Posts by Lyn:

    A documentary film about the Mariana people launched to end historical lies

    November 13th, 2017

    Rlene Santos Steffy addresses the Rotary Club of Guam. Image ©

    IN A bid to end the spread of biased or make believe events, ethnographer and oral historian Rlene Santos Steffy said iTinaotao Marianas, a documentary film about the peopling of Marianas, should be used by public and private schools in educating the children of the Marianas so “that they will be grounded in the knowledge of their own history.”

    According to Steffy, she got tired of individuals that were making things up as they went along which made her doubt what she was reading in the newspaper, listening to on the radio or what she is watching on television regarding historical situations pertaining to the Mariana Islands.

    “I also saw a lot of slant, bias or make believe of presenting historical events and got tired of hearing it. I wanted to hear rational explanations for what happened,” she said.

    Steffy explained that this also motivated her to interview the individuals who research history, geography, language, culture, archaeology and religion, government operations, business, cultural art and economics as she now noticed “the absence of any comprehensive and collective works – like iTinaotao Marianas.”

    Steffy said the whole process began for her as an education and enrichment effort to all aspects of the peopling of the Marianas.

    “For many years, I have watched the arrival of scholars from other places come to Guam or the NMI to present their research and findings about the history of the Mariana Islands, and I would contact them to interview. They agreed and I’d conduct in-depth interviews. It wasn’t one or two but all the historical events that occurred in the Marianas and Micronesia that I was interested in.”

    “It appeared to me that there may even have been a concerted effort to ‘fantasize, create and actually justify or in some cases even diminish the crimes committed in the past in the name of progress, justifying the means to an end, as in the case of Catholicism,” according to Steffy.

    The iTinaotao Marianas program has professional and qualified scholars addressing the rich history of the Marianas. Steffy said.

    “They (the public and students) will be better informed and able to engage in a meaningful conversation with whomever it is that wants to discuss the history of the Marianas with them—with full confidence that what they have learned is backed up by years of research, and flushed out in conversation with other scholars on the subject,” Steffy assured.

    “I am confident that once a person spends time watching and listening to the half-hour episodes, they will never be deer-eyed and confused about the history of the Marianas again,” she added.

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    Chamorro and Carolinian cultures now better understood

    October 14th, 2017

    LAST month’s Third Marianas History Conference was a success.

    Thus said Northern Marianas Humanities Council Executive Director Scott Russell as he disclosed that nearly 300 participants attended the conference which was aimed to further understand facts about Chamorro and Carolinian cultures. 

    The conference featured 36 different presentations – including three keynote speech – of original research that covers a wide range of topics spanning nearly four millennia.

    We have a great turn out. We had overflow crowds at Hibiscus Hall of the Fiesta Resort. We started close to 300. We are happy to see the number of people that came, even though it was Friday and Saturday and there were competing events,” Russell said.

    Unlike most academic events, Council’s board chair Frankie M. Eliptico, said the Sept. 1 and 2, Marianas History Conference included both scholars and avocational researchers who presented the many stories of archipelago from a variety of viewpoints.

    Among the attendees was Bureau of Education board member Herman Deleon Guerrero, who said conference was useful to Public School System teachers because it provided supplemental information for their lesson plan.

    Our teachers are teaching NMI history and Chamorro and Carolinian cultures. They need to understand some of the historical facts and they can learn new information that they can help in the classrooms. There have not much material in the area and this is an opportunity to hear first-hand experience from people that have done research,” Deleon Guerrero said.

    I am hoping that someday somebody would do a presentation about the influence of Filipinos in the community – going back to the Spanish time – because they have a lot of Chamorro-Filipino blood here in the CNMI. It is part of their history. How did the Filipinos help the community throughout the years? I would like to see a presentation of that,” the BOE officials said when asked what other topics that he wants included in the future conference.

    Japanese Consul Kinji Shinoda said all the presentations were interesting.

    I am especially interested in the keynote speech of Dr. Laura M. Torres Souder. She is suggesting what kind of mentality you should have, and you should keep and you should revitalize. You should have your own identity. It is important for CNMI to keep and revitalized their culture.”

    Municipal Council LJ Castro said it was his second time to attend the conference sponsored by the Council.

    I was at the conference five years ago and it was here at the same location. From then to now, it shows that there are a lot of topics that are important to both Chamorro and Carolinian history and to the CNMI in general.”
    Castro said the presentations helped bring all of what happened in the past to be able to come up with a solution. It also helped get a better insight to individual. He added that all members of the municipal council have attended the conference.

    We are all very passionate about culture and history. It is important for us to be here and listen to what scholars and the presenters have to say. The issues that affect the Marianas affect us all together as a whole. Since we are on islands that evolved in ever changing time it is important that we all come together and have discussions and listen to what is to be said.”

    The keynote speakers include Dr. Laura M. Torres Souder, who talked about indigenous revisionism.

    Sauder is the president and chief executive officer of Chicago-based Souder, Betances and Associates, Inc. she is the author of Daughters of the Island: Contemporary Chamorro Organizers of Guam, was co-editor of Chamorro Self-Determination, as well as numerous research papers and technical reports.

    Spanish author and historian Dr. Carlos Madrid, who is the director of Instituto Cervantes de Manila, discussed about a close look at Chamorro-Spanish Luis de Torres, a second in command in the government of the Mariana Islands.

    For his part, Julian Aguon, founder and visionary behind Blue Ocean Law – a boutique international law firm that services clients throughout Oceania, discussed about legal mischief in the Marianas.


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    Pacific islanders will continue to oppose US military live fire exercises

    October 7th, 2017

    No to war games Image ©

    ENVIRONMENTALISTS and civil society movements from Saipan and Guam said they will continue to oppose the United States’ military live-firing range in Guam and Tinian due to its destructive effect on the environment and the threat it poses on endangered species.

    This was learned from the Zero Coalition, including members of Tinian Women’s Association; Pagan Watch, Guardian of Gani and their Guam counterpart Prutehi Litekyan: Save Ritidian. Their peaceful protest, like the solidarity wave held last month, will be designed to call the community’s attention to the dangers of the live fire military exercises.

    The protests will be like a coming together of people from NM and people from Guam.

    In fact, in Guam, they held a solidarity wave at the same time that we did it here,” said Kelly Marsh, a member of Prutehi Litekyan: Save Ritidian.

    “In Guam, we are saying that Litekyan (a national wildlife refuge in Guam) is home to endangered species, it has traditional medicines, those are plants we want to save,” she said.

    Marsh added that Litekyan has been set aside as place for endangered and threatened species and “the last thing that we should be doing is putting the live fire training there that is going to shoot 6.7 million bullets a year.”

    Cinta Kaipat, co-founder of Alternative Zero Coalition, said they took advantage of the presence of their Guam counterpart to hold joint solidarity peace rally last month.

    “We have been supporting each other through virtual media and now we actually get to stand in the same piece of ground together.”

    “First of all, we advocate peace and we are here to say that our islands are not to be used for destructive purposes that our lands are precious and limited and we need to save them not only for ourselves but also for our children,” Kaipat said.

    Kaipat added they held solidarity wave to raise awareness to inform the community of the danger of allowing the U.S. military using Pagan and Tinian for live-fire bombings and other training exercises.

    “It is not like you can grow an island in a day that you can afford to give islands away and say you can go and take that island and bomb it and destroy it. We are talking about irreparable destruction of our precious natural resources or land,” Kaipat said in an interview.

    “We hope to have our leaders wake up and stand beside us and understand that this is a very serious issue that deserves their immediate attention. It is a call to action for our leaders to speak out in a unified voice to the military and say no for using our islands for live fire practices.
    Kaipat clarified that they support and encourage a readily trained military.

    “We whole-heartedly support that but there are thousands and thousands acres of places where they have provided and allow them to train. These are not the only places, there must have places for them to train.”

    According to Kaipat, Pagan is in danger of destruction.

    “They are talking about plans of bombardment of air, land and sea in Pagan. Pagan was never part of the equation. It never came up in the discussion when our forefathers were talking about being in a political union with the US.”

