Family members and friends gathered yesterday at the Kristo Rai Church in Garapan to pray and mourn the death of a Godfather’s bartender whose body was found in the abandoned La Fiesta Mall in San Roque on Tuesday.
Another rosary at the Commonwealth Health Center Chapel was also held for Emerita “Emie” Relata Romero, who was last seen alive early Sunday morning before she was reported missing.
Wednesday night’s Mass was filled not just by regular churchgoers but also by relatives, former co-workers, regulars at Godfather’s bar, and dozens more in the community who described the 37-year-old Romero as a devoted mother, a generous sibling, a loving daughter, a dependable employee, and a sweet friend.
“She is very kind-hearted and loving. She would do everything for her children. What happened to her was a big shock for her family and friends here and in the Philippines,” said Eduardo Relata, Romero’s oldest sibling, who works at Advance X-terminators.
A native of Plaridel, Bulacan, Romero is the third of eight children. She first arrived on Saipan in 1990 and worked for many employers here. She even got married at the Philippine Consulate General here. Her husband now lives in the Philippines with their two children.
Romero lived in Garapan in an apartment that she shared with her brother Relata and another sister, Lhet. Relata shared in an interview yesterday that due to their different work schedules, their family is only able to bond during occasions when they would hang out and sing videoke and just have a good time.
Accroding to Relata, it was very difficult for Romero to be away from her 17-year-old and 8-year-old daughters. “That’s why she was always in the computer chatting with them,” he recounted.
He thinks he would miss Romero’s smile the most. “Her smile can soften anyone’s heart. I think that’s one reason why she has so many friends who care for her and have expressed their support to us at this time.”
Ron Biggers and Scott Dottino, owners of Godfather’s Bar where Romero worked for three years, said it is hard to lose one of their staff in this manner.
“If tears could build a stairway, and memories a lane, your Godfather’s family would walk right up to heaven and bring you home again. You will always be part of us,” they said in a statement.
Dottino, who described Romero as a “steady and reliable” employee, knew right away that something was wrong when she didn’t show up on time for her 5pm shift at the bar.
“Since her disappearance, the atmosphere here at Godfather’s has been solemn, very sad, and with disbelief,” said Dottino, adding that Romero was “one of the most loyal employees” at the bar.
According to Biggers, there are people who display “their hangups” in life “but with Romero, it was hard to tell because she’s always there smiling.”
“We’re working really close with her family, making sure they’re comforted and are taken care of,” said Biggers, noting that Godfather’s will shoulder the cost of repatriating Romero’s body to the Philippines.
They will do so, he said, once the Department of Public Safety and the Attorney General’s Office give the go-signal to release the body.
Biggers added that many of their regulars and other community members have given donations at the bar for Romero’s family, prompting them to put a donation box. Several groups are also planning to do fundraisers to benefit Romero’s family.
Melody Marabe, a Godfather’s staff for six years, said Romero was a jolly and very sweet person. “She can’t live without her cell phone because she always sends text messages to her family. She is also one of the few from whom I ask for advice. She’s beautiful inside and out.”
Rudylyn Garcia, who has been working at the bar for less than a year, said she and Romero would watch movies at the theater on their days off. “She’s always on time, super sweet, and she’s the person I would talk to about my boyfriend. Until now, I still couldn’t begin to understand why this had to happen.”
Victoria Nishida, who worked with Romero at GIG discotheque, said Romero is very hardworking employee and a devoted mother.
“Whenever I had meetings with our bosses, I would leave my own kids to her and they have a good relationship,” said Nishida, a teacher at Hopwood Jr. High School.
In fact, it was Nishida’s daughter Midori who found out through flyers and on Facebook that Romero was missing. “She called me right away and said, Mom, I think Tita Emie’s missing,” said the teary-eyed Nishida.
Relata expressed his “heart-felt gratitude” for Romero’s Godfather’s family, her other friends and former co-workers, whose support make it possible for them to cope. “I know that the Lord will reward their good heart.”
When Romero went missing, Relata said they urged everybody to pray hard that she would be found immediately. “It’s been difficult, but we’re still grateful that we found her body,” he said.
Relata is once again calling on the community, this time to pray that Romero’s killer be found soon.
“I hope they join us in prayer so that justice will be served for my sister,” he said.