Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I found the jinja in the jungle

Hachiman Jinja SaipanThe Force is strong in Saipan. It can be difficult to feel, but when you are able to get away, able to find a place untouched by Google and MTV, you can feel it. You can call the feeling what you want, whether it be religious, spiritual, or even creepy, but you can still feel it. We've all felt it at some time in our lives, a connection to the past and to something greater than ourselves.

I have been back in Saipan for just over a year now. I joke that the planets aligned to bring me back to this island, but I feel that they did. The Force brought me to Saipan.

Returning to Saipan was never in my life plan. My mother escaped with her two kids from Saipan when I was three years old. After he divorced her, my father moved on and started a new family. My mother raised my brother, Alex, and me as a single parent. I received the occasional letter from my father, but I saw him no more than once every other year. I was raised as an American, visiting Saipan exactly five times during my childhood.

Even when I was about to graduate from college, no one was asking me what I was going to do when I returned to Saipan. I don't think anybody ever even considered me coming back.

In my final week of college, my father suffered a massive heart attack and was evacuated to a hospital in Honolulu. I flew to Honolulu to be with him, his wife, my four brothers, and my sister. I missed my college graduation so that I could be there with them. It was worth it though; it was the last, and only the second, time my father's six children were all together. I don't know if that will ever happen again.

When he stabilized, we brought him home so that he could die on Saipan. We didn't expect him to live long. I thought he was going to die on the plane, but he hung in there for five and half years. During that interval, I went back to America, earned another degree and continued on with my life.

Alex and I had an unspoken understanding that we would go back for his funeral and then we would probably never return to Saipan.

Well, that changed.

I made plans to visit Saipan in 2005. I was moving to Japan and before my job started there, my girlfriend at the time and I decided that we wanted to pay a visit to Saipan and my family. We were scheduled to arrive on December 17, 2005.

I moved to Japan on November 18, 2005. It was an exciting time; I was living in a new place and things were going very well.

Then my world was turned upside down.

On the morning of December 1, 2005, I woke up and opened up my laptop. I immediately started getting chat requests from Alex in Florida. I plugged in my camera, accepted the chat invitation and saw Alex bawling his eyes out. My father had died the night before.

Alex already had a ticket to Saipan. I told him I would meet him in the Narita airport.

Now, if my father had died at any other time, I would have purchased a ticket to Saipan, stayed for one week, buried him, and I would have left Saipan behind forever.

But he didn't die at any other time. He died 17 days before I was going to see him for the first time in five and a half years.

So instead of coming for one week, I came for one month. You can read the archives of this blog, but after burying him, I was able to rediscover Saipan. I was able to see Saipan for the first time as an adult. I was able to see the island through my own eyes.

Three months later I was living on Saipan for the first time since I was three years old.

And you know what I have discovered?

I belong here.


Marianas Eye said...

And what a great discovery ... for Saipan.

CNMI Blogger said...

Very moving post. Welcome home (AGAIN!).

Aldan Atalig Family said...

I totally understand where you're coming from. I, too, did not even think I would come back home after college. 13 years later, I know Saipan is HOME. Thanks for your story.

Boni said...

This is an extremely personal post, and I am thankful that you've decided to share it. You do belong here. Welcome home little brother:)

Bruce A. Bateman said...

Life seems to be full of these 'turning point' experiences, Angelo. If not for________, I would have not done_______ and my life would have gone off in a different direction completely.

The question is: are these coincidental, random occurances as they seem to be or is there some grand plan? Humans have been questing for that answer since we could cogitate.

So what got you waxing philosophical and contmplating, not your navel, but the string of occcurences that brought you here to stay?

Is that question too personal for open blog discussion? If so, sorry.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

My midichlorians have been hyperactive due to the large number of Sith in the vicinity.

Tamara said...

I got tears in my coffee reading think I can still drink it? hmmm...Very touching blog, thanks for sharing!

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

serious answer for Bruce:

It started off as a post about how Hachiman Jinja is a special place, then it became Saipan is a special place, and then it morphed into what you just read.

Bruce A. Bateman said...


Let's hike together sometime and talk about these seeming random occurances while we enjoy the special sights Saipan has to offer. Might be a fun way for a small group of like minded folks to spend a Tuesday Morning.

Marites said...

Thank God, finaly you did say it that you belongs here. May God Bless you always in everything you do in life.

Bryan said...

A powerful, moving and well-written post. Thanks for sharing.

saipanboonieman said...

wow.... gave me goosebumps as i read it! thanks for sharing..... im actually grateful that you are here, you've help contribute so much to our islands and have inspired many to care as much as you do for our home...... thanks again....

-c. jones

Xavier Castro said...

Your post struck a chord with me because of similar circumstances.

As with you, Saipan has become my home, and for those of us who've been away for awhile, we unknowingly realize that upon return, she's welcomed us with open arms and embraced us as a mother would after a long, long time away... and when we reciprocate the embrace, it's like magic... or as you say... it's the Force and the Force is strong.

This is a magical place. Blessed are we that know this.

sexshe said...



I was reading along, unsuspecting and truly uncertain as to where this was leading.
Very well put, because I was relatively feeling normal till the last line--

it literally forced abrupt tears to my eyes.

Glad to know people like you still exist on this island.

-an MHS student

K. R. said...

wow Angelo, this was a very moving story. I especially love how you ended the blog entry with:
"And you know what I have discovered?

I belong here."