Official ceremony of 48th Saba Day reflected on resilience and identity

The official ceremony of the 48th annual Saba Day on Friday opened under the theme An island of resilience, a heart of embrace”.

Local officials and invited dignitaries from St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, Bonaire, Aruba, Curacao and the Netherlands gathered at Princess Juliana Sports Field in The Bottom to listen to speeches and to be entertained by poetry, drama, dance, and song.

Local and visiting officials in procession to Princess Juliana Sports Field for the official Saba Day ceremony.

In his address, Saba Governor Jonathan Johnson said that resilience was not the absence of adversity, rather the ability to confront, endure and over­come.

“As we reflect, we must also cast our gaze forward. The fu­ture of Saba beckons us with possibilities and challenges alike. It calls for our collective commitment to preserving our natural wonders, nurturing our young and fostering a spirit of unity that transcends,” he said. Johnson said that Saba Day was not merely a celebration, but a pledge to safeguard “Sa­ba’s essence”.

“Together we can ensure that the legacy we inherit becomes a legacy that we proudly pass on to those who will follow in our footsteps. May this celebration serve as a reminder that within each of us lies a reservoir of strength, waiting to be tapped into,” he said.

Saba Commissioner Eviton Heyliger in his address asked Saba residents to reflect on the island’s resilience, all while taking pride in the island’s progress. He reminisced on the Saba hill-climb car race, which he said symbolised the island’s “spirit of adventure and deter­mination”.

“The hill-climb symbolised Saba’s unyielding spirit as par­ticipants fiercely conquered the challenging terrain from Flat Point to Zion’s Hill push­ing themselves in their vehicles. Just as the Saba hill-climb par­ticipants faced uphill challeng­es with great determination, we must continue to strive for progress and development,” Heyliger said.

He thanked the people of Saba and those who have made Saba their home for their dedi­cation and hard work, which has transformed the island over the years.

“We have established a solid infrastructure, enhancing the quality of life for all residents. Our schools and education, health care and transportation system have improved, offer­ing better opportunities for our youth and a higher stan­dard of living for all,” Heyliger said.

He also acknowledged Saba embracing sustainable envi­ronmental practices.

“As we celebrate Saba Day, let us acknowledge the re­sponsibility that comes with being the ‘Unspoiled Queen’. We must continue to protect and preserve our island, ensur­ing that future generations can enjoy the same natural beauty and opportunities that we do today. Saba’s ‘Unspoiled Spir­it’ must be our guiding light as we navigate the challenges of the modern world,” he said. In his address, Saba Commis­sioner Bruce Zagers brought attention to, as he observed, people losing the conviction to actively contribute to the island’s development.

“Historically Sabans have been recognised for their re­silience and unwavering pride. The do-first mentality, as an integral part of our identity, has set Saba apart. Let us not allow this spirit to fade, as it defines us as Sabans,” he said. Zagers said the “once robust do-first mentality” is giving way to finger-pointing and excuses, with persons often waiting on government inter­vention.

“We can choose to only focus on the negative things around us or we can choose to appre­ciate and acknowledge that there are many positive devel­opments happening every day around us,” he said.

Zagers said he was not try­ing to persuade anyone that everything is perfect, consid­ering that the cost of living is high, that medical referrals and the ability to get a second opinion often take too long, and that quality of banking and connectivity are extremely lacking.

However, he asked the com­munity to acknowledge posi­tive developments such as an increased minimum wage and the implementation of a social minimum. The Saba Package, which was recently approved, also includes a soon-to-be-de­veloped rental subsidy system and a housing letter of intent for those struggling to find af­fordable housing or aspiring to own a home.

Moreover, he mentioned the investments in infrastructure being made on the island, which include the expansion of the medical facility, the planned commercial plaza in The Bottom, the rebuilding and expansion of Scout’s Place Hotel, the construction of the new harbour, and more invest­ments in solar energy with a new solar park to be built.

With these, Zagers said he sees opportunities for eco­nomic growth, job creation and for young Sabans to em­brace entrepreneurship.

“As privileged inhabitants, we bear the responsibility to be examples to future genera­tions. It is our responsibility to uphold our Saban values to safeguard our land, cul­ture, traditions and nature,” he said.

Every year for Saba Day, resi­dents are recognised for their contributions to the island.

This year’s recipients in­cluded musician Jerome “Mr. Kyat” Matthew for his commitment to Saba’s musi­cal legacy, carpenter James Ellis Heyliger for upholding the tradition of building local handmade boats, long-retired teacher Elaine Johnson for her impact on past students, and Lynn Costenaro and John Magor for their contributions to the island’s tourism industry through Saba Sea and Learn Foundation.

The Daily Herald.

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