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    Traditional healing is making a comeback in Guam and Marianas islands

    September 30th, 2017

    Academician and traditional healing proponent Zita Pangelinan Photo ©

    TRADITIONAL healing is now being taught at the University of Guam to complement western medicine.

    Zita Pangelinan, academician and proponent of traditional healing practices, said traditional healing is now gaining grounds and acceptance at academic institutions adding that the a course about it was introduced at UG last Sept. 9 as part of the Pacific International Programs.

    “We have been progressing and we have a course at the University of Guam. This is just an introductory, but we hope to build on it. We are working towards the adoption of regular offering and to expand it,” she said.

    Pangelinan, co-founder of Haya Cultural Development Foundation – a movement that promotes, protects and perpetuates traditional healing; said Northern Marianas College and the Public School System in the Northern Marianas Islands are also interested to introduce the course as well.

    “We are now trying to work with educators to develop curriculum for schools. There’s a great interest in the academic…it is just a matter of developing and having materials, and be able to conduct training for teachers,” she said in an interview.

    Pangelinan was one of the presenters at the recently- concluded Third Marianas History Conference held at Fiesta Resort and Spa.

    In her presentation, she emphasized that indigenous peoples are still in dire need of on-the-ground support to ensure the continued vitality of traditional knowledge systems.

    Haya Foundation, according to Pangelinan is also working to get more property to protect and to cultivate more of medicinal plants.

    “We are also looking at ways to integrate, not just indigenous but also Western medicine to complement each other in helping heal a patient. Many places are doing that,” she said.

    Moreover, she said indigenous healing practice has sustained people for over 4,000 years.

    “Today, we have epidemic of cancer and all these diseases and illnesses, as well as behavioral issues such as suicide. It is obvious that people are needing help, need to be healed and from the traditional perspective,” Pangelinan said in an earlier interview.

    Promoting traditional healing is very significant, according to Pangelinan.

    “Many indigenous people are going back to their system of healing and successful in healing the whole person. If we are looking at statistics right now and all the money that being invested to improve people’s health, problems of diabetes and heart attacks and many other things is not going down but it is going up,” she said.

    “Our healers say we have ways to heal our people but it is a holistic way and with that it is a matter of will we reclaim the value of our indigenous healing.”

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    “The indigenous people’s history is not the story of what other people did in their homeland” – Dr. Laura Souder

    September 23rd, 2017

    Dr. Laura Torres-Souder Photo © Guam Pacific Daily News

    IN a bid to reclaim the history of indigenous people, Dr. Laura M. Torres Souder, a Chamorro historian, promotes indigenous revisionism by challenging the participants of the recent Third Marianas History Conference to free themselves from restrictions when telling the cultural heritage and history.

    “Indigenous revisionism is a form of writing history that is based on indigenous experience and what I challenge the participants to do is to free ourselves from those kinds of restrictions which we sometimes get tripped up on,” Souder said in an interview.

    Sourder shared that in indigenous revisionism, people are co-creators of history. She said the official documentation of indigenous lived experience marginalized indigenous people to the point that history became the story of what other people did in their own homeland.

    “It is time indigenous people bring the invisible out of hiding by becoming their own storytellers.”
    Ultimately, the goal of Indigenous revisionism is to redirect indigenous historical narrative and place indigenous ancestors as the primary actors in a collective historical experience, she said.

    Souder insists that “We can interpret and give meaning to events if they have taken place even if we haven’t had lived that experience, even if it is not part of our memory, we can lend out ‘mata’ – our insights, our culture insight, our optic which is unique to us as indigenous people.”

    “If, for example, it is not written or if it is not in accounts we feel that we can’t validate or authenticate an observation or cultural knowledge that we are trying to convey,” she said.
    Indigenous revisionism, according to Souder, is about critical consciousness to reclaim indigenous identity by reclaiming the language that used to describe certain things.

    “For example, the Guam legislature – not so long ago – formalized the reference to Guam, the name of the island as the Guahan that makes sense. It helps us to understand ourselves from our own cultural optic which is the mata – the insight, the ancestral wisdom that we carry with us. Even if we don’t have lived memory, lived experience, we are still co-creators of history and we have every right and obligation to reexamine the way things have been interpreted, so that we lend our own perspective to the next.”

    Furthermore, Souder said the other part of “indigenous revisionism and indigenous historiography is that we as indigenous people begin to tell our own stories. Another form indigenous historiography is for writers of history to put the experience of ordinary people – Chamorros, Carolinians into the center of the historical accounts so that is another form of historiography.”

    She said revisionism means to revised, “to revisit and change interpretations that may not reflect our cultural understanding, our cultural meaning, our culture spirit.”

    “We have to be thoughtful and deliberate and do our homework and examine things from historical perspective but our responsibility is to look at it from a different set of optics, from a different knowledge of framework. We have our language which is valuable to our knowledge framework. So much knowledge is imbedded in Chamorro and Carolinian language. We have to trust ourselves, trust these young people who are coming up with ideas because who says that their understanding of things is not on target. This new interpretation, this new idea comes from any age. What makes us responsible thinkers is not our age, but our mindset. It is to reclaim cultural identity and that is what cultural revisionism, that is what indigenous revisionism is all about.”

    “I offer you new guidelines. Through indigenous revisionism, we can pursue our freedom without fear to co-create our own image of who we are as the taotao tano of this archipelago with many stories and milestones in our shared history and language as the indigenous people of the Marianas,” the doctor historian said.

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    Marianas looking for funds to keep 130-year old convent

    September 16th, 2017

    San Francisco de Borja church, Songsong Village, Rota island. Photo ©

    THE Northern Marianas Humanities Council and the Historic Preservation Office are looking for local funding to save the 130-year-old Convento in Rota, which has been standing since the late Spanish period.

    According to the Council’s executive director Scott Russell, there has been request over the last 20 years to demolish the building because it may be a safety-threat to students.
    The Convento is situated in Songsong village and it stood next to a private school, Eskuelan San Francisco de Borja.

    A few years back, Russell said Bishop Emeritus Tomas Aguon Camacho approached the council and expressed his desire to have the building destroyed.

    “But we had it architecturally evaluated and it seems to be the most intact Spanish-era building anywhere in the Marianas, including Guam.”

    The Convento was built in the 1890s, according to Russell.

    “In Songsong village, we have a modern church that is built where the old church used to be and then you have the Convento and you have the casa real, and in the middle is the plaza.”

    Russel said it is the only place in the Marianas to have a Spanish colonial lay out. He explained that in the Spanish colonial time, they have a plaza, the church and the convent and the casa real – a government building.

    “You have the State and the Church representatives in one area.”

    Russell suggested earlier to temporarily secure the building with plywood so the kids could not get in the area.

    “Then, we will do some plan and figure what it might have cost to restore the Convento.”

    He said the restoration will include the main part of the building – the basic four walls and the steps. The concrete additions added on to the structure which are not historically significant would be removed to get back to the main rectangular shape of the building.

    According to Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands HPO archeologist James Pruitt, there is still no plan in regards to the building. He said there was a group from Rota that came to the office.
    “I believe they want the same thing. It is a safety hazard and they want to demolish it.”

    Pruitt explained that “the official stand of HPO has not changed. It shouldn’t be demolished. It is a significant structure. We should look at every possibility to save, preserve, rehabilitate or restore a structure. We want to see if there is any interest locally in trying to produce money to do one of those actions or wait for another 20 years.”

    Russell is also looking at the Spanish government to help the Council and the HPO in their effort to save the building. He said in 1999, Spain invited delegations from the NMI – which he was a part of – and from Pacific colonies, including the Philippines and other parts of Micronesia.

    “There was a declaration that emphasized on preserving remnants of Spain’s past and one of the things that was identified was the Convento because it is important to the Spanish period. There still may be a way to revive that agreement with Spain that may be some interest to help us out,” Russell said.

    He admitted that the main challenge is the funding.

    “It would be expensive when you are doing a restoration. If you are restoring it, you have to do it carefully and use the same historical materials in the same way they built it 120 or 130 years ago – the roofing and all kinds of stuff. That would expensive, as opposed to renovation. If you renovate you just fix it up.”

