Former garment workers reunite

Former garment workers pose for a photo during a reunion yesterday at the Micro Beach in Garapan. (Kimberly A. Bautista)

Former garment workers pose for a photo during a reunion yesterday at the Micro Beach in Garapan. (Kimberly A. Bautista)

Former garment workers who still reside on Saipan met up for a small reunion at Micro Beach in Garapan yesterday.

Morena Makiling Khan, who organized the informal get-together, said the event was an occasion for former garment workers from different factories to get in touch with former friends and colleagues and to catch up on how life has been since the garment industry on island closed down.

According to Khan, this is the second reunion she has hosted for former garment workers and it seems it won’t be the last, as it was attended not just by former garment workers but also by family members of former workers.

Many were thrilled to reunite with their former colleagues and friends that they have not seen for many years. Khan herself was thrilled to see the many familiar faces she had not seen for 20 years.

Khan said the garment industry brought in thousands of Filipino, Chinese, Thai, and other ethnic overseas workers. Since the last garment factory in the Commonwealth shut down, the island has depended solely on tourism as a source of revenue.

The islands once thrived on the garment industry, which was not only a revenue source for the island; it was also responsible for the hiring of over a thousand contract workers, according to Khan.

The first garment factory on Saipan was established in 1983 and served as a gateway for the establishment of over 36 garment factories. The death of the industry in the CNMI marked the end of an era that generated over $40 million a year for the Commonwealth.

Since then, the islands have sold themselves as a tourist destination, luring in mostly tourists from nearby Asian countries.

Although there are similarities and differences between the industries that generate income for the Commonwealth then and now, one thing is certain and it is that the garment industry era is in the past and the tourism industry is the current booming industry of the Commonwealth.

Kimberly A. Bautista

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