Sabans and invited guests from the other islands turned up in large numbers to celebrate Saba Day in The Bottom on Friday, December 6. The 44th Saba Day ceremony featured messages by Island Governor Jonathan Johnson, Commissioners Rolando Wilson and Bruce Zagers, and several performances.
The official part of the programme started with the blessing by Father Zibi and Pastor Alexander, followed by the hoisting of the Saba Flag by Island Governor Johnson and students of Saba Comprehensive School (SCS), and the singing of both the “Saba Anthem” and the “Saba Flag Song.”
The speakers dwelled on this year’s theme of Saba Day, “Building the Roads to the Future,” in their speeches.
“Saba and Sabans have come a long way. It is imperative that we don’t become complacent. The Caribbean islands will face the effects and are facing the effects of climate change. It is our duty to build the road to the future which takes development and conservation both into account,” said Johnson.
Wilson said it was important to safeguard, treasure and respect the road to the future. “If not, the great changes will leave us wondering who we are and where we are going as a people.”
He said the road on which Saba and its people have been journeying has not always been easy, but that despite the many hardships, good things were also achieved in areas like education, social domain, health care, housing, agriculture and nature.
“The road to the future is still a promising one. We will continue to work hand-in-hand with our European and regional counterparts to continue bringing about positive changes. As long as God gives each of us breath, we will all continue to strive and take care of our beloved home, Saba.”
Wilson referred to the four colours of the national flag, red, blue, white and yellow, and what these stand for. “The red symbolizes our great strength and resilience as a people. Our forefathers paved the path that we are travelling on today. It was harder for them in those days than it is now. They taught us to work hard and make an honest day’s pay. Very little they had in comparison to what we have now, but they took pride in it and continued to persevere. We must preserve that legacy.”
The colour blue shows people’s faithfulness to Saba and their families. “We will continue to protect and take care of what we have for the future generations to come.”
White stands for purity and the aim to keep Saba clean. “Don’t litter, and take care of what we have. Saba is our pride and joy.
“The yellow star I see as the Almighty that provides, guides and protects us through everything,” said Wilson.
Zagers had what he called a “patriotic” message. “In my opinion, Saba Day should be about being proud of our land. Proud of our heritage and taking pride in not only acknowledging, but also upholding our traditions, our culture and the hardworking mentality that has been passed on to us from our forefathers.”
He said visitors were always impressed with Saba’s organisation, cleanliness, infrastructure and beauty.
“As Sabans, we have historically been known as a proud and resilient people. We have always had a ‘do first’ mentality. This is what makes Saba such a special place. Let us not allow this way of life to fade away, as this characteristic is part of what makes us Saban. We must make this do-first mentality more of a daily way of life rather than making it a catch phrase which is only used during these celebrations.”
He called on everyone to make use of their power and choice to bring something positive to their surroundings.
Zagers said it was also important to be mindful of how to treat visitors and those who have made Saba their home. “These people should not be seen as threats to our culture, our jobs or the cohesiveness of our society. Many of these people love Saba as much as we do and contribute much to our society. We must also ensure that they respect Saba and our values as we accept them and admire theirs. As an island and as a people we will become far more resilient when we unite together as one.”
According to Zagers, the government and the community share a responsibility for the future development of Saba, its society and future generations.
“It is our responsibility to uphold the values that have been passed down to us so that we can preserve and nurture the solid foundation that was built by our forefathers. We must ensure that we protect our land, our culture, our traditions, our nature and the pride that makes us Saban.”
He called on everyone to be proud of Saba every day, not only on Saba Day.
A number of Sabans, but also two persons from St. Maarten and one from Anguilla, were honoured during Saba Day.
The award for construction went to John Roderick “Roddy” Hassell, the award for animal husbandry went to Harold Andrew “Andy” Hassell, the award for business to Rudolph Michael “Rudy” Zagers, the award for fishing and public service to Hubert Hendrik Hassell, the award for sea transportation to Samuel “Blues” Conner and Mutty’s Pride, and the award for architecture and carpentry to Manuel de Jesus Benitez Morales.
There was special recognition for two persons and an institution from St. Maarten: Brunilda Illidge and Antonio Pantophlet of St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC). Illidge and Pantophlet have dedicated their services to nursing education in Saba for many years, educating many nurses who work at A.M. Edwards Medical Centre and at The Home.
The official part of Saba Day was closed off with a blessing by Pastor Liburd, performances by several dance groups, including many schoolchildren, and a public reception.
Many activities will be taking place during the rest of the Saba Day Weekend celebrations, such as the famous Wahoo Fishing Tournament, the ram goat competition and several sports and fun events.