Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve in Garapan

Fat guy in a party hat: New Year's Eve was a lot of fun this year.

Before heading out to celebrate the New Year, EJ and I had a nice quiet celebration in my Garapan apartment. Well, it would have been quiet if it wasn't for the Chinese masseuses setting off fireworks downstairs.

We stayed in for most of the evening. I made her dinner. We watched a movie. We shared a bottle of wine.

The Korean Party Girl wouldn't stay cooped up all night, though. With all that sweet, romantic relationship crap out of the way, it was time to go out and party!

My car is still dead and EJ's car was rented out (her parents own that car rental place on the corner of Beach Road near American Memorial Park), so we had to stay in Garapan.

We hit up the three most popular bars in Saipan. All three are within walking distance, so naturally we took my scooter.

Saipan PrincessI'm a princess, damn it!: The people at Ocean's were handing out tiaras. I never knew a plastic crown could make a grown woman so happy.

The party at Ocean's had some sort of Miss America theme or something. Everyone was handed a sash with a title written on it and all of the girls were given cheap plastic tiaras. These tiaras were very exciting. If a girl happened to walk through the front door without picking one up, one of the other girls would grab her arm, tell her about the tiaras and then they would both rush back out the door to get one. A moment later they would both came back in, smiling as they adjusted their tiaras.

Our sashes could say whatever we wanted. EJ was Ms. KPG, Kathy was Ms. Naughty Spice and Tracy was Ms. Sassy Pants. I was Mr. The Chosen One (remember that movie, Kevin?)

Then it was time to go to the next bar.

Thai Party GirlsThai Party Girls: These girls are crazy. Before I went to Thailand I thought that it was just these Thai girls that were crazy. After having visited their homeland, I now realize that all Thai girls are crazy.

Godfather's, Johnny's, and I guess Billy Bones (that's the new strip club with no strippers Brady alluded to in one of his comments) were having a street party on the side road in front of their bars.

They set up a stage in the middle of the road and had a clock counting off the time until the new year. They hired some ultra-cheesy, funny looking ex-army guy to be their host.

God, what was his name?

Saipan New Years Eve GarapanGuns on the microphone: Brad is turning into Saipan's biggest celebrity. Better make that Saipan's only celebrity.

Oh yeah, Brad Ruszala.

Godfather's is Grand Central Station for hot girls on Saipan. Last night was no different.

Morgan Rose Lannie Walker Garapan SaipanKSPN's Lannie Walker and Morgan Rose were there. They're standing in front of the new pirate themed strip club, you know, the one with no strippers.

Don't you just love Saipan?

Godfathers Garapan New YearsPattie GOALman was also out last night and she was...gasp...wearing a dress! I'm going to try to abstain from making a MILF joke, but seriously you looked great last night, Pattie!

We were still at the street party around midnight. When it got close to countdown time everyone in the bars poured out into the streets.

Brad was up on stage giving away Western Union, PTI and Budweiser promotional stuff. Our group grabbed a lot of stuff and then gave it all to Jeff Turbitt's son Alex.

At the stroke of midnight the fireworks kicked into overdrive. Between the hotels, the bars and the Chinese masseuses all lighting fireworks, Garapan felt like Baghdad on the night of the invasion.

After midnight we walked on over to the Flair. If Godfather's is Saipan's most popular bar, then the Flair is Saipan's coolest bar. They've got cool flashing lights that seem to light up with the music and they do a Tom Cruise in Cocktail-esque show every night.

It's a different crowd from Ocean's and Godfather's, too. If Ocean's attracts the mid-thirties yuppie crowd and if Godfather's attracts the older white guy looking for a hot Asian wife crowd, then I'd have to say that the Flair attracts the college age crowd, with a heavy dose of Korean Party Girls.

Good times at all three bars, trust me.

We didn't stay out too late. My Mom called to wish me a happy New Year around 1:30 AM and I was already asleep.

I woke up this morning and started my New Year's resolutions right off the bat. I made myself breakfast at home and called my Mom back in Florida.

In a few hours I'm leading a group of people on a hike down to Forbidden Island. I went there last year with Diana, EJ and Walt. I'm hoping to make this annual hike a tradition.

So far EJ, Jeff, Carl, Aya, Tracy and Scuba Brad have signed on. If you want to come, just meet us at the top of the trail at 12:30 PM. Call my cellphone if you need directions.

Happy New Year!

...and Happy Birthday to Miss Diana "Like the Cat" Felix. I think she turns 23 today. Could be 24, but I don't think so...and I think she's older than 22.

One Final Thought

In December 2005 I was in Saipan for my father's funeral. I returned to Japan on that New Year's Eve wondering if I would ever return to Saipan. Two years later I wonder if I'll ever leave.

******

I've come up with a few New Year's Resolutions/Goals. They are posted below. Check back with me in 12 months to measure my success.

1. The Saipan Blog will have at least 1000 regular readers per day
2. I will run more and drink less
3. I will start eating breakfast and drinking coffee at home
4. I will keep my apartment clean
5. I will visit Palau
6. I will South Korea
7. I will visit the family in Florida
8. I will fix up the house and yard in Fina Sisu
9. I will save some money

******

There will be a comet in the sky tonight. Don't know where, don't know when. I just know that it is called Comet 8P/Tuttle and that it hasn't been around for 13.6 years.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Do you know Jonathan Cruz?

This morning I received an email from Editha Cruz Victorino in the Philippines. She is looking for her relative Jonathan Cruz, Jonjon for short. She thinks that he is on Saipan with his family.