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    CNMI clinic recognized as world class

    September 7th, 2017

    Image ©

    A KNOWN community health center at the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Island on Wednesday was given the National Committee for Quality Assurance seal of recognition as testament to its world class quality of medical service.

    The NCQA’s recognition of the Kagman Community Health Center was the result of the center’s focus on highly coordinated and long-term participative relationships with patients, according to the clinic’s executive director Vince T. Castro.

    “We finally get our PCMH accreditation and recognition,” Castro said in a phone interview. He added that they have submitted their application for accreditation in July this year.

    “Even before that, we have been operating as patient-centered medical home. What it means is whoever comes here gets high quality care and we have a certain standard that we meet. We made extra effort to learn about our patient and not just the doctor or provider,” Castro said.

    He noted that even their front desk staff, medical assistants and nurses, their case manager are part of the team in overseeing their patient care by knowing their cases and their medical condition adding that they always monitor their clinical performance.

    “For example, for diabetes patients, we review their cases – how are we doing in getting their sugar controlled. Basically, we are always trying to improve our patient’s health,” Castro said.

    Moreover, Castro disclosed that the KCHC use electronic health record so the recorded information is accessible to the providers.

    “In medical referrals, we are the one calling the referral office and following up on behalf of the patients who need it. We actively seek out for the patient to remind them of their doctor appointment,” he said.

    Aside from health care, KCHC also helped arrange transportation for its patients. It coordinate with the Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority to give patients a ride to the clinic and back to their homes.

    “We did apply for accreditation because we want to make sure that we meet certain standards for the NCQA. We want to test our system and find out exactly where we are,” Castro said.
    NCQA is non-profit organization dedicated to improving health care quality. It accredits and certifies a wide range of health care organizations. It also recognizes clinicians and practices in key areas of performance.

    Castro said NCQA Patient-Centered Medical Home is a model of primary care that combines teamwork and information technology to improve care, improve patients’ experience of care and reduce costs.

    NCQA president Margaret E. O’Kane defined medical homes as fostering partnerships between patients and their personal clinicians, instead of approaching care as the sum of episodic office visits.

    “Each patient’s care is overseen by clinician-led care teams that coordinate treatment across the health care system. Research shows that medical homes can lead to higher quality and lower costs, and can improve patient and provider reported experiences of care.”

    “Recognition shows that KCHC has the tools, systems and resources to provide its patients with the right care, at the right time,” O’Kane stated.

    The recognition is valid for three years.

    “KCHC demonstrated the ability to meet the program’s key elements, embodying characteristics of the medical home.

    NCQA standards aligned with the joint principles of the Patient-Centered Medical Home established with the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Osteopathic Association.

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    More public service volunteers needed in Marianas

    August 24th, 2017

    Image ©

    AMERICORPS, a volunteer public service organization, needs 50 student volunteers this school year to further boost its public service work.

    Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Island-Americorps member Vicky Nicholas said 15 students have already submitted their online application. She said 13 of them are from Kagman High School.

    “They applied since April and they are excellent students.”

    She said Americorps has yet to receive applications from Marianas High School and Saipan Southern High School.

    “We are focusing on these schools because no application has been submitted to us.”

    Americorps is an organization that encourages young adult to engage in public service work.

    Nicholas said a candidate must be 17 years old and must be enrolled in local high school. He or she must be a US citizen, with at least a 2.5 GPA.

    “You don’t need to be a genius. All we require is to have a willingness to help others,” Nicholas said in an earlier interview.

    According to Nicholas, Americorps program in CNMI is mostly helping kinder to 8th grade in their reading skills.

    Nicholas said Americorps programs include peer-to-peer tutoring where high school students help other children who are not performing well in reading.

    “Reading is a crucial part of life. From kindergarten to 3rd grade, you learn how to read. Third grade is a transition point where you need to read in order to learn. When a student’s reading is not at their grade level, they are at a higher risk to drop out,” Nicholas said.

    Interested applicants may go to Americorps website to file their application online or go to their school counselors, who will help coordinate the students to the organization.

    Along with the application, Nicholas said, they require the applicants to submit two references – one of them must be from a teacher.

    Applicants will have to undergo two interviews – a preliminary and interviews with the supervisors. Documents, including copies of passport, security card and others are required to submit to the Americorps.

    When applicants were selected, they will then undergo pre-service orientation – where they can learn the overview of Americorps.

    “We provide trainings for them before putting them in community service,” Nicholas said.

    She said Americorps is expecting its members to be committed in what they do as they require a number of hours of service.

    “At the end of their service, they will receive an education award. The more hour of service that they do, the higher the education award they will get.”

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    Book on Saipan’s history launched

    July 22nd, 2017

    Don Farrell during the launching of his latest work – Saipan: A Brief History at the American Memorial Park Visitors Center Photo
    © Lyn Lirio

    THE American Memorial Park Visitors Center in Saipan on Thursday launched “Saipan: A Brief History,” the 12th book of renowned Marianas historian and author Don Farrel.

    According to Farrel, “Saipan: A Brief History’ was originally created in 1991. It is primarily something the local people could use to remember and study the history of their island. What I have discovered over the years is although people hear stories in the history of the island, they really don’t know what happened back in those days.”

    In the book, Farrel said, he compiled all the historical photographs and put together the written and official record of what really happened.

    “The local people will have the opportunity to be able to have history of their island in their home, where parents could sit with their children and say: ‘see that picture, that’s your grandma and this is what’s happening there’.”

    The author described his latest book as home educational tool. He said they have printed the same in Korean and Chinese languages.

    “There’s a large Korean and Chinese communities who are residents of Saipan. They want to know about the history as well. So now we have Chinese and Korean edition for them. But at the same time we need something for our visitors to learn the real history of the island, not what just they hear around town,” he said adding that his other purpose is “to get the word of the history of the island into homes of China and Korea, where those families can sit and read and learn about the history of the place they visited.”

    “Saipan: A Brief History” is published by Micronesian Productions, a family-owned company established in Guam in 1981.

    Micronesian Productions also published pictorial history of Guam series titled “Guam: The Americanization, 1898-1918; History of Guam.”

    Aside from “Saipan: A brief History,”Farrel also wrote “The Sacrifice of Guam,” which covered the period of 1919-1943.

    “It was when Guam Chamorros first began fighting for US citizenship and were denied. So the main chapter there is Citizenship denied. The business people began to recognize the military situation in the Western Pacific was growing, they continued to ask the United States whether they are going to build up military in Guam and defend the island but the U.S. Congress decided not to and sacrificed the island rather than fight for it. That chapter is called Defense denied. The last chapter is the Japanese invasion of Guam, so that is called the Sacrifice of Guam,” Farrel explained.

    Farrel’s published bestselling book was Liberation – 1944, which is the story of American recapture of Guam and return to status as the US. territory albeit granting citizenship to Guam Chamorros.

    When Farrel and his wife Carmen moved to the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands in 1987, he wrote a brief history of Tinian in 1987.

    Farrel has also written three history books for Public School System. He said these are the in-depth history of Saipan.

    “Saipan:A brief history” is meant to be exactly what is called – easy to pick up, easy to carry, easy to read. Those who want a detailed history can buy one of my larger books,” he said.

    Meanwhile, Saipan Representative Ed Propst has commended Don Farrel for his latest work.

    “It’s a beautiful book. I think everyone should get it. It’s a history of our island in Saipan and it is by a historian such as Don Farrel. It is a good reference for the things about our history. Very well written and and has beautiful photos,” he said.

    “Knowing our history is so crucial. We have to understand. It is certainly the children would read it as well. There’s important details and updates a lot of things that may not have covered in the past, something that I believe is important,” Propst said of the book.


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    Saipan suffers from lack of nurses

    July 18th, 2017

    Image ©

    SAIPAN is suffering from lack of nurses and it is aggravated by the current immigration policy of the United States government.

    This was disclosed Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands Healthcare Corporation (CHCC) chief executive officer Esther

    Muna during an interview with reporters. She explained that because nurses are not eligible for H1-B visa (a visa which allows US employers to hire foreign workers), the CHCC cannot petition nurses and therefore it could not ensure enough manpower for hospitals.

    Nurses are a little bit complicated. They have to have a managerial position to be considered or they have to be a specialized nurse to be petitioned for H1-B visa,” she said.

