By Jeanne Tan (17A01B) and Joan Ang (17A01B), additional reporting by Andrew Atang Hidajat (17S03I). Photos by Angela Sun (17S06M), Abigail Yeow (17S06H) and Matthew Toh (17S06D) from Raffles Photographic Society
8AM, SATURDAY MORNING — on one end of our beloved school campus, sleepy students shuffled into Albert Hong Hall in mild disarray, ties-improperly-tied and collars askew. But at the other end, the festivities were only beginning.
This year’s Founder’s Day had been split into two events — firstly, the typical Founder’s Day ceremony, to be held at the Albert Hong Hall at RI Y1-4. Breaking with tradition, all classes (excluding Year 5s) had to send five representatives to watch the awards presentation.
However, rather than have the entire student population flood the multi-purpose halls, a carnival had been arranged for the rest of the student body to participate in. With game booths and a food fair set up, it was going to be a blast for all involved.
Inside: Founder’s Day Ceremony
As the hour of the prize-giving ceremony approached, the hall was buzzing with anticipation. Awardees who had not seen each other since graduation could be seen catching up with their neighbours, and the guardians attending were equally excited — camera flashes were going off from every angle.
The ceremony began proper with the procession of staff through the middle aisle. Students began to call out to familiar faces, which many teachers acknowledged with a hearty wave or quick smile. Following this was the entrance of the Guest-of-Honor and the principals of RI.
The annual singing of the Founder’s Day Song commenced, led by both Raffles Chorale, and their Y1-4 counterparts, Raffles Voices. The ceremony then opened with a speech from the Year 4 Head Prefect, Warren Liow, exploring the Rafflesian identity — an apt topic, given that he was speaking on one of the Institution’s most momentous days.
Our Principal, Mr Chan Poh Meng then gave a speech covering a different set of concerns: he first touched on the issue of self-initiated community service in Raffles that he raised in his last Founder’s Day speech. Heartened by the efforts that students had made in their own service projects over the past year, Mr Chan congratulated the student body and thanked them for their enthusiasm.
This was a lead-in to comment on an increasingly pertinent trend amongst Rafflesians: the act of credentialism, or earning achievements for the sake of them without a greater purpose. He believed that students had lost sight of what they believe in, and instead were merely chasing after what the majority values.
In light of the awards presentation that was soon to follow, Mr Chan urged the students to think about the implications of the goals they were pursuing. “The purpose of life should not be a gathering of gold stars or a relentless pursuit of CVs,” he stated.
Mr Chan’s address was then proceeded by a speech from the Guest of Honor, Mr Desmond Lee, an ex-Rafflesian, NUS Law graduate and Member of Parliament. Given Mr Lee’s political credentials, one would expect him to reference the subject. However, he instead tackled the topic of environmental conservation.
Mr Lee asserted that Singapore is underrated in its uniqueness in the region, citing Singapore’s biodiversity and place in the region as examples and bringing up pictures of Singapore’s native flora and fauna on screen.
Mr Lee’s speech showed that Singapore was more notable than one would, on first impression, conceive it to be. He also placed our experiences in relation to that idea of remarkability — as Singaporeans, and as Rafflesians.
The awards presentation itself then commenced. While many a student has been known to harp on about the alleged pointlessness of Founder’s Day celebrations, it was heartwarming to see the audience cheer and applaud loudly for each person receiving an award onstage.
Bringing the ceremony to a close was a valedictory address by the out-going Student Council President, Freda Mah. Following the theme of the speeches before her, Freda’s speech emphasised the need for action amongst Rafflesians, and urged the audience to chase their passions with company they value.
To conclude, the school rose as a whole body to sing the most defining Rafflesian tune: the Institution Anthem. With the last strains of the school song fading out, the Founder’s Day ceremony finally came to an end.
Outside: Founder’s Day Carnival
From the life-size Ninja Warrior course to the highly anticipated Escape Room, this year’s carnival had huge amounts of preparation and meticulous detail put into it, and the participants were not disappointed.
Of the aforementioned Escape Room, though the setup was simple and no laser beams were flashing across the room, the thrill of deciphering clues under time pressure certainly set the mood for all players.
Besides this, our reporter also attended the Raffles Illuminate performances, featuring familiar home-grown bands, treating the audience to ear-pleasing mashups and covers of hit songs.
Winning band Acoustic Beat, consisting of Meghna Ramanan (17S03J), Elizabeth Deng (17A01A), Emma Gee (17S03Q) and Nur Umaira (17S06B) was a clear standout in both rounds of the competition, playing a combinations of covers and mashups. The earnest, melodic performances of the lead singers with the sensitive accompaniment won the favour of not only the judges’, but also that of the audience.
But even the bands’ hearts were captured by the performance by guest judges, local musical act Jack and Rai. They delivered their covers of familiar songs such as Riptide and Ho Hey, with a confidence and charisma that had the audience demanding for more even as they waited in suspense for the winners to be announced.
Outside the MPH, a bout of heavy rain in the morning stalled the outdoor activities temporarily, but the sporting activities quickly continued in the absence of a lighting alert. Chen Wei Rong Ryan (17S06I), one of the organisers of the football activity, commented that ‘the feeling of running around in the mud was gross and the bouncing of the football was heavily affected. Still, I didn’t mind getting dirty ‘cause that’s where the fun arises from.’
And indeed, our reporter witnessed groups of students in football gear trekking through the school with mud-coated legs, but with the widest grins of anyone in the area.
The indoor sporting activities continued without a hitch, and our reporter had the chance to view the bloop soccer games from above as the participants stumbled around in the Cage.
The amphitheatre was perhaps the most carnival-like area of the school, with stalls with a variety of mini games filling the area, drawing laughter and crowds to each table.
However, the biggest attractions were probably the classic arcade games that were brought in, including Dance Dance Revolution, basketball and several old-school racing car games. Students flocked to the queues, with small crowds forming to watch each round in progress.
But the longest queues were perhaps in the canteen walkway, with the carnival food proving to be the unifying factor between all attendees, physically active or not.
From the get-go, a queue of around twenty students quickly formed around the Ramly Burger stall, and the numbers only shot up higher when the stall for Thai Milk Tea opened later on. Out of all the carnival hotspots, the excitement level was arguably the highest and most consistently sustained in the canteen.
More indoor entertainment included the stand run by Art Club, which drew a crowd of students in with the idea of designing their own keychains and badges to be made on the spot. Colourful and creative designs emerged, from pictures of Griffles to typography to drawings of video game characters.
Besides this, there was the photography booth, where students equipped themselves with accessories and props to immortalise the spirit of the day with friends.
In this vein, when asked for his opinions on this year’s carnival, Abdul Qayyum (17A01B) commented that “while the hype wasn’t as explosive as last year’s, but it was time well spent catching up with friends.”
Indeed, even the most cynical and cranky of students found some joy in experiencing all the attractions, and overall this day served to reinforce the school’s community and identity.
The initial indignation some may have felt at having to come to school on a Saturday quickly dissipated after experiencing the positive atmosphere and the feeling of enjoying the day with classmates and friends, and surrendering to the excitement. The attractions may not have been explosive, and conditions not ideal, but ultimately it was the shared experience that made the day worth it.
Besides being just a carnival, Founder’s Day turned out to be a positive experience for all involved, and the effort put in by the CCAs and organising teams in coming up with the activities paid off well.
At the end of the day…
From both sides, the different modes of celebrating and honoring our school’s legacy and character came together in one morning of fellowship, fun and school spirit for all involved. Congratulations to all the awardees, and Raffles Press would like to wish the school a happy Founder’s Day.