His two sisters, Joanne and Czarina, and his brother, Chinggoy, do not know his whereabouts. They want to let him know that they have moved. They say that if he doesn't want to be bothered, they understand. They just want to let him know where they've moved and to know if he is OK.

Email me at angelovillagomez at gmail dot com and I'll put you in contact with Editha.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Porky's Christmas Party

Bruce Bateman invited EJ and me over to his bar, Porky's, for a Christmas Eve party. Jeff Turbitt, founding member of the Saipan Blogger Clique was in attendance along with his pregnant wife and two little boys. Some of Bruce's other friends, family members, and employees were there, too.

It was a nice little time.

All I want for Christmas: Angelo Clause gave EJ a small blue box for her present.

The Happy Couple: Korean Party Girl and the Saipan Blogger on Christmas Eve.

Double vision: It must be the mojitos.

EJ Lee and Santa ClauseThe War on Christmas: I don't know why Saipan's #1 Korean Party Girl felt it necessary to rip off Santa's head.

EJ Lee and Alexander BatemanA lawyer in the making: This kid's name is Alexander Bateman. Can he be anything but a lawyer?

Jeff and Cynthia Turbitt SaipanTwo many Turbitts: In a few months the world will have another Turbitt. May God have mercy on us all.

Bruce Bateman SaipanOld Man Scrooge: Saipan's favorite bat shit crazy haole handing out gifts to his friends, family, and employees.

2007 in review

This blog turns three today. Time for a recap of the last year in blogging:

I woke up on January first to find that Beautify CNMI was named the 2006 Saipan Tribune Person of the Year. That was only the tip of the iceberg. 2007 was one for the history books, quite possibly the best year of my life.

We started the year off with some pretty ambitious goals. Beautify CNMI wanted every single person in the Marianas to volunteer at least one day to our campaign and Walt and I were determined to create a Saipan Blogosphere with the We Love Saipan Network.

I also started my job as the new and first Executive Director of MINA in January. I signed a contract to work part-time, 20 hours per week. I spent the weekends volunteering for Beautify CNMI events and playing soccer on Sunday afternoons in a men's league.

In February I decided to go out for the CNMI soccer team. I had low expectations and an overdeveloped beer belly. I told myself that I'd be happy if I just made the team as a substitute player. We practiced 6 days per week for the next two months. I stopped drinking about two weeks in and eventually dropped about 20 pounds.

I still managed to coordinate Beautify CNMI through all this. I would send out an event calendar on Fridays and then update everyone with the activities results the following Monday. Our blogger network continued to grow, too. The Saipan Blog also started popping up on the first page of a google search for "Saipan" in February.

Some part of my body ached every single day in March. I also contracted the Yosh Gabaldon Plague after drinking from the team cup. That put me out of commission for about two weeks.

Soccer pretty much consumed my life all month, but I still had time to begin my official courtship of Ms. EJ Lee.

At the end of the month I started in the first CNMI vs. Guam soccer game. We lost 3-2, but the show of support from our local fans made the two months of push ups and wind sprints worth it.

Beautify CNMI also started hitting its stride. By mid-March there were usually 2-5 events per weekend. We couldn't make it to all of them, but the movement kept growing. People start to plan their own cleanups and call them Beautify CNMI cleanups.

The first weekend in April I traveled to Guam with the soccer team to play in our second game against Guam. We ended of losing 9-0, but it was one hell of an experience. I just wish I had been able to play in that game.

April should have been called Beautify CNMI month. We were awarded with a 2007 Environmental Award from the EPA, Friends of the Mariana Islands earned a 2006 Earth Team Award, and we had our one year Anniversary dinner at Aqua Resort Club. A bunch of us also spent an entire weekend at the Flame Tree Arts Festival promoting MINA and Beautify CNMI.

I made it over to Tinian for only the second time since I've been on Saipan in April. I won about $50 playing crappes and went cliff jumping at Taga Beach.

In May we officially received our EPA Award. May was a typical month on Saipan, with Beautify CNMI and sports on the weekend.

The first week of June I attended an environmental conference in Majuro, Marshall Islands. It was my first time visiting islands in Micronesia outside of the Marianas.

In June we started planting Flame Trees and other tree species again. We also put on our summer camp.

The Saipan blogs really took off with our Best Saipan Blog Contest in July. We also start playing coed soccer. Our team, Taya Talent, doesn't win a game the entire season...and I'm OK with it.

I think the blogger trolls started coming out around this time, too. I think it had something to do with the impending federal takeover and the upcoming election...and the fact that there are a lot of crazy people out there.

August is more of the same. Marianas Dive gets going thanks to Harry and Mike. I'm still doing a boatload of MINA and Beautify CNMI work during the week and doing cleanups and playing sports on the weekends.

In September the blogger trolls got ridiculous. A pair of blogs are created for the sole purpose of hounding Jeff, Bruce and me.

As for Beautify CNMI activities, e managed to paint the lighthouse and started our first Parks & Trails activities.

In October I was traveling throughout Southeast Asia. I visited Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.

I was still in Thailand in early November. When I got back we had a strategic planning session for MINA.

By the time December rolled around we were still doing Beautify CNMI activities on the weekends. We've been going strong for almost two years.

We Love Saipan is now consistently showing up on the first page of a google search for "Saipan." There are over 100 bloggers on Saipan, with about 25 publishing regularly with a good number of readers.

It was a very succesful year. If you want to know more, scroll back through the archives.

