Monday, November 27, 2006

Australian NPR

After the Variety ran that article about the We Love Saipan network I was contacted by Radio Australia. They interviewed me because they wanted to hear my thoughts on our plan to promote the CNMI through Beautify CNMI! The story will play in Australia three times today.

Click HERE to listen to the story

So, my voice has been to Australia. Maybe one of these days my body will go there, too.

No way am I running for office

Someone recently turned me on to a local CNMI message board called Politics Now: Crossfire. The first thread I opened, titled A Unified CNMI GOP + Increasing Public Discontentment = Demise of Covenant Party, had these two comments:

US Resident NMI Voter:

I am wondering if there are no young people available to run for office. I heard that Angelo Villagomez and Edmund "Kilili" Villagomez may just give it a try in 07 and they have my votes, guaranteed.

Good Voter writes:

Good choice for Angelo and Edmund. There are more young and energetic possible candidates.

I am humbled by these sentiments, but I have no desire to run for office. I am happy making my non-profit salary and making a difference from outside of the government.

Some of the other threads on the message board are very interesting, though. There is a current of extreme dissatisfaction running through the whole message board. Most of the contributors seem very unhappy with the current state of the government and are yearning for change. The fact that the same people that ran for office in 1976 are still running for office in 2006 is brought up time and time again.

Most of the posters seem to be Republican. I've mentioned before that there are three local factions of the Republican party. The majority of contributors seem to hail from the BB Republicans. Ben and Tim get a bashing from these BB R's. Ouch!

Whatever. I'm staying out of it. I'll report. You decide.

However....

Want to change the tone of the conversation? Start adding comments now! OK...Go!

Click HERE to start posting

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Vast Mainland Conspiracy

Man. Did I set off a firestorm with the We Love Saipan network or what? Not only did some guy in West Palm spew off 20 or so comments on a number of different blogs to which I contribute, but somebody felt it necessary to start a wiki on Wikipedia detailing the history of a certain negative website.

The wiki says that the We Love Saipan network has "published a plan to counter the negative website's ranking through a campaign of google bombing and text anchoring." That's not true. We plan to counter the website's ranking by increasing the Internet literacy of the people of Saipan (which includes coding and text anchoring), promoting websites that accurately portray life in the CNMI, and putting out content detailing our activities to make these islands a better place to live and visit.

Got a problem with that? Deal.

The wiki fingers a former CNMI Assistant Attorney General named William Betz as the author of said negative website. Well, the wiki says that he is the alleged author. Homeboy has never made a public statement about his involvement with the website, even though register.com lists him as the administrative contact for said negative website.

Bitter haole, party of one?

Eighth in a Series - Karaoke Dance Moves

There is a karaoke bar in Fiesta Resort & Spa that we frequent a little too often. We had another marathon session Friday night. I think we're rocking out to Ice, Ice Baby in these pictures:

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Real Men of Beautify CNMI!

Clockwise from far left: Gus Kaipat, Kyle Kaipat, Ken Kramer, Dennis Cabrera, Carl Brachear, Tim Lang, Steve Hiney, Angelo Villagomez, and Ian Catlett pose for the Real Men Calendar.

What do you think?

No More Hot Japanese Girls!

From the Marianas Variety:

During a ceremony at Saipan Nikko Hotel on Tuesday, 15-year-old Aika Okabe was crowned Miss Saipan besting the two other contenders from Tokyo — Miki Kurabayashi and Erina Ando.
Aika is the one in yellow from the previous posts. She's Chi-unit's age. Ouch. I formally retract all previous statements about hot Japanese girls.

So last night was Elimination Week 3 of Saipan Singing Superstar. This week's winner, Lala, was the best act we've seen so far. I had my picture taken with her after the show. Here is a promo video for the show with the contestants from the first two weeks:



There is one week left of eliminations, then one more show where the singers who almost made it are given a second chance. I think they're calling it the Wildcard Round. The final rounds begin after that.

