- Category: Around the Islands
01 Aug 2013
- By Jenny Santos - For Variety
WHEN I was growing up I always wondered what it was like 5,000 years before I was born.
My parents were raised on an island with vegetables, fruits of different sorts, local produce and wild animals. There were few worries and they had everything including food from the sea and birds, fruit bats not to mention giant coconut crabs.
I was 16 when I first went to Alamagan and it was an experience that I never could have imagined. A long and breath-taking boat trip from Saipan, passing three other islands before reaching, the island of Alamagan was worth every hour it took.
Along the way I saw dolphins riding the blue waves and surfacing alongside the boat as we sailed up to the Northern Islands.
We felt so relaxed that we just laid back and watched the night go by with shining bright stars and cool ocean breezes.
When we arrived at the island all I could see was a green island with nice rocks along the shore with waves pounding on them. I looked up and saw people from the village waiting for us to come ashore.
Our vessel anchored and my feet couldn’t wait to get on the small boat that came to pick us up along with our cargo. This moment was something that is beyond imagining.
I thought to myself this is a beautiful memory for a summer vacation. When we finally touched down on Alamagan, the first thing we ate was dried meat with coconut juice combined with a second course meal of coconut crab.
Boy, was the lunch mouth-watering! It was only my first day on Alamagan and I wanted to do a lot of exploring. We went looking for betel-nut, leaves and fruit as part of our day’s activity. This was just my first day on the island and I was going crazy because there was so much to do.
There was no modern equipment so we worked manually most of the time gathering firewood to cook. The guys would do the hunting for food and us ladies would stay back and clean the village, cook and wait for the hunters to return.
It was a natural way of living in which we co-existed with nature. For recreation, I went fishing or took a stroll in the jungle. These were fun times for me on Alamagan.
As I grew older, I witnessed the hardships of those from my neighboring islands of Pagan and Agrigan.
These people lived a long time on these islands without the luxuries of power, running water, or the other luxuries enjoyed here in the south from Saipan to Rota. It is a hard way of living but the residents didn’t mind because it was the way they lived.
For light they would use solar panels donated by different folks who visit the islands or small generators purchased by the Northern Islands Mayor’s Office.
They have to catch rainwater for drinking. Electricity is limited because of the lack of fuel on the island normally fuel is delivered by the NIMO on a quarterly basis. So the people were always relied on what nature had to offer. It’s not a simple life but it is a life they enjoyed.
I visited Pagan in 2012 with my family and it was an amazing island.
The water was so beautiful and the black sandy beaches were just incredible. I had to constantly be on the look-out for my son because he couldn’t keep himself away from the ocean.
Pagan looked so peaceful and all I could hear was the sound of the ocean breeze and the seabirds that were in abundance.
My husband and I wanted to take a walk just after sunset and were amazed by the beautiful ocean mist sparkling like diamonds as the waves hit the rocks and splash into the air. We kept on exploring because our stay there was limited and we tried to see all that we could.
My husband and I visited the place the residents called the slaughter house. We reached the slaughter house and my husband said to be careful not to insult the ancestors or they would run after me.
My son turned and said mommy look there’s a big gun. I told him yes son it’s a machine gun from World War II and he was amazed with what he saw. The last stop on our agenda was the Church. It is the church on Pagan that withstood the volcanic eruption and lava flow when all the residents’ houses were burned to ashes. The church was lit up with candles and looked so beautiful considering that there are few lights on Pagan.
The next day we went to the other side of the bay were there were smooth rocks but very hot so I couldn’t stand on them without my slippers. We loved it anyways despite the heat. My husband, son and I sat on a rock and to our surprise there were a group of dolphins very close to shore just swimming and having a good time. I said to myself you could never get this close to nature except in the Northern Islands.
That is just a glimpse of my experience in the Northern Islands and now I’m going to get into why I wrote this.
I understand that the Military has plans to take Pagan Island and turn it into a military warfare playground. I have nothing against the military folks but I have everything against live firing and bombing where Pagan is concerned.
Just picturing the total destruction that would cause when Pagan becomes a military bombing place brings tears to my eyes. It’s just too beautiful to be destroyed and the experience I had may be unavailabe to others if and when the military takes over Pagan. I’m looking at our sister island of Farallon de Mendinilla and I can’t imagine more destruction of my islands.
I strongly believe that enough is enough and Pagan Island should be left for the people of the CNMI to enjoy and develop. I’m thinking of closure of our Northern Islands once Pagan is grabbed by the military.
We will probably not set foot on it anymore or even be able to fish around it. It would be a very sad story not only for the residents of Pagan but the entire CNMI because they would not know or understand the beauty of this island because they never set foot on it.
Now I ask these questions that may seem harsh but it’s how I feel personally and would like to ask them of the military and all those who are pro military take-over of Pagan Island:
1) How would you like it if you were the one living on Pagan half of your life and I just come and say I am taking over your land without first consulting you? No I don’t want a portion but I want your entire land!
2) Would you respect the plea of the majority of the residents of the Northern Islands including the entire CNMI for no military take-over of Pagan Island? Or would the military use every means possible to take the island and destroy it like most military training sites all over the world?
3) What is it really that the military wants from Pagan considering that it already has the entire island of Farallon de Mendilla, two thirds of Tinian, and a portion of Tanapag? Is it really worth destroying these pristine and beautiful island all for security practices.
4) How do you plan to remove all your junk after you destroy the island and leave the pieces for the people of the CNMI to pick up after such as unexploded ordinance, contamination, toxins, and all the great things that the military practice brings with them? Why Pagan, why not New York, New Jersey or California?
The bottom line is that I want to speak up for my people that have been stamped on and left to fend for themselves because their own government has failed to help them.
The way of life and the values of Pagan would be lost forever if we don’t fight to protect it from destruction even in the name of security and protection of our nation. So I say pack up Jack and leave town because the island of Pagan is not going to come easy. We shall stand and fight for the protection of our islands just as you are trying to protect your interests.
The author is an Alamagan resident.