Ex-Red Lion now based in Abu Dhabi books hotel room to watch NDP
Former Red Lion Pach Ang Beng Hwa no longer works or lives in Singapore. But his pride, in both the country and the armed forces he served in for many years, was like a magnet.
The pull was even stronger when it came to celebrating Singapore's 50th birthday.
And so the former commando, 53, who has jumped at several National Day Parades in the past, decided he would take no chances and booked hotel rooms with a view of the Padang a year earlier.
There is also a personal reason that Aug 9 is extra special - it is the birthday of his wife Vivien and their daughter Sephina Christine.
Mr Ang, who is based in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates where he runs an events company, specially booked three rooms at Swissotel The Stamford for three nights.
He declined to say how much he spent but checks online showed that a two-night package at the hotel costs $1,965 per room, excluding taxes.
Before the National Day Parade started on Sunday (Aug 9), more than 20 family members and friends gathered in one of the 37th-storey rooms and sang a birthday song for little Sephina, who turned four. Her mother turned 48.
Sephina's cake featured her favourite Disney characters - Cinderella, Daisy Duck, Minnie Mouse and Tinkerbell - as well as Hello Kitty driving a red car with an SG50 decal.
Once the cake was cut, it was down to business for Mr Ang, who went to another room with a better view of the Padang and Marina Bay, setting up his camera at the balcony to catch the Red Lions perform their jump.
The overcast weather was worrying, but Mr Ang was optimistic.
"There's a 50-50 chance now, but it looks possible," he said at about 5.30pm.
About 10 minutes later, he pointed at a cloud over the Padang and said the cloud would move in time for the jump.
But shortly after the Parade started, the bad news came: The jump was cancelled for safety reasons because of overcast weather.
When told, Mr Ang, who left the Singapore Armed Forces in 2009, seemed shocked and became silent.
But he soon got over the disappointment when the parade began. "See the men in the red berets who are part of the Vintage Parade, they were the pioneer Commandos and I knew them," he said with a proud smile.
Pointing at the honour guard, he proudly said only the best combat unit, which the Commandos have won for the 29th time this year, is allowed to be part of the parade.
Getting to watch the National Day Parade "live" is a luxury Mr Ang didn't have until about six years ago.
As part of the Singapore Armed Forces Parachute Team, the day either meant preparing for his jump, or helping his teammates prepare for theirs.
He recalled: "We would rush back to Hendon Camp (at Changi) to unpack all our things, then head over to my place for a party since it was also my wife's birthday.
"There, we would watch a tape of the parade and whoever landed the worst would have to do a forfeit," he said with a laugh.
He added that it was tempting to wave back at the crowds waving and cheering while parachuting down.
"But you cannot because you have to be focused, looking out for wind conditions, your landing spot and other obstacles," he said.
Mr Ang was also the man behind the team's identity.
"We were taking part in skydiving and parachuting competitions around the world. The US Army had the Golden Knights, their navy's team was the Blue Angels, the British Army had the Red Devils while we were just the SAF Parachute Team.
"At that time, Singapore's football team just won the Malaysia Cup and they were called the Young Lions, so I thought since our aero suits were red, we could be the Red Lions."
He designed its logo and the name was officially adopted in 1996.
"So when I heard that other people were unhappy about the swimming team being called the same name, I knew it meant that we were something special to Singaporeans," he said.
We would rush back to Hendon Camp (at Changi) to unpack all our things, then head over to my place for a party since it was also my wife's birthday. There, we would watch a tape of the parade and whoever landed the worst would have to do a forfeit.
- Former Red Lion Pach Ang on how he used to celebrate National Day.