The Saban community on Friday, December 4 celebrated its 45th Saba Day with the raising of the national flag, speeches by dignitaries, song, dance and the recognition of persons with awards. During the entire week, there were activities to commemorate and celebrate this special occasion of the 45th anniversary of the national day and the 35th anniversary of the national flag and the coat of arms. But it was also a different celebration without the presence of visitors from Saba’s sister islands. And, it was a celebration to be grateful and to reflect on the past year which was marked by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We will reflect upon and remember this year as one of uncertainty, change, fear, heartbreak and, for most of us, very challenging. Our norms, many of our traditions, and even our ideologies have been drastically impacted because of this pandemic,” said Commissioner Bruce Zagers in his address during the official part in the morning hours.
The fact that people didn’t have to wear a face mask or physically distance during the celebration and in everyday life is because the island is COVID-19-free. “Because of the safety measures and the self-responsibility of our people, we can enjoy celebrations like these in normal conditions,” said Zagers.
The pandemic has not only had adverse consequences, Zagers pointed out. “It has allowed us to re-ignite our passion for family and for our island. During our lockdown, families started doing things together again. Families were cooking and baking together, they took walks. It allowed our people to appreciate more of the simple things in life like hiking, enjoying our beautiful nature above and below the sea. We have become more appreciative of what we have. This is essentially how our forefathers lived: they worked for their families and for their beloved Saba, they appreciated the simple things in life and this brought them happiness.”
Zagers called on the people to not only celebrate Saba on the first Friday of December but to do so every day. “We should not only feel patriotic but also feel proud of our island and heritage on a day that was designated to be a celebration. Let the life lesson from this year be that we celebrate, that we appreciate and that we honor our beloved Saba, our family, and our heritage not just one day per year but 365 days per year.”
Zagers looked towards the future where a united people will continue to build Saba, socially, economically, and structurally. “As a government and as a community, we have a responsibility for the future development of our island, our society, and our 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.”
Make an oath
Zagers asked people to make an oath to Saba: just as she has and will always be here for us, we will always be here for her. This oath should not only be in words, but also in deeds. Being here for Saba means that if we want to see our island and our people prosper, we will need to do this together with tangible actions. It means less talking and more doing. When we see something that needs to be done, we do it. When we see someone that needs to be helped, we help them.”
Commissioner Rolando Wilson during his speech reflected on this year’s theme of Saba Day: Lessons of the past and actions of our present determine our future. “Lessons that we have learned as a people from our ancestors, and grandparents are that we can achieve anything once we have the faith, the courage to work hard, the ambition and the will to push on even when things look hopeless. We have also learned that we cannot work alone and that we need each other to achieve the maximum.”
Wilson noted that Saba Day started out as a vision of a young man, William “Will” Stanley Johnson who since 1968 appealed to authorities to establish a national day. He did so various times, in vain, but when he became commissioner in 1975, Saba Day became a fact. In 1985, the Executive Council appointed a committee, headed by Will Johnson, to come up with a design for the flag, a national coat of arms, and a national song, and to prepare the necessary legislation for the national symbols.
People were asked to submit designs for the flag. The main colors were to be red, white and blue. There were over 130 designs, which was narrowed down to 32 through a selection and then to two. The winner was Ed Johnson, brother of present Island Governor Jonathan Johnson. The coat of arms was designed by George Seaman, while the anthem was written and composed by Dominican nun Christina Maria Jeurissen in 1960.
“On our national day, we should give extra thanks and praise as we celebrate our past history and our present time. It is a day we come out to celebrate with each other. It is a day to be thankful for the many blessings we have received. We have a lot to be thankful for: the many rain showers to fill our cisterns, water our plants and nourish our animals, of having been spared this year from hurricanes and major storms. We are thankful for the financial assistance of the Dutch ministries during the pandemic.”
At the same time, people should be mindful that these were sobering and unpredictable times. “We must give thanks for the lessons we have learned in the past and take the necessary actions now to be better prepared for the future. Our ancestors’ prayers, hard work, sweat, blood and perseverance are the reason we can enjoy the fruits of their labor. Our actions of how we handle matters now and how we plan and prepare will determine our future. We should cherish and take proper care of what we have. We need to build each other up and not tear down. As a small island we need each other, and we need to build each other up. We need to maintain our standards and values.”
Saba Day started with the ringing of the joy-bells in the early morning, followed by the hoisting of the flag at the government administration building, the singing of the anthem and the Flag Song. The official program took place at the Princess Juliana Sports Field in The Bottom.
During this part of the program, a number of Sabans were recognized for their valuable contributions. Jenee Adelle- Lovelace Matthew, youngsters Kristin Zagers and David Dacosta, Carol Toppin, Eric Cornet, the organization Body, Mind and Spirit, Joanne Simmons, Camille Blackman Fahey, Piet Gerritsen and the Outbreak Management Team received an award.
On Friday afternoon, people flocked to the Saba Day booths in The Bottom, took part in family games, a volleyball competition and enjoyed entertainment. At midnight, the annual Saba Day Wahoo Tournament took off. On Saturday morning walkers and runners took part in the Sea to Scenery race, while the youth participated in a triathlon. Throughout the weekend, there were booths, music, food, drinks and games at Fort Bay harbor. The successful Saba Day weekend closed off on Sunday night.
This year’s Saba Day festivities included activities throughout the week, such as the culture night and performances at the primary and secondary school. On Thursday evening, a service was held at the Sacred Heart Church where clergymen of the various churches spoke. On this occasion, Island Governor Johnson held his speech.