Hundreds of government employees, their families, and friends turned the Civic Center in Susupe yesterday into a festival ground to celebrate years of hard work, resiliency, family and community ties, and arts and culture in observance of Labor Day after an eight-year hiatus. Fun, games, food, creativity, and camaraderie were the day’s order.
The last time the CNMI government held a Labor Day picnic was in 2005.
Today is the actual Labor Day, observed on the first Monday of September every year. Most government offices are closed today.
Gov. Eloy S. Inos, Chief Justice Alexandro Castro, Senate President Ralph Torres (R-Saipan), and House Speaker Joseph Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) each thanked their employees and the entire government labor force for their hard work, sacrifices, and patience throughout the years.
The governor acknowledged that because of financial challenges, government employees were not able to receive decent salary increases and within-grade increases, and instead were subjected to austerity measures that included up to 16-hour cuts every payroll.
“Yet they show up to work every day. We acknowledge your efforts. I would like to thank you. Let’s continue to work toward one heart, one family, one CNMI,” the governor said on stage, referring to the theme of the 2013 Labor Day celebration.
In a later interview, the governor said it is not possible to give salary increases this year, owing to the NMI Retirement Fund settlement agreement and other government obligations.
The Senate president also thanked the families of government employees, while the House speaker encouraged public servants to further raise the standards of service.
The chief justice, for his part, said even the toughest manager—or leader—can be useless without the support of those under him, as he thanked the Judiciary’s employees.
Many M. Pangelinan, chairman of the 2013 Labor Day celebration, made it clear that the festivities were not funded by the CNMI government but through donations from officials and employees.
“Keep it cool and safe. Visit others’ tents, talk to people, recognize and appreciate people for their hard work,” he told the crowd at the beginning of the festivities.
The governor himself joined the first round of the coconut husking contest, which was won by Superior Court Presiding Judge Robert Naraja and his team mates, the chief justice and probation officer Oscar Torres.
Torres, who has been a probation officer with the Judiciary for seven years, said he’s thankful for this day set aside to appreciate public servants.
“I am very happy and fortunate to still have a job in these times of struggles. We should all continue to make the CNMI a better place to live. There’s a trend now, hopefully the economy continues to prosper,” said Torres, who brought his wife and two children to the festivities.
Live song and cultural dance performances alternated with games and cha-cha for all at the festival ground.
The festivities also brought out the creativity among government officials and employees, as most of them adorned their designated tents to hold the bragging rights for the best decorated tents.
The Legislature’s rendition of this year’s “One heart, one family, one CNMI” theme won the first place in the tent decorating competition. The centerpiece was a giant heart made of natural materials and flowers, while the whole tent was also adorned accordingly.
“Men’s creativity was put to a test,” the speaker quipped, as he explained how a few lawmakers, their staff and other members’ staff—all men—stayed at the festival grounds from 2pm to about 9pm Saturday to decorate the Legislature’s tent.
Their efforts paid off. Reps. Ray Tebuteb (Ind-Saipan), John Paul Sablan (Cov-Saipan), and lawmakers’ staffers were among those who gave the Legislature’s tent its winning look.
Press secretary Angel Demapan later said the second placer in the tent decorating contest was the Office of Management and Budget/Capital Improvement Project/Scholarship Office team, while the third place winner was the Department of Public Safety team.
Ester Camacho, a Department of Public Lands employee for six years, said this year’s Labor Day is a meaningful one.
“We’re happy to have this celebration after eight years. It’s good to see government departments and agencies celebrating as one government. We hope to have this again next year,” she said.
Leaders also awarded the winners of the Labor Day softball tournament led by the DPS team, which won first place, followed by the Department of Finance and then the Legislature.
Government departments and independent agencies and incorporations took part in the festivities. One major agency missing was the Public School System.