After Saipan Singing Superstar I went to Garapan and met up with Bree and some friends for a bachelorette party. Her neighbor is getting married on Friday. I was the token guy in a pink shirt.

Then just because I can, there's a picture of Joe Taijeron and Morgan Rose bringing sexy back. I hate that phrase.

Monday, November 20, 2006

More Hot Japanese Girls!

OK, so these are pictures of the same hot girls, the three finalists in the Ms. Saipan contest. The final contest is tonight at Nikko Hotel...and I'm not invited.

:(

Double :(

At least I get to be a Saipan Singing Superstar judge tomorrow! Last week the judges' favorite was Tikla Brown, but our votes only count for 70% of a contestant's score. Even though we scored her the highest, she ended up getting fourth. She had about 24 text votes, while Raymund Legazpi, last week's winner, had something like 30,000. Yes, that is a three with four zeros.

Here's a picture of Kathryn Barry, PTI's regional marketing manager, showing Jerry Tan, MVA Chairman, how to send a text:

So far the most popular song is Whitney Houston's Greatest Love of All. 3 of the 20 or so contestants have sung it. I'm going to start deducting points if I hear it again. Consider that a fair warning. And while I'm at it, how about something other than a ballad? It's not that we don't love your ballads, it's just that you'll stand out from the other contestants if you do something a little different. Trust me.

Hot Japanese Girls!

There is a Japanese movie company on Saipan this week. They are filming a movie called Memory of the Seashore. The guy in the middle wearing red shorts and a white hat is supposed to be famous. Any ideas who he is?

These girls are the top three finalists in the Ms. Saipan contest. As part of being in the final three, they get roles in the movie. Woot! No idea what Ms. Saipan means, though. They're hot. Enough said. They're all winners in my book.

So why did I get to meet them? Because they heard of Beautify CNMI and wanted to pitch in! Heck yeah! How awesome is that? This afternoon they went straight from arriving at the airport to a cleanup at Paupau Beach. The beach was actually already pretty clean, so there wasn't much cleaning up to do. We gave them T-shirts and stickers after we took approximately 4.6 million pictures together.

They'll be filming around the island all week. Keep an eye out.

The Wonderful World of Saipan

Anyone who has ever been diving in Saipan should own this video. From their website:
The Underwater World of Saipan is a 105-minute interactive DVD showcasing the incredible beauty and bio-diversity of Saipan’s underwater world. With 7 amazing dives to choose from, it’s hard to know where to start but getting there is effortless with a simple to use map menu. Simply select the dive site you want to see, then sit back and enjoy your virtual tour beginning high atop Mount Tapochau. The descent from Saipan’s highest peak quickly pinpoints each dive location while a short boat ride or 4-wheel drive gets you there. Wonderful cinematography then captures the unique topside attractions of each site including spectacular seaside cliffs, historical WWII monuments, beautiful white sand beaches and local children playing in crystal clear waters.
My name is Angelo Villagomez, and I endorsed this ad.

But seriously, people. This video was locally made and it really captures what a dive in Saipan is like. Laura, Josh, Adam, and David, you'll notice that the video goes to Obyan, Bonzai, Naftan, and the Grotto. If you want to share with your friends what it was like, this video is perfect. You have the option of watching the dives one at a time or you can just watch the whole video. Amazing video. Wow. Get one.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Save the Grotto

Being the Jedi Master that I think I am, I have access to the names and emails of the Save the Grotto petition list. I was checking on them this morning and noticed that lots of people had answered the question "Do you currently live in the CNMI?" with something other than yes or no.

This, so far, has to be my favorite:

Do you currently live in the CNMI? Not yet. Jesus said it best: "For I was hungry and you gave me no food; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and you did not take me in, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me. Then they also will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?' Then will he answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me." (Matthew 25:42-45) Contained within every evil(greedy profiteering republican) act are the seeds of its own destruction. Adhere to the teachings of Jesus, as contained in The Urantia Book, or else suffer the consequences. It IS that simple. TRUTH has been spoken to power, Peace will prevail. Buck Fush! SUPPORT GLOBAL PEACE AND ECONOMIC STABILITY, AS WELL AS ECOLOGICAL SUSTAINABILITY... IMPEACH BUSH AND HENEY NOW!

