Thursday, April 30, 2009

Blog WTF

My blog is 'effed up. I don't know what code is screwy, but I'm gutting the blog to figure out where the problem lies. Please be patient. My apologies to the links I removed. They'll be back once I figure out what's wrong.

PAWS WARS Episode 3: The Revenge of the Boonie

I took on the responsibility of planning the Boonie Dog Show this year. We're going to have our first planning meeting this Tuesday at noon at Oleai Bar & Grill. Hope you can make it...and my apologies to the Rotary Club of Saipan for missing Tuesday's fellowship meeting.

A message from Angelo Villagomez

I sent myself (and the rest of the Friends of the Monument) the following message this morning:
Subscribe to the USFWS Marianas Trench Marine National Monument email list

Dear Angelo,

Hafa adai!

It has been a while since you have heard an update from the Friends of the Monument, but I assure you we have been busy.

We are in the midst of creating a monthly e-newsletter and the first issue should be out in a few weeks.

In the meantime, the Friends were contacted by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the federal agency charged with managing the monument, to help them with their initial local outreach and the upcoming scoping period.

They are trying to build a contact list of interested residents and are asking people who would like to be added to their email list and/or mailing list to email them at with your name, email, phone number, and mailing address.

They will add you to their contact list and will keep you up to date with news from the USFWS concerning the monument.

That e-mail again is

Thank you for remaining engaged in this process. If you have any questions feel free to call me at (670) 285 6462 or email me at

Si yu'us ma'ase,

Angelo Villagomez

PS For more info on the Friends of the Monument, visit our blog at
If you would like to be added to the USFWS contact list, please email them your information.

Support the Coral Sea Sanctuary has a poll on their website that asks the question, "Do you agree with the proposal to ban game and recreational fishing in parts of the Coral Sea?"

Please take a moment to visit their website and vote YES.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Engaged Citizen Awards

We hosted a beachside barbeque on Monday night to thank the Friends of the Monument for all the work they did to support the creation of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. We handed out "2009 Engaged Citizen Awards" to all of the members. Below are some of the members accepting their awards.

Ike Cabrera was the first award winner of the evening. Ike has been on four trips to the states on behalf of the Friends of the Monument, earning him the "Most Onepass Miles Earned" Award.

Heinz Hofschneider was given a "Special Award for Legislative Courage" for his early support of the monument.

Alexie wrote the Boon or Bane article for Island Locator Magazine. The article explored the issues of the monument from both sides. Since the monument is now a reality, she was awarded the "Boon or Bane Award."

Bryan Jones kick started our school outreach program. He also sent a number of photos to Washington, DC of student volunteers working to build support for the monument. He was named the "MTMNM Photographer of the Year."

Mike Tripp brought a tear to everyone's eye as he gave his speech after winning the "Canadian Heartbreaker" Award.

Laurie Peterka was given an award as the "Oreo and Angelo Babysitter." I will not comment on that award further.

Ken Kramer quit his job to work on supporting the monument, so he was the winner of "Best Sacrifice of a Job." His wife Monique was given a "Most Patient Spouse" Award.

Ruth Tighe was given the "Mightiest Pen" Award for her many columns and letters to the editor during the course of the year. Nobody can zing 'em like Ruth Tighe.

Harry Blalock discussed the monument on his radio talk show almost every day in 2008. He was the recipient of the "Best Radio Face" Award. His wife Kelli received a Lifetime Achievement Award for "Most Patient Spouse."

Jane Mack received the "John Gourley Smackdown Award" for her many letters to the editor refuting his many letters to the editor. This was the most coveted award of the evening.

Wes Bogdan traveled to American Samoa on behalf of the Friends of the Monument earlier this year to testify on Wespac's involvement in drafting regulations for fishing inside the monument boundaries.

MarjaLee Taitano was one of our most consistent volunteers last year. She came to all our meetings and helped us collect signatures for our petition. She's originally from some country in Europe (never really figured out which one), so she was the recipient of the "Best Accent" Award.

Cinta was awarded with the "10/20 Turnout Award" because of the huge number of people she recruited to come to the White House public workshop on October 20, 2008.

Gus Kaipat was given the award for "Best Use of Music as a Lobbying Tactic." When the Federal officials came to Saipan in October 2008 to discuss the monument, the Friends of the Monument greeted them in the lobby of their hotel. While the Friends lined the driveway entrance to the lobby, Gus was strumming away at his ukulele and singing. It was a magical moment.

