Today Singapore celebrates 44 years of national building.
This is the video of this year's NDP09 theme song - "What Do you See"
Since it is Singapore's 44th Birthday Day, here's 44 things about Singapore you may not know about, or didn't see it that way. [via inSing.com]
1. We fought independence, and independence won.
If Lee Kuan Yew is to be believed, then we are probably the only country that gained nationhood by not wanting it. Of course, the other founding fellows have been quoted as saying that leaving the Federation (of Malaysia) was the "best thing that ever happened to Singapore".
2. It happened on a Monday.
The populace awoke, ate breakfast and started their work week like any other week in the life of the Federation when at 10am, a live radio broadcast of Lee Kuan Yew's declaration "on behalf of the people and government of Singapore" that we were now a sovereign, independent and democratic nation.
3. 10am then is not the same as 10am now.
Before January 1, 1982, Singapore Standard Time (SST) was 7 hours and 30 minutes (GMT +7:30) ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. We only moved to GMT +8:00 to keep up with Peninsular Malaysia's move to match East Malaysia's time zone.
Confused? Spare a thought for those who lived in Singapore in before May 1905 - Singapore Time was 6 hours 55 minutes ahead of GMT.
Also, the skies were dark every morning at 7 during the Japanese Occupation, because the clocks were set to Japanese standard time (GMT +9:00).
4. Independence was actually agreed upon on the Saturday before that.
The Separation Agreement was actually signed by the ministers on the weekend before August 9, 1965.
5. Um... actually, we were independent once before.
On August 31, 1953, in agreeing to merge with the Malaysian federation, Singapore unilaterally declared independence, several weeks before the Malaysian government did so in September of the same year.
6. We only got our own money two years later.
On 7 April 1967, we set up the Board of Commissioners of Currency and started issuing our own money, which was still equal to the Malaysian ringgit.
7. The national anthem was written six years before independence.
It was written to be played at state functions in 1959, and was later officially made the national anthem. The Malaysians had roughly the same history with theirs (Negaraku) - an anthem they adopted from the Perak state anthem, which was created because an aide to the Sultan, when asked by officials at the coronation of Edward VII what his state anthem was, proceeded to hum the tune to an old French drinking song he had heard in the Seychelles.
8. The composer of the national anthem was a composer of scores for Cathay Keris films.
That's like having John Williams compose an anthem. Imagine having the Star Wars theme as your national anthem. That would have beaten the French drinking song hands down.
9. The anthem is in Malay, the national language.
Yes, the national language is Malay. Which explains why drill commands in the Army are given in Malay, as are the words on the national crest and that of the armed forces. The country has three other 'official languages', which are English, Chinese and Tamil.
10. Singapore is one of three surviving city-states in the world.
The other two being Monaco and the Vatican City.
11. Our land keeps growing.
Our land area was 581 square km in 1965. It is 699 square km now, thanks to land reclamation.
12. Population is also growing.
The population of Singapore in 1965 was 1.87 million, while it is 4.84 million today. In 1965, 33% of the population was Singaporean. Today, 35% of the population is non-Singaporean.
13. The national flag was designed before independence.
It served as a State flag to fly beside the Union Jack, and then beside the Malaysian flag, before flying solo in 1965. Originally envisaged as an all-red background, white was added to the lower half to placate fears that the color might serve as a rallying point for the then rampant Communists, and perhaps, bulls.
14. Citizenship by birth only applies if one of your parents is Singaporean.
Also, you do not get citizenship by birth if your father is a foreign diplomat who enjoys diplomatic immunity in Singapore and your mother is Singaporean.
If, however, your mother is a foreign diplomat and your father is Singaporean, you are eligible for citizenship.
15. If you're Singaporean, you are also a citizen of the Commonwealth.
Technically, you are allowed to vote in British parliamentary elections.
16. The first National Day Parade was held at 9am at the Padang.
Thousands turned up from 7am to witness the first parade in 1966.
17. The first National Day Parade to be held at dusk was in 1986.
18. The first 'decentralized' National Day Parade was held in 1975, and the last in 1983.
This was done mostly because the demand for tickets were so high (people queued up to 36 hours before tickets were released) that organizers felt it would be good to bring the celebrations closer to the people.
19. 100% of Singaporeans are urban dwellers.
That makes us the most urbanized country in the world.
20. 2 out of 3 of our founding fellows (Lee Kuan Yew, S. Rajaratnam and Goh Keng Swee) were not Singapore-born.
Dr Goh was born in Malaysia, while S. Rajaratnam, Sri Lanka.
21. A Singaporean holds the record for the longest scuba dive.
Khoo Swee Chiow was underwater for 220 hours. There was no category in the Guinness Book of Records for the world's wrinkliest man, however.
