Margarita Torres-Aldan, the late Escolastica Cabrera

Two inspiring women from the CNMI are also R.I.S.E. Women in History honorees this year: Margarita Torres-Aldan for healthcare and the late Escolastica Cabrera for business.

R.I.S.E. stands for “Respected, Inspired, Strengthened, and Empowered.”

Imperial Pacific International-Corporate Social Responsibility will recognize Torres-Aldan and Cabrera in a special ceremony that fetes women who excelled in various fields over the years and have helped shape the growth and development of the islands in various fields.

The ceremony will take place at 10:30am on Friday at the Charley’s Cabaret of the Pacific Islands Club.

Healthcare award

Torres-Aldan heads the Department of Public Health Services.

“As a child I always wanted to work in the field of healthcare,” said Torres-Aldan. “When I was in high school in Denver, Colorado, I volunteered in nursing homes and rehab centers. In college, I volunteered for March of Dimes, Easter Seals, and Community Clinics.”

It was during her volunteer work that she saw the struggles and needs of families. She knew her calling.

“It was there that I saw the needs and struggles of the families,” she shares of her experiences. From “pre-term labor to infant death, challenges with breastfeeding to lack of transportation for doctor’s appointments and not being able to provide assistance to navigate social support needs” of patients were eye-openers for her.

“It showed me that I want to focus on women, infant and children, including children with special health needs,” she said.

Her inspiring journey continued when she moved back to Saipan in the 1990s. She was offered the Maternal and Child Health Program manager position at the hospital.

“That was the start of my career in public health; deputy secretary for Public Health Josephine Sablan offered me the position and gave me the advice that I should focus on the community and focus my work around them,” she added. “[Now] throughout my work, I always try to engage with and involve the community. I learned that we will only be successful if we work with the community-at-large”

“A piece of advice that I would leave the lovely ladies of the world is that we cannot all succeed if some of us are being held back so let’s all be together as we move forward as leaders of change! Love, respect and be true to yourself because if you don’t, nobody else will,” said Torres-Aldan.

She expressed her deep appreciation for being one of the pioneering honorees of the R.I.S.E. Women in History Award.

“I want to say a special ‘si yu’us ma’ase, olomwaay and thank you’ to IPI for selecting me for this award. I am humbled and honored,” she said. “I’d also like to thank the heavenly Father for the blessings, my mom and dad for the lessons they’ve instilled in me, my siblings for the support, my kids and husband for being very patient with me, and my ‘Public Health divas’ for being there through the good, the bad and the ugly. I love you all.

“Finally, I’d like to dedicate this award to my mom, Francisca Wesley Torres. This is for you, Mom! Congratulations to all honorees.”

Business award

The late Escolastica Cabrera’s enduring contributions to the islands’ business development is widely known.

As one of the first local businesswomen on Saipan, she created a path for many successful women in business today.

She started her entrepreneurial career as a beauty parlor owner when she was only 19 years old. 

“My mom was only 19 when she started her first business,” said Linda Cabrera, eldest daughter of Escolastica Cabrera. “It was a beauty parlor. She obtained her equipment from a naval commander’s wife and learned the skills to properly operate the business. …She later got married, built a place in Susupe and opened another business—a general retail store.”

At the time, Linda said, “many people didn’t have cars and I remember how people would drive through with their bikes to buy ice cream, ice cup, and popcorn. She also opened up a car rental and later opened the first snack mobile on Saipan that sold lunch plates for $0.25 each and a snack bar which catered to the Dr. Torres Hospital and is still around today called Galaxy.”

Cabrera then opened a shop on the island’s first airport where she sold coffee and donuts. She later decided to move to Capital Hill where she put up a vegetable stand that expanded into a merchandise store, known as “Esco’s Bakery and Restaurant.”

Her bakeshop still operates today, although it is now called “Chamorrita Bakery.” Through this, her legacy lives on. The business is being ran by her children and grandchildren.

Another daughter, Rita Cabrera, is proud to follow in her mother’s footsteps.

“I went to [Northern Marianas Trade Institute] and had great experiences taking culinary classes. I’m so honored and proud and I wish my mom were here to see my accomplishments,” she notes. “I remember her constantly reminding me to ‘Be good. Respect and be generous to the people in the community. Never forget to be grateful and happy.’ Customer service was very important to her.”

Olinka T. Cabrera, another daughter, remembers her mother addressing an audience at a cultural day event in 2008.

“My mom told the audience that it is important to teach your children about your culture to preserve it. Teach your children to be respectful and to do their best to be successful. My mother and father raised all of us 13 kids and I am proud to say that they did a good job,” remembers Olinka Cabrera.

Escolastica Cabrera was devout follower of the Catholic faith.

“Mom taught us how to pray. She made sure that we never missed Sunday Mass,” said Gloria C. Reyes, daughter of Esco. “She taught us many things like how to be respectful, to love, but what I appreciate the most is that she taught me how to bake. It is my hobby, along with many other members of the family.”

Son Eloy T. Cabrera recalls how giving back to the community was very important to his mom.

“My mom was a very giving person. She wasn’t rich with money but she was rich with love. She was always donating to schools when they requested. Giving was always something she practiced.”

R.I.S.E. Women in History recognizes Escolastica Cabrera for her hard work and dedication in creating a platform for successful women and the growth of the CNMI, in general. (PR)

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