    In a bid to save their remaining manpower, Muna said the CHCC has already applied H1-B visas for their six employees which include a pharmacy manager, physical therapist, an infection and review coordinator and an epidemiologist.

    CHCC CEO Esther Muna Photo ©

    As of January, Muna added that the CHCC has started processing the filing of 15 of its employees for EB2 visas (an immigrant visa preference category for US employment-based permanent residency). She said they intend to do the same to the rest of 170 nurses and staff, who are on CW visas (a transitional workers visa which is good for a year).

    EB2 visa, according to Muna, is a pathway to citizenship. She said for the 15 nurses physical therapist that they have processed for this application, the CHCC is spending about $35,000.

    But again this process is taking a lot of time too because of the prevailing wage issue. The prevailing wage determination has to be made by the CNMI and it has to be requested to the U.S. Department of Labor,” Muna said.

    We will put the money aside specifically for this venture because we will not going to take a risk again in the following year,” she said, adding that the hospital might spend half a million dollars to process the EB visa application to its nurses and staff.

    In another development, Muna said 13 of the 18 nurses who were capped decided to stay for another week.

    Muna said she is still trying to get hold of someone from the USCIS to clarify the issue of the receipt, which she said was the missing link that would validate the nurses’ stay for another 240 days while their CW is being processed.

    I asked them to stay to confirm the receipt. As far as any of the gaps, I think we’ve done everything we can. But we cannot hold on to them. I even asked the USCIS we need to make a decision to decide for their lives,” she said.

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    Low pay hampers teacher’s recruitment

    July 15th, 2017

    Cynthia-Deleon-Guerrero Photo ©

    SAIPAN –The Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands Public School System (PSS) Commissioner Cynthia Deleon Guerrero said they are having hard time recruiting teachers, particularly teachers for special education program, due to low pay.

    “Teachers for special education program are the hardest to recruit. They are highly competitive and we are one of the lowest paying for the same position throughout the nation,” Deleon Guerrero said in an interview.
    The CNMI-PSS has 48 SPED classroom teachers and currently has 12 vacant positions. It needs 28 non-certified teachers and 21 certified teachers for SPED program.

    Deleon Guerrero said the SPED program and salary for its teachers are federally- funded, but she added the PSS “must abide by the same salary scale because the salary scale for the entire system is not indicated by funding source.”

    “Even if they are federally funded teachers, to ensure that there’s equity, we cannot pay them more and pay them like a teacher in NY City because they have to be paid the same as the classroom teacher next door,” she further explained.

    Deleon Guerrero shared her recent experience on her trip to Arizona to recruit for teachers.

    “I set up my table. I set up my banners and materials. I made sure that my table is at the door to welcome all the potential applicants coming to the door. The other school districts lined up after me. Halfway through the day, I saw applicants going to other table because their pay scale is higher. I thought I was going to be lucky when a couple came in to my table and both were SPED-certified teachers. They have master’s degrees. I was entertaining them and trying to recruit them. We offered an incentive $3,000 to sign to teach for the PSS, but the table next to me immediately got their attention and offered an incentive of $15,000 if they signed with them,” she said, adding that the table next to her offered the couple a start up salary of $48,000 while the CNMI PSS offered $30,976.

    “We continue to face this kind of recruitment challenge because we are not even in mid-range in terms of salary for SPED teachers and even for general education teachers,” she said.

    On Tuesday, members of Board of Education (BOE) on Tuesday appeared before the Congress’ ways and means committee and asked for $54 million budget appropriation.

    The PSS chief said $1.9 million of the proposed budget will be allotted to teachers and staff’s salary adjustments.
    Deleon Guerrero pointed out the PSS shall get a minimum of 25 percent of the general revenue of the government as mandated by the CNMI Constitution but it was not enough.

    “We continue to expect the PSS to educate our youth, but in order to do that and to do it well, we need to ensure that we’re not giving them the bare minimum of what we have, we need to give them more than that. If we take a look across the nation, every single entity, every single government provides more than 25 percent to education services within their district. We are running at 25 percent and I hope that you feel the same that that is not sufficient. That is the bare minimum,” she said.

    She said the Commonwealth, being a member of the United States of America, is funding $8,000 per child, whereas the national cost right now is running about $12,000 per people.

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    Fil-Ams in Saipan continue quest for acedemic excellence

    June 19th, 2017

    Ageline Sahagun after receiving her Bachelors of Science in Biology degree as summa cum laude Photo © Sahagun family

    A FILIPINA-American who recently graduated summa cum laude from a Guam based university got the rare privilege to continue her post collegiate studies at the John Hopkins School of Medicine, one of the most prestigious medicine learning institutions in the United States.

    Ageline Sahagun, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology degree from the University of Guam last May 21, said it was her desire to pull out her family from poverty that made her excel in education.

    “I was fortunate to have been accepted as a Doctoral Diversity Scholar at one of the best medical institutions in the world, John Hopkins Medicine. I plan to take classes at the medical college and work full time as researcher for two years. It is my dream to be accepted into medical school where I can formally begin my training as a physician,” she said.

    A consistent honor student, Sahagun was a valedictorian three times in a row at Garapan Elementary School, Hopwood Junior High School, and Marianas High School.

    Ageline Sahagun with her parents Ruben and Yolly. Photo © Sahagun family

    “My parents have very high expectations for me as I have set the bar for them ever since grade school. Being a summa cum laude only reinforced their expectations,” she said adding that her parents were very proud of her.

    “I hope that I will continue to make them proud because they are at the core of everything I do.”

    Sahagun believed that having education will get her a good chance at life.

    “The challenges that define my life mostly occurred during my childhood. My family was poor and because of that, there were many resources – food, school supplies and others – that were not available to me,” she said.

    Her family, according to Sahagun, lived from paycheck to paycheck.

    “In addition, both my dad and mom was diagnosed with certain forms of cancer. So money was very tight.”

    “God has always found a way to provide for my family. Even if it was little, it was enough for us to live,” she said.
    She was born on Saipan but her parents were both immigrants from the Philippines.

    “They knew firsthand that they wanted to give their children a chance at a quality education and I never took that for granted. With that mindset and with prayer, I was able to overcome many hurdles,” she said.


    Another Fil-Am student in Saipan got top academic honor

    June 18th, 2017

    Lenard Gabriel Sarmiento Marcial delivers his valedictory address. Photo © Lyn Lirio

    A FILIPINO-American topped the graduating class for school year 2017 of a prestigious international school in Saipan.

    Lenard Gabriel Sarmiento Marcial got the highest award given to a student who achieved academic and spiritual excellence. He was among the 32 students who graduated this year from Eucon International School.

    Specifically, Sarmiento received the President’s award while another Asian American, Xin Wen Zhang, received the Dean’s Award, the second highest academic award.

    In his speech, Marcial thanked the Eucon International School and his teachers.

    “It was here that I matured in both my relationship with God and with others. My family and I have found a home and a family here,” he said.

    To his teachers, he said “thank you for the generous bonus points, extra credit projects and delays of quizzes that we were not ready for, but importantly, thank you for the discipline, the papers, the pop-quizzes and endless lectures. At the time we may have resented those things, but looking back we realize they were blessings, not curses.”

    “This may be a happy time, but do not let this short-term success stop you from reaching higher degrees of excellence and education for the glory of God. Today may have marked the end of our education, but not the end of our learning. We have finally left the rigorous safety net of both Eucon and our parents and now step into the real world where we will face even stronger temptations and persecution, but be not afraid, for Christ has overcome the world,” Marcial told his fellow graduates.

    In an interview with Marcial, he said he will stay in Eucon for one semester to further his spiritual excellence.

    “Then, I will go to the States and take pre-medicine, hopefully become a missionary-doctor one day,” he said, adding that he was accepted at Pensacola Christian College.

    Throughout her stay at Eucon, Zhang said she came to know many good and helpful friends.

    “It was my first time to leave home and live in dormitory when I came to Saipan. Though we are from different areas in the world, God gathered us and made us live well together. I felt comfortable with my friends. When I think of our laughter, tears and comforts, some silly but funny things that we did, I cannot help but always smile.”

    Since her arrival in 2013, Zhang said she became more independent.

    “I know how to take care of myself in this new place. I learn how to get along with my roommates, and how to self study. I learned many precious things in Saipan and developed many skills that I might never learned if I had never come here.” She counted these as blessings.

    Zhang is planning to take finance-related course in one of the Christian schools in Arkansas.

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    Filipino-American HS students in Northern Marianas continue quest for academic excellence

    June 11th, 2017

    Nathaniel Snodgrass (extreme left) Michael Roy Ortizo (center) with Jaqueline Doctor (right) Photo © Lyn Lirio

    GRADUATING Filipino-American students continue to dominate the high school academic landscape in the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands not only in public schools but in private institutions as well.

    This time, it was Mount Carmel School’s Class 2017 valedictorian, Michael Roy Ortizo, who is a Fil-Am.

    In their valedictory and salutatory speeches, Ortizo and salutatorian Jaqueline B. Doctor both admitted that they expect a lot of change in college. But both will brave the changes as they will be attending schools off-island to continue their education.

    Chief of Staff of the Office of the Governor Matthew Deleon Guerrero, himself an MCS graduate, advised the 46 graduates of MCS to never fear change.

    Change and fear seem to be so closely tied together. We fear change because we lack certainty, we don’t know what is on the other side of the door,” Guerrero told the graduates.

    The thing you need to know, which I wish I knew then, was that you must acknowledge that the fear of change exists…Face it head on, write down what you are scared of, if you find the fear [it] is because of too much uncertainty, seek out more information, google it, find certainty to give you the push to open that door,” Guerrero advised.

    Don’t retreat into the familiar because it’s too tiring to accept the change. And don’t ever retreat so far that you find yourself back in the room you started. Changes are not going to be wonderful at first. But give yourself the chance and it will,” he said.

    Don’t place a ceiling on yourself. That mean you have to keep learning. Find a purpose, and purposefully find a place in your life for ambition and fight for greater things.”

    Don’t be scared of the life changing around you. Face it and change yourself with a purpose. Don’t be afraid of the unstoppable forces changing the world. Educate yourselves, place what time you have available into being in service to others, and change the world yourself,” Guerrero stated in his keynote address.

    Although change is inevitable, it is not necessarily a bad thing. There’s a saying that goes “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving,” Ortizo said in his valedictory speech.

    Never lose sight of what is truly important in life – Family,” he added.

    For a while now, I always thought that academics was the most important part of my high school career. However, it was only until the start of my senior year did I realize that academics was not everything, that high school was not in fact a career, and that waking up early in the morning just to get to school did not feel like a chore…In fact, it was the people that I saw every day for the past 12 years that shaped who I am today, that gave me the advice you are hearing right now, and that made every morning an unforgettable experience, and although I stand before you as your valedictorian, I also stand before you as your classmate, your friend, and your brother. That being said, I want to thank eachand every one of you for everything, for making me see things differently, and for being a part of my life,” he said.

    Ortizo will attend the University of Delaware and will take up criminal justice. He said he also plans to go all the way to law school and take up criminal law.

    Because of mock trial and the roles I played, I just have a deep interest especially with the community. In that sense, I want to give back to the community,” he said.

    Ortizo received awards for best in Science, Mathematics, and Social Science. He was also the recipient of Bishop Thomas A. Camacho Christian Service award.

    Doctor, who is diagnosed with chronic autoimmune disorder, known as lupus – a disease where antibodies attack different organs, admitted that she faced a lot of stress this last school year.

    Academically, the work is rigorous plus I was diagnosed with chronic autoimmune disorder in May last year,” she said, adding that she will go to Emery University in Georgia and will take up a degree in Biology. She wants to be a doctor or occupational therapist.

    Be open to the changes in your life and step out of your comfort zone. In high school, we were comfortably confined in a small community. We saw familiar faces every day, learned from the same instructors every year, and experienced familiar memories together. Once we step outside, we’ll be facing something greater. You’re not confined in some MCS classroom anymore. The world’s your classroom now, so go ahead and explore it. Go meet new people, share new experiences, and continue to learn something new every day. There is nothing that this class cannot do; and I am confident that you can achieve whatever you set your mind to,” she said in her speech.

    Doctor thanked the MCS community, specifically teachers and staff members, for showing kindness and understanding.

    You’ve taught us simple lessons like learning how to balance chemical formulas to huge life lessons like finding our bliss and slaying our dragons. Thank you for teaching me how to find happiness in the littlest of things, how to have courage in the darkest of times, and how to live life to the fullest. This class is definitely the greatest MCS has ever produced. I’m sorry current MCS Knights and AlumKnights, but this is the class to beat,” she added.

    Doctor received awards for best in English Language Arts, and Theology. She was also the recipient of President’s Award for Meritorious Achievement, and Most Outstanding Female award.

    MCS president Galvin Deleon Guerrero giving closing remarks, telling them to find the “potential that lies beneath the surface.” Photo © Lyn Lirio

    MCS President Galvin Deleon Guerrero said most of the graduates will go off-island to continue their college education.

    While your world affects you, you too can affect your world. Put another way, while the world brings meaning to you, you can also bring meaning to your world. So, as you struggle with your bipolar selves, as you confront your dark side, and as you search for your hidden meaning, your hidden purpose, I encourage you to also think seriously about what meaning you will bring to this world you live in.”

    In an interview with Galvin, he described the 2017 graduates as “bipolar in a very good way.”

    This class is extremes. We have those over achievers. They represent the broad spectrum of the student body,” he said.

    Other awards:

    Best in Foreign Language: Kai Higuchi

    Physical/ Health Education Award: Anthony Schott Q. Deleon Guerrero (male), Jan Nasia Jean Travilla and Karleen Rita C. Reyes (female, tie)

    Speech Award : Zeno C. Deleon Guerrero, Jr.

    Governor’s Leadership Award: Zeno Deleon Guerrero Jr.

    United States Marine Corps. Semper Fidelis Award: John D. Masga

    Bank of Guam 2017 IFIT Scholarship Award: Nathaniel Snodgrass and Arron Cushing

    MCS Class of 1990 Alumni Scholarship Award: Nathaniel Snodgrass

    Loyalty Awards: Arron Christopher Cushing, Brianna C. Hunter, Christopher Cabrera Jr, Eligiah Marie P. Camacho, Eric Lee, Jaqueline B. Doctor, Karleen Rita C. Reyes, Kayla Mae DLG Sablan, Keona Colette A. Camacho, Kyle Eugene C. Foreman, Michael Roy E. Ortizo, Stefani Kamille O. Tagabuel, and Zeno Deleon Guerrero Jr.

    Top 15 honor students:

    Valedictorian: Michael Roy E. Ortizo

    Salutatorian: Jaqueline B. Doctor

    1st Honor: Zeno C. Deleon Guerrero, Jr.

    2nd Honor: Arron Christopher Cushing

    3rd Honor: Kai Higuchi

    4th Honor: Joshua G. Santos

    5th Honor: You Jin Jun

    6th Honor: Eric Lee

    7th Honor: Brianna C. Hunter

    8th Honor: Jose Antonio P. Castro

    9th Honor: Ya Han

    10th Honor: Keona Colette A. Camacho

    11th Honor: Shannon Rae T. Sasamoto

    12th Honor: Myeong Je Kim

    13th Honor: Jan-Nasia Jean Travilla

    14th Honor: Eligiah Marie P. Camacho

    15th Honor (tie): Xiaodie Xu (Rachel), Karleen Rita C. Reyes

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    Fil-Am HS students continue their top academic streak

    June 3rd, 2017

    Kycel Butters with her family. She receives Board of Education award and graduated valedictorian. Photo © Lyn Lirio

    GRADUATING Filipino-American high school students in Saipan are steadily proving their academic worth by continuously bagging, one after the other, the top academic honors in their respective schools.

    Fil-Am students Laurence Palmes Butters and Iramhel Nazareno Talon were the valedictorian and salutatorian respectively of Class 2017 of Kagman High School. To the delight of their parents and teachers, both have expressed their desire to finish college to help the community.

