Saturday, February 27, 2010

Mock Trial

Congrats to the participants and winners of the Mock Trial Competition in Saipan 2010.

First place winners: MOUNT CARMEL SCHOOL. Final tally was 6 to 3 in their favor. They will travel to Philadelphia for the national competition in May 2010.

Second place winners: MARIANAS BAPTIST SCHOOL. Hard fought. Good job.

Third place winners: SAIPAN SOUTHERN HIGH SCHOOL. They're already talking about next year!

Fourth place winners: ROTA HIGH SCHOOL. First time in the winners circle and great performance.

Team Professionalism award: MARIANAS HIGH SCHOOL. This award speaks volumes. Congrats.

EDIT: The individual awards (best prosecution attorney, witness, best defense attorney, witness): MHS student Christian Cruz won for Best Prosecution Witness; MCS student Anastasia Schweiger won for Best Defense Witness. MBA student Yonghwa Choi for Best Prosecution Attorney. MBA student Jessica Dong Hee Lee for Best Defense Attorney.

The competition was very good. The students worked very hard and show tremendous talent and promise. Wow!

EDIT: Newspaper stories here : Variety article, and Tribune.

Photo by Haidee Eugenio, Saipan Tribune
Team members: Ryan Ortizo, Maria Balajadia, Janella Revilla, Kevin Bautista, Hazel Doctor, Keno San Pablo, Geza BAka, Anastasia Schweiger

The mango trees have reddish yellow buds on them--incipient fruits. The flowers (bouganvillea, cadena de amor, even pointsettia) are bright and glorious. But it's starting to feel a bit dry. There are some trees with brittle seed pods and few leaves.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Chance to Support the Manta Band

Saipan Southern High School's Manta Ray Band is heading to NYC to perform at Carnegie Hall for the New York International Music Festival. They won the right to be on stage through their audition. But now they are desperately trying to raise the funds needed for the trip.

Come have fun and help them! This Saturday.

You can pledge for the band members joining the fun run (either by dollar amount or by the laps they run). [I'd be happy to take pledges! I know several of the students. Checks are made payable to SSHS with a notation in the memo part for Manta's Carnegie trip.]

You can come to the evening festival and spend your pocket money.

Please take this opportunity to help!

We've been having perfect weather, but just now it's gone grey and looks a bit stormy. The bouganvillea is stunningly bright and beautiful, in full flower. There is plumeria in blossom and even a few Flame Trees already starting to show orange flowers.

Addendum: If you'll be in New York City during April 2010, you might be interested in seeing the Manta Ray Band on stage at Carnegie Hall. Here's what I've found out about tickets, which are AVAILABLE NOW:

Performance Date – April 20, 2010
Performance Times! – 2:00pm EDIT: 8 PM show, but Manta Band will NOT be performing then.

Location – Isaac Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall

Cost – 2:00pm Adjudicated Performances - Ticketed but free of charge, obtain tickets at Carnegie Hall Box Office

Cost – 8:00pm Showcase Concert - $20.00 per person, obtain tickets at Carnegie Hall Box Office

How to get Ticket – Obtain tickets at Carnegie Hall box office
Box office info –

Carnegie Hall
57th Street & 7th Avenue
New York, NY 10019

Tickets released – February 15, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

Write Now, Right Now!

Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument Seek Testimony for Congressional Hearing

FEBRUARY 21, 2010

(Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) - A Congressional hearing is scheduled this Thursday in Washington, DC for the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument and the Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument, the key proponents of the monument leading up to its designation, are asking local residents to provide testimony in support of building a Mariana Trench Visitors Center in the CNMI, rather than Guam.

The hearing will take testimony concerning two bills, H.R. 3511, Representative Gregorio “Kilili” Sablan’s “Marianas Trench Marine National Monument Visitor Facility Authorization Act of 2009,” and H.R. 4493, Representative Madeleine Bordallo’s “Marianas Trench Marine National Monument Management Enhancement Act of 2010.”

Sablan’s H.R. 3511 seeks to “authorize the Secretary of the Interior to establish and operate a visitor facility to fulfill the purposes of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument” while Bordallo’s H.R. 4493 seeks to “provide for the enhancement of visitor services, fish and wildlife research, and marine and coastal resource management on Guam related to the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.”

The Friends are opposed to H.R. 4493 because they want to see a Mariana Trench Visitors Center built on Saipan. They argue that the area of the monument close to Guam does not restrict any fishing or protect any coral reefs or preserve any coastal resources and that only the “Islands Unit” of the monument, an area surrounding the Commonwealth islands of Uracas, Maug, and Asuncion, protects marine resources.

