SINGAPORE - A rare silence washed over the Padang as parade-goers paid tribute to former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
Faces were solemn and some audience members teary-eyed.
Said manager Magdelene Soh, 59, "The whole tribute was very touching. It's so sad that he's not here today. I only wish (Mr Lee) could be with us every year."
Mr Lee, who died on March 23 aged 91, had attended every National Day Parade since the first one in Protected content . Last year, his entrance at the parade had been met by rousing cheers.
This year's National Day celebration is the first without Mr Lee.
Audience watches tribute to Mr Lee Kuan Yew at National Day Parade Protected content
In honour of his memory, Mr Lee's usual seat was left vacant this year. A spray of orchids adorned the empty seat.
At the end of the tribute film, aerial acrobats The Black Knights soared overhead in a "Five Stars" formation, symbolising the ideals of democracy, peace, progress, justice, and equality.
Nurse Hannah Leo, 35, who was at the parade with her son Ivan, 8, said of Mr Lee: "Without him there's no Singapore, it's a great honour and privilege to be here at Singapore's 50th celebration. He's a man who made his words come true. What Singapore is today is because of him.
Earlier today, Singapore heard for the first time a recording of Mr Lee reading the Proclamation of Independence.
The recording, made in Protected content , was broadcast at 9am on local radio and TV channels, and marked at 82 grassroots-led National Day observance ceremonies islandwide. It went on air after the sounding of sirens islandwide.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew's reading of the Proclamation of Independence kicks off National Day celebrations.
Three People's Action Party stalwarts Mr Ong Pang Boon, 86, Mr Jek Yeun Thong, 85 and Mr Othman Wok, 90, were honoured at the parade. They are the three surviving Old Guard leaders who signed the official document that marked the independence of Singapore 50 years ago. Mr Lee was one of the 10 leaders who signed the document.
The other signatories were former deputy prime minister Toh Chin Chye, former finance minister Goh Keng Swee, former law minister E.W. Barker, former culture minister S. Rajaratnam, former health minister Yong Nyuk Lin and former national development minister Lim Kim San. Mr Othman, 90, was then the social affairs minister, while Mr Ong, 86, was the education minister, and Mr Jek, 85, was the labour minister.
Earlier, Mr Othman, who sat next to Mr Lee’s empty seat, said he was honoured. “He is the man who brought Singapore to what it is today. He is truly an inspiration for all Singaporeans.