    KHS is the third high school in the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands after Marianas HS and Saipan Southern HS to have Fil-Am students as academic top-notchers. Earlier, Tinian Junior HS also have Fil-Am students as valedictorian and salutatorian.

    Butters is no stranger to struggle and difficulties. Out of poverty, her mother brought her and her siblings to Saipan to live with an aunt and her older husband when she was four years old. They became her adoptive parents.

    “I remember the vast emptiness of my birth mother’s absence. I remember my adoptive parents doing everything possible to fill the emotional void left in each of us as our mother returned to the Philippines,” she stated in her valedictorian speech.

    As she focused on her studies and grew older, Butters slowly freed herself from the pain of her past and developed into a stronger, more capable person. However, she was recently forced to revisit the memories of her adoption when she was writing scholarship essays in her class.

    “Being a Million Dollar Scholar is about more than writing essays so that we can get scholarships to attend college. It was about us finding our voice and speaking our truth,” she said.

    “I had to reconcile the feelings of pain with the feelings of gratitude…this is my truth: mother gave me up so that I would have the privilege of this education; I have not wasted the opportunity which was purchased with such a high cost. I honor my parents – all of them – for the opportunities which I have been gifted,” Butters added.

    “I will cross yet another ocean in pursuit of my education,” she said as she appeal to her fellow graduates to “walk on a little further, let us accomplish a bit more. Let us build one another up, lift our islands, and create a kinder community. Let us remember families, teachers, and mentors, who have made this possible. Let our actions today honor them.”

    In an interview, Butters said she will attend Hollins University in Virginia and will take up Psychology on full scholarship. She plans to go back to the island, which she said gave her the opportunity for a better future.

    Iramhel Talon with her family. She receives Commissioner of Education award and graduated salutatorian. Photo © Lyn Lirio

    Talon, on the other hand, said “I will go to the Northern Marianas College (NMC) and take education major, specifically rehab and healing services. I like helping people and guiding them.”

    “I plan on going back to Kagman High School and plan on becoming a school counselor,” she added.

    “So when I choose to focus on education, I choose more than sitting at a desk to grade papers. I choose to teach my students to take opportunities like my teachers did for me, I choose to guide them,” Talon, whose parents are both public school teachers, explained.

    KHS’ keynote speaker this year was Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, who congratulated the 102 graduates.

    “Thank you all and congratulations on pursuing your higher education, wherever that decision leads you. Education is not something you finish – it is something you live,” he said as he advised the students to never stop learning and never settle for the minimum.

    For her congratulatory remarks, Public School System Commissioner Cynthia Deleon Guerrero gave students life tips that may help them through life.

    “Never be afraid to take risks. Taking risks and challenging yourself only help you grow stronger. Never be afraid to explore the world beyond our shores – learn and take that plunge to discover. Just come back home and help our people afterwards,” she told the students.

    “We all make mistakes. Take time to learn from each mistake and don’t be afraid to change course if you need to. Remember – even the broken crayon can still color.”

    She then appealed to the students to “Remember where you’ve come from. Remember your family, your home, your culture, your heritage and always honor and be proud of your heritage and identity.”

    “Always stay humble and kind,” Deleon Guerrero said she concluded her speech.

    Aside from the top academic honor, Butters received the Board of Education Award for being the top graduate.

    Meanwhile, the Commissioner on Education award went to Talon for having the second highest grade point average in all the required courses.

    Butters and Talon were also given Lt. Governor’s Outstanding Student awards.

    The Governor’s Outstanding Student award went to Alfredo Napalinga Naglongalo Jr., who exhibited the highest leadership qualities.

    The Principal’s award went to Andrea Camacho, who showed academic excellence, leadership, character and service to KHS.

    The top 10 KHS students are:

    1. Kycel Butters

    2. Iramhel Talon

    3. Andrea Camacho

    4. Alexa San Nicolas

    5. Brittney Hamilton

    6. Alfredo Ngalongalo Jr.

    7. Kloe Kate Borja

    8. Talianna Mangofna

    9. Philippe Ernest Lacson

    10. David John Babaut

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    Fil-Am HS students in Saipan continue to hug top academic honors

    May 30th, 2017

    South Saipan High School valedictorian Marylyn Yumul Tabuena Photo © Lyn Lirio

    SURPRISED Filipino-American high school students in Saipan continue to garner top academic honors.

    Thus when Marylyn Yumul Tabuena was told that she was this year’s class valedictorian, she could not believe it. She has to ask the Saipan Southern High School administration several times if they were not joking.

    “Are you surprise too?” she asked her fellow graduates when she delivered her valedictory address during graduation ceremony on Thursday.

    “Mom, Dad, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. This is not an award for me but this is an award for you. You are my motivation to continue doing well in school. Thank you for giving me milk and cookies when I do my homework or letting me cry into your arms when everything is rough. I cannot be able to stand here without the two of you. You both sacrificed too much for me and my sisters. And the least I could do is to excel in my education. Thank you for guiding me. Thank you for being my mom and dad,” Tabuena said.

    Tabuena said she saw her mother and father crying when they learned that she was the valedictorian.

    “It was hard to keep a secret. I was telling them that I may be in Top 10 but not valedictorian.”

    Tabuena, who also received Board of Education award, said she will attend the Northern Marianas College and plans to major in accounting. After two years, she will go to Washington to continue her education.

    In her valedictory speech, Tabuena encouraged her classmates “to live a life that you love. The world out there is going to be much more difficult and we continue to struggle but I know we can do this. Those who say I can do it will always be able to do it. Convince yourself that you can. In the end, you are your number one supporter. Never stop learning. I want you all be open to new things.”

    South Saipan High School salutatorian Ezekiel Rafanan Photo © Lyn Lirio

    Another Fil-Am student, Ezekiel Joshua Vargas Rafanan, was announced as the school salutatorian.

    “For me, graduation is the day to thank everyone who helped us to be here today,” Rafanan said as he thanked his parents, teachers and friends.

    “Today may be the end of high school year but look at it as the beginning of the new chapter of our lives. Whatever path you decided to take, always remember to pursue your dream. Do not just dream and put it aside make your dreams a reality. I would like to end my speech by quoting F. Scott Fitzgerald: “It’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you find you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start over again,” he said.

    Rafanan received the Commissioner on Education award. He also received the Governor’s Leadership award.

    Both Tabuena and Rafanan received Lt. Governor’s Leadership award.

    The Principal’s award went to Desirae I. Deleon Guerrero.

    Top Ten graduates of SSHS are:

    1. Marylyn Yumul Tabuena

    2. Ezekiel Joshua Vargas Rafanan

    3. Nathaniel Montano

    4. Jia Jin Xu

    5. Stephen Michael Barro

    6. Noshin Tasmin Omar

    7. Hyun Ahn

    8. Joong Min Lee

    9. Cristina Mae Bautista Ruiz

    10. Czarinna Mae Rebano Posada


    Read More;

    Fil-Am students continue grabbing top academic honors in Saipan

    Fil-Ams Snagged Top Academic Awards in Tinian


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    Fil-Am students continue grabbing top academic honors in Saipan

    May 25th, 2017

    MHS valedictorian Robert Malate (left) and salutatorian Yuuki Nishida (right) in a candid shot after graduation Photo © Lyn Lirio

    FILIPINO-American students in the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands for this school year continue to grab the top academic academic honors bringing honor to their families, school and country of origin.

    Robert Jomar Salazar Malate, a Filipino American; and Yuuki Nishida, a Japanese-Filipino with an American citezenship were class valedictorian and salutatorian respectively of class 2017 of the Marianas High School.

    Both students gave inspirational speeches to their fellow students during the MHS graduation rites last Tuesday. They are part of the 315 high school students who graduated this year.

    “We design our own algorithm for success, and learning will take us there,” said Robert Jomar Salazar Malate, 2017 class valedictorian of Marianas High School.

    “I am still learning,” confessed Malate, who has served as the National Honor Society president, a member of the national winning RWDC CNMI Aeronautics team, and a decorated debater and speech competitor with the National Speech and Debate Association.

    He recounted that he got interested in Math when a girl asked her to take AP Calculus with her.