Please tell me someone else sees the irony in this. As for the other responses, a lot of them are very touching. I think I will reprint some in a later post.

Laulau BBQ

Yesterday, after our monthly cleanup of Laulau Beach, the Kaipat family and Friends of Beautify CNMI! celebrated JKL's 5th birthday.

We BBQed on the beach, swam in the water, and drank more beer than I care to admit. When Scott came down later in the afternoon we went swimming outside the reef. In the first five minutes of our swim we found a clown fish swimming in his sea anemone and a lion fish (or was it a zebra fish?)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Underwater Grotto Wedding

I have a confession to make: I wasn't invited to the Grotto Wedding. Morgan Rose told me about it the night before while we were at Saipan Singing Superstar and thus intrigued, I decided to invite myself. This seemed like a pretty unique Saipan experience, so I wanted to watch and maybe take some pictures.

The event was coordinated by Speedy Tertle, a local Russian dive shop. Being the good wedding planners/dive masters they are, they set up the whole wedding before the bride and groom arrived. The bride and groom just had to show up.

And they showed up wearing the most original tuxedo and wedding gown I have ever seen.

The whole event was videotaped by Mike Tripp, who just released an underwater video of Saipan's dive sites. He coordinated all the picture taking. The first round of picture taking was taken at the entrance to the Grotto. Of course, after taking pictures by themselves, the bride and groom had to take pictures with all of the Japanese tourists visiting the Grotto that day.

With those pictures out of the way, it was time for the happy couple to descend the 116 stairs to the bottom of the Saipan Grotto. Gosh, this would be so much easier with a monorail...

There is a big rock at the bottom of the Grotto. One just has to hop over a little dangerous part to get there. Falling into the water here really sucks, so they had some help from the divemaster.

Then it was time to get in the water and get married! The couple put on their SCUBA gear and jumped off the big rock into the water.

From this point on my pictures suck. On top of my lens fogging up almost immeadiately, I am really inexperienced using a strobe in a cave, so bear with me, please.

The couple didn't know that King Neptune would help them tie the knot. When they jumped in the water, King Neptune was already sitting at the bottom. He motioned them to follow him to the underwater chapel.

Yes, I said underwater chapel. Speedy Tertle had set up a chapel using dive weights, a bunch of those spagetti looking toys that people use when they swim in a pool, and fake flowers. It looked pretty cool, but sorry, no pictures.

You obviously can't talk while underwater, so everyone used gestures and laminated pre-printed text to perform the ceremony. The whole thing took only a few minutes, then they swam around the inside of the cave to take some pictures near the cave exits.

I really wish I wasn't such a novice with my strobe, then I might actually have some quality photos to share. Oh well, I'll put that on the list of things to do.

That was it. Just another fun day in Saipan.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

CNMI Recycles Day

So the Beautify CNMI! website has attracted the attention of a troll. He kept flaming me, so I kept leaving him "thank you for your comments" comments. He takes issue with my attempt to showcase the CNMI in a positive light. He feels that by doing so that I am somehow "lying" to the world. He's commented on this blog, too. I'm not going to flame him, but feel free to fan the fires.

Idiot.

So I attended an underwater wedding today. I'll post pictures later...maybe.

Cool.

So I am going to share Master of Ceremony duties at CNMI Reycles Day this Saturday. Reina Camacho, my brother's god sister and my good buddy at DEQ, is my co-host. I'm happy to do it, but I always get so nervous before speaking in public. I'm already stressing out over it. Seriously. Alex and Mom can attest to the fact that I get nauseau in these situations...a lot.

But I'm going to do it. Once I get on stage I always end up being fine. I just won't eat or drink anything for four hours before the event.

Bummer.

So, speaking of going onstage, Wednesday night was Elimination Week 2 of Saipan Singing Superstar. I think I'm going to be on TV or something.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Tsunami Alert

Looks like there was an earthquake in Japan. Saipan is supposed to get hit by a tsunami in 60 minutes. I'm going to bed. I'll let you know how the tsunami was when I wake up.

Monday, November 13, 2006

We Love Saipan Network

We all know about a certain negative website that, for lack of a better description, thinks that Saipan, well, let's just not go there. I believe that a google search of "saipan" produces this website as the sixth result. There is an ounce of truth in what the author writes, but it is overwhelmed by a quart of cynicism and a gallon of bitterness.

Saipan has her problems, but come on people, it is not like we live in Haiti or North Korea! Sure, Saipan has corruption, but Saipan also has a rich history, diverse cultures, and unparalleled natural beauty. I really hope that this blog and the Beautify CNMI! homepage help convey that to rest of the world.

A while back I posted a blog with a few ideas on how to combat this negative exposure. Often, when you find that you can't shut someone up, the next best thing is to drown them out. I posted what I thought would help do that.

Over the weekend I received an email from Walt Goodridge. We are going to come up with a list of things we can do to promote the CNMI in a positive light using the Internet. Come back in a few days for more...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Reports: Pigs Fly, Hell Freezes Over

I can't believe it. It actually happened. I actually found something that the President and I agree on!

POTUS says:

"Whatever your opinion of the outcome, all Americans can take pride in the example our democracy sets for the world by holding elections even in a time of war," Bush said.

"Our democratic institutions are a source of strength, and our trust in these institutions has made America the most powerful, prosperous, and stable nation in the world. (Watch Bush talk about elections and his pick for defense secretary -- 3:42)
Oh crap...there I go being political again.

Speaking of politics, the local GOP is getting a lot of press these days. Saipan has two GOP factions, well, three if you count the Covenant Party. The two camps fall in line behind their two respective leaders, Juan Babauta, the former Governor and Washington Representative, and Heinz Hofschneider, the former House Speaker. This division cost them the Governor's Mansion in 2005, with Heinz 99 votes behind the winner and Juan 100 votes behind Heinz.

The party is gearing up for the mid-term elections in 2007. Things aren't looking good. When they got together for their meeting they couldn't even agree to disagree. Here's a tip: Don't invite the press to an event that is going to end in disagreement. It makes you look too "political."

On a side note, the Democratic ticket was 1168 votes behind Juan. And in case you were wondering, 13,517 voters decided who got to be governor. If I'm not mistaken, that is fewer votes than Scott received in his election last week...but I don't think Scott gets to control a $200 million budget.

As for my political beliefs on Saipan, I'm just going to stay out of it. I am a born & bred Democrat in the mainland (Yes, my father started off as a Democrat. It wasn't until later in life that he turned to the dark side...just ask my Mom), but I don't see any parallels between the Ds and Rs here and their counterparts in the mainland.

So if you are looking for my support...don't ask. These islands need to focus on good people and great policy; we've had enough of bad politics.

Lost: Naftan Station

Bree found a hatch buried in the jungle today. Could it be another Dharma Initiative station? I wonder what was inside?

Me! Who knew that Saipan was the inspiration for that particular story line on LOST?

By the way, I would appreciate it if one of my readers would enlighten me as to what these concrete structures lost in the Saipan jungle were originally used for. They are WWII era for sure, but are they American or Japanese?

Visiting these ruins made me wonder how many more years have to pass before these places are turned into tourist attractions. I'm sure we could fix them up and charge people admission.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Saipan Singing Superstar

On Wednesday night I was one of three judges for Saipan Grand Hotel's Saipan Singing Superstar. This production was put on by the famous Oscar Yema. The event was similar to American Idol, but with a Micronesian Pinoy twist.

I was the Paula Abdul of Saipan Singing Superstar; I couldn't bring myself to, um, constructively criticize some of the contestants. When I really wanted to say something like, "you SUCK!," I said something like, "that was a very difficult song, thank you for your performance."

Jonathan, one of the other judges, wasn't as nice. He told one 14 year old girl that she shouldn't read the words from the karaoke screen. Ouch!