Agnes McPhetres was named "Toughest DC Lobbyist" for the trip she took to Washington, DC in August 2008 and for her "strength of character" during our meetings with James Connaughton and other Federal officials in October 2008.

NOAA Ship Hi'ialakai

I noticed this NOAA Research Cruise blog a few weeks ago and I've told a few people to look it up. This is from their main page:
On March 12, 2009, scientists from the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division of the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (CRED/PIFSC), along with visiting scientists from San Diego State University and the University of Guam, departed on a three week cruise to Wake Atoll aboard the NOAA Ship Hi'ialakai. This will be the third biennial Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program (RAMP) cruise to isolated Wake, sponsored by NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP). The strategic goal of this research is to improve scientific understanding of coral reef ecosystems throughout the Pacific, and serve as the basis for improved conservation and resource management.

The recent designation of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, of which Wake is a part, highlights the importance of this research.


The cruise will terminate in Guam, where the Hi'ialakai and scientists from the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division will continue with two more RAMP cruises, first around Guam and the then on to the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI).
The blog has a number of pictures and a few anecdotes about coral reef research. It is a good read, but I really wish they had posted every day. I can think of about 50 people living on Saipan alone that would eat up every single picture or word they post.

Hmm...maybe I could get on one of these cruises as their official blogger?

Sunday, April 26, 2009


I was pumped for the Tagaman yesterday. My alarm was set for 4 AM so that I could get out of bed and be ready in time for the 6 AM start. 2 K swim, 60 K bike, and then a 15 K run. I was ready.

I got to the Pacific Islands Club with plenty of time to set up my bike in the transition area. Brad really helped me out. He gave me a helmet and glasses. He and Janet gave me bike snacks, too.

With my bike ready to go, I went to the check-in table and turned in my bag for the running transition area. It had my shoes, a dry shirt, and some Powerade in it. They also wrote two big 58s on each of my shoulders.

Then it was time to go to the starting line.

I did some stretching and went for a short jog and then I put on my red Tagaman swim cap and my brand new swim goggles. Then I jumped in the water to test it out. Not too cold. Not a lot of rocks.  Let's do this thing.

As it got close to 6 AM all the competitors started to congregate near the start line, about 60 of us. This being my first competitive swim ever, I told myself to treat this like a long run. Just fall into the pack and pace yourself.

Yeah, right.

When the whistle blew I crashed into the water along with everyone else. I wasn't pushing it, just kept up a steady rhythm.

That lasted all of two minutes.  Please keep all two minute man jokes to yourself.  Thank you.

50 meters into the race I was ready to stand up and walk back to the beach and call it quits. There was no way I was going to be able to swim 2000 meters. Impossible. Never gonna happen. I was going to kill myself.

I told myself to at least give it a try. I couldn't quit two minutes into the race...or could I? No, I couldn't. I stopped using a crawl and tried a breast stroke. I wasn't moving fast, but I was at least moving.

When I caught my breathe I saw that I was still with a few swimmers. Alright, let's do this. Just keep moving.

The Tagaman swim consists of two 1000 meter laps around two buoys in the Saipan lagoon. The course is in the shape of a triangle. I managed to finish the first lap in under 30 minutes.

I finished the second lap in 56 minutes. Holy crap.  That was the toughest part of the race, or so I thought.

I jogged over to the transition area and got ready for the bike.

As I pedaled out to start the 60 K bike I was practically delirious from the swim.  I thought the bike was going to be easy.  I never really considered biking difficult, probably because my biking has been limited to going down the street for some ice cream.

Oh My God.

The first hill right outside of PIC almost did me in. It's not that big, but after the swim it felt like I was riding up Mount Tapachou.

So I made it up and made my way into Koblerville and then past Coral Ocean Point and up towards the airport. By then I was settling into the bike that Dr. Dan Lamar let me borrow, but as I took on that second hill I swore at myself for not taking the bike out for a few practice runs earlier in the week. @#%&*!!!

Then it is mostly downhill back towards PIC and then a long flat ride from PIC, up to Garapan and then on to Marpi. I wasn't pedaling at an Olympic pace, but like the swim, at least I was moving.

