Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Historical Sites and World Heritage

I'm back in cold and snowy Washington, DC and wanted to share with you an update about World Heritage and historical sites.  As of right now, a Beautify CNMI committee has not been created to tackle this issue, but I'm sure one will be organized.

The Saipan Tribune has published two stories on our early discussions (here and here):
Historical sites also on Beautify CNMI’s agenda
Cause-oriented group Beautify CNMI has also identified historical sites in the CNMI as another one of their concerns citing their importance to the island’s culture.

Former representative Cinta Kaipat, with the help of Angelo Villagomez and other members of the community, is trying to revive Beautify CNMI in order to raise awareness on how to keep the islands clean and attractive both from local and foreign tourists.

Aya Matsumoto, another passionate community volunteer, had voiced the importance of the CNMI’s historical and cultural sites in promoting history. She hopes that the community would preserve it.

Finding ways to preserve monuments, buildings, and other important places that have historical value in the CNMI is also being discussed by the group.


Villagomez, among the few who were able to visit some of the Northern Islands in 2009, said that the site could be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site as well as other significant sites in the CNMI.

“The North Field, the world’s largest Air Force base during World War II, we got the latte stones, the Marianas Trench, the Maug lagoon—the only place where chemosynthesis and photosynthesis at the same time. There’s boiling pools of sulfur, there’s deep sea volcanic vents. There are these cool cultural and historic sites that would be valid as world heritage sites,” Villagomez said.
It's a great coincidence that just as the Beautify CNMI coalition began talking about historical areas and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, we learned that a draft nomination for listing the Mariana Trench was already written.  The draft is a collaboration between our local government and the federal government, and had input from local cultural experts. The Mariana Trench would be only the second marine World Heritage site of both natural and cultural values, so this is a very big deal.

I've found that many people in the United States are not aware of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but globally they receive a lot attention.  If you have heard about them, perhaps it's because Palau's Rock Islands were declared one in 2012

The more than 1000 sites -- including iconic places like the Taj Mahal and the Grand Canyon -- are a bucket list for millions of people, including Aya Matsumoto, who is originally from Japan and brought this to the attention of the coalition members.  These are, simply put, the most spectacular cultural and natural places in the world.

If you want more info you can visit the UNESCO website, which has loads of info.  I've also written about World Heritage Sites here and here.  And in 2010, I worked at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History to load several hundred Google Ocean stories to the Explore the Ocean layer of Google Earth, including all of the marine World Heritage Sites.  Here's a video we produced about the effort (UNESCO was one of 20 partners I teamed up with for content):

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

By the way, about half of the photos that are used in this video were taken by Saipan dive celebrity Harry Blalock, owner and operator of Axe Murderer Tours on Saipan.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

We Will Plant Trees

Skinny Angelo with Aya Matsumoto and Morgan Rose
It's been too long since I've planted a tree, so tomorrow I'm going to plant two of them with some of my closest friends.  This article talks about flame trees, but we're actually going to plant Pacific almond tomorrow.  It's a native tree that's salt tolerant.  If you are reading this and you are on Saipan, you are invited to join us.  Here's the info on Facebook.  The Saipan Tribune also wrote a story about our activity:
Beautify CNMI to plant commemorative tree tomorrow
Beautify CNMI will have a tree planting project tomorrow, Feb. 4, as one of their first projects as the group has just been revived.

According to one of Beautify CNMI’s founder, Angelo Villagomez, the tree planting will take place near the Oleai Beach Bar at 5pm.

The native tree that will be planted will commemorate the first decade of Beautify CNMI and kick off a second decade of community service. Interested members of the public are invited to attend.

Beautify CNMI, a diverse group of like-minded individuals whose common ground is to take care of the environment, was established in 2006.

They were also responsible for some of the several hundreds of flame trees around the island, most of which are now gone because of the devastation of Typhoon Soudelor.

“We’ve planted several hundred flame trees along Beach Road also in Koblerville and several other places around the island,” Villagomez said.

He also credited those who came first to plant the trees that have become a trademark and identity of the CNMI.

“The flame trees by the beach were actually started many, many years ago, in the ’60s, ’70s,” Villagomez said, “Somebody has always stepped up and planted flame trees but it’s actually something that’s existed for 30 years.”

Villagomez said that while it is sad that those trees were gone, it is our responsibility to beautify the CNMI again.

“They were blown away. It’s really sad how much this island lost from the typhoon. People lost their homes, and we lost one of the naturally beauty. But as caretakers of this island, it’s our responsibility to fix up that which was broken,” Villagomez said.