Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Angelo Villagomez: Famous on Boing Boing

Last month this photo of me holding two coconut crabs was featured on Boing Boing.  I'm finally famous!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Why I Like Governor Fitial

Last night I had dinner with some family members on Guam and the conversation turned to Saipan politics -- as it always does.  One of my cousins attended the rally to impeach the governor held along Beach Road a few weeks ago and said that she had asked one of the administration's supporters to list some good things the governor had done, but that the supporter had not gotten back to her.

The people who want to see Fitial removed from office have little understanding of why anyone would remain silent about his perceived misdoings, never mind support him.  I can think of a few reasons to support the governor:

- He is a relative or friend
- He is is a political ally
- He provides employment

For thousands of people living on Saipan, these three reasons are enough.  Case closed, they support the governor.  Many of my very close relatives support the governor for these reasons.  The governor's godfather is Ignacio Pangelinan Villagomez; IPV is my grandfather.  By the Chamorro interpretation of Catholic convention, he is my father's brother.  Governor Fitial is my Uncle Ben.  And I'm the 50th grandchild in my family.  The governor is literally Uncle Ben to hundreds and thousands of people (not to mention his biological family and extended family!)

Thousands of people continue to support the governor in much the same way millions of Americans are able to overlook President Barack Obama's shortcomings in order to ensure Democrats maintain control of the White House.  For example, I may not like the health care law, but Mitt Romney has made some very strong statements against marine protected areas (not to mention evolution and climate change).  Obama is not necessarily the lesser of two evils, but in my opinion he is certainly better than Mitt Romney.

And to prove my point, here are some reason's to support Governor Ben Fitial:

- The Fitial Administration has been a stalwart supporter of Beautify CNMI.
- Governor Fitial is a regional and global leader in environmental protection with his support of the Micronesia Challenge and the Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary.
- In 2008, Governor Fitial hired Aggreko to provide temporary power relief so that the generators could be fixed, ending months of blackouts.
- Despite 50% drop in government revenue, nobody in government has lost a job.
- Governor Fitial supported the creation of the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument.
- Governor Fitial is extremely pro-business and supports local control of immigration and minimum wage.
- Governor Fitial supports casinos, development, and the militarization of the Northern Islands, which many believe will bring economic benefits

I'm sure the supporters have other reasons, but these are the ones that popped into my head as I was writing this blog (and I don't want to be accused of being part of the governor's propaganda machine).

And for the record, three years ago I wrote that the governor should resign:
"(I)t is not too early to call for his resignation. We shouldn’t have to impeach him. We shouldn’t have to wait for him to be indicted. He has shamed himself, shamed his office, and shamed us. Governor Fitial should resign."
But at this point I don't really care if the governor resigns or gets impeached.  Things won't change much under an Eloy Inos Administration.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Micronesia Speaks Up to Save Sharks

Sharks are rapidly disappearing from the world's oceans, primarily as a result of the demand for their fins, which are valued as a soup ingredient in some cultures. Each year, up to 73 million of these animals are killed by humans. However, advocates in the Pacific would like to put a stop to this activity.

Soon, an area covering more than 2 million square miles of the western Pacific Ocean—approximately two-thirds the size of the land area of the United States—is slated to become the world's largest shark sanctuary, and the first created through a regional agreement among governments. The resolution, which was negotiated last year, also authorizes the development of a regional ban on the possession, sale, and trade of shark fins in the waters of Palau, the Marshall Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the Federated States of Micronesia, which includes Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae.

This short video, produced by the Pew Environment Group, demonstrates the need for countries to implement the agreement and recounts the successful efforts of Guam, where thousands of students and other citizens spoke out about the importance of safeguarding these important keystone species.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Until Next Month, Marshalls

I'm in the San Francisco airport headed back towards Washington, DC.  As I type this, I have already been traveling for 24 hours.  This journey started at the Ebeye dock at noon on Monday, then we departed the Kwajalein airport 7 hours later, arriving in Honolulu 9 hours before we left Ebeye.  The best connection I could get had an 8 hour layover here in San Fran, so here I sit, catching up on email, uploading my photos, and catching up on certain things related to work.

Shawn and I (but mostly Shawn) captured some amazing images in the Marshall Islands this past week and we'll be working on the resulting products in the upcoming weeks.  We've already had stories run in the Marshall Islands Journal and Marianas Variety; I also did an interview with Radio New Zealand, which should play some time this week.

I've got less than a week in DC then I am heading back out to the Pacific.  At the end of my next trip, I will hopscotch across the Marshall Islands, touching down on Kwajalein and Majuro on my way back home.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Angelo Villagomez: Production Assisstant

As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm on assignment this week in the Marshalls Islands with my filmmaker friend Shawn Heinrichs making a video about the Marshall Islands Shark Sanctuary.  I think this the second official project I've worked on with Shawn.  In 2011 we both worked with students and conservationists on Guam to pass a shark fin ban.  Shawn filmed and edited a short film, Guam Shark Tsunami, about the efforts of the hundreds of school children supporting the passage of the law.

So not to change the subject, but what do you think of my new haircut?  I knew I was going to end up on camera this week, so I didn't want to look like the disheveled hippie I normally resemble.  I even shaved.

Even with all the development around Majuro, there are still some great healthy looking coral reefs.  I'm no coral reef biologist (my favorite topic while in school was the evolutionary interaction between tree squirrels and oak trees), but that looks like some serious coral cover to me.

You'll notice I'm not using a snorkel in these photos,  I don't think I ever blogged about it, but a grey reef shark in Chuuk ate my snorkel in July.  I have to buy a new one, but would gladly accept a donation.