2008 looks very promising. I already have a trip to Pohnpei and a trip to Guam scheduled. I'd love to play soccer again for the CNMI, but I think I have to be put back on the email list in order for that to happen. For some reason I've been blacklisted. I want to get up to South Korea some time next year to visit someone who I know is moving there. I'd also really like to get back to Florida some time next year. I haven't seen the family in over two years. Before I know it, it will be three.

Oh well, Happy New Year everybody!

And Happy 3rd Birthday Saipan Blog.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Florida Presidential Primary

I've already requested my Florida Presidential Primary ballot. They've already sent me my list of candidates. Pretty soon I'll get my sample ballot and then a whole bunch of campaign fliers.

In 2006 I got my ballot for the September 5 Gubernatorial primary on August 8. If the Orange County Supervisor of Elections is as efficient as he was last time, that means I'll probably get my ballot right around the first day of 2008.

So who should I vote for?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Safe Haven

"All of this to me boils down to protecting what we love, and what we care for and making sure we act on it in a way in which we believe is right, not just for the islands, but for humanity."
Nainoa Thompson
Polynesian Voyaging Society




This is a great video about the new marine managed area in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

From their website:
The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is the single largest conservation area under the U.S. flag, and the largest marine conservation area in the world. It encompasses 137,797 square miles of the Pacific Ocean (105,564 square nautical miles) - an area larger than all the country's national parks combined.

The extensive coral reefs found in Papahānaumokuākea - truly the rainforests of the sea - are home to over 7,000 marine species, one quarter of which are found only in the Hawaiian Archipelago. Many of the islands and shallow water environments are important habitats for rare species such as the threatened green sea turtle and the endangered Hawaiian monk seal.

Papahānaumokuākea is also of great cultural importance to Native Hawaiians with significant cultural sites found on the islands of Nihoa and Mokumanamana.

The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument was created by Presidential proclamation on June 15, 2006. See announcement and video here.

An excellent introduction to the Monument and general overview of the region is contained within our Citizen's Guide, click here to download a copy. (PDF)

As for our new name, it is more than just a Hawaiian word to add flavor to the name of the Monument. Papahānaumokuākea has great significance and meaning. In addition, the process of how the name was chosen is equally as important. For more information and audio files to help understand and pronounce the name, click here.

To find out more about management of the Monument please visit our management area.

Imagine This

The Garapan Tourist District should be the premier real estate in Saipan. Sandwiched between the Saipan Lagoon and a National Park, with easy walking access to several hotels, an elementary school, health clubs, restaurants, bars, shopping centers, and a three mile long walking path fronting the ocean, it should be the perfect place to raise a family.

But it's not.

It's the manky armpit of our once beautiful island.

I'd say close your eyes and try to imagine my vision, but then you'd have a really hard time reading this...but imagine what living in Garapan could be like:

Imagine if you are a young professional with a small one or two bedroom apartment on the third floor of one of the buildings in the "new" Garapan. You share it with your husband and your daughter.

You could wake up first thing in the morning and go for a six mile run along the Saipan Bike path, then jog over to Club Elan for some weightlifting or yoga.

Fresh from a shower at the spa, you walk over to one of the Chinese restaurants and have breakfast for $4.

You walk back to the apartment to help your husband get your daughter ready for school. Your daughter is pretty good in the morning and can get herself ready, it's your husband who really needs the help getting out the door.

Your daughter likes you to walk her to school, which is right across the street, so you take her over, kiss her goodbye, wish her luck on her test, wave to Boni, and then go to work.

You work at MVA, which along with the Saipan Mayor's office and several other government entities are now located in Garapan. Instead of driving, you walk over to work, strolling through the brand new Visitor's Center on your way to your desk.

Around noon one of your coworkers asks if you want Japanese, Korean or Thai for lunch. You respond with, "how about Italian?" Your husband, who works for the Mayor, walks over to meet you.

When your daughter gets out of school, you are able to take a fifteen minute break to pick her up. You take her home, then she goes out to play with her friends. They ride bikes through the National Park and then go swimming.

After work, some of your coworkers want to go for some happy hour drinks, but you promised your daughter you'd take her to the Thursday street market.

Alright, open your eyes.

In my vision, almost everything except for the government offices being located in Garapan is already true. It already exists. We can do this. If we can move the prostitution out, move several government offices including MVA in, and get young professionals to live here, we can save Garapan.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Happy Plantings Angelo Villagomez SaipanIf Easter is the day that Jesus hatched from an Easter egg, then Christmas must be the day that Santa Claus discovered the North Pole.

Right?

I'm looking forward to a quiet, relaxing Christmas. EJ, her Mom and I are having brunch at Aqua Resort later this afternoon. I also have an invite up to Casa Cabrera in Gualo Rai later tonight.

I already gave EJ her present. I successfully tricked her into thinking that I got her a box of beef jerky for Christmas. She was happy to find no beef jerky.

I've been reflecting on the last year and all I have to say is WOW. I couldn't have planned a better year. I guess the only thing that would have made it better was if I had actually made some money. This broke ass environmentalist thing is getting old; I'll only be able to do this for a few more years before I have to get a "real" job.

In the meantime, I'll just continue to save the world one tree at a time.

American Memorial Park Flame Trees Angelo Villagomez SaipanMerry Christmas and may the Flying Spaghetti Monster touch you with his noodly appendage.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Godfather's Christmas Party

Ian gave me a call last night and told me to meet him up at Godfather's. I said sure, why not, and gave EJ a call, telling her to come, too.

When we got there we found out that they were having the staff Christmas party. The girls were treated to a Christmas spread and everyone drank free from 6-8 PM.

