Marianas Variety

Last updateTue, 23 Jul 2019 12am







    Sunday, July 21, 2019-6:55:24A.M.






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DCCA canoe house builders bounce back

JOHN Mamis Castro was “discouraged” when he first saw the toll Yutu took on the canoe house he and Antonio “Tony” Piailug built at the Civic Center.

“But then it just makes you stronger,” Castro told Variety. “You realize, ‘We can still do it like this.’ You innovate, you sit down and you think ‘Oh, it’s not so bad.’”

Click to enlarge
Tony Piailug, left, and John Castro continue working on their canoe under the grounded canoe house roof.

“The roof is in good shape,” he added. Then he started to laugh: “It only leaks when it rains.”

Castro and Piailug lead the Seafaring Traditions Program under the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs. The program aims to “perpetuate the Chamorro and Carolinian traditional skills of open-ocean seafaring, canoe building, and celestial navigation.”

With the help of volunteers, they completed the traditionally-constructed Chamorro canoe house in late August of last year. Two months later, Yutu struck, leaving the thatched roof intact, but sitting in the grass.

Castro said that even though Yutu knocked down the supporting poles that once held the canoe house roof about three feet above the ground, “the canoe house still serves its purpose.”

“We’re carving under it, we’re in the shade, and there’s a cool breeze,” he said.

“The good thing about the traditional houses is we tie them together with rope and the rope is flexible,” said Piailug. “It can move, not like when you nail something and it moves and makes a big hole and the nail comes out. With this one, the structure just slides.”

“I’ve been thinking it’s OK,” Piailug added, gesturing toward the structure. “I think that’s why in the past they did their roofs like this.”

In late November, Piailug and Castro returned to the canoe house with tools in hand, cutting large openings halfway up the eastern and western ends of the structure to allow in sunlight and an ocean breeze. Then they picked up where they left off, carving the monkey pod hull of their traditional sakman or sailing canoe under their renovated rooftop.

“We’re still working on the keel for the whole boat,” Piailug explained. “After we finish that keel, we’re going to come up with the front… then we use lemai [breadfruit tree] for the planks… Maybe five feet high.”

Piailug said the canoe will be around 34 feet long. He and Castro are working on it full-time in hopes of having it finished in December.

“It’s kind of hard because it’s only two of us, so we’re still looking for at least four helpers to help us make it a little bit faster,” said Piailug. “Maybe two guys that know how to carve already and then we’ll bring in another two just to help us carry things, and at the same time they can learn what we’re doing.”

Despite the hold-ups and the time crunch, Castro said he isn’t too worried about the project.

“The way I see it, as long as we have laughter in our life, we’re good,” he said. “As long as we can still laugh, there’s no problem… It’s when we’re all sad and there’s no more laughter — that’s scary.”