Time After Time

Bicentennial or not, 2019 is all about celebrating Singapore’s unique cultural heritage.

By Alywin Chew      5 July 2019

A Singapore Bicentennial to showcase our tiny nation’s long history? Great! Because it shows that our tiny nation has a long history that spans at least 200 years. But I’m also wondering: If that’s really the objective, why stop at Sir Stamford Raffles? We should go all the way back.

No, geez, not to the Jurassic Age, though I reckon that might be interesting. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wondered about the history behind the Milo Dinosaur.

Yes, I’m talking about the year 1299 when the Srivijayan prince, Sang Nila Utama, discovered Singapore. This year would mark the 720th anniversary of his chance encounter with a lion on our land, which led him to name this place Singapura. I think 720 years sounds a lot more impressive than 200 years. This approach also offers us more historical material to work with. Hear me out.

Did you know that Utama was also called Sri Tri Buana, which means “Lord of Three Worlds”? Now, that is one badass title. Just imagine all the fantasy themes we can based our celebrations on. It would be so epic. It would be so Game of Thrones.

After all, some historians have said that Parameswara, one of the guys who ruled after Utama, was a really dodgy person like Cersei Lannister, arguably the most evil person in the hit television series. No, I’m not sure if Parameswara slept with his sister.

Furthermore, Game of Thrones has direwolves. We have lions. The show has dragons. We have Komodo dragons. The show has white-skinned demon generals. We have, erm, pontianaks in white dresses. See the connection?

We could be a country with an interesting history that revolves around a bit of deceit, betrayal and in-fighting. An impending invasion by pontianaks then rallies everyone together. And as we’re on the cusp of getting annihilated, a valiant young girl rises to the occasion to poke the big bad boss and end the invasion.

And I know just who would make the perfect Singaporean Arya Stark. Her name’s Amita Berthier. She’s the reigning Asian junior fencing champion. So, yes, she definitely a legit choice when it comes to sticking ‘em pontianaks with the pointy end.

We could even go with a superhero theme! I recently read that primary school kids today have a social studies textbook that depicts Utama as a suave, uberripped comic hero that looks like the Aquaman portrayed by Jason Momoa. Now, just imagine Utama riding the Merlion into battle.

If all this sounds too over-the-top or you’re just not a fantasy fiction fan, I have another suggestion I’m sure you can agree with: We could have a National Chicken Rice Day to commemorate our national dish. Some historians have attributed the origins of our unique rendition of Hainanese chicken rice to Swee Kee Chicken Rice Restaurant in 1949. That’s just perfect because this year would be its 70th anniversary.

And to give it a commemorative flourish, we’ll call it… et voila! Singapore Hainanese Chicken Rice Platinum Jubilee.


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