Hell yeah free ham, turkey and stuffing!

Pretty early in the night, the staff decided that it would be great fun to take pictures of themselves kissing each other. I don't think I'm going to post any of those pictures....you'll have to ask the girls if you want to see them. They took at least 100 photos each. Some of them even shot video.

I may have shot some video, too. I can't really remember. I may have edited it with some music, too. But again, I can't remember all that well.

Perhaps it was the four rounds of Jaeger Bombs, but I'm not quite sure what got this whole thing going. Good times at Godfather's, what can I say?

EJ Lee and Angelo VillagomezI got in on the action, too. Doesn't EJ look happy to be getting a kiss from me?

Yeah, I don't think so either.

Godfathers girlsDo you know otso otso?: Guess what song the girl's requested? That's right. They did the otso otso. Remember when Ziggy would do the otso otso?

Then EJ decided that she was hungry. Instead of going to Shirley's for fried chicken, grilled mahi mahi and garlic rice, we went to Orchid's for garlic octopus, poki and garlic rice...and karaoke.

EJ Lee Ian Catlette KaroakeEvery successful night should end with karaoke. No exceptions. Ian didn't sing Dancing Queen, but we still managed to scare away all of the other customers at Orchids.

Just another great day in Saipan.

Merry Christmas!

...and I'd post more pictures from last night, but Morgan Rose threatened my life if I posted any pictures of her.

FMI Christmas Party

Friends of the Mariana Islands had their Christmas party at headquarters last night. All of my FMI friends were there (except for Bev who is in Indonesia), along with Cinta, Gus, two of the kids, and of course, EJ.

We sang karaoke all night, ate till we couldn't walk, and finished the night with a gift exchange.

I really love these guys. I'm looking forward to seeing them every single weekend in 2008.

Here we are having a great time:

EJ Lee and Gus KaipatCinta Kaipat and BoysFMI GuysGus Kaipat and FMI LadiesAngelo Villagomez and Jun Flores

Run for the Border

All the discussion on the Federal Takeover of the CNMI's Immigration ceased on December 15, 2007 at approximately 10:00 AM. Really, I wouldn't joke about something so serious.

At that exact moment, the people of the CNMI turned their attention to a much more important matter, the recent opening of Taco Bell...and no, I'm not kidding.

This has been the biggest thing to hit the CNMI since the shelling we got from the US during World War II.

It is estimated that about 3000 people showed up for the recent Unity March. The best guess for the Martin Nievera concert hovers around 10,000. From what I have been told, over 25,000 crashed through the gates of Taco Bell on their first day of business.

KFC Taco Bell SaipanOK, now I'm kidding.

But seriously, EJ and I went to Taco Bell this morning and the line was practically out the door. It wasn't even lunch time!

Who knew Chamorros and Filipinos loved Mexican food so much?!?!

They've got everything one would expect at Taco Bell, but it seemed a lot more expensive than it should have been.

A hard shell beef taco was $1.29. Doesn't that seem expensive?

Oh well, that didn't stop us. I got some hard tacos and chalupas and EJ got a steak burrito and some nachos. The whole thing came out to $14.76. Again, doesn't that seem kind of expensive for Taco Bell?

Hard Shell Tacos SaipanThere was no available seating at the restaurant, so EJ and I decided to take our food to the beach. We found a nice little concrete picnic table at American Memorial Park and sat down to our feast.

EJ Lee Korean Party GirlAmerican Memorial Park is Saipan's only National Park. How many people get to go to Taco Bell and then eat it in a National Park? We had a nice time sitting by the beach watching the kite surfers and the windsurfers.

Nothing says romance like Taco Bell, let me tell you.

Angelo Villagomez Taco Bell SaipanWhat else can I say about the Bell? It tasted just like it tastes in America and I look forward to paying them many, many dollars to help me expand my waste line in the next several months.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Want to Learn How to Grow a Tree?

My 10th article appeared in the Saipan Tribune today. It has been an interesting exercise being the environmental correspondent when I am Mr. Environment on this island. I'm involved in almost every project I've written on, but I've tried not to include my name whenever possible.

I'm really enjoying the challenge. It is a very different type of writing, and you know what? I find it difficult to write on demand. Writing an article is not as easy as it would seem. I have new found respect for my fellow reporters.

Alright, enough about me. Here's the full story:
The latest Beautify CNMI project is set to begin in January. Marianas Resource Conservation & Development Council coordinator and Beautify CNMI Park & Trails Committee chair Ken Kramer is looking for local schools to help propagate native trees for the Laulau Revegetation Project.

RC&D signed an agreement with Coastal Resource Management in 2006 to facilitate a program where local students would learn how to propagate native trees to be used for revegetation activities. The goal of the project is to grow up to 1000 trees in time for the planting season in 2008.

Once interested schools are selected, RC&D will help determine how many trees the school can accommodate. RC&D will come into the school and teach the students about soil science, tree biology, and tree care. In coordination with the Beautify CNMI coalition, in January the schools will go out to collect native seeds for the project. Tree propagation will begin in late January and students will be expected to water and care for the trees until they are ready for planting in June or July. Most of the trees will be planted at the revegetation project in Laulau. Students will have the opportunity to participate in the planting, which will occur in coordination with Beautify CNMI.

The students will pick up many important skills. RC&D representatives will teach them how to germinate the seeds, how to transfer from a small pot to a larger pot, and general care for the saplings. They will also have the opportunity to learn how to identify native trees and seeds and how to plant a tree.

The number of trees that the school can propagate will be limited by the space available at the school and by the amount of water the school can provide. Each tree will require about 4 square feet of space and five plants will require about 2 gallons of water each day. For example, to grow 25 trees would require a 10 x 10 foot area and 10 gallons of water per day.

Schools can grow as many trees as they can handle, but they must grow a minimum of 25 trees to participate. RC&D will make site visits to the schools in January to determine how many trees would be appropriate to grow at each location.

In 2006 the CNMI Watershed group planted over 1700 native trees in the Laulau Watershed. The trees grown for this project will serve to replace some of trees that have died.

RC&D also leads year round field trips for students to visit the Laulau Watershed. During the field trip, students visit the Kagman Education Island and the Laulau Revegetation project to learn about erosion and watershed science. The goal of the field trips is to teach the students that “What we do on the land can affect our marine environment.”

Teachers interested in participating in the tree growing project or taking their students on a field trip can contact Kramer at 236-0893 or ken.kramer@pb.usda.gov. All grade levels at all public and private schools are invited to participate.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Go Drink at Godfather's

Everybody loves Godfathers. I think it has to do with the cheap drinks and the great food.

Right?

Godfathers waitresses in GarapanYehlen sticking out her tongueVanessa in her plaid skirtVanessa and Haydee at Godfathers in SaipanYehlen CamachoYehlen and Heidi at Godfathers in Garapan

End of year blogging

In 2004, 2005, and 2006 I wrote up a short recap of the year as one of my last posts for the year. Look for that post in a few days, probably on December 29th, the three year anniversary of this blog.

I'm looking forward to 2008, mostly because we get to elect a new President. Say what you want about the candidates, they are going to provide months worth of almost endless entertainment.

I'm also traveling to Pohnpei in January and Guam in April. Those trips are already set.

I'd also like to get down to Rota, over to Hawaii, and up to South Korea at some point.

I'd really like to get to Florida sometime next year to see the family there. I haven't seen them since I said goodbye to them in November 2005.

I'll add to this later...I've got a meeting.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

David Cohen resigns

I found out earlier today that David Cohen has resigned. I don't really have anything profound to say about this development, I just wanted to be the one to break the story.

Go me.

So who do I send my resume to if I am interested in becoming the new Deputy Assisstant Secretary for Insular Affairs of the Interior? I pointed out in a previous post all of my qualifications. Where do I sign up?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Kudos to Ron Hodges

Ron Hodges finally wrote a Letter to the Editor to make his grandchildren proud. Instead of calling for anarchy and mayhem, he correctly points out that Taotao Tano and Dekada have more in common, and more common enemies, than they think.

Here is the letter (emphasis mine):
Letters to the editor: Chamberonomics XXVII

JANE Mack‘s “The myth of the lazy local” is a literary masterpiece that should be required reading in our local NMI, U.S., and world history classrooms.

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. realized that the struggle in this world is a social economic one and neither skin tone nor ethnicity has any place in the discussion. Mack’s analysis of those principles and application to the CNMI is superb. The lack of representation for guest workers that union affiliation would improve is long overdue. The big business propaganda campaign that implies indigenous islanders are incapable of supplying a stable workforce due to work ethic and mental capabilities is ludicrous. The motivation factor is absolutely correct.

The struggles on Saipan facing Taotao Tana and Dekada members are strikingly similar
. This has been poorly communicated to residents of our impoverished homestead areas.

I would also recommend this informative piece to be read at the Jan. 5, 2008 “chamber“ of commerce inauguration, HANMI leadership meetings, and for our long befuddled Legislature.

RON HODGES

Puerto Rico, Saipan
Good job, Ron. Now you just have to get the rest of the people on this island to understand that our common enemies are not each other, but underfunded public education, poor infrastructure, greedy and self serving politicians, poor land and water stewardship, lack of economic opportunity, alcoholism, poor diet, and a bloated government.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I was born in Connecticut!

Wendy Doromal, a woman I trust about as much as George W. Bush trusted Saddam Hussein (not including the 80's when he was our friend), was recently on island to help coordinate the recent Unity March. Here she is saying goodbye to the alien workers that helped her:



Wendy DoromalThis video and other videos like it can be found on Curt Klemstein's Youtube Channel. I think Curt was "that white guy" that everybody was asking about. He's got some speeches from Jim Benedetto and Steve "I was born in Connecticut!" Woodruff.

I know there are other Youtube Channels with videos from the March out there. If you'll leave me the links in the comments section, I will link to them in this post.

I think it is cool that the activists are starting to use Youtube and blogs to get their message out. Wendy Doromal even started a blog.

The Taotao Tano's have been really busy making videos, too. You've already seen their "We're Not Gonna Take It" series. Well now they've penned a love letter to Greg and Tina Sablan:



Who knew?

And I thought Youtube was only good for making documentaries of 2mm tsunamis, Korean Party Girls jumping on beds, and Dudes in Bikinis.

******

I was going to end this post, but somebody left a link to the following video over at Brad's blog. Just like everything else I seem to post on this blog, it will seem hilarious to some and horrendously insensitive to others:

Friday, December 14, 2007

Letters from another time

Donna OConnor VillagomezMy Mom moved to Saipan in 1976 with the intention of living here for one year (eerily paralleling my life...scary). She married my father one month after arriving and gave birth to me about two years later (not paralleling my life...thank God).

She wrote to her parents back in Massachusetts on an almost monthly basis until we left Saipan for good in April 1982. When her father died, she found out that he had kept all those letters.

She kept them safe for years and finally passed them on to me this week.