To make a long story short, I'll spare you the Brad Ruszala-esque play-by-play of my bike ride, two hours into the bike (plus 56 minutes for the swim), as I was climbing the final hill between the Grotto and Bonzai cliff, I had a race ending equipment malfunction.

The sole of my left bicycle cleat came completely detached from my shoe. I tried to peddle without the cleat, but it wasn't working, especially going up hill. Then I tried to tie the sole back onto my shoe using a plastic bag. That didn't work either.

So that's when I started pushing. There were some race officials at the top of the hill and I thought they might have some duck tape. If I could just reach them...

Now before the shoe broke I was about 1/2 mile ahead of the last competitor. As I was pushing my bike up the hill she passed me. There was a race official following her in a truck.

He asked me if I was alright and I told him what had happened. He didn't have any duck tape. He asked me if I wanted to continue.  I pondered it for about 10 seconds and then threw in the towel.

DNF. Did Not Finish.


Oh well, there's always next year.

Back at the finish line I told my story about 25 times, holding up the shoe every time. Team Manatee gave me two beers as a consolation prize, so the day wasn't a total loss.

yumiI got my picture taken with the last biker, Yumi.  Her English was about as good as my Japanese, so our conversation was limited to, "Me Saipan first time."  To which I responded, "Wow, you're hot." 

Yumi was competing with two other Japanese girls.  I didn't get the whole story, but they're magazine or TV personalities or something.   And if you were wondering, Yes, the girl in the small orange dress wore the dress when she did the run.

So I didn't technically lose to Brad Ruszala since I didn't finish the race, but I plan on honoring the bet with a case of beer. I hope he'll share it with me.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Expedition to NW Rota

Bill Chadwick from Oregon State University is the scientist you see interviewed in the NBC story about the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. He just finished up a research cruise in the Marianas where they visited NW Rota, an undersea volcano off the coast of, you guessed it, Rota. NW Rota is also one of the 21 seamounts that are a part of the monument.

The expedition has a blog with some video of the underwater vents and a few pictures. Check it out.

Guilty on All Counts

I just heard from a reliable source that the Lieutenant Governor has been found guilty of bribery, theft, conspiracy to defraud, and wire fraud. The other co-defendants in the case, James Santos and Joaquina Santos, were also found guilty on all counts. Jury Deliberations started and ended today. I don't know when the sentencing will be.

According to the Pacific Daily News, Gov. Benigno R. Fitial issued the following statement:
“I have only two things to say regarding this matter. First, I want to express my sympathy to the family of the lieutenant governor. This is a terrible ordeal for any family to have to suffer, and I regret the great distress this unfortunate development has caused not only for the family, but for our entire local community as well.

“Second, as I have repeatedly said in the past, I respect the law and the judicial process. I respect our system of justice.”

Award Winners II

There was no Award Winners I, but in a previous post I did post a photo of some of the Rotary Club members who are Friends of the Monument.

In my travels around the island I am taking pictures of our supporters holding the EPA Environmental Award given to the Friends of the Monument.  I will post those photos on this blog.  The people that you will see holding the trophy had a lot to do with our success.

Now that the monument is a "done deal," I can look back on 2008 and say that there were dozens of people that were crucial at a crucial moment in keeping our campaign to create a Marianas Trench Marine National Monument alive and ultimately successful.

I haven't told all those stories on this blog, but I will try to recount some of them as I post pictures of the Friends of the Monument holding their hard earned green glass trophy.

Aya and Willie Matsumoto are the bridge between the Japanese community on Saipan and the Friends of the Monument. Aya writes a blog in Japanese and  many of her posts are translations of our blog posts and our press releases. Both Aya and Willie also wrote letters to President Bush in support of the Monument.

The Rotary Club of Saipan is not a political organization, nor did they endorse the monument. However, many of the members supported the monument and were active members of the Friends of the Monument.

Mike Tripp was one of the first people to help us in our campaign. He came to the first meetings and wrote several letters to the editor, as well as to the President. We missed him during the middle of campaign because he had some health issues to attend to, but he's back in action. In fact, most of the underwater footage used in the recent NBC story was shot by Mike.

Laurie Peterka was my fellow staff member during the campaign. I hired her early on and I couldn't have picked a better partner. We would argue over what food to have at meetings and I still refuse to admit that volleyball is a sport, but other than that we had a great working relationship and accomplished great things.

