Since today is our National Day, it is appropriate to blog about our country.
The following passage about the origin of our country's name is extracted from a Wikipedia entry on the Asiatic Lion:
"The island nation of Singapore (Singapura) derives its name from the Malay words singa (lion) and pura (city), which in turn is from the Sanskrit िंसह siṃha and पुर pura. According to the Malay Annals, this name was given by a 14th century Sumatran Malay prince named Sang Nila Utama, who, on alighting the island after a thunderstorm, spotted an auspicious beast on shore that his chief minister identified as a lion (Asiatic Lion). Recent studies of Singapore indicate that lions have never lived there, and the beast seen by Sang Nila Utama was likely a tiger."Indeed, in the movie Saint Jack which I blogged about in my last post, the lead actor Jack Flowers (played by Ben Gazzara) was heard telling his friend William Leigh (played by Denholm Elliot) a similar story about the Lion City. Jack ended the story with the following statements: "The dummy couldn't tell a tiger from a lion. So what can you expect? A place that got started like that?"
My reply to Jack would be: "Well we didn't expect a lot but our country has certainly come a long way from where we started. Luckily we didn't call our country "Tiger City". If we had, it might have been added to the long list of outstanding contentious issues that we have yet to iron out with our nearest neighbour. (In case you didn't know, its national symbol is the tiger.)
Nowadays, even our primary school children know the difference between a tiger and a lion. However, when asked questions about our history and our national flag, some of them gave rather amusing answers. (The following questions and answers appeared in the Jul/Aug 08 issue of the Spring magazine which is published by the Northeast CDC. Portions enclosed within [ ] are my own tongue-in-cheek comments.)
Q: Why is Singapore called Singapore?
A1: Because Sir Stamford Raffles named it that way.
A2: Because there was this man from somewhere and he came and he named Singapore "Singapore".
Q: Who is Sang Nila Utama?
A: I think he is the man who escaped prison.
[Hello, I know it's a hot topic but does his name sound anything like "Mas Selamat"? There's a difference between a prince and a prisoner, ok? Is it really harder to tell them apart than for a tiger and a lion?]
Q: Why is Sir Stamford Raffles considered Singapore's founding father?
A1: Because he found Singapore.
A2: Because he liked to travel from country to country.
A3: Because he is a European man.
Q: Why is the National Flag red and white, with five stars and one crescent?
A1: Because they represent something.
A2: Because red is for good luck. There are five stars for five working days. And because the cresent looks like a banana.
A3: The five stars represent the five races.
[Hey, "foreigners" is not considered a race, hor?]
Alright, I understand that children can get away with almost any thing and that they, unlike adults and princes, should be quickly and easily forgiven.
For the record, the right answer for the last question is:
Red symbolises universal brotherhood and the equality of man, while white signifies purity and virtue. The crescent moon represents the rise of a young nation and the five stars stand for the nation's ideals of democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality.
Happy 43rd National Day, Singapore!