NDP challenge: Learn more about the Singapore icons featured in ST's interactive game

The finale fireworks for the first preview of the National Day Parade, on July 28, 2018.
The finale fireworks for the first preview of the National Day Parade, on July 28, 2018.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - With National Day just around the corner, The Straits Times released an online game on Sunday (July 29) that asks readers to look for hidden Singapore-related items.

Those who find all of them can participate in the lucky draw and stand a chance to win either a pair of National Day Parade (NDP) preview tickets or an official NDP fun pack.

The 53 items are hidden in an illustration of a packed crowd watching the NDP, and represent six different national symbols and NDP-themed objects.

Here are some interesting facts about the six categories.

1. The Merlion

Like most of Singapore's national myths, the reason for the Merlion's conception was fairly un-mythical. The animal was imagined into being by Alec Fraser-Brunner, a British zoologist, to be the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board's (predecessor to today's Singapore Tourism Board) logo in 1964.

But the Merlion - a fantastical half-fish and half-lion creature - is imaginary in more than one sense. The fish is supposed to allude to the country's beginnings as a "fishing village" - a narrative since debunked by historical records which show Singapore was a thriving harbour as early as the 14th century.


The lion is a reference to Sang Nila Utama, the Srivijaya prince who claimed he named the island Singapura, or "lion city" in Sanskrit, after spotting the animal. Lions, however, have never been native to our region.

The Merlion was imagined into being by Alec Fraser-Brunner to be the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board's logo in 1964. PHOTO: ST FILE

2. The Red Lions

The Singapore Armed Forces' parachute team, better known as the Red Lions, have performed at almost every NDP since 1989, although the Commandos had been performing at some parades before that.

Jumps for the 2015 and 2016 parades had to be cancelled due to bad weather and safety reasons respectively.

3WO Shirley Ng, seen here during her plunge at an NDP preview on Aug 2, 2014, was the first female parachutist to appear in the annual parade. ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

The stunt is not without its risks. During an NDP rehearsal in 2005, Master Sergeant Chua Koon San had a bad landing and ended up with a pelvic fracture. There were rumours that the entire free fall performance would be scrapped after that.

Despite the team's long history, it was only four years ago that the first female parachutist made her appearance. Weather issues had prevented Third Warrant Officer (3WO) Shirley Ng from jumping the year before.

3. Number 53

Singapore’s first National Day Parade in 1966 involved 23,000 participants. PHOTO: NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SINGAPORE

Singapore throws its 53rd birthday bash this year, with Madam Halimah Yacob attending for the first time as president.

It was a much simpler affair in 1966 at the first NDP after Singapore's independence.

Soldiers, uniformed groups, teachers, trade unionists, and lion and dragon dancers kicked the parade off with a march-past at the City Hall at 9am.

But as they made their way through Chinatown and Tanjong Pagar, rain fell hard, though this failed to dampen the spirits of the military units and the crowd.

Evening parades would not happen until 1973.

4. Vanda Miss Joaquim

The Vanda Miss Joaquim, Singapore's national flower. PHOTO: ST FILE

Singapore's national flower is the Vanda Miss Joaquim. But the orchid breed was actually first the emblem of the now-defunct Singapore Progressive Party in 1947.

It was only in 1981 that the flower was made a national symbol.

Thereafter it was fraught with controversy for more than 30 years, with no consensus on whether the late Agnes Joaquim - a wealthy woman of Armenian descent - had bred the hybrid flower or simply found it in the garden of her Tanjong Pagar mansion in the 1890s.

Ms Joaquim died of cancer in 1899 a few months after she received a prize for the flower named after her. The prize was for an annual Flower Show, which had been the breed's first public appearance.

Ms Linda Locke, the great grandniece of Agnes Joaquim, at the Botanic Gardens with her book titled Agnes And Her Amazing Orchid. Behind her are displays of the Vanda Miss Joaquim, originally cross-bred by the horticulturist in the 19th century. PHOTO: ST FILE

It was only two years ago that the National Parks Board and the National Heritage Board amended official records to credit Ms Joaquim as the flower's breeder after verifying research done by her descendants.

5. The Singapore Flag

Everyone knows the distinctive colours of the flag, but few know that our flag almost did not get its white half.

In 1959, the committee led by then Deputy Prime Minister Toh Chin Chye presented a flag with a completely red background.

But the newly formed Cabinet led by the People's Action Party thought that having just red would not be suitable, as the colour was synonymous with communism at the time.

Today, the five stars are known to represent the ideals of democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality.

6. Fireworks

Fireworks: what is NDP without them?

They are a crowd favourite and must-have at any respectable national celebration, and this year is no different.

Part of the grand finale for this year's show will feature a fireworks display after the Pledge is taken and the National Anthem is sung.

Last year, a mass of 300 drones put up an aerial light show that imitated a fireworks display. Singaporeans - hundreds of whom had been waiting at the Merlion Park and Marina Bay Sands for hours - were still treated to the real thing later that evening.

Sources: Singapore Memory Project, National Archives of Singapore, The Economist, National Heritage Board, National Parks Board, Singapore Infopedia by the National Library Board, Reuters, Nexus at the Ministry of Defence.