The Republic marked its 56th year since independence yesterday with a scaled-down ceremonial parade, as it strives to move towards normality in the drawn-out fight against Covid-19.
Under a cloudless, brilliant blue sky, 600 masked men and women in uniform marched at the Marina Bay floating platform.
The pandemic meant there were only 100 spectators, including front-liners, community volunteers and Cabinet ministers, but the city skyline bore witness to an annual ritual unbroken since Singapore marked the first anniversary of its independence.
The simple, solemn affair - similar in proceedings to last year's parade at the Padang - unfolded with the usual military precision. This is the second year the parade has been held amid the pandemic.
The singing of the National Anthem was synchronised with the state flag fly-past, followed by a fighter jet "bomb burst" manoeuvre as a salute to the nation. A 21-gun salute was fired as President Halimah Yacob reviewed the parade.
With the country still in the middle of tightened restrictions, the mostly empty stands - along with a closed-off Marina Bay - presented a significantly different picture from the last National Day Parade (NDP) at the floating platform in 2018.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in a Facebook post yesterday, noted that the scaled-down parade was very different from the "usual rousing NDP".
But the marching contingents, and perennial favourites of the state flag fly-past and F-15SG fighter jets' "bomb burst" salute still thrilled and moved everyone, whether at the floating platform or watching at home on TV, he said.
"We have never failed to hold a ceremony on Aug 9 every year to reaffirm our independence and sovereignty, whatever the circumstances. This year was no different," he wrote.
Yesterday also marked a milestone - 70 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated, a significant achievement as the country prepares to reopen its economy and resume more activities. Some restrictions, such as dining in, will be eased from today.
The nation passed the two-thirds by National Day goal, which was announced in June. Then, the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 had said vaccination was key to taming the virus and allow for the economy to be opened up safely.
Since then, much of the efforts had been focused on getting the message through to seniors, who have generally been more hesitant about getting jabbed.
Yesterday's 45-minute ceremonial parade was announced only three weeks ago, along with the postponement of the original NDP to Aug 21. Although the number of participants at the ceremonial parade was less than a third of previous ones at the floating platform, it was more than the 200 people who marched at the Padang last year.
Other than the 600 participants on-site, another 200 people from nine youth uniformed groups and 12 social and economic organisations joined virtually in pre-recorded segments, in a first for an NDP.
They included Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Families for Life, who participated for the first time with a marching contingent each.
SIA contingent commander Kane Ong, 40, who has been with the airline for 15 years, said the scaled-down parade and postponement did not dampen his spirits. "We are still taking this message across, all over Singapore, that regardless of situation or adversity, the show must go on - our nation's birthday must still be celebrated."
Among those who made their way to the Marina Barrage in anticipation of the fly-pasts around the island was staff nurse Halifah Anapi, 54. "As a healthcare worker, I would say Singapore has been managing the Covid-19 situation very well. I'm proud to be a Singaporean and happy to celebrate with the nation," she said.
- Additional reporting by Tay Hong Yi