On Sunday, November 19, 2005, Rowena del Mundo invited family, friends and co-workers to her Retirement Party at the Sinclair Park Community Club. The place was elegantly decorated by Party Planner, Kelly, who happens to be Rowena’s step-daughter.
The tables were covered with white cloth and adorned with red napkins and red roses. Bottles of white wine were placed and white candles were lit on every table.
The host and celebrant was dressed in a red satin gown with black embroidery. A sheer black shawl draped her shoulders. She looked radiant and beautiful that night.
The Reggie San Miguel Sextet provided the music for the first hour while guests started to arrive. The group played the following jazz tunes:
1.The Way You Look Tonight 2.Autumn Leaves 3.Someday My Prince Will Come 4.Oleo 5.Candy 6.If I Were A Bell 7.Blue Train 8.Lover Man 9.Au Privare
Charito, the emcee, welcomed everyone and called the important people in Rowena’s life to come forward and sit at the front table. Kelly and Terry, Cory and son, Inay Tentay and Auntie Marina. Everybody stood up when Rowena and husband Mel walked to the front to their seats.
The jazz band was thanked and introduced. Reggie on Flute, Clay on Alto Saxophone, Iian on Tenor Saxophone, Garrett on Piano, Graham on Bass and Jeff on Drums. Then they played an encore of The Way You Look Tonight.
Side A Music then took over.
Once everybody had partaken of the many delicious food, Charito invited Rowena’s co-workers to the front to say a few words about the celebrant.
Cecile wished Rowena a Happy Retirement. She also said, “You’re beautiful tonight. I like your gown.”
Nestor said, “Rowena is a very nice person.”
Fatima, Nestor’s wife, also wished Rowena “Happy Retirement.”
Elaine said, “One thing I like about her as a friend and as a co-worker is that she never holds grudges. She’s so kind. She’s full of life. She always has a lot of positive thoughts." She added, “She’s like a mother to me and to my husband ‘coz she’s always giving us lots of advices.”
Maria seconded what Cecile said, “You look beautiful tonight. You’re so lovely.” She continued, “Rowena is a loving, kind and a cheerful person. I think even when she’s angry, she’s always smiling. She always has a cheerful face so when you’re around her you feel cheerful, too.”
Talits claimed, “I was the bridge between Mel and Rowena.” She disclosed, “Like normal people we had our moods. Once we had a misunderstanding. However she is like a child. She never holds grudges. We were able to patch it up and we became again like sisters like before. She had an innocence of a child and an angel.” Talits got choked up.
Charito said, “Mel, you’re lucky. Because you have a wonderful lady in red.” She added, “Rowena, you know the symbol happy face? That symbol reminds me of Rowena. I’ve never seen her with a long face. She’s always happy. She’s always in a good mood."
I, Catherine, said, “I’ve already shared this tribute to Rowena and I thought I’d share it with you so that you’ll understand what kind of person she really is.
Rowena is a very dear friend of mine. We’ve worked together in the Alberta unit for about five years. We also have a special bond because she’s one of the godmothers of my youngest son.
I first met her in May 1996 when I started working at Great West Life. We trained together as benefits examiners. Before that she worked in the Toronto BPO. After five years in Toronto, she moved to Winnipeg and worked as a preprocessor.
At first, I thought that her name was Norweena because of the way Pat, our Trainor, pronounced her name. I didn’t know that here in Canada, they say Rowena (Ro-wee-nah) differently than we do in the Philippines, which is Ro-weh-na. I was very glad when I learned that I was training at the Claims Centre with a fellow Filipino. She was very friendly and she introduced me to her other Filipino friends. We always had lunch together at the north end corner of the cafeteria in the old building on Osborne Street.
Rowena’s name, I have learned, could mean either one of the following: 1. red haired or rugged, 2. slender and fair, or 3. fame and happiness. All meanings are appropriate for our very own Rowena.
Rowena has a cheery disposition. It’s not uncommon to find her smiling or laughing. But not the vulgar kind of laughing. You’ll find her throwing her hand over her mouth when she laughs. (At this point of my speech, she did.) She is always the life of the party. And speaking of parties, she’s a very gracious host as well. She comes out as the centre of attention, without her intending it to be. She just exudes gracefulness and elegance.
She likes bright, vivid colours. Her favourite colour is red, as you can see. Red is the symbol of warmth, confidence, bravery, and as the Chinese believe, good luck.
Warmth. She is very warm with her friends and co-workers. Confidence. There is always confidence in the way she walks and the way she dresses. Bravery. A characteristic that is inherent in every Batanguena. She's from the province of Batangas. Good luck. We used to tease her that she’s like a cat with nine lives. Because how many times had she survived a car accident? (She said, “Six times.”) And how lucky is she to find her Prince Charming, standing over there, after those long years of being single.
Rowena’s plan for retirement is to travel. Lucky girl. So, happy trails to you, my dear friend, my kumare."
And then I said, "Ryland has something to present to you.”
Ryland came forward and handed her a bunch of roses.
After receiving the roses, Rowena said thank you to all of us. She then gave this speech:
“First of all, I’d like to thank my party coordinator, Kelly and her husband Terry. My financier, my beloved husband, Mel. My very good chef, Richie and all our helpers and runners.
Good evening to all of you.
I thank God our Creator for giving us all a chance to come together this evening. This gathering is a thanksgiving for my 15 years of service in a big company that is Great West Life.
I am proud to have been an employee of one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers and that I have been able to work here for 15 loooong years.
I’d like to thank my co-workers, relatives and friends who are here to join me in this occasion.
I considered Great West Life as my second home and the staff as my second family.
I said as a second home because even it was time to go home, I was still working. I loved my job as I love my family.
Even my husband Mel would keep phoning me. “Dear, when are you coming home? What time am I picking you up?” I would tell him, “I will call you back when I am ready to go home.” Then he would say, “Supper is ready, waiting for you.” And I would say, “Okay, just put it aside and I will just warm it up when I get home.” Well, now we always have supper together. Isn’t that nice?
I miss my job, especially my friends, co-workers and all the staff of the Health and Dental Benefits Office.
Thank you all and have a pleasant evening. And have fun. And dance, dance, dance."
Rowena and Mel danced to Lady in Red. And then we all danced the night away.