A whole year has zoomed past us and just like that it’s already August and we celebrate Singapore’s 56th birthday. While we weren’t able to have our parade on August 9, we can now look forward to it (with eased restrictions!) this weekend.
Apart from nagging at me to study as all Asian parents do, my parents also tried their best to give me the most fun-filled childhood possible.
This involved bringing me to playgrounds after school so that I could unwind after all those hours in the classroom. During school holidays, they brought my brother and me to Sentosa for a family day-out and I fondly remember riding on the now-defunct monorail.
Sometimes, when my mother went to buy bread loaves from a nearby bakery, she would bring me to the next door mamak shop and let me pick out nostalgic snacks like wheel crackers, gem biscuits and haw flakes.
However, ice pops were not allowed as she insisted that those were just filled with sugared water and were bad for my health. She’s not wrong.
I also had fond memories of school. Unlike these expensive times, a dollar could get you pretty far in the tuckshop back in the good ol’ days. I remember happily stuffing my face with $0.50 chicken noodle soup or $0.70 char siew rice — $0.20 could even get you a pack of biscuits from the snack shop!
And if I had leftover money for the day, I would run to the old public phone near the bookshop, pop in a $0.10 coin and call home to say hi to my parents.
“Life was simpler. There were only a handful of shopping malls and minimal electronic devices. Television, newspapers and radio were our main sources of entertainment and news. There were no food courts but a lot of small coffee shops and the food was more tasty and authentic. Playing soccer, badminton, catching, swimming and running were our main sources of social activities.” — Clarence Teo, 58
“It was lovely! We flew kites near our HDB flat with glass powdered strings and played ping pong and badminton just downstairs our flats. We also caught and challenged our spiders with others.” — Gideon Ng Keng Loong, 51
“I loved the playgrounds, frequent pasar malams in my estate and hawker food!” — Annette Chua, 24
Looking back, I have to say my two brothers and I had thoroughly enjoyable childhoods. There was always lots to do. Simple things like running around outside, riding bikes, playing with pets, having school friends over, going to Orchard Road or Newton Hawker Center. I remember in 1974, Singapore started using colour TVs — just in time for the football World Cup! It was unreal, in an awesome way.” — Sudesh Panicker, 57
“I loved playing at sand playgrounds and waiting for evening to arrive for push-cart ice cream, push-cart kaya-butter french bread and ding ding sweets. I also miss picking Angsana seeds and catching tadpoles after the rain.” — Amy Lau, 36
“Growing up, I would play at the void decks and sandy playground with my neighbours, when computer games were far and few. I would also buy simple kampong games like chapteh, country eraser, paper balls, poppers, from the mamak shop and play with my friends in school. Then, in primary school, we would play Beyblade by stacking 2 chairs facing each other and challenge my classmates. Also, we would go on excursions to iconic places in Singapore to learn about them — my favourite part of primary and secondary school life.” — Daniel Teo, 29
“My favourite childhood memories were of watching Kids Central in the early afternoon after school and cycling around the neighbourhood with my neighbours in the evening.” — Ryan Lum, 20
Change is constant and sometimes, it’s so subtle that you barely notice it happening.
Over the past 26 years of my life, many things have come and gone. For instance, the legendary King Albert Park McDonald’s.
The two-storey fast food joint was a popular hangout spot for industrious students who wanted to pull an all-nighter. As I lived nearby, I used to frequent it quite a fair bit and was devastated when it was torn down for redevelopment.
I used to go there all the time with my family and our favourite part was the 83m-long underwater observation tunnel which you could explore on a travelator.
I bade an emotional farewell to the tropical fish oceanarium in June 2016 and was one of the kan cheong people who queued for hours just to have one last visit. While we now have the S.E.A Aquarium, it just doesn’t feel the same.
