Digging into anything and everything that makes the CNMI tick beyond politics...

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bird Island revisited

A BREATHTAKING view awaits anyone who drives all the way to Marpi at the north east coast of Saipan. As soon as you reach the end of the paved road, prepare to see one of the most spectacular views Saipan has to offer, the Bird Island.

I wasted no time in going down the cemented stairs to the lookout last Saturday with four officemates, not minding the droplets of rain that threatened to develop into a downpour anytime. It was my second time to visit the Bird Island. The difference was this time, I was not in a hurry.Photos by Raquel C. Bagnol

From the view deck, the Bird Island, also called Isleta Maigo Fahang or “island of sleeping seabirds” by the locals, is a small rocky islet standing in the middle of a coral reef that looks so near yet so far.

The Bird Island is one place where you can feast your senses on the scenic spot which nature seemed to carve so perfectly years ago. The island serves as a sanctuary for thousands of birds, and that’s how it got its name.

Here is one place where you can sit and gaze for hours at the endless stretch of ocean before you. It is an idyllic spot where you can commune with nature and hear nothing but the crashing of the waves on the rocks below. This is a place where you can forget the daily pressures of work and the deadlines breathing down your neck, a glorious panorama I would exchange for the glare of the computer monitor anytime.

Gazing down, the temptation to go and wade in the waters toward the islet is very strong. I was told there is a steep hiking trail that leads down to the beach and you can head out to the Bird Island when the tide is low.

Maybe, one of these days, I will have the chance to roll up my jeans and wade in the water and hope that the tide stays out until I get back, or else that would be another story.

Stairs going down to the lookout

Stairs going down to the lookout

When you are at the lookout, just be careful to stay within the fenced area. One wrong step beyond could send you hurtling down the cliff toward the rocks below.

If you have been on Saipan for years and you haven’t been to the Bird Island yet, it’s time you check the place which has attracted thousands of visitors from all over the world. It doesn’t pay to be a stranger in your own paradise.

For more photos PRESS ME


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The glory that was La Fiesta

I have passed the now-abandoned La Fiesta Mall several times since I arrived on Saipan in February and had always been curious about the sprawling buildings. I finally had the chance to visit the place when Mr. Sandman (aherm-now I have your attention) took me for a quick look at the place some weeks back. Twilight was falling and we just drove around the parking lot as he regaled me with stories of “The glory that was La Fiesta” more than four years ago, before the bustling mall closed its doors.

I didn’t even try to take pictures because I know my reliable camera couldn’t take any shots. Although the daring side of me was very much tempted to explore the empty halls, I didn’t give in. I didn’t exactly relish the thought of being caught by police authorities and be mistaken as a prowling robber. Nah, I wouldn’t want to hit the headlines!

The chance to really explore the ruins (or some parts of it) of La Fiesta Mall in San Roque came last Saturday when I and four ranch-mates (???) Mark, Raymond, Junhan and Moneth decided to stop by on our way to Marpi. In broad daylight, the buildings didn’t look as sinister and eery as it did when I first went there. I picked my way among the ruins, through the debris-filled hallways, peeking through the rooms and shouting “hello” into the vast emptiness. My voice ricocheted through the walls.

Now, no traces of the once-largest shopping and entertainment center on Saipan remained except for these forsaken buildings with its peeling paint, shards of broken glass from the shattered windