Marianas Variety

Last updateSat, 19 Oct 2019 12am







    Friday, October 18, 2019-11:15:59A.M.






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Rep. Sheila Babauta voyages north (2)

REPRESENTATIVE Sheila Babauta and the rest of the voyagers aboard the Super Emerald reached the shore of Agrigan around lunchtime on Sunday, June 2.

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Rep. Sheila Babauta and Ed Saures walk along one of Agrigan’s black sand beaches.

“I was just really amazed at how the landscape of the island was so different from Saipan, Tinian and Rota,” she told Variety. “The mountains, how they’re shaped, the black sand beaches, the volcanoes...”

She even likened some of Agrigan’s long stretch of volcanic sand to a “black Waikiki.”

“It felt so familiar, but different. I thought, ‘Man, I could be on Saipan,’ on one part of the island. But then you see the black sand, and then you see a volcano!”

Rep. Babauta is the CNMI’s first female House member to visit the Northern Islands while in office. She joined the journey north with only one day’s notice.

According to Valentino Taisakan, Operations Manager for the Northern Islands Mayor’s Office or NIMO, their purpose was to pick up community workers Paul Santos, Mike Iguel, Patrick Santos, Jesus Santos, and Ken Santos, who were dropped off in April to repair the island’s sole dispensary, a concrete structure that houses the radio and offers shelter during typhoons. The workers would later be transferred to Alamagan, along with Lerins Stole, to work on projects there.

He added that the men also built a new structure, cleaned and repaired water tanks, and water catchment systems that date back to the Japanese time.

Rep. Babauta, was shown all of the recent projects and introduced to all the islands’ short-term and long-term inhabitants.

“The youngest person there is a seventeen-year-old,” she said. “He’s been there for a month now and he really enjoys the lifestyle. I’m glad Mayor Ben Santos is prioritizing water systems and housing. He is prioritizing the community’s safety and wellbeing. The residents are happy.”

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Ed Saures leads Rep. Sheila Babauta to the Agrigan cemetery.
A tombstone in the small cemetery on Agrigan.   Photos courtesy of Rep. Sheila Babauta

Agrigan resident Ed Saures even brought her to the island’s small cemetery.

“I requested we hike to the island’s cemetery. It was important for me that we visit and acknowledge those who came before us in occupying our lands in the North,” she remembered. “He showed me the graves, and there were tombstones. I could see the amount of love and attention that went into crafting the tombstones for their loved ones, our loved ones.”

The tombstones, which Mr. Taisakan estimated dated back to the 60’s, are homemade and hand-carved.

The island was beautiful, in many different ways.

“Then we took the beach route heading back to the village,” Rep. Babauta continued. “The landscape was so different from what I was used to. I was so proud to know that these beautiful islands were a part of our Marianas. So much to be grateful for, so much to protect.”

After hours of touring the projects and sites, the workers, residents and crew members shared pork soup around an open fire.

“We all sat on the beach at night, telling stories and stargazing. It was so peaceful.” said Rep. Babauta

Among the voyagers was JJ Concepcion, who played a few songs for everyone.

“It was a humbling experience because you’re off the grid, there’s no running water or power. You just have to take care of one another,” Rep. Babauta said. “You have to ask for help when you need help. You have to communicate clearly and be respectful of one another’s property.”

“My wish is for everyone to see it. For it to be accessible. Because it is so beautiful. It gave me a new sense of pride for the CNMI. I’m so proud to be from here. Our islands are so beautiful.”

Finally, around 10 p.m., it was time to return to the Super Emerald. Unfortunately for Rep. Babauta, in all the excitement of Agrigan she had once again forgotten to take some nausea medicine ahead of time.

“Captain Ern Rangamar and Captain Keli Tenorio did an amazing job getting us safely to each island. I’m grateful we have members in our community who know how to sail North and back. Who know our waters.”

Next stop: Pagan.