Amazing.

The letter in the above picture was written by my mother 12 days after I was born. The picture of her was taken right around the same time. She was 24. She's beautiful, isn't she?

The picture to the right was taken a few days before I left for Japan in 2005. I was 27. You can do the math to figure out her age.

The stories contained in the letters open quite a window into life in Saipan in the late 1970s. She talks about living on the farm, keeping animals, typhoons, her work, my father's political ambitions, campaigns, running a private law practice, the declining health of my grandfather, Rotary club, my father's involvement with the local beauty pageants (hmmmmmmm.....), a trip to the Northern islands, learning Chamorro, and of course, raising a family.

It was especially touching to read the letters written to my grandparents announcing the births of my brother Alex and me. Those two letters are treasures.

There is a lot of humor in the letters. These are a few of the gems, but there are a lot more.

This one is from the letter announcing my birth, dated October 17, 1978:
Our "farm" has been slightly reduced. We lost our pigs in the flood, my goat Bobby was slaughtered for a party a month ago, and some stray dogs finished off all but one of the ducks!"
This is taken from a letter dated May 21, 1981 (about a month before she gave birth to my brother, Alex):
Angelo is doing fine - he's full of mischief lately. This week he caught two baby chicks and drowned them while giving them a shower, and then couldn't understand why they were "broken." A day later, I caught him putting the kitten in the refrigerator. He's really into everything lately, more so than ever before. When I'm about to throw a fit, he looks up at me sweetly and says, "You mad, Mom?" and of course I just melt.
Makes me think of my broken pants story from Bangkok. This one was dated August 2, 1981 (there was a severe caterpillar outbreak in New England in 1981):
Thanks for the picture of the trees - Angelo was really concerned about those caterpillars that ate the leaves. When he saw the 2 pictures of the trees you sent last time he said, "Tell me little bit about it, Mom," so I told him about the "gaga" that ate the leaves. It really impressed him - I had to tell him the story about 20 times and he prayed for the bugs for a few nights. For some reason he sympathized with the bugs.
I guess some things never change, do they? That may be the first documented proof of my tree hugging.

Like I said, I've got a stack of letters full of little anecdotes like this.

In a box in Florida I have every single letter that my father ever wrote to me. Combined with these letters, they might make for a nice little collection one of these days...and I'm sure about three people would want to read it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

TaoTao Tano on Youtube


This video, titled "We're not gonna take it anymore," has pissed off a lot of people on Saipan. There is a lot of talk about it on the blogosphere. I figured I'd give my readers (both of you) the chance to see it...you gotta watch about 90 seconds before you get to the controversial stuff. So, what do you think?

Say what you want to say about Taotao Tano, they've got some really good propaganda making skills. Check out their anti-federalization teaser, New World Order video, and interview with Tina Sablan

Update!!!!

Taotao Tano posted a new "We're not gonna take it anymore" video, this time using pictures from this blog. I'm gonna be famous!



Just a note: I don't think that was Jeff Schorr leading the Unity March. I think it was somebody else with white hair.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

US House passes H.R. 3079

From the Natural Resources Committee:
Rahall: CNMI Bill ‘Puts to Rest’ Degrading Era of Garment Industry Abuses

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives today approved comprehensive legislation – shepherded by Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall (D-WV) and Insular Affairs Subcommittee Chairwoman Donna Christensen (D-VI) – to reform the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) immigration system, addressing nearly two decades of mounting concerns about CNMI immigration policy and years of political maneuvering by disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

“With enactment of this legislation, the dismal and degrading era of slave labor, forced prostitution, and other horrific worker abuses by employers of the CNMI garment industry will be put to rest,” Rahall said. “We should all loathe that such a system was allowed to flourish, and that a corrupt lobbyist was able to stand in the way of reforms needed to secure for these workers the basic human rights we all deserve.”

The abuse of foreign guest workers by their employers had been documented over the years in stories by national media, reports by human rights organizations, complaints from foreign governments, and by the Committee’s former Chairman, George Miller (D-CA). Under the Republican-controlled Congress, efforts to reform the CNMI’s local immigration system halted when disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff used his influence to prevent the legislation from advancing in the House.

The Northern Mariana Islands Immigration, Security and Labor Act (ISLA) (H.R. 3079), introduced by Christensen and sponsored by Rahall, would extend U.S. immigration laws to the CNMI and establish a federally administered guest worker program on the island. The legislation responds to a number of outstanding issues raised by the Congress, the people of the CNMI, and successive administrations beginning with President Reagan.

Further, immigration concerns are central to our nation’s domestic security. The measure will help to tighten our borders against smugglers and terrorists who seek to gain access to the mainland through the territories.

Christensen said, “It is no secret that over the last 20 years, the CNMI came under great criticism for its immigration policies which left the territory with a nationwide, if not also an international, reputation – making this legislation necessary on several fronts. H.R. 3079 would provide a stable immigration policy to rebuild the CNMI economy and give the CNMI representation in Congress.”

The legislation would also authorize a non-voting Delegate to represent the CNMI in the U.S. House of Representatives. Similar legislation has passed the Natural Resources Committee with broad bipartisan support more than once in previous Congresses.
I still haven't found the final vote, but I'm sure that information will be online soon. Most likely it will be found here. It will be interesting to know who voted for and against this.

If this actually goes through, get ready, because we're going to have another election in 11 months! This is going to be exciting, this means that every single year in the Marianas will be an election year.

Furthermore, I think everybody and their mother is going to run for the new CNMI delegate job created by this bill, especially when they find out that it pays $165,200 per year plus benefits.

