Jason Cayanan (centre of the photo wearing a Merdeaf signboard and holding a bottle of the Purple Tea sponsored by Asia Farm), a SADeaf intern from Republic Polytechnic, details his experience attending the Purple Parade 2019 for the first time.
The Purple Parade. Sounds funky, doesn’t it? But it isn’t a dance party.
The Purple Parade is a big, big, yearly movement in Singapore, to celebrate the abilities & support the inclusion of people with special needs. This year, the event took place at Suntec City, outdoors, smack dab between Tower’s 1 & 5.
There will be a purple street parade in the proceedings, as well as the setting up of numerous purple stalls: selling toys or snacks, or challenging comers to a game of sorts.
Okay, so maybe it kind of does resemble a party. Not of dance, per se, but maybe of walking; shouting; tambourine-playing; waving about signs and banners; clapping; cheering; whistling; and (most infamously for me, at least) drumming.
Before the event, SADeaf made a video showing folks how to get to the event area, and posted it on SADeaf’s Youtube account.
Even before arriving at the venue, one could already see people in purple shirts gathering around in groups at the nearby Esplanade MRT, and within Suntec City mall itself.
And at the venue itself, it was flooded with participants. They were easily identifiable as participants, and not just people passing by, because they were all wearing purple.
Moving through the crowd was like wading through a flood at a Ribena factory. Almost everybody there wore some shade of purple. Some of them were more lilac than purple. Others were darker & newer-looking. Some of them had shades so warm that they looked almost maroon.
There were numerous stalls about, with purple name boards and fronts and sometimes even giving out purple items.
It was roughly around there that the SADeaf contingent first gathered. First, a few, then a lot. All of them wore purple, of course.
Boxes were dropped in, containing all manner of signs; banners; and sandwich boards displaying the meaning of different SgSL signs, all of them were also purple. Afterwards, we waited. People were loitering around, holding up signs, or a rod holding up a banner, or wearing sandwich boards showing all the different SgSL words like “Hurry”, “Nice”, “Okay”, “Good”, and etcetera.
And then, the parade started.
The SADeaf contingent didn’t start moving though. Instead, waiting along on an invisible timing, they let other contingents of this plum parade pass by first.
And oh, what variety!
All types of groups participated, not just those that catered to the Deaf: Health advocates carried around giant purple papier-mâché replicas of thermometers and syringes; an entire contingent of participants in wheelchairs rolled on past us, wearing masks and face paint and other stylish affectations; a contingent marching for autistic people and other special-needs people with primarily mental differences; and even contingents from big-name banks like OCBC and Citibank.
The Citibank contingent had a particularly eye-catching group decoration, with each of their members wearing a green-blue and white menagerie of twisted and tied-together balloons, their tips pointing to the sky. They all looked like a pride of colourful balloon-peacocks.
And then, it was time for SADeaf to move.
Following some invisible cue, the SADeaf contingent moved to the start point of our march. We were joined by a contingent from the Taylor & Francis Group and SADeaf’s ambassador – Grab, with them holding up their banner just a few paces behind ours.
There was a purple stage set up at the site, with two Master of Ceremonies introducing each group or company, as their contingent passed by.
The parade didn’t involve just continually walking along, though. Several times, the participants were stopped and asked to smile for the cameras. In one instance, who appeared to be a construction worker on a boom lift, asked us to smile, as he took a picture of us from an aerial perspective.
There was also another moment, where we passed near an overpass. There was a big, white sign that said “LOOK UP”, for there were people on that overpass, pausing their day to look at the participants, many of them with their phones out and aiming at them.
The Master-of-Ceremonies mentioned yet another contingent, this one composed of the students and teachers of Republic Polytechnic, Nanyang Polytechnic, and Temasek Polytechnic, all participating in the Purple Parade for the first time. I tried to crane my head, attempting to catch a glimpse of familiar faces. Alas, there seemed to have been a whole crowd of people in purple, between our contingents.
Also, the steel drumming was really, seriously loud for me. I could feel my eardrums rattling with every strike of the drum, so much so that I had to cover my ears for the rest of the march.
On a more positive note, there were lots of people cheering us on. Even if we were just walking.
As the participants walked along, our path looped rapidly. They walked from the street outside, to the road under the cover of the mall. They were heading back. And as they were walking back, a whole bunch of people offered them a merry high-five.
And then, when you start thinking the parade has only just begun, it was over.
Back at the starting point again, the participants returned all out signs and banners and sandwich boards back into the boxes they came from. For all the cheer and expense on display, one would think the route would last longer than barely over an hour, and make us go even longer than the confines of one city block. It didn’t this year, but in the future, who knows?