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Union out of jest

Repeka Nasiko
Saturday, November 10, 2012

THE couple that works together stays together.

This saying rings true for Mana Island Resort and Spa's longest serving employees, Semesa Nabalagi and Biu Nabalagi who found work, love and a new life at the island resort 40 years ago.

Sitting under the shade of a makeshift tent built for guests returning to the resort for its 40th anniversary, the couple took time to reminisce on their time spent on the island.

"We met on my first visit to Mana in 1971. My parents were working here, so I came here because of them," recalls Mrs Nabalagi, who was then 17.

Known to many guests and resort staff as Aunty Biu, the Bucalevu villager said she was first introduced to her future husband by her father.

"My father was taking me around to meet all of the staff and I met Semesa during lunch.

"He was one of the waiters during that time and when it came to his turn, my father introduced us and when we shook hands, he told my father "She will be my wife," Aunty Biu says with a laugh.

Sitting beside her, Mr Nabalagi who is from Nasovotava Village, Nadroga said he made the comment in jest to his tauvu from Ra.

But that jest quickly became a reality when the couple married in 1974 on the island.

"Shortly after our first meeting I came here to work. I started the same year, the resort opened in 1972 and two years later we got married. Our wedding was the first-ever wedding to be held here," said Aunty Biu.

With six children and grandchildren, the couple lived, worked and raised their family at the island resort until their retirement.

"I retired in May. He retired in 2007. Even though we've retired, we still come back because this is our home," said Aunty Biu.

Mr Nabalagi, who owns and runs a vegetable farm in Sigatoka, said he would never stop returning.

"We love this place and that's what we tell our families, friends and even guests. We keep encouraging them to come to Mana," a jovial looking Mr Nabalagi said.

And return they did. The couple was responsible for the large number of returning guests who came out for the 40th anniversary of the island.

"We travelled to them, some in Australia, and others in New Zealand to urge them to be part of our Returnees Week celebrations. These were mostly guests that have been coming to the resort for years and during its 40th birthday, we thought it was a great idea to get them all together and be part of our celebrations."

As the loyal guests returned for the week-long celebrations, Mr Nabalagi said the guests proved their love for the island resort by coming back each year.

"For them to be here says a lot about their love and passion for this place and for the resort."

Rightly put by the man who with his equally passionate work and life mate, Aunty Biu continues to show their love and dedication to the place where they first met over four decades ago.

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