******

I had another story published in the Saipan Tribune on Wednesday. This one is about FMI's continued cleanups on Saipan.

And the winner is...

The results of the Saipan Blog 2007 Person of the Year Poll are...

The Contract Worker - 31.3%
The Recently Returned Educated Local - 23.8%
The Chamorro Rights Activist - 18.8%
The Blogger - 15.0%
Ambrose Bennett - 7.5%
The Guilt-Laden Liberal - 3.8%

Congrats to the winner, the Contract Worker!

So do you see any common thread between these six different candidates? Feel free to comment in the comments section.

CUC launches Operation Rolling Freedom

The power in my Garapan office went out as I was sitting down to work on today’s Saipan Tribune article. CUC stands for Commonwealth Utilities Corporation. They are the government agency that is responsible for keeping the lights on. Their nickname on Saipan is Customers Use Candles. There has been a lot of talk about the use of satire in our newspapers lately. This is my attempt.

CUC announced today that all Rolling Blackouts have ceased. They are to be replaced with Freedom Blackouts.

“This is all about doing our part to support the War on Terror,” says CUC spokesperson Pamela Mathis.

CUC issued a press release earlier today stating that “Freedom Blackouts will now occur every time it is necessary to support the troops in Iraq. Everyone knows terrorists come from countries with lots of oil. If we can cut back on our usage of oil, then we can cut down on the threat of terrorism at home and abroad.”

Mathis added, “the next time you think about cursing CUC, please keep in mind that these measures will also improve tourism, protect our culture, and cut down on the number of red flagged beaches.”

When asked to explain the reasoning behind the measures, Mathis stated, “Well look…wait, is that Elvis?!”

******

I sent in three articles today, including the one you just read. We'll see what gets printed tomorrow.

Marianas Trench: One of the 7 Wonders of Nature

I need your help.

I need you to visit this website and nominate the Marianas Trench as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. Visit this website and type in your email and nomination. Please list the country for the Marianas Trench as the "Northern Mariana Islands." I listed the category as "Underwater World, Reef."

With that said, and I hope you nominate the Marianas Trench based on my request alone, I'm going to write up a story about this for the Saipan Tribune. It has already been reported on CNN.

Imagine if two years from now, the Marianas Trench is named one of the 7 Wonders of Nature. That would put us on the map.

Do it for your country!

***Please copy this onto your blog***

******

My article on the Marianas Trench made the front page!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Party Time with EJ Lee

Angelo Villagomez and EJ LeeSaipan's #1 Korean Party Girl and I had a great weekend. On Friday we played in the Ultimate Frisbee tournament up in Marpi. EJ played great. Her team went undefeated. They took home the championship.

Ultimate FrisbeeI, on the other hand, reminded everybody why I ran cross country and track: I have no hand/eye coordination. I'm kind of fat and out of shape now, but I'm really just good at running around in circles. I can't do much else, well, except for trying to catch the Frisbee with my eyes closed.

Saturday night we did the usual hang out in Garapan thing. EJ brought one of her friends, I forget her name. We started off at Godfather's and then later in the night we went to Flair and Michelle's birthday party at the Hard Rock Cafe.

This was my first time going to Flair since it opened in its new location in Garapan. Cool bar. Maybe the coolest bar in Saipan?

Over at the Hard Rock, Michelle was having a luau themed party. I seem to remember someone telling me during the week that I was supposed to wear board shorts and a floral shirt. Did I remember? Of course not!

I was hanging out with Ian earlier in the afternoon. I think he's actually the one who invited me to go to the party. Did he come? Of course not!

...or maybe I just didn't see him.

Morgan Rose and Lannie WalkerThat's OK, because Morgan and Lannie were there. They forgot to wear Aloha fatigues, too. By the way, I don't remember taking this picture and I don't remember talking to the person who took it.

Good times!

Sunday was the day of EJ's big Reverse Coed Grass Volleyball Tournament sponsored by PTI.

I went there after going to a Beautify CNMI cleanup at 8 AM. Beautify CNMI was going to provide solid waste services for the tournament - meaning I gave them trash bags and they listed us as one of the sponsors.

I decided not to play in the tournament because I think I've actually played volleyball maybe twice in my life. It was probably for the best...although I'm sure EJ would have loved to have beaten me 11-0.

EJ's partner was Randy Steele. They made it through pool play undefeated. In the double elimination round they made it to the final game without losing.

They lost that game, but since it was a double elimination round, they had one more chance to win. They won that final game by a score of 15-13.

EJ took home $75, a cellular phone, and a free night's stay at PIC. There was a story about the tournament in today's Saipan Tribune.

Not a bad weekend!

In other fun and exciting news, I had my sixth article published in the Saipan Tribune. This one was about Walt's Senate Resolution and the We Love Saipan Network's one year anniversary.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A Call for Unity

Last week, MP Magazine Publisher and Unity March co-organizer Ed Probst posted on another blog that I am "rude and a faker. You are a spoiled brat and I can see right through you, and so can a lot of other people, you pretentious little smegma-infested twit. Born with a silver spoon in your mouth... LOL! Anyway Devillo, I am not going to waste my time on you."

He followed that up by writing, "On another note, resurrecting your modeling career is about as asinine as trying to convince people you aren't a pretentious, egotistical jerk. Devillo, rejection is hard, but deal with it. I pray you will find some desperate woman wanting a green card. Or your money. Anyway, I don't pray for you, because you are a hopeless case. You are evil, a liar, a scam artist, and I got no love for you."

Today he wrote a Letter to the Editor calling for Respect, Love, and Kindness.

You can't make stuff like this up. Don't you just love Saipan?

******

Copies of MP Magazine can be picked up at Joeten.

Last Day to Vote

My poll asking "Who should be the Marianas 2007 Person of the Year?" ends today at 5 PM. If you haven't voted yet, please vote.

So far 73 people have cast a vote. It already looks like there will be a clear winner, but you never know. If somebody in Bangkok can vote for Ambrose Bennett, anything is possible.

<----------Vote Here

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Silent Protest



While 3000 people marched down Beach Road protesting what they feel are unjust labor laws, a much smaller, silent protest was going on just a few hundred yards away.

Every Friday Bryan Jones has stood silently in front of the American Memorial Park Court of Honor for 25 minutes. He has done this for over six months. Usually there are about six people with him, sometimes more, sometimes less.

I was surprised when Greg and Jean Cruz of Taotao Tano joined one of the silent protests (see Youtube video). I had no idea that there were locals who would be willing to publicly denounce the war.

Now I know that there are...and knowing is half the battle.

******

Tom Delay was right when he called this place "a petri dish of Capitalism," he just didn't know what he was talking about. I don't think he understood it at the time, but we are truly a microcosm for the rest of the United States.

Our retirement fund disaster is akin to many retirement disasters at the state level and maybe even Social Security on the Federal level. We are also having issues dealing with immigration and integrating new ideas, languages, and people into our existing culture, just like everybody else.

Our community is especially representative of a community affected by the war in Iraq. It has probably hit our community harder than anywhere else in the continental United States.

I'm sure this statistic has changed a bit, but a New York Times article in 2005 stated that we had 245 soldiers serving in Iraq. That is about one person in Iraq for every 250 people on this island.

That's not one soldier serving in the military for every 250 people, that is one soldier serving in a war zone for every 250 people. We also have soldiers serving on bases all over the world. Taking into account the size of the families here, where people routinely have 8-10 kids, it is probably a safe bet to say that every single person on this island has a first cousin serving or who has served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Is there anywhere in the Mainland United States that has that type of per capita statistic?

Of course not.

Friday, December 07, 2007

First Photos of the Unity March

3000 Saipan residents took to the streets yesterday afternoon to protest P.L. 15-108, H.R. 3079, and Brad Ruszala's blog.

The March started at Kilili Beach, which is about three miles south of the rallying point. The marcher's walked along the Saipan Beach Path, about 2 or 3 abreast and stretching out for about 600 meters, until they reached the intersection of Quartermaster and Beach Road.

From there they tucked in behind the motorcade of protest vehicles and marched the rest of the way in the northbound lane of Beach Road.

Front of the parade: Tina Sablan, her boyfriend Glen, and Federal Omsbudmen Jim Benedetto lead the march in the beginning.


The Big Cheese: She's from Orlando, I couldn't help myself. Wendy Doromal flew out from Florida to join the March.

Hey, Mom, I'm on Angelo's blog!: Mark Hanson and Jim Davies were at the march.

Here are some more pictures of marchers. I took these photos right at the start of the parade:

marchersProtestersmarchers in Susupetruck protestAs the parade progressed along Beach Road, it picked up participants waiting for them along the side of the road. Small groups of 5-10 people were there waiting with their white T-shirts and anti-Labor Law stickers and signs.

People waiting on the side of the streetI can see the parade: Some of the marchers waited along the side of the road for the parade, then they joined in.


Saipan March ParticipantsUnity March coming down Beach RoadLong shot: Boonieman asked for a picture of the marchers on the road. Here it is. The parade of marchers was about 600 meters long (measured with my scooter's odometer) when they were walking along the Beach Path, but bunched up when they started walking along the road.

The parade ended at American Memorial Park. All of the participants piled into the 1200 person capacity Amphitheater and just as the band was about to begin entertaining the crowd, it started to rain.

That's when I left.

All in all, there was a very good turnout.

Estimating crowds is alway controversial. Really the only way to accurately do it is to sign everybody in. That is difficult, but not impossible.

In the end, it doesn't matter how many people showed up. What matters now is what those people who showed up do now that they are organized.

Even so, I overhead Wendy Doromal telling Steve Woodruff that she thought 5000 people attended. A local businessman I know who was sitting in the crowd guessed about 2400 (he asked not to be identified). Ron Hodges was in the 2000-3000 range. A local attorney, you asked not to be identified told me that 3000 would be at the high end of his estimate. The Middleroad bloggers are guessing 6000. Federal Omsbudman Jim Benedetto estimated 5000-6000. The Saipan Tribune wrote that 6000 people attended. Tina Sablan's boyfriend, Glen Hunter, is guessing between 6000-7000. Co-event organizer Ed Probst's guess is 10,000*.

My guess would be about 3000. My original guess was about 2500 (600 meter parade, walking four abreast, 1 meter between marchers = 600 x 1 x 4 = 2400 marchers), but knowing that the capacity at the Amphitheater is 1200, that it was overflowing, and considering that some people joined the parade while it was moving I think that 3000 is a good number.

Take it or leave it.

Wendy Doromal has more pictures on her blog. She estimates that about 5000 people participated.

******

I was really glad not to see any anti-protest protesters out there.

This day belonged to the Contract Workers.

******

Unity March RallyAnybody want to count the heads?

*Hey newspaper people, you should write a story on the different crowd estimates. My "research" shows that people are guessing anywhere between 2,000-18,000. I'm sticking with my guess of 3,000.