Friends’ Vice Chair Agnes McPhetres said of Bordallo’s bill, “H.R. 4493 seeks to provide research and enforcement dollars to the Government of Guam even though the monument does not protect any fish, wildlife, or any other living creature within 500 miles of Guam.”

“If you read the monument proclamation, the area of the monument that extends close to Guam only restricts future seabed mining of the substrate at the bottom of the Mariana Trench,” explained McPhetres. “It makes no sense to house the management of the biological resources of the monument on Guam when they are here (Northern Mariana Islands). It would appear that Guam is asking for federal dollars to manage resources under the jurisdiction and within the borders of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.”

The Friends are asking the community to provide testimony for Thursday’s hearing through letters and emails. They are asking for letters to be addressed to the Subcommittee’s Chairwoman, Representative Bordallo and request that copies of all letters be emailed to Representative Gregorio “Kilili” Sablan so that he can enter them into the official record.

According to the Friends, each letter should give a short introduction of the author, explain their interest in the monument, and specifically request that the Subcommittee support H.R. 3511. Letters should also ask for a Mariana Trench Visitors Center to be built in the CNMI.

According to Friends’ Director Angelo Villagomez, “Many people in the Northern Marianas fought for this and now we are in danger of losing the monument headquarters and facilities to Guam. The community needs to come together to show their support if we are ever to see the benefits promised to the CNMI by the Bush Administration.”

Letters for Representative Sablan’s office can be emailed to Paula Bermudes-Castro at and must be received by Wednesday, February 24, 2010.

For more information or if you need help drafting a letter, please email Angelo Villagomez at angelovillagomez at

The Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument formed in 2008 to express the voice of the local community and consists of a cross-section of indigenous and resident people of the CNMI who are dedicated to the conservation, preservation and protection of marine flora, fauna and geological features of the oceans; and the proper management of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. Visit them online at their blog.

Written by Angelo O. Villagomez, member of the Board of Directors, Friends of the Monument, and environmental consultant

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Out of the Frying Pan...

Tuesday evening, about 7 PM-beautiful red crescent moon. Later last night-glorious stars in deep black sky studded with clouds. More cadena de amor shrouding trees and vegetation in the wilder parts of Saipan.

So Governor Fitial has decided that Dolores San Nicolas Aldan should no longer be the head of the Department of Corrections. Instead, she will be a special assistant on political affairs. And the Governor has nominated Ray Mafnas to the DOC post.

Well, I don't know why we're now calling relationships with "masseuse therapists" political affairs--just plain old affairs seems more appropriate. Why are we wasting money keeping Dolores San Nicolas Aldan on the government payroll? What price loyalty? or is that silence?

But the real problem is appointing Ray Mafnas to any post with this much power.

Mafnas was most recently "senior policy adviser" -another term for muscle, I think. Whenever Fitial wants something checked out--to bring someone into line?--he calls on Ray Mafnas.

Being on hand when the Governor met with DPS protesters wanting a raise.

Checking out why Jose Itibus didn't show up at the swearing in.

Even enforcing a ban on smoking and chewing betelnut at public places.

Mafnas is a man who wields his power with a heavy hand.

Thought to be behind the ouster of Clyde Norita from DPS.

Wanting to control all government employee transfers.

I suppose being the governor's muscle may be experience in "corrections." No question he has some degree in criminal justice and has previously filled in at both DOC and DPS. Still, I think this is a bad appointment.

Political payback or just a thin clique from which to draw. What a shame for us.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Lend Me A Tenor-success!!!

The play is hilarious. The actors are amazingly good at bringing the crisp dialogue and farce to life.

The costumes, designed by students, are also fabulous. We used pieces that we had on our FOA and Thespian costume racks, where possible, but we had some designs created. The seamstresses at Dollar Days, Unity Trade and Xiu Yi helped transform two-dimensional drawings into real costumes.

Bellhop by Haeri Kim

Diana, evening, by Rozette Bunao

Diana, day, by Helen Choi

Mr. Saunders by Rozette Bunao

Maria Merelli by Donna Monton

Maggie, evening, by Allison Madamba

Maggie, day, by Rochelle Dimipilis

Tito Merelli, day, by Donna Monton

Tito as Otello by Lara Lleva

You can see more photos of LEND ME A TENOR in rehearsal at the student competition site here.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Just In Time for Valentine's Day...

A bawdy, romantic comedy on stage this weekend at P.I.C.'s Charley's Cabaret. The play has won awards and is a standard for regional and community theatres because of its accessible humor!

Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students (discounts for FOA members and Thespians).
Friday, Saturday, Sunday 7 PM.

I watched most of the dress rehearsal last night. There are some hilarious moments and the cast does a great job throughout. The costumes are designed, for the most part, by local high school students. (I also have a design in the show.) Come, laugh, and be sure to bring a date--it is, after all, a ROMANTIC comedy.

It's sunny and cloudy outside at the same time. Feels a bit heavy.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My Thoughts on Massage-Gate

Another perfectly beautiful day in paradise! Blue skies with some white clouds. Sunshine, moderated by refreshing breezes. Cadena de amor, a pesky vine with very pretty, small pink-petaled flowers, is in bloom.

Before I go and read all the blogs and comments and talk with others, I'm just going to give some gut-level responses to the headline news that Judge Munson quashed the subpoenas in "massage-gate."

He's acted promptly. No one can say he dallied about on this.

He's articulated reasons that make sense (at least to lawyers). Separation of powers and the restraint of the court from participating in the government's investigation are not pretty or popular sound-bites, but they are important foundations of our legal jurisprudence and our system of government.

He's acted fairly and neutrally. I'm guessing he's as curious as the rest of us to actually find out what happened. But he didn't let his own curiosity or disgust about the situation overtake his judgment.

I don't like the outcome, but I'm not fair and neutral. I am disgusted and wanted some heads to roll. Still, I can't fault Judge Munson for reaching this decision.

Now, we'll have to see if this is the end of Massage-gate, or if there will be more federal investigation, more action by the court. I sincerely hope that the Governor is required to pay for his serious and flagrant abuse of power.

Because I don't agree with the Tribune's headline news or the Governor's take that "the truth has prevailed." We haven't heard the truth yet. It hasn't yet prevailed. Ed Buckingham represented the Governor, but he didn't represent the people in this matter. He has won nothing for us.

We did get this, though, from the order:
According to the declaration of Captain Georgia Cabrera, it appears that movant (Dolores San Nicolas) left and returned to the Governor's room several times during the treatment, presumably leaving the defendant unattended by any corrections officer for some periods of time...This conclusion is supported by the declaration of Corrections Officer I Abigail Borja...

So at least we know that the defendant was not really in custody all of the time. The spin of the Administration isn't fully supported by the existing factual record, as thin as that record is. And so there are still many, many unanswered questions.

And Stanley Torres is wrong. Shutting up and not disclosing in full public view the answers to the many questions does not put an end to the controversy. It will simply fester.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Chance to Comment

I wish this letter by Sylvia Haywood was in the Variety where people could comment. It's not.

Sylvia sets Lee Anderson straight, given his ridiculous letter on massage-gate.

I don't get the volume of traffic the Variety does, but if anyone wants to have their say, feel free!

Edit: I forgot to add my "weather" notes: When I wrote this, the sky was blue with a few white clouds, sunny day but cool and without humidity-perfect! Ocean purple and green. It's that time of year in Saipan when it is so beautiful outside you you can't imagine living anywhere else! Until you remember the politics.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Need for Flag Men or Traffic Cops

Every morning I drive through San Vicente to get my daughter to school and me to work. The construction of the four-lane highway is in full swing. I hate it.

I can't stand the idea of our small community school being situated on a 4 lane highway. I didn't like the demise of the Roundhouse.

But just now, I can't stand (even more than my dislike of the overall objective of the project) that it takes from 6 to 10 minutes to drive south the half mile or less from SVES to clear pavement. Ordinarily this takes about a minute or two.

Worse, I feel for all of those trying to turn left from Dandan and the eastern roads of San Vicente village. Cars are lined up 10 and 20 deep, with no hope of finding a space for turning. The traffic on Isa Drive goes in both directions, and is now so slow, that those waiting to turn onto Isa must wait for kindness from both directions. But it's hard to be kind to those waiting to turn when you've been waiting a long time just to go straight, and being kind to one will mean forcing the long line of traffic behind you to wait longer.

It's a mess.

A simple fix would be a traffic cop or flagmen directing traffic.

Of course, there is going to need to be a more permanent fix, so we don't end up with a dead child when the traffic from Kagman comes zooming along on the new 4-lane highway and fails to adequately slow down in the village when kids are walking to school. And probably there won't be any sidewalks added, because no one thinks of pedestrian traffic, even if it's our school kids going to a school right there smack dab in the middle of the village on the main road.

We're setting ourselves us for a disaster.

I just can't stand any of it.