The Festival of Lights-Deepavali has culminated in Singapore, metaphorically with a large public gathering at Istana yesterday, the abode of the President of Singapore. The palatial house with vestige of colonial era was thrown open for the public as President Halimah Yacob hosted her first open house. She mingled with people and obliged to take selfies with her.
There were many programmes lined up for the open house including music and dance performances. However, the most notable one was the performance given by students from St Patrick’s School Band. They played so harmoniously that one could not have guessed that they had only been playing their instruments since February 2017. Their performance also earned the appreciation of the President Halima Yacob. However, the icing on the cake was the dance performance of little girls of Kampong Chai Chee Bharathanatyam Dance Group.
A number of tours were available to members of the public, including the Nature Guided Walk, a collaboration between the President’s Office and the National Parks Board which showcases the Istana’s flora, fauna and biodiversity.
About 9,300 visitors went to Istana. Encouraged by the response, Halimah Yacob is thinking of making Istana more accessible to ordinary Singaporeans so that they too can enjoy the serene atmosphere of this majestic place.
She said, “I’m really glad that the members of the public come and explore the grounds, and really understand more about our heritage and the Istana, and the Presidency.
She added, “We will explore more, how to invite more beneficiaries, and groups of varied social service organisations. I think it’s a wonderful idea to make it more accessible to all segments of society. We have ideas... to make it more accessible — not just during the Istana Open House five times a year, but maybe other days as well. We are exploring these ideas, and we will come up with the programmes.”
For the Deepavali Open House, Halimah also invited some members from active ageing non-profit organisation Society for Wings (Women’s Initiative for Ageing Successfully), who were guided around by students from Singapore Polytechnic.
Sunday's open house was held in celebration of Deepavali. The other four open houses are during Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Puasa, Labour Day and National Day.