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    Wednesday, November 20, 2019-8:06:55P.M.






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SSHS, FMS students top Sengebau poetry competition

SIBLINGS Elaine and Nehemiah Fernandez of Saipan Southern High School and Klin Deleon Guerrero of Francisco M. Sablan Middle School were the top winners of the 16th annual Sengebau Poetry competition held at American Memorial Park on Tuesday evening.

Organized by the Northern Marianas Humanities Council, the competition was named after Palauan poet Valentine Namio Sengebau (1941-2000) who resided on Saipan, and whose poems were published by Marianas Variety and Micronesian Reporter.

Winners of the 16th annual Sengebau Poetry Competition pose for a photo at the Visitor Center of American Memorial Park on Tuesday evening.  Photo by Lori Lyn C. Lirio Winners of the 16th annual Sengebau Poetry Competition pose for a photo at the Visitor Center of American Memorial Park on Tuesday evening. Photo by Lori Lyn C. Lirio

Entries to the senior division of the poetry competition must be original and address culture, identity, or change in the CNMI.

The poem “Who We Are,” written by siblings Elaine and Nehemiah Fernandez, won first prize in the senior division.

They said they were inspired by how the local people coped with the devastation caused by Typhoon Yutu.

Elaine said the phrase “struck down, but not destroyed” in their poem came from 2 Corinthians 4:9.

“We related that to our people on Saipan,” Nehemiah said. “We were struck down by Yutu — our buildings may be destroyed but our passion and our character were not. Yes, we were hard pressed in every side, but we didn’t give up.”

The siblings said they finished writing the poem a day before the submission deadline, Sept. 30, 2019.

They thanked their brother, Jeremiah, who won the same competition in 2017 and 2018, for supporting them, and for checking their poem’s grammar.

Also competing in the senior division were Kiran Shrestha of Tinian Junior-Senior High School; Malinao Palacios, TJSHS; Anhkiet Huynh of Kagman High School; Joan Repoberbio of Marinas High School; Roy Kaipan, MHS; and Marnickka Teigita, MHS.

The submitted poems in the senior division were scored by a panel of judges for content prior to the event.

In the junior division, contestants must recite their poem of choice from Sengebau’s book, “Microchild.”

First place winner Klin Deleon Guerrero said he chose the poem “The Plague” because he felt what Sengebau was feeling.

“When I was reading it, my first thought was what I experienced during Typhoon Yutu. It was traumatizing. When we went back to school, everybody was a whole different person,” seventh grader Deleon Guerrero said.

“I thought I had a really good connection to this poem. I could feel what Sengebau was feeling while he was writing this poem — he was afraid, he was scared of the natural disasters, and so was I.”

The other junior division contestants were Klin Deleon Guerrero of FMS; Aleeza Castro, FMS; Oceana Teigita, Dandan Middle School; Issa Teigita, DMS; Edgardo Palma Jr., Hopwood Middle School; and Jane Mozunder, HMS.

Northern Marianas Humanities Council Executive Director Leo Pangelinan said the annual competition allows young people to express who they are.

“It is powerful to really give voice to the youth so they can express their identity,” he added.

One of the senior division recital judges, first lady Diann T. Torres, said she was fascinated by the students’ performances.

“They recited poems that meant something to them. You can also tell that this devastation [Yutu] really affected them,” Mrs. Torres said.

The other senior division recital judges were Crispin Deleon Guerrero, national director of the Miss Stellar Marianas pageant organization; and Adam Walsh, Language and Humanities instructor at Northern Marianas College.

The junior division recital judges were Isa Arriola, Northern Marianas Humanities Council board member; Janet King, local attorney; and Mark Sonoda, WE67 owner and creative director; while the senior division content judges were Ajani Burrell, assistant professor, Language and Humanities, NMC; Zaldy Dandan, Marianas Variety editor; and Jane Mack, directing attorney, Micronesian Legal Services Corp.


Junior Division Recital

1st — Klin Deleon Guerrero, FMS, “The Plague”

2nd — Aleeza Castro, FMS, “Searching” and Issa Teigita, DMS, “Ngedeloch” (tie)

3rd — Ocean Teigita, DMS, “Searching”

Senior Division

1st — Elaine Fernandez and Nehemiah Fernandez, SSHS, “Who We Are”

2nd — Malinao Palacios, TJSHS, “Who Are We?”

3rd — Kiran Shrestha, TJSHS, “Of Many”

View more of this article's accompanying photos in our gallery