    “Why is this story important? My journey into Math may have been initially about a girl, but I stuck and struggled and fought through it for the knowledge that I wanted. Taking AP Calculus taught me more than just limits. It taught me how to break those limits that hold me back. It didn’t simply teach me how to solve for an unknown variable. It taught me to explore the unknown and transform those variables into something that will lead me to success,” he said in his speech.

    “Life is a struggle. We are now at the critical moment in our lives where we have to face that struggle… By yearning to learn, we can ease this struggle and lead a life that’s a lot more fun. And learning is not limited to the classroom. It happens all the time. Let us reflect on the past and learn more from our mistakes and accomplishments. Let us live in the present and learn how to have fun. And let us plan for the future and learn what it takes to accomplish the goals we have set for ourselves because we each have dream. Whether it be understanding calculus, becoming a farmer, or being a better family member, we design our own algorithm for success, and learning will take us there.”

    Malate is planning to attend Harvard University and will take up mechanical engineering.

    “I expect a lot of struggle. I expect a lot of hardwork. I expect some loneliness but I expect to meet a lot of new people, make new friends, and learn a lot new things. Like I said in my speech, I want to keep learning,” Malate said in an interview.

    Yuuki Nishida was announced as the class salutatorian.

    “As your salutatorian, I was one of the two biggest nerds in school to be given the nebulous task of preparing an inspirational speech to the graduating class. Urban Dictionary define salutatorian as ‘the less important of two high-school students who have to give a speech on graduation day,” he said.

    For Nishida, trying to love and serve others is more important than winning.

    “I say all the world is an improvisation. In the eleven commandments of improvisation two of them are: you are all supporting actors and your prime responsibility is to support. You are not the most important person in the scene. And if everyone else is important, you will naturally pay attention to them and serve them. But good news, you’re in the scene too. So hopefully to them you are the most important person, and they will serve you. Everyone else is. No one is leading, we are working together towards a common goal. You cannot win.”

    “No more winning. Instead, try to love others and serve others, and hopefully find those who love and serve you in return,” Nishida urged the class.

    MHS Principal Cherlyn Cabrera, describing the graduating class, said “This year’s theme is ‘innovators of our nation, sparks of our creation’. It tells the personality of this group. This is the innovative group. This is the group that wants to try new things, ready to go out and explore the world and do something awesome.”

    Keynote speaker Sonya Pangelinan Dancoe, a registered professional engineer in the CNMI and Guam, and currently the chairwoman for the Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority, urged the graduates to let the theme ‘innovators of our nation, sparks of our creation’ be an inspiration for years to come.

    “I want you to believe in yourself no matter what your circumstances may be, lift your head up high, aim for the stars, and reach as far as your hearts will take you. Never let discouragement, struggles, or dissatisfaction compromise your future, goals, and lifelong dreams,” she told the graduates.

    “While some of you may choose a different life, the academic achievement you have earned tonight will open many doors of opportunities for you. No matter which path you take in life, the key to success and happiness is within you.”

    Malate received the CNMI Board of Education award and Lt. Governor’s academic award while Nishida became the recipient of the CNMI Commissioner of Education award. He was also given Governor’s Leadership award.

    The awards were presented to the graduating seniors who exemplified the character traits of leadership, excellence, service and citizenship.

    CNMI Public School System Commissioner Cynthia Deleon Guerrero and Gov. Ralph Torres presented the awards.

    Top 10 graduates of MHS Photo © Lyn Lirio

    The Top 10 MHS students are:

    1. Robert Malate who will be pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering at Harvard University.

    2. Yuuki Nishida who will be attending North Eastern University and will be majoring in Journalism.

    3. Jezreelyn Bulaklak will be attending University of Guam to major in Education.

    4. Sophia Kim will be attending the Northern Marianas College to pursue a degree in Liberal Arts.

    5. Ariane Reyes will be attending the University of San Francisco to major in Architecture.

    6. Maria Theresa Dalusong plans on attending Washington State University to major in veterinary medicine.

    7. Leah Benavente will attend the Northern Marianas College with plans to transfer to the University of Guam to major in Criminal Justice.

    8. Corlaine Camacho will attend the Northern Marianas College with plans to also major in Criminal Justice.

    9. Joselle Reyes, who will be attending Columbia College in Chicago and will be majoring in Musical Theater.

    10. Johore Diaz, who will be attending South Seattle College and plans to major in pre dental hygiene.


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    Fil-Ams Snagged Top Academic Awards in Tinian

    Fil-Am whiz kid from Saipan accepted to Harvard University

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    Fil-Ams Snagged Top Academic Awards in Tinian

    May 24th, 2017

    TJHS Valedictorian Clarence Rodriguez Photo © Lyn Lirio

    TWO graduating Filipino-American students of the Tinian Junior High School snagged the school’s top academic honors during the promotion ceremony that marks the end of their junior high school days.

    Clarence Paraiso Rodriguez graduated as class valedictorian and was the recipient of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands Board of Education Award. He also received awards of Academic Excellence in Math, Science, Social Studies and Career and Technical Education or CTE.

    TJHS Salutatorian Elvira Marie Dominguiano Photo © Lyn Lirio

    Graduated as salutatorian, Elvie Marie Acido Dominguiano. She was the Commissioner of Education Award recipient. She was also given the Academic Excellence in English Language and Arts and Chamorro, Carolinian Language and Heritage Studies Award.

    The two Fil-Ams were among the 44 TJHS students who marched during the ceremony, which was held at the cavernous cafeteria of the school.

    In his speech, Rodriguez pointed out the value of hard work.

    “You can be smart, but without determination and hard work paired with that, there’s no success. In life, if you want something, you have to work for it.”

    A self-proclaimed procrastinator, Rodriguez admitted that his 7th and 8th grade was a stressful experience for him.

    “Why it was stressful is my fault. My main problem is that I like to procrastinate because I’d rather do interesting stuff than to be on task. I always do finish my work and make sure I’d get a good grade and it usually ends up me sleeping late, which I hate, and the latest one was around 5:30 am.”

    However, the top graduate said he was motivated to do his best because he wants to be successful in the future.

    “Give school the best you’ve got because education is one of the most valuable key to success if that’s what you want and you shouldn’t take it lightly. You’re passing, that’s satisfactory, but if you get high grades, it would be better. Believe in yourself, you know yourself the most. Four more years and we’re graduating. If you haven’t already, do your best. Just do it! To those who are already trying their best, keep it up. All these work we do, it pays off of course. Your dreams won’t be dreams because they’ll be reality,” he said.

    He thanked his teachers at TJHS for helping the graduates and him pushing them to their limits.

    “Mom and Dad thank you for your guidance and help with my projects whenever I need it. I appreciate everything you guys have done. I dedicated all my hard work and success to you, my loving family. I thank God for such wonderful blessings that He bestowed on me. I cannot be here today standing in front of you without the gift of knowledge from him,” Rodriguez concluded.

    Dominguiano, in her speech, gave emphasis to this year’s promotional ceremony theme: “Before you quit, remember why you started. That is exactly what you all have done, you did not quit. You started for your own purpose,” she said.

    “This is it, fellow classmates. We are here, ending our junior high year, and beginning our very own high school year. We all have worked hard to get in the positions we are in at this moment. All the days and nights of doing homework or projects, the work we had to do all in a week, the extra work we had to makeup, and everything else, is being reflected on today.”

    The salutatorian reminded the class of the unforgettable unforgettable memories they made together.

    “We have made unexpected friendships. We became different people that were shaped into the better students we are today and all the kinds of obstacles and new discoveries that came in the way along our path. Still, we were able to make it, and that is all that matters.”

    “Unfortunately, as time flew, all of it has come to an end, but it was all worth it. It was worth the eight hours of learning from each single class, and simply understanding that if an apple falls on your head, hey, that’s gravity’s fault. It’s now time to take things into action, and some of us won’t be staying for long for our new beginning. Fellow classmates, I ask you to continue to stride reaching for your dreams. It’s your duty as we begin to fulfill that. Take those opportunities. Achieve it,” Dominguiano encouraged her fellow graduates.

    “My classmates, look at the audience. Find the people that love you, supported you, and helped you become the best person you are. Those are the people who have inspired you. As you go back home, remember this moment, on where you have made everyone proud. This is where it begins – right here, and right now,” Dominguiano said.

    The Top Ten students of TJHS for school year 2016-17 are:

    1: Clarence Paraiso Rodriguez

    2: Elvie Marie Acido Dominguiano

    3: Kiran Arthur Malicdem Shrestha

    4: Tasi Thomas Gutierrez Long

    5: David Robert Reyes Mendiola

    6: Anisha Juana Cabrera Viches

    7: Allen Joshua Javel Morilla

    8: Eddawn Loriel Nucum Labador

    9: Axl Matias Ong

    10: Karen Joy Obsioma Lagunay

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    Islanders beat US mainlanders in drill competition

    May 14th, 2017

    Drill winners Photo © Lyn Lirio

    THE combined cadets of Saipan Southern High School and Rota High School from the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands won its first ever All Army Championship Trophy in the recently-concluded 2017 Golden Bear National Drill Meet at Torrance, California late last month.

    Command Sergeant Major (Ret.) Richard Basa, Senior Army instructor for SSHS Junior Reserved Officer Training Corps (JROTC), said the CNMI Drill team had won numerous trophies in the past but they never got the All Army Championship for the Travelling Trophy.

    In 2016, he said SSHS and Rota finished second. Guam took home the trophy.

    “We are putting our CNMI Drill Team on the map as the other stateside drill teams are learning where the CNMI Drill Team is from,” Basa said.

    Basa thanked those who supported the SSHS Manta Rays and the Rota’s Bucks. He said the students did an outstanding job in the competition.

    The CNMI Drill team, composed of 36 students from both schools, traveled all the way to California on April 25 to compete with more than 40 varsity drill teams from the West Coast.

    Aside from All Army Champions, Basa said the CNMI Drill team has won first place in three categories.

    SSHS cadet Matthew Kapileo was first place in both Armed Tapout and Outstanding Commander. SSHS also won first place in Regulation Armed Varsity.

    Rota High School cadets Jezzel Candia, Loreville Clitar, Mary Heather Jingco and Francisco Santos Jr. were second place in Four-Man Unarmed Exhibition.

    SSHS won third place in Inspection Armed Varsity, Exhibition Armed and Sweepstakes Armed Varsity.

    SSHS’ Kapileo was at fourth place in Unarmed Tapout, while Emmanuel Aquino was at fifth place.

    For Armed Color Guard (Pad 1) Varsity, SSHS finished fifth.

    Rota’s C/Maj Keoni Hocog was at fifth place for Outstanding Unarmed Commander.


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    Cooperation won over confrontation

    May 13th, 2017

    Zeno Deleon Guerrero Jr., center, shakes the hand of Attorney General Edward Manibusan as Chief Justice Alexandro, left, holds the trophy while posing for a picture after the announcement of the Attorney General’s Cup speech competition winners last Friday. Photo © Erwin Encinares

    FOR calling for cooperation instead of confrontation in resolving issues concerning States’ Rights and superb speech delivery, a student of Mt. Carmel High School in Saipan won the 33rd Annual Attorney General’s Cup Speech Competition.

    Zeno C. Deleon Guerrero, a senior MCHS student, this year brought the 18th win for his school. His approach and delivery for this year’s topic about the balance of power between the federal government and the Commonwealth, and whether the federal government has infringed on the sovereignty of the Commonwealth. Was adjudged to be the best.

    Zeno was among the eight finalist students from eight schools who were asked to explore the context of management of natural resources and to focus on whether local control or federal management is the better approach.

    “This division of power continues to be an important legal issue as the Commonwealth attempts to work with the federal government to pursue a balanced form of federalism that best serves its people. The balance of power between the states and the federal government has been especially important in recent discussions concerning the management of natural resources. Those in favor of greater states’ rights argue that a localized decision-making process best accounts for the economic and cultural impacts of management decisions. On the other hand, some have argued that the federal government is in a better position to manage natural resources by prioritizing protection of the environment, wildlife, and recreation,” stated in AG Cup program.

    The students were asked to discuss in their speech whether the federal government has overstepped its Constitutional authority, and whether a more localized approach to management and control of natural resources would be preferable, with regard to the following actions:

    1. The President of the United States declaring national monuments through the use of the Antiquities Act of 1906;

    2. The federal government’s designation of endangered and threatened species under the Endagnered Species Act, and related regulations to restrict economic activities that may affect the designated species or its habitat;

    3. The federal government’s declaration of marine sanctuaries and marine conservations areas, with restrictions on fishing and harvesting.

    Mr. Galvin Deleon Guerrero, Mt. Carmel High School principal, said Zeno has different approach to the issue. He said Zeno wanted a third option. He wants cooperation.

    “Instead of arguing about power and authority over our natural resources, the federal government and our Commonwealth should share responsibility for those natural resources. And instead of fighting against each other, we should work with each other to protect our natural resources, to save our islands from sinking into the sea and to keep our house standing,” Zeno said in his speech.

    Second placer Shea Kennedy Hartig of Saipan International School, said “some issues must be always left to the US government – international treaties, raising taxes, military affairs, and other matters of national interests. The local people goes the local issues.”

    “When it comes to environment every state and territory is different, every state and territory should manage their own. The authority to declare marine monuments and marine sanctuaries and conservation areas are not specifically stated in the US constitution. But the 10th amendment reserves power to the CNMI. And the covenant says that the people of the CNMI have a right to local self-government, and to govern themselves according to the constitution of their own,” Hartig argued.

    Third placer Yuuki Nishida, of Marianas High School, wanted CNMI to self govern as far as marine sanctuary and local resources is concerned.

    “The inspiration in our marine sanctuary was born with good intention but its application is exceptionally flawed. The implementation of policy that limits the use of local resources must be thoroughly vetted and approved by the CNMI lawmakers and its community. The federal government owes us an apology for overstepping our power and exploiting our land, resources and materials. They not only owe us apology but they also owe an understanding of historical and issue that are based here in the CNMI. We should no longer stand by idly. We must embrace self-governing approach as stated in the covenant.”

    According to Zeno, they worked on the speech for three months.

    “We are writing and brainstorming, specifically on this speech. Ever since the topic came out, we were researching and working,”

    Zeno said the hardest thing he encountered in preparing for his speech was combating his fear of public speaking.

    “Most people fear public speaking than death, actually. I do have fear of public speaking, just doing it in front of people is nerve-wracking,” he said.

    The MCHS principal commented that AG Cup gets harder every year.

    “It’s a great platform to hear the insights of the students. These kids, they know what’s going on every year. Every year it gets harder, every year the speech gets better – better research, better argumentation, and it’s an honor to go up against students who are really good speakers,” he said.

    Moreover, Deleon Guerrero said they applied a team approach in preparing for this competition. He said they formed a team together and work on the speech and more research adding that they picked the speaker first before proceeding on working on the speech.

    “We pick the speaker early on. We want to be sure that the speaker takes ownership. It would be inappropriate to have a team worked on the speech and picked the speaker later and oftentimes the speaker has strong opinion, like Zeno for example. He is the student council president and he really believed in cooperation,” Deleon Guerrero said in an interview.

    Each student was given 10 minutes to deliver their speech. Speeches were judged based on the content: comprehension of the issue, adequacy of research, analysis of the issue and organization; presentation: poise and demeanor, eye-contact, delivery; and persuasion: clarity and ability to convince.

    Aside from Zeno, Hartig and Nishida the other honoree of the speech competition was Yu Jin Lee from Grace Christian Academy who received the honorable mention award.

    Participation award were given to Allen Maratitia of Dr. Rita Hocog Inos Junior/Senior High School, Stephen Carino of Saipan Southern High School, Julian Ross Ogo Manglona of Marianas Baptist Academy, and Patrick T. Duenas, Jr of Kagman High School.

    This year’s panel of judges included Attorney General Edward E. Manibusan, Chief Justice Alexandro Castro, Deputy Attorney General Lillian Ada Tenorio, former Attorneys General Joey P. San Nicolas, Matthew T. Gregory, Gil Birnbrich, Redford C. Kosack, and Matthey Pug.

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