Vicky and Dennis both wrote letters to the President. They are both prominent, respected people on our island and simply having them be supportive in their day to day interactions with other people meant a lot.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

NBC: Working to Preserve a World Under Water

This is it! It is finally up!

I love how Brian Williams starts the story off by calling us, "one of the most spectacular, but unseen places on Earth."

I also like how Ian Williams (no relation) signs off with, there is "so much more to these waters than the decaying remnants of war."

Be sure to check out the "Voices from Saipan" video from NBC, too

NBC: Oceans Offer Warning on Climate Change

This is the story that played on Earth Day. The reporter, Ian Williams, is the reporter that came to Saipan. I hope that our story plays today (Thursday).

Voices from Saipan

This is a 3:31 web-only video that accompanies the NBC Nightly News segment on the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.

There is also a written story.
"We can reach the moon, but we can't reach the bottom of the Mariana Trench. What kind of life is down there? What kind of scientific discoveries are yet to be found?" says Angelo Villagomez, of the Friends of the Monument, which led a vigorous campaign for a protected area.

The Trieste, a 2-man min-sub operated by the US Navy, did reach the bottom in 1960. Since then, the only vessel to come close, was an unmanned Japanese research sub in 1995. Next month, though, they'll be another US attempt, this one unmanned, in a mini-sub called the Nereus from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Scientists are heralding a new era in marine exploration.
For his part, Villagomez sees the establishment of Mariana trench National Monument as the ocean equivalent of the setting up of Yellowstone, the first park on land, in 1872.

"I would hope that other nations will look at what the US has done. It's set a new paradigm in marine conservation," he told me.

The Friends of the Monument are based on Saipan, the capital of the North Marianas, best known for one of the fiercest and most decisive battles of the Pacific War, which cost the lives of 30,000 Japanese and three thousand American troops.

The wrecks of ships, aircraft, tanks and landing craft litter the coast here.
We caught up with Villagomez as he addressed student's at Saipan's Hopwood Junior High School, part of campaign that mobilized Saipan's tiny, 50,000-strong population behind the monument.

"How many of you wrote letters to President Bush?" he asked as a sea of hands were raised in the air. From radio chat shows, to a petition drive, they spread the word that Saipan could gain enormously by being at the heart of such a pioneering act of conservation. Initially, local officials were lukewarm, seeing the proposed federally managed monument as a threat to their powers.

The conservationists had wanted more - some of the underwater volcanoes along the volcanic arch are outside the protected are, as are some of the shark habitats in a neighborhood well within the range of Chinese fishing boats, eager to feed the appetite for Shark fins, one of the biggest threats faced by these endangered predators.

"But it is a start," says Villagomez. "Down the road, I see the protection increasing, I see the borders expanding." Challenges do lie ahead. It's still not clear how tough the new rules on fishing and exploration will be, and precisely how the monument will be managed and policed.

The Friends showed us Saipan's existing protected areas, which have succeeded in bringing back fish to the reef - and were we witnessed a remarkable underwater parade of protected giant Eagle Rays.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I need white people

Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) is going to be on Saipan next week shooting a drama. They need some white people to stand in as extras. There is some pay, but I don't know how much. If you are available next Saturday, May 2, shoot me an email and I'll help set you up.

Earth Day Activities

The Division of Parks and Recreation hooked me up with three trees for my Earth Day tree planting with the Rotary Club of Saipan. Two of the trees were da'ok trees, Calophyllum inophyllum. Do you know the trees lining the road to the Grotto? Those are da'ok trees that we planted in 2006. There are also several large da'ok trees at Sugar King Park.

The third tree was a non-native species, the only specimen of its kind growing at Parks & Rec. It is a species of banyon, Ficus religiosa. As far as I know, there are only two trees of this species growing in the CNMI. There is one at the botanical garden in Papago and one growing on Tinian.

I went all out for the tree planting today. After digging the holes this morning I took the shovels back to my apartment where I cleaned them and painted them gold. I also bought three big bags of mulch to place around the trees, fertilizer, and bottled water (less salt than tap water).

tree planting saipanThe tree planting took place with the Rotary Club of Saipan and the ISK8 Society, a local club for skateboarders. I've said before that the best events are always the ones we do with kids. Even with the pressure to appear cool, they always seem the most receptive to our message.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

NBC: Teach a Man to Farm Fish...