The winner of Wednesday's round, Angel Tumada, was fantastic. She was the last person to sing and really stood out as the night's star. Here she is singing her song (which was in Tagalog, so I have no idea what she was singing):

That's Brad of Saipan Tribune fame in the background. He's the Ryan Seacrest of Saipan. Now that's something to write how about!

This was elimination week 1. Of the 10 contestants, 3 moved on to the next round. Along with Angel, Paul Medina and Cherry San Gabriel advanced.

My only complaint about the event is that I think just about all of the contestants sang a love ballad, whether in English or Tagalog. I'll be judging again next week, so I'd really like to see and I hope that someone from the next round tries a different genre (Hint, wink, nudge).

The first round of the kid's category will be held tonight at 6 PM in the Grand Hotel Lobby. The second round of the adult eliminations will be next Wednesday at 7 PM in the Grand Hotel Lobby. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Did you get your money's worth?

I don't always trust what the newspapers on Saipan report. In today's Variety, an article reports that 23 government officials are going on a business junket in Hawaii. In the same paper, an editorial says that 32 are going. The article reports that the cost per participant for the two day conference is $3,846.60.

If the newspaper is to be believed, which often it is not, that means that the cost of the two day conference to the CNMI government is somewhere between $44,235.90 - $61,545.60 PER DAY.

The Variety is reporting that the airfare alone is $2,221.10 per person, while the Tribune is reporting that the airfare is no more than $900 per person. A quick check of continental.com quoted me a price of over $2000 for this trip (if booked today). The price at nwa.com was a litter lower, but still over $1400 (if booked today).

So who do you believe? How many people are going? How much will it cost per person? Is the government footing the entire bill? What will the CNMI get for $60,000 per day?

These are important questions. We've all heard the saying that "you have to spend money to make money," but is it really necessary to spend so much? Hell, we don't even know how much they are spending because the newspapers can't get their stories straight.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

What's that smell? VICTORY!!!

Scott won his race!!!!!!!! He was the only candidate to defeat an incumbent in Central Florida. The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that it was an upset victory, but those of us who know Scott knew that he was going to win from the day he filed for candidacy.

Can you see the T-shirt the guy on the right is wearing? The guy's name is Rob and he's wearing the official Elect Scott Randolph T-shirt. I designed those T-shirts well over a year ago and it so great to see somebody wearing it on the night of Scott's victory!

Congrats again, Scott! Not many candidates can claim to have beaten an incubment in thier first campaign by an almost 2 to 1 margin!

Enjoy your early retirement, Sheri! It has been a long time coming.

Bill Nelson also trounced Katherine Harris in the Florida Senate race. Anybody thinking what I'm thinking? That's right, Katherine Harris for President in '08!

It also looks like the Democrats are going to take back the House and the Senate. The headline in today's Marianas Variety was "A rude awakening for the NMI." No kidding.

I tell people that this is a really interesting time to live in the CNMI. Well, things just got a lot more interesting.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Best headline EVER

Naked Man Arrested for Concealed Weapon

So.

We are 15 hours ahead of the East Coast, so it will be 10 AM on Wednesday in Saipan when the polls close in Orlando. Vote for Randolph!

The people of Saipan are not looking forward to the looming Democratic victory. They are afraid that once the Dems are in the majority that Rep. George Miller (D-CA), a guy who gets more than half of his PAC money from labor unions, will reintroduce legislation that strips the CNMI of the right to enforce our own labor and immigration laws, all in the name of human rights.

Without Tom Delay in the Congress to block this legislation, well you see where I'm going with this. It is kind of a controversial topic. I don't want to piss anyone off.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens.

So.

Britney is divorcing Kevin. Woot.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Korean Peace Memorial

The Saipan Korean Peace Memorial honors the Korean citizens killed during WWII. About 1000 Koreans were brought to Saipan before the war as conscripts in the Japanese military and as forced laborers.

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited the memorial in 2005, causing quite a bit of controversy.