22. Lions never lived in Singapore.
So the name Lion City, derived from the Sanskrit Singa Pura, is a misnomer. Sang Nila Utama probably saw a tiger, or was smoking something strong.
23. The Singapore Flyer is 'the world's tallest and largest observation wheel'.
But it still lost out to the hamster's wheel on the 72nd storey of the Swissotel Stamford for height.
24. A Singaporean holds the world record for most burger in a mouth.
Don Ezra Nicholas put 340 grams of burger into his mouth without swallowing, and declared (after swallowing) that "I am the burger king". The burgers were from McDonald's.
25. A Singaporean also holds the world record for the most number of grand illusions.
J.C. Sum's 15 grand illusions in 5 minutes was officially set in June this year. A grand illusion is a magic trick on a large scale. Card tricks and sleight of hand tricks do not count as grand illusions, and apparently, neither do press releases by management of sovereign wealth funds.
26. The world record for domino-toppling was set in Singapore.
A 24-year-old Beijing woman who termed herself a professional dominologist set up and toppled over 300,000 dominoes.
27. The world's longest human domino line was formed in Singapore.
This was done by 9,234 students standing 4.2km along Siloso Beach, Sentosa.
28. The world's biggest game of pass the parcel was played in Singapore.
By 3,918 students removing 2,200 wrappers from a parcel in 1998.
29. The world's largest human wheelbarrow race was played in Singapore.
By 700 students in 2008 (although it's since been broken by a Melbourne school in 2009).
30. The world's "longest human chairs" was formed in Singapore in 2008.
By over 1,500 secondary and primary students.... Hey wait a minute, which country holds the record for most number of student exam failures? Well, at least we have a solution to youth delinquency: "Is your teenager breaking the law? Make them break world records instead!"
That's the height of the tallest buildings in Singapore. UOB Plaza One, Republic Plaza and OUB Centre. This is because that's the height restriction for buildings in the CBD area because of their proximity to Changi Airport.
32. We may be small, but we have over 3000km of roads.
Singapore is only around 42km from east to west, but has over 3,000km of roads.
33. We have the Merlion.
Oh, where do we begin? The Merlion was designed as a logo for the Tourism Board prior to independence, and has been in service since as an official symbol of the nation. The STB still maintains standards and usage and only officially approved products may be sold using the name and likeness of this much derided creature.
That doesn't stop foreign entities from doing the same, though. A Russian I.T. company called Merlion comes complete with its own legend - that Singaporeans still worship the creature, a symbol of courage and strength.
And perhaps as a symbol of courage and strength, a Merlion is featured on the crest of the 8th Regiment of the United States Marine Corps, although that one has front legs while ours merely vomits armless, legless.
There are five 'officially recognised' Merlion statues in Singapore and these are at Merlion Park, Sentosa, Tourism Court, and Mount Faber, so if one turns up in your neighbourhood, it's a rogue Merlion and not to be trusted.
It has, on many occasions, been featured in popular culture and literature. The country's de facto poet laureate, Professor Edwin Thumboo, for one, featured it in his poem Ulysses by the Merlion.
34. We actually have a poet laureate!
Professor Edwin Thumboo was once a colleague of the author Paul Theroux at the Department of English at Singapore University, and has been said to be the inspiration behind a character in Theroux's novel 'Saint Jack' - the bartender Wallace Thumboo.
35. It is actually warmer and drier in the eastern part of Singapore.
This is due to a meteorological phenomenon called the rain shadow effect.
36. We are the biggest exporters of ornamental fish.
37. We have the second densest population.
Sorry, that should have been "2nd highest population density", but some might say the former is correct.
38. We ran the world's biggest rubber duck race.
The things we did before we got Bernie Ecclestone to bring Formula One to our shores.
39. Singapore is home to the world's biggest bat.
The flying fox lives on Pulau Ubin.
40. Bukit Timah Hill is the highest natural point on the island at 165m.
On a clear day, you can see... hmmm... buildings.
41. Bukit Timah Nature Reserve has more species of trees than the whole of North America.
Now, that is one big redeeming factor.
42. The national flower, Vanda Miss Joaquim, is named after Agnes Joaquim, or Ashken Hovakimian, an Armenian.
Armenians were prominent in early Singapore - the oldest church is the Armenian Church (1835), and very Singaporean institutions like the Raffles Hotel and The Straits Times were founded by Armenians.
43. Singapore is one of 16 nations that produce anti-personnel landmines
Yikes, let's go back to silly, inconsequential records.
44. Nestlé Singapore produced the world's largest chocolate bar
Weighing over 2 tons, the Kit Kat Very Very Chunky was displayed at Plaza Singapura in 2006.
And there you have it. Majulah Singapura! On to next year and one more fact to add to this list.