This is part two of the NBC Nightly News "special series" on the ocean, Seachange: Our Oceans, Our Planet, & Our Future. This originally played on April 21.

NBC: Reeling in the Threat of Overfishing

This is a part one of the NBC Nightly News "special series" on the ocean, Seachange: Our Oceans, Our Planet, & Our Future. This originally played on April 20.  The story on the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument is part of this. If you can view this video, you'll be able to view our video when it is posted. Visit the MSNBC website for more.

Happy Earth Day

friends of the monument
Rotary Club Friends of the Monument (from left to right): David M. Sablan, Agnes McPhetres, Pete Igitol, Harry Blalock, and Karl Reyes with the 2009 EPA Environmental Award. 
The EPA Environmental Award belongs to all those who helped support the creation of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. I brought the trophy to Rotary Club yesterday to photograph our biggest supporters there.  I hope to get more photos like this with the many environmental champions who helped us last year.

Earth Day brings forth mixed emotions for me. It is a day to celebrate my chosen profession...and I'll leave the other side alone for now.

But like I said, today should be a day of celebration. I remember on Earth Day 2004 giving my first public speech at the kickoff rally for the League of Conservation Voters Environmental Victory Project in Florida and gathering signatures for a petition asking the new Rollins College president to support his predecessor's signing of the Talloires Declaration.

My speech ended up on the NBC local news that night. If I remember correctly, the Earth Day story that year was about then-President Bush's plan to create new wetlands. Our kickoff rally was the follow up story, playing immediately after the President. The tag was something like, "but a number of environmentalists in Central Florida are unhappy with the President's environmental record. For more we go to..."

Fast forward five years and I'm still doing pretty much the same thing. I started the morning off by calling my Representative in Congress to lobby for an environmental issue. Later today I'll be planting a tree with the Rotary Club of Saipan and some local kids.

Today I will also celebrate the success of the Beautify CNMI Island Wide Cleanup last week and the declaration of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument earlier this year. Those of you with cable TV can watch the Friends of the Monument on the NBC Nightly News tonight (read Mike Tripp's letter to the editor published today for more).

Happy Earth Day!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Earth Day News

The Marianas Trench Marine National Monument is going to be featured on NBC Nightly News on Earth Day. Check your local listings for time and channel. Hopefully they'll have embed-able multimedia that I can put on this blog.

Stay tuned.

Good Luck, Jetsada

Guess who I saw in the Narita airport on my way back to Saipan? Good luck back in Bangkok, Jess.

The Final Countdown

We're done tallying up the final numbers for the Island Wide Cleanup. It is funny to think that several weeks worth of work are going to boil down to a sentence like, "27,070 lbs of trash were picked up by 4,140 volunteers from 61 volunteer groups at 54 adopted sites." I guess that's what this kind of stuff comes down to in the end.

So those are our official numbers. Here they are again:

Number of volunteers participating: 4,140
Weight of trash removed: 27,070 lbs (13.5 tons)
Volunteer groups participating: 61
Number of adopted sites: 54

There are too many people to thank for our success, but my Thank You letter is a start.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Island Wide Cleanup Photos

It was a real honor to be able to fly to San Francisco to accept the EPA Award on behalf of the Friends of the Monument, but I'm still disappointed that I wasn't able to participate in the Island Wide Cleanup. I really wish I could have driven down the road and seen first hand the thousands of people out on the streets.

I guess I'll have to settle for photos.

So far I have photos from the Kramer Family and Laolao Bay Golf Resort, Saipan International School and Friends of the Mariana Islands, Garapan Elementary School, Docomo, Pacific Eagle and Isa CNMI, Department of Public Lands, Northern Marianas College, San Vicente Elementary, Paseo de Marianas Promoters, Aquarius Beach Tower, Ladera International School of Saipan, MVA and NMDOA, Tottotville Community, and William S Reyes Elementary.

If you participated in the Island Wide Cleanup and have photos, please email them to me so that I can put them up on the Beautify CNMI blog.

Thank you

Friday was an amazing day. Thank you. Thousands of people came together for a single cause: a more beautiful Saipan. Young and old, citizen and non-citizen, local and non-local, government workers and business owners volunteered a few hours of their time to pick up the trash littering our beautiful island. Later this week the islands of Tinian and Rota will do the same. Again, Thank you.