The Korean Peace Memorial is also the starting point for the Banadero Trail. The start of the trail is just behind to the right of the memorial. Look for the flagging tape and then just follow the trail to the top of Suicide Cliff.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Vote for Randolph

Sheri McInvale, Orlando's Fat Katherine Harris, has reached a new low. She is accusing her challenger of, well, just go ahead and watch this video:



The deadline to donate to the Scott Randolph for State Representative has passed, but you can still help them Get Out The Vote. Call them at 407 575-8276 to help out!

There are only 5 days left until Election Day. Run, Scott, Run!

Today's Daily Pic

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Pool and Kelaguin at Ocean's

Today is a sad day. Two years ago, almost to the hour, I was with a very good friend, knocking on doors in Northern Osceola County. Those of you who know me best know why. Cursed, cursed November 2!

For Emily's last night in Saipan we went to Ocean's for chicken kelaguin and free pool. Here are some pictures:

Today's Daily Pic

Halloween in Saipan

Emily and I went to a Halloween party at Club V last night. The party was co-hosted by Saipan Grand Hotel, Saipan Chamber of Commerce, and Off the Beaten Path, which is sort of like a Rotary Club for young people.

They had a pumpkin carving contest with a grand prize of $200. I was sure I could win...except I couldn't find a damn pumpkin on this island! WTF!?!

I dressed up as the CNMI Economy. I bought a white T-shirt at Joeten and wrote the words "CNMI ECONOMY" on the back. Then I wore a life preserver. I didn't know until this morning that a Chinese tourist drowned yesterday. I hope I didn't offend anyone.

Emily dressed up as a school girl. She says she was a Japanese school girl, but how many blonde Japanese school girls have you seen lately? Tina dressed up as, well, Tina.

Half way through the night I traded my life preserver for a black mask. Oh well, not one of my better years for costumes. Topping my George W. Bush costume from last year is going to be hard to do.

Today's Daily Pic

Letter to the Editor

I submitted some comments to the Zoning Board about their proposed Adult Business Zoning regulations. I emailed my comments to a few people on island in the hopes that they would also submit comments. One of those people prodded me to send in my comments as a letter to the editor. Here they are, published in today's Saipan Tribune:
Zoning for adult businesses

I would like to commend the Zoning Board for tackling such a contentious issue as adult business as their first project. After the issue of adult business zoning is dealt with, I am sure that dealing with other zoning issues will seem like a walk in the park.

I have read the proposed zoning amendments and I wholeheartedly endorse and support them. Saipan has allowed unchecked, rampant growth for too long and our plan to move toward a more well-planned development scheme is long overdue.

Like a cancer, growth for the sake of growth is not always a good thing; it can be deadly. If left untended, cancer kills the rest of the human body. In a similar fashion, the adult businesses in Garapan, if left untended, will slowly kill the other organs of our economy.

The Zoning Board proposals do not say that adult businesses cannot exist; they just list certain criteria that adult businesses have to meet in order to operate. This is true for many other types of businesses, such as restaurants, which have to comply with strict public health regulations.

I believe that these zoning regulations will have a positive long-term effect on our tourist economy. We have to only look at other municipalities that have instituted similar zoning regulations that the Zoning Board is proposing. The first example that comes to mind is New York. When the adult businesses became regulated, the overall economy improved, land values increased, and visitors and locals alike now agree that New York really "cleaned up."

The other example that comes to mind is downtown Orlando, where I lived for 10 years. A few years back the City Council instituted some regulations that angered the college age crowd, which was notorious for loud obnoxious behavior and urinating in public, among other things. Several, if not all, of the downtown nightclubs fought these regulations tooth and nail. When the regulations were finally enforced, the raging party died down and downtown started to attract an older, more affluent clientele. Those nightclubs that initially fought the regulations are now thankful for them, as they are now making more money from a clientele with more disposable income than college students and military.

I hope that Saipan can follow such examples to improve our islands for the people that live here and for the tourists that visit us.

Thank you for considering my comments.

Angelo Villagomez
via e-mail