I doubt it’s coincidental that the letters ‘u’, ‘n’, and ‘I’ are found in the word ‘Community. It took the community in and around San Francisco, many of whom were total strangers to band together to pull off the biggest SG50 celebration yet last Saturday in Silicon Valley.
Just days before the event, the organising committee comprising mostly the committee members of Singaporean club, SingaporeConnect, came together for dinner with several key volunteers including first-year Stanford student Kang Zi Yang and academic Anita Sankar. For many, they were meeting for the first time. I couldn’t help but find it a tad amusing watching people who had been working so intensely and intensively on the project (over email, conference calls and text messages) finally meeting and getting to know one another. Under ordinary circumstances, you’d choose to only work with people you already know, but it must have been sufficient comfort for volunteers to sign up knowing that they would be working with fellow overseas Singaporeans on a project for the larger overseas Singaporean community; that was powerful enough for people to want in. Singapore Community Day was the perfect nuclei that brought strangers together, overseas Singaporeans who otherwise would never meet, much less become friends on Facebook and in the real world! Just being Singaporean is the bedrock to forging easy connections, no matter how far away one is from home.
The journey surfaced numerous Singaporeans who contributed of their time, resources, talents, skills, networks and services – from design-trained practitioners Nelson Tan and Joan Ang who were the creative behind the event logo, banner and programme layout, to Boon Pang who runs a printing business and provided timely advice, to photography hobbyists who volunteered their services, to a videographer who saw the project as more than just ‘another’ assignment, to a trio of UC Berkeley students who stepped up to croon their way to the audience’s heart. There are but too many to name; over 70 volunteers availed themselves to be of service on event day and for preparations and set-up the day before. Kudos also to a foursome who travelled up from Monterey to lend a hand.
Even the event emcees were a mixed bag comprising UC Berkeley student Lim Zhicong from, Teoh Zetong from NUS and Sharon Lim, a working professional. Sharon who remarked that her co-emcees made her feel young again said she felt like she had been “teleported to my seemingly familiar hometown - Singapore. I truly enjoyed the friendship, the support and the laughter”.
Celebrating as a Community
And that was what Singapore Community Day 2015 was all about as more than 700 Singaporeans and their families congregated at Saratoga Springs to celebrate SG50 and all that Singaporeans hold dear. Early birds started arriving almost a full hour before the gates opened. After filing through the gates with their e-tickets, they collected their food coupons and Raffle ticket and were gifted with an OSU goodie bag filled with items from tissue paper packets with the word ‘Chope’ on it to a Jotter Book, Khong Guan-sponsored biscuits and Owl coffee and tea sachets. Being the tenth day of the Lunar New Year, each household also received a pair of Mandarin oranges.
Needless to say, the lines were longest for familiar mouth-watering fare at the Newton Circus cluster where dishes like hokkien mee, roti prata, nasi lemak and mee siam were served. Over at the Lau Pa Sat cluster, an assortment of popular kuehs greeted Singaporeans from ondeh ondeh, to kueh kosui and kueh lapis. There was also curry puff and pandan cake among the delightful selection. The food line wound its way up to Pulau Tekong, where two IPPT stations were set-up for the game to have a go at winning prizes for the most number of sit-up repetitions as well as push-ups they could muster.
Close by at the Kampong Games cluster, children were introduced to games their parents and grandparents played – from white stone marbles, to kuti-kuti, paper gliders and erasers printed with various national flags and strings of rubber band for zero point. Younger children also busied themselves with images and postcards of Singapore that they could colour. The best and brightly coloured entries won model planes sponsored by Singapore Airlines. There were at least two groups of skilful college students who formed circles to play a round of chapteh.
At the Marina Bay cluster, the SG50 Wishing Wall attracted scrawls of birthday wishes for Singapore. Two read “There’s no place like home. ~ Wai Khit” and “You are the best home ever. ~ Elmer Tan”. Around the corner hung photos contributed by attendees ahead of the event, depicting aspects of life in Singapore or precious landmarks. And while Singaporeans waited in line to take photos with props and poses at the SG50 photo booth, it was with a more contemplative mood that Singaporeans nearby sat to pen words of appreciation for Singapore’s first Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew in recognition of Mr Lee’s significant contribution to Singapore’s development as well as well-wishes for a speedy recovery in light of ill health.
Throughout the day, even the sun was in a mood for some fun, playing hide and seek behind the clouds which would intermittently offload sheets of drizzle. This meant the crew on the ground had to play along with the atypical Californian weather, at times rejigging the entertainment line-up to keep the programme moving along especially during the windows of reprieve from the rain. Campus Superstar personality Ng Chee Yang led in the singing of the National Anthem after opening words from Singapore’s Consul-General in San Francisco, Christopher Cheang. Chee Yang who was accompanied by fellow Berklee School of Music graduate Renee Ong on the keyboard, also performed a few national songs, including Where I Belong and the riveting Home, which got the crowd singing along and swaying to the music. Before that, attendees were treated to a lion and dragon dance performance. The entertainment line-up at Caldecott Hill was capped off by the Bay Area Youth Music Society whose youth orchestra rendered a string of popular Singaporean folk tunes like Rasa Sayang, Chan Mali Chan and Di Tanjong Katong.
Singapore Community Day 2015 in Silicon Valley drew to a close at about 4.30pm with a prize presentation for winners of the various activities/contests held throughout the day, as well as the much anticipated Raffle draw which featured generous prizes sponsored by organizations like Singapore Airlines, Marriott San Mateo and Singaporean-owned companies like Razer, Hyper by Sanho and Love With Food.
Our volunteers who manned the Admission gate were the first to greet Singaporeans when they arrived earlier in the day and the last to bid them farewell to fellow Singaporeans. From what I’ve been told by our volunteers at the gate, many who were making their way out expressed appreciation to them for the effort that went into making the first Singapore Community Day a thoroughly enjoyable affair for the entire family. The Singaporean community in and around San Francisco should be so proud of themselves for staging their first ever large scale community event with so much dedication and pride. The attendees too were gracious in their compliments and affirmation for a job well done.
We can only expect bigger and better things by the Singaporean community in San Francisco for the Singaporean community. Whatever shape or form it’ll take, I’m proud to identify myself with fellow Singaporeans on the US West Coast!