Our results were staggering. The final numbers are still being tallied, but our preliminary count shows 4040 volunteers, 55 volunteer groups and 48 adopted sites on Saipan, and 12,960 lbs of trash removed from our streets, beaches, and parks.

The collaboration between groups to make this island wide cleanup a success was enormous. Division of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Rotary Club of Saipan handled most of the pre-cleanup coordination and sign-ups. Marianas Visitors Authority, Marianas Tourism Education Council, McDonald’s, and the Kramis Family provided funds for supplies and prizes. On the day of the cleanup DEQ, Bureau of Environmental Health, and Division of Parks and Recreation coordinated all of the trash pickup. Additionally there were 55 volunteer group coordinators, who ensured that their adopted site had rubber gloves, trash bags, and most importantly, volunteers.

In every way, from the total number of volunteers, to the number of participating groups, to the amount of litter removed, this year’s cleanup was bigger than anything the Beautify CNMI coalition has ever accomplished.

Furthermore, if the success of this cleanup has anything to teach us, it is that the government does not have the sole responsibility of solving our social problems, nor do they hold a monopoly on having the ability to fix them. We just showed that with a slight change in ethic and a small amount of effort on everyone’s part we can move mountains, in this case a 6.5 ton mountain of cans, bottles, and cigarette butts.

Unfortunately, Saipan’s streets and beaches will be covered in litter by the end of the week. Over the weekend hundreds of people went to the beach and left their trash, cigarette butts and cans are still being thrown out of cars, and homestead residents continue to dump their trash in the jungle.

Instead of being discouraged by this realization, I ask all of you to become reenergized. Change happens. The success of Beautify CNMI over the last three years and this latest cleanup are proof of that. Let us redouble our efforts to turn the Marianas into the cleanest, safest islands in the Pacific.

I encourage the volunteer groups that participated in this cleanup to adopt their spot for the next 12 months. Become the steward of that road, beach, or park for the next year.

I also encourage the eight government agencies charged with enforcing our litter laws to start making examples of some of the worst litter offenders. Hand out a few of those $500 tickets to businesses not properly storing their garbage or to residents dumping their trash illegally.

Finally, I encourage our donors to continue supporting our cleanup efforts. We cannot paint over graffiti if we do not have paint and we cannot pick up litter if we do not have garbage bags.

Volunteers, government policy, and business support are the three legs on which Beautify CNMI stands. The continued involvement of all three will improve the quality of life for the people that live here and make us a more desirable tourism destination.

Again, thank you to all who have supported the concept of Beautify CNMI over the last three years and to everyone who participated in this historic island wide cleanup. I look forward to many more years of collaboration and hard work as we move towards a more perfect Commonwealth.

Angelo Villagomez
Beautify CNMI

Friday, April 17, 2009

Thank you Coral Reef Alliance

angelo villagomezI think I have a new favorite shirt. Thank you, Coral Reef Alliance!

Great Newspaper Article

There was a great article by Anthony Pelligrino in today's Saipan Tribune. He interviewed a number of people for the story. Really good reporting
Thousands pick up trash to clean up Saipan
By Anthony Pellegrino
Special to the Saipan Tribune

Close to 4,000 young and adults picked up tons of trash along Saipan's major roads, beaches, parks, dive sites and other tourist spots yesterday as part of the islandwide cleanup highlighting the observance of Environmental Awareness Month.

“I hope this day will make a difference for the environment and our children,” said 62-year-old Terry Camacho of the Office of Personnel Management. “I hope that next time somebody throws trash anywhere, he would think twice and think about those who are cleaning up the environment.”

Camacho was among the OPM employees and their families who picked up trash at the Garapan Fishing Base starting at 2:30pm yesterday.

Just a few meters from her was 4-year-old Ila Seman, the youngest of the OPM employees' family members to take part in the activity.

“Please do not throw your trash anywhere,” Joannie Laniyo, 7, said as she tagged along with her mother, OPM employee Benita Seman, for the cleanup.

From 7am to 4:30pm, thousands of volunteers from the private sector and the local and federal government cleaned Saipan of litter-from cigarette butts, plastic bottles, soda and beer cans, plastic bags to soiled baby diapers.

Michael Lizama, 12, a seventh grader at Hopwood Junior High School, said most of what they picked up on campus and at the beach were cigarette butts and plastic bottles. His classmate, Alicia Lloren, 12, said she and her classmates are proud to be part of making their campus cleaner.

Hopwood Junior High School had the most number of cleanup participants at 1,113.

TJ Litulumar of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration joined eight other TSA employees in picking up trash at the beach side fronting the Quarter Master Road intersection all the way to the 13 Fishermen Monument and back.

“We're supposed to clean up only from 9am to 11am but it's now around 12,” said Litulumar, adding that this is part of TSA's community outreach programs.

Mariana Coats and Jeremy T. Sasamoto of the Department of Public Health said they didn't mind the heat and dust to be able to help clean up Saipan. DPH employees picked up trash from Navy Hill to Horiguchi Building and back, starting at 2:30pm.

“Many of what we picked up were beer cans and plastic bottles. I hope people will stop littering,” said Sasamoto.

Aya Matsumoto, vice president of Pacific Eagle Enterprises, said they started cleaning up the area around the 13 Fishermen's Monument on Beach Road at 9:30am.

“We also planted a flame tree. We'd like to show tourists that Saipan is clean and beautiful. We'd like tourists to come back to the island again,” she said.

The cleanup will continue today. Joleen Torres, from the Committee to Elect Juan “Pan” Guerrero and Joe Camacho, said they expect 45 volunteers to clean up Beach Road this morning.

Joe Kaipat of the Division of Environmental Quality and co-chair of the islandwide cleanup, said 55 volunteer groups including public and private schools, government agencies and private businesses took part in the cleanup of 48 sites around Saipan.

The islandwide cleanup is cosponsored by Beautify CNMI, the Division of Environmental Quality, Rotary Club of Saipan, Marianas Visitors Authority and the Marianas Tourism Education Council.

News from Joe Kaipat

I received the following message from Joe Kaipat:

It is 7 pm and things wrapped up at 6. We have so far registered a total of 12,960 lbs and do not have weight from BEH, Parks & Rec. and one more DEQ vehicle. I will get them on Monday and total it with tomorrows collection before it is final. It was a good and hot day. Saipan is clean. I will update you further on Monday. When do you return?


Joe M. Kaipat
Division of Environmental Quality
Manager, SDWP
Joe coordinated all the logistics for the island-wide cleanup, including the pickup of all trash from every group that requested help. He was a huge part in pulling off this successful day.

The 12,960 lbs of solid waste collected so far already exceeds the 9,120 lbs removed during 1020 on 10/20 in 2006. In every way, from the total number of volunteers, to the number of participating groups, to the amount of work done, this year's cleanup is bigger than anything we have ever accomplished.

I am amazed at what our island just pulled off.

Congratulations to everyone!

Boston Red Sox vs Oakland A's

As luck would have it, the Red Sox were in town the two days before the awards ceremony. I had wanted to go to both games, but only managed to make it to one.

Getting to the Oakland Coliseum is very convenient. The Bay Area Rapid Transit stops right in front of the stadium...and right in front of our hotel. It was only about $3 and a short 20 minute ride over.

Ticket prices are also very reasonable. The most expensive seat in the house was only $55. I would have purchased one of those, but they were all sold out. I had to settle for the $40 seats, which still weren't too bad.

It has been nearly four years since I've been to a Major League Baseball game (check out my post from 2005 and you'll recognize a former Saipan celebrity). The two or three games I went to at Fenway when I was a kid are some of the best memories I have from my childhood. It was great to sort of relive them at Tuesday's game.

Here are some photos:

Big Papi about to take a monster swing.

That's team captain Jason Varitek.

Anyone else think that Mike Lowell looks like Greg Moretti?

Jason "Who's Got the Roid Rage" Giambi amazingly enough didn't get a single STEEEEEEEE-ROOOOOOIIIIIIDS chant directed at him. I'm sure the fans at Fenway will make up for it the next time the A's travel to Boston.

Hideo Okajima took the mount at the end of the game. We still lost.

Amigos en San Francisco

Social media is a wonderful thing. I use it to connect with people who I haven't seen in years.

After seeing a Facebook status update that I would be in San Fran, Dustin told me to give him a call so we could go out for a beer or two. To be honest, we ended up going out for a few more than that. We watched Oakland beat the Red Sox in 12 innings (damn!) and then he took me to Chinatown (yeah?) for a few more beers.

Dustin and I worked together on the League of Conservation Voters Environmental Victory Project. It is always great to see other EVP alumni. My first job in the environmental field was with LCV and the people I worked with that year were great people.

