, but when you are far from our little red dot, a scene like this felt like a warm enveloping hug, it is hard to explain, but it almost felt like in that moment, though miles away, we were right back at home.
Fellow Singaporeans all enjoying the great weather, delicious food, and the best company!
I also got the chance to meet some of our fellow Singaporeans in China, some of whom I have been liaising with via email for marketing and publicity over the past couple months. It may have been my first time meeting them, but their warmth removed all initial awkwardness as we launched into quick conversations about which food stalls had the longest queues and they recommended Shanghai’s best eats. I bumped into an old friend who travelled from Beijing just to be a part of this special event. I also found out that one of the winners of the care pack contest that we initiated a couple months back managed to reconnect with a friend from a decade ago just because of Singapore day. And it was then I finally realised what the hype is about Singapore Day. As I looked at the blur of faces of the crowd singing along to ‘Home’, waving the little red and white Singapore flags with this undeniable sense of pride, I finally realised that this was what made it all worthwhile – a group of people scattered all over the globe, with a common purpose and place to call home.
So this is Singapore Day. The hype is never about us, and definitely not about the hours and hours of hard work that goes into the preparation of the event, but really, it is all about you. Every year, we do this, all just for you, our fellow Singaporeans abroad. Because all of us have a friend that lives far away from home, whom we miss dearly. Some of us had lived overseas at one point in our lives, and we know just how much being away can make us miss home. We know it’s not just about the food (though we will never pass up on a plate of carrot cake!), but really nothing can replace the familiarity of home… and because of this, Singapore Day is for you. We hope you enjoyed yourselves as much as we enjoyed bringing it to you. After all, no matter where in the world we are, Singapore is home, truly.
For this is where I know I am home.
Were you at Singapore Day Shanghai 2019? Check out our photos on Facebook at bit.ly/sgday2019photos.