Thursday, November 20, 2008

Googling Dad

In two days I am traveling to Florida for my first visit in 3 years. I'm going to celebrate Thanksgiving with my Mom, brothers, sister, niece and stepfather for the first time since 2003.

Lately I've been reflecting on my last three years in Saipan. Not just because I'm going to Florida for the first time in 3 years, but also because Dad's three year death anniversary is in 10 days and because tomorrow we are going to appoint an administrator for his estate's probate.

The recent deaths of Hydee and Ann also have me thinking about what I want to do with the rest of my short life. I think about Dad a lot when I think of my own life. I often compare my life to his. What was Dad doing when he turned 30? How many kids did he have by then? What had he accomplished? What have I accomplished that he never did? What mistakes did he make that I didn't have to make? Stuff like that.

I also compare what Dad was known for to what I want to be known for. Am I doing the right thing? Would Dad approve of what I do? Am I following in his footsteps or striking out on my own? I'm sure most of you ask the same things of yourselves and make similar comparisons to your parents.

These are just some of the thoughts that were barreling through my skull as I decided to do a Google search for "Ramon G Villagomez." I found the following letter, published in the Marianas Variety back in 2002, on the second or third page of results:
Letter to the Editor: Visionaries

“We should...pause and pay tribute to the framers of our Constitution who had the foresight 26 years ago to see the need to preserve, protect, control and manage our natural resources.”

THE framers of the CNMI Constitution should be viewed as visionaries who had the foresight to devote an entire article of the Constitution to the preservation of our natural resources. The verbs they used to describe what the government must do with respect to our environment—control, protect and preserve—guide us today in our management of our natural resources.

The article of our Constitution that is dedicated to our natural resources is Article XIV. Article XIV states that the natural resources of the commonwealth are to be controlled, protected and preserved for the benefit of the people. It further states that no interest in these resources may be transferred except as provided by the Legislature. This article is divided into three sections.

The first section states that the fish and marine life located in the waters off the coast of the commonwealth, to the maximum distance allowed by current or future U.S. law, shall be managed, controlled, protected and preserved by the Legislature. The emphasis again is on stewardship—to control, protect, preserve and to manage our ocean resources for the benefit of the people of the CNMI.

The second section requires the preservation of certain islands as uninhabited places. It states that the island of Managaha shall be maintained as an uninhabited place and used only for cultural and recreational purposes. It states that the islands of Maug, Uracas, Asuncion, Guguan and other islands as identified by law shall be maintained as uninhabited places and used only for the preservation and protection of natural resources including bird, wildlife and plant species. Thus, these four islands are to be maintained as sanctuaries. One reason for preserving the unique biological diversity of these four uninhabited islands is to serve as a source of restocking other islands where certain species have been depleted. The framers of our Constitution, in a committee report, expressed their concern with the rapid rate with which native wildlife was being depleted. Their solution was to preserve certain islands as natural habitat where fish, coconut crabs, fruit bats and other native species can flourish in a pristine environment.

The third section provides for the preservation of sites of historical, cultural and traditional significance to the people of the Northern Mariana Islands. This includes historic sites such as Managaha Island, the Last Command Post, Sugar King Park, the museum and many other sites too numerous to mention. This section also protects artifacts such as latte stones, canons and other objects that are part of our heritage and should be preserved.

As we prepare for July 4th and the celebration of the Declaration of Independence, we should set aside a few minutes to reflect on the contributions of Thomas Jefferson who is credited as the author of the Declaration of Independence. We should also pause and pay tribute to the framers of our Constitution who had the foresight 26 years ago to see the need to preserve, protect, control and manage our natural resources. The members of the Constitutional Committee on Personal Rights and Natural Resources who drafted Article XIV are Francisco T. Palacios, Pedro M. Atalig, Ramon G. Villagomez, Manuel A. Tenorio, Luis M. Limes, Hilario F. Diaz, Henry U. Hofschneider, Juan S. Demapan, Jose S. Borja, Felix A. Ayuyu, Daniel P. Castro, Leon I. Taisacan and Felipe Q. Atalig.

Let’s pay special tribute to these leaders of the commonwealth who foresaw the need to preserve, protect, control and manage our natural resources for the enjoyment and benefit of the people of the CNMI. [emphasis mine]

By Thomas B. Pangelinan
Secretary of Lands and Natural Resources
On the issue of the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument I have been told by different people that Dad would be proud while others say that he is rolling over in his grave, stabbing at his eyeballs with a rusty fork in shame.

When I took the first steps of this journey I had no idea that 23 years ago it was my father who first motioned to have the islands of Uracas and Asuncion be "maintained as uninhabited places and used only for the preservation and protection of natural resources, including but not limited to bird, wildlife and plant species" during the Northern Mariana Islands' Second Constitution Convention. I also did not know that "fish" was specifically dropped from the Constitution with the intention of leaving the protection of the marine resources up to later generations during other Constitutional Conventions.

Knowing this I am confident that my father would have supported the monument were he alive.

The biological and geological signficance of the monument and the benefits of marine protected areas (more fish, bigger fish and more biodiversity of fish) are unquestioned. You never hear anyone say that they don't support the monument because marine protected areas don't work or that the area is insignificant and unworthy of recognition. Opponents and proponents of the monument all agree on this issue. This is my number one reason for supporting the monument.

To quote Mr. Pangelinan, I support it for the benefit of the people of the CNMI.


Saipan Writer said...


I knew your dad as both an attorney and a politician. He was thinking man whose ideas developed, grew, changed over time as he learned, matured,had experiences, thought more deeply about things. I sat with him on the bench in a case where he ended up voting against the position he had taken when younger (re Rota and Tinian each having 3 senators). His values had not changed, but his perception of how they related to the situation had.

Those who think your father would be upset with your support of the monument have fixed him in stone as having certain ideas. He was strongly pro-self-determination, pro-islanders' control, pro-CNMI take control of your own destiny. But he was also a man whose political views evolved with time.

I believe he would be proud of his children, including you, for being smart, honest, hard-working, and dedicated to good, even if he disagreed with you on a political issue.

And if were alive and healthy today, I believe he would have a great dialogue with you about the issues surrounding the proposal; and I believe that any reservations he might have would be overcome by your intelligent, logical, and value-based arguments.

He did share your environmental conservation values. And that would go a long way toward convincing him. And he would be very proud of his blood.

Lil' Hammerhead said...

I also knew your father. I didn't always agree with all of his ideas, but he was a profoundly good man, who was personable and in my experience always affable, and who was never stingy with his personal time as he volunteered to help with any number of activities in the community over the years. He also held a strong belief in the importance of really understanding where one came from, their culture. He was always quick to greet us whenever we crossed paths. A good man.

jeff said...

Great post Angelo.