I've also met lots of great people from my use of social media. A short list of people I've met through my blog include Bev, Melissa, Chris, Missy, and Deece. I met Rick MacPherson about two years ago on my blog (or was it his blog?) We've traded comments back and forth over the years and we both participate in Carnival of the Blue. Rick even helped us get letters to President Bush asking him to declare the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.

I finally met Rick yesterday.  We chatted for about two hours in his office about how to rule the world using zooxanthella-powered ray guns and then we went out for beers with some of the staff from Coral Reef Alliance.  He's a great guy. Reminds me a lot of George Hasselback on Saipan, but funny (sorry, George). Seriously, you two might be long lost brothers. of these days I'll meet Mona in Seattle.

bev and gregBev is one of those people I met online. I met her in December of 2006 after I found that she had copied pictures from my blog onto her blog. Pretty soon she was volunteering for Beautify CNMI and coming to our blogger meetups. I know Greg from working with him on Saipan. He was a NOAA Marine Protected Area Specialist for almost three years. They both moved out to San Francisco just as the monument issue was heating up.

They took Ike and me to an El Salvadorian restaurant somewhere in town (don't ask me where). It was great seeing them. Greg even came to the awards ceremony today and was our cameraman.

Juan and Galvin on Youtube

I think Juan and Galvin are the first political candidates in CNMI history to put a political commercial on Youtube. Cinta Kaipat was the first elected official in the Marianas with a blog. Thought I'd just point that out. I think social media will have more and more relevance in CNMI elections as time goes on.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Island Wide on Facebook

I'm waiting for people to start sending in their photos from the Island Wide Cleanup. I so wish I was there. No photos have come in yet, but I've been watching people updating their Facebook profiles:

Thanks for participating, guys!

As luck would have it, as I was uploading the screenshots of the Facebook profiles, I received the first photos of the cleanup.

That's Alexander Kramer, son of Beautify CNMI co-founder Ken Kramer, with the trash he collected at their cleanup spot in Gualo Rai. Thanks, Alexander and Ken!

Wow. Then while I was uploading that picture of Alexander, I recieved this photo of the Laolao Bay Golf Resort team after their cleanup! Great work, Everybody!

I'm about to head to a reception for the EPA Awards right now. I'll post more photos, stories, and updates from the cleanup later this evening.

As the photos role in I'm posting them on the Beautify CNMI blog. Check them out!

EPA Environmental Award

ike and angeloIke and I accepted the 2009 EPA Environmental Award on behalf of the Friends of the Monument this afternoon. In the photo with us are U.S. EPA acting Regional Administrator Laura Yoshii (right) and acting Deputy Regional Administrator (right).

Here is Laura Yoshii reading our nomination:

And me making an extremely nervous acceptance speech:

4040 on 4/17

It is approaching noon in the city of San Francisco. I woke up kind of late and had a bagel and coffee from Starbucks for breakfast. The EPA awards ceremony begins in about an hour, so I am about to get in the shower so I can start getting ready.

6000 miles away on the small island I call home, several thousand people are waking up to participate in what will be the largest island wide cleanup in Micronesian history. Over 57 volunteer groups will scour the island for litter, paint over graffiti, and plant trees. I say over 57 because I can think of a few groups who didn't turn in their sign up need to name names.

Those 57 groups account for 4040 volunteers.

I am so proud of my island for what they are going to accomplish today. This is a big day. Thank you.

If you are awake, please tune into Harry Blalock's radio show at 7 AM local team to hear some of the organizers discuss the cleanup.

Naritasan Temple Hanami

In the Disney movie Mulan, Fa Zhou, Mulan's father says, "My, what beautiful blossoms we have this year. But look, this one's late. But I'll bet that when it blooms, it will be the most beautiful of all."

That basically sums up my hanami experience this year. I was too late. I only saw the most beautiful blossoms.

This was my first visit to Japan in the spring. The leaves on all the trees were just starting to emerge from their buds, making for a blend of greens we never get to see on Saipan.

Oh, if only I weren't color blind. I'm sure the greens are even more beautiful when you can actually see green.

The dandelions were starting to peek out, too. I'll save my Angelo dandelion in Japan story for another time.

The weather was terrible though. The skies were grey. Fortunately, it didn't start pouring until I reached the AEON. Lucky me.