“I’ve seen many a playground attraction come and go, but the one thing I miss the most would be ice-cream uncles milling around the void decks daily. Forget political succession — these important gentlemen need heirs to their throne.” — Perry Teo, 26
“I miss some of the old buildings, and also the rain tree-lined quiet roads along old Tampines road and Thomson road.” — Yap Soo Keong, 60
“I miss people talking to other people and just saying hello if they recognise someone familiar from the neighbourhood. Everyone seems to be glued to a device these days.” — Gregory Krygsman, 58
“My favourite food haunts, many old buildings, my old primary and secondary school buildings. Many hawkers, shopkeepers and people you meet daily have either disappeared, retired or passed away. I truly miss Mr Lee Kuan Yew too.” — Clarence Teo, 58
“I miss the super cheap food, like $0.50 McDonald’s cone, $1.50 chicken rice, $0.50 fries and many more. Now food costs at least $3 to $4. I also miss the mamak shops and the ice cream cart uncle that would be waiting for students outside our school. Now, we hardly see them.” — Daniel Teo
“The simple kampong life. The kampong spirit. The fruit trees we used to grow like durians and rambutans.” — Low LY, 58
Singapore may be a small and relatively young country, but that doesn’t mean we have nothing to be proud of.
In fact, progressing to a developed and advanced country in 56 years is by itself something to be very proud of.
I always feel a swell of pride in my chest when I see Singapore’s name being mentioned by foreigners or in international media. We may be a little red dot but we definitely are prominent one.
“I know most people would say National Service, but I felt the proudest when our Foreign minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan was interviewed by CNBC during the initial stages of the Covid outbreak and handled the questions extremely well.” — Ryan Teo, 24
“I felt proud to be Singaporean during my passing out parade with my fellow section mates after going through Basic Military Training (BMT).” — Ryan Lum, 20
“The cleanliness and security that we have, being able to take walks at night while still feeling safe.” — Annette Chua, 24
“I feel proud of Singapore every day. It’s not that we don’t get things wrong sometimes. We absolutely do. But it’s not for the lack of trying. And we self correct quickly, as a nation. We seem to have evolved to learn from our failures and move past them without lingering. Recently, I read we were considered to be the safest place to live during the Covid-19 pandemic. That’s no small achievement and certainly not one to be taken for granted. This fight is ongoing, but somehow we’ve managed to remain largely united and disciplined.” — Sudesh Panickerr, 57
“I feel proud of Singapore during the National Day Parade, especially when hearing the speech from our PM during the National Day Rally. He will list some of the achievements in the past year and also outline the future plans for our country in the coming years. This is not commonly seen in other countries.” — Yap Soo Keong, 60
“When Joseph Schooling won the first Olympics gold.” — Lynn Lim, 21
“When Mr Lee Kuan Yew passed away, the impact was felt worldwide. I was saddened but also in awe that Singapore was able to produce such a unique and amazing man who was obviously a giant on the world stage. I was very proud to be a Singaporean there and then.” — Clarence Teo, 58
“I’m proud of how everyone has access to the Covid-19 vaccine, regardless of our differences and nationalities.” — Amy Lum, 52
Covid-19 has undoubtedly put a damper on this year’s celebrations and it’s understandable that many of us are disappointed with the postponement of the annual parade.
However, it is always better to be safe than sorry, especially when the newer virus variants are more transmissible.
“I feel it’s better to have a simpler celebration this year due to the current situation where the Delta variant is circulating. Although almost half of the population is protected from severe symptoms thanks to the vaccination, there’s also a small proportion of the elderly who are not vaccinated and children who can’t receive vaccines yet. No matter how big or small the celebration, I’m sure many Singaporean will still feel proud and happy to celebrate what we have achieved as a whole nation.” — Amy Lau, 36
“I was hoping for a more robust celebration, as was originally planned by the government. Then we got hit with a nasty spate of daily cases. Now the celebrations have been pared down significantly. I believe this is the right thing to do. Still, I feel we should be celebrating, within reason. There are still many, many things to be grateful and cautiously jubilant about. Like how much better off we all are compared to this time last year. — Sudesh Panicker, 57
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s an opportunity to be with what makes Singapore home — family, friends (only two of your favourites), and a whole lot of takeaway zhi char.” — Perry Teo, 26
“We should not celebrate when people are suffering and dying all over the world. The resources meant for celebration should be channelled to do help people and save lives!” — Low LY, 58
“To be frank, I don’t really celebrate National Day as I feel it is a bit too rah-rah for me. But I totally get why it’s important. So it does not make a difference to me.” — Joel Koh, 28
“No mood.” — Gideon Ng Keng Loong, 51
“I feel optimistic that Singapore will successfully overcome this worldwide crisis and though I think the celebrations should be conservative and cautiously done, all Singaporeans should be able to celebrate positively in their hearts.” — Clarence Teo, 58
This is home, truly.
Text: Melissa Teo/AsiaOne