I wish I could make a career out of playing a tourist enjoying a coral reef, but somehow I imagine there is a lot of competition for that job.  And I bet most photographers would rather have a hot girl in a bikini.  Speaking of which...

I post this final photo as a warning to all my young readers (both of you).  This is what 10 years of Bud Light and fried chicken will do to your abdominal region.  I have three skinny younger brothers under the age of 25.  Boys: this is your future.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Pretty Birds and Pristine Beaches

There isn't an unfished beach on this planet clear of plastic bottles and other marine debris washed up on it shores, but I think Eneko Island in the Marshall Islands comes pretty darn close to what I think of when I hear the word pristine.

I visited Eneko in 2007 when I attended my first Micronesians in Island Conservation retreat.  The island is now exactly like it was then.

These birds are called fairy terns.  Aren't they pretty?

Hawaiian Shark Jaws for Sale

I was a little bummed to find these shark jaws for sale at one of the tourist shops in Honolulu on Tuesday night.   I don't know what species they are, but if I had to guess, I'd guess blue sharks.  Hawaii bans shark fin, but not shark jaws.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Emerald Ribbons in a Turquoise Sea

I'm in Majuro in the Republic of the Marshall Islands this week shooting a video about the world's largest, strongest, and best enforced shark sanctuary.  I don't usually post about my travels when they are related to work, but there is nothing particularly political about this week's work, so no harm done showing a photo of the north end of Majuro as the plane flew over to come in for a landing.

I realized at about the moment I snapped this photo that for these atolls, the ocean is both your front yard and your back yard.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Nice Tapenade

A green pepper, a red pepper, three ears of corn, and half a white onion sauteed in some butter are really delicious, unless your name is Edz.  The princess doesn't like onions and peppers and wouldn't eat my vegetable concontion.  I thought it was delicious, however.

H-Mart has the best selection of fish in Northern Virginia (including shark steaks, which may inspire me to start a petition).  This salmon steak only cost $5.  I cooked it with a few dashes of salt, pepper, oregano, and butter on broil.  Someone once told me the best way to cook fish is on high temperature.  Any thoughts?

Thus giving me reason to use my overpriced olive tapenade from Napa Valley.  Yum!

Knockin' On Jeter's Door

The student commons over the lake and the library up on the hill.
On our way home from Viriginia Beach, Edz and I decided to make a pit stop at my alma mater the University of Richmond.  Driving into Richmond since the day of my graduation always reminds me of my first time visiting the school the day before multicultural orientation began (multicultural orientation consisted of the football and basketball teams, Aisha Handy, and me).  I was 17 when I went off to college and Mom drove me all the way from Florida.  Driving in this time reminded me of the emotions I had of going off to college 16 years ago -- literally half a lifetime ago.

This is the science building where I had most of my classes.
The college looks pretty much the same with the addition of a few more buildings and a couple of courtyards.  When I went there boys lived on one side of the lake and girls lived on the other, kind of like year-round summer camp for over privileged white kids (plus the football and basketball teams, Aisha Handy, and me).  It was odd to see female students coming in and out of what used to be the boys dorms.  I imagine those dorms had to undergo extensive renovations to undo decades of housing college boys before the girls could move in.

The famous gazebo with the girl I actually married.
It is now hard to believe that I lived in this place for four years.  What an amazing campus!  When I try to reconstruct my average day back in college, not enough time was spent just walking around the lake and the buildings.

What happened to Afroduck
I was sad to not find Afroduck.  When I was there, one of the ducks had an afro.  There are some species of duck that are bred to have tufts of feathers on their head and they are apparently closely related to mallards.  A promiscuous mallard once got frisky with one of those ducks (I think she was Asain), and Afroduck was the result.  Sadly, I don't think I have any photos of Afroduck, but I may be inspired to scour my old photos for one.  But probably not.

Marsh Hall
I swung by the old dorms, too.  My first two years I lived in Robins Hall, Junior year I lived in Marsh Hall (pictured above), and Senior year I was in Jeter hall (pictured below).

Jeter Hall's entrance.
I missed by 10th year reunion in 2010 because I had just come back to the USA from Saipan and was in a bit of a frizzle.  I keep up with some friends on Facebook, but haven't done as good a job of holding onto old friendships as I should.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

The Kidnappings Will Continue

Edz likes kidnapping her friends' kids and taking photos of them.  And then she posts the photos on Facebook, making it easy for the FBI to identify us as the perpetrators.  And by the way, do you see the televisions behind us?  One was playing TFC and the other one had GMA.  This would be Edz newest favorite restaurant if you didn't have to sit in five hours of traffic to get there.

Like I said in my last post, we spent last weekend in Virginia Beach visiting our friends Aileen and Mike.  On Saturday we had lunch in Norfolk, which as one of the greatest cities in America, has six, count them, six, Hooters.

Later that night, we met up with some other friends and held a support meeting for former residents of Saipan.  Lynn and Vince left Saipan right around the time Edz did.

The reunion of three Filipina girls resulted in about 16GB of photos that look exactly like the one above.  You can look on Edz' Facebook to see the 392 photos that are indiscernible from this one.

We managed to get one group photo, and of course, it was out of focus.  I'm starting to think I should carry a point and shoot to hand to people when I want to appear in the photo.  Why is it so much harder to hold an SLR?

The next morning we went out for Krispy Kreme, which was followed by lunch at a Filipino restaurant.  And then we sat in traffic for five hours on the ride home.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Virginia Midget Tossing

Last weekend Edz and I went to Virginia Beach to visit our friends Aileen and Mike.  Aileen used to work at Godfather's, but they have been in the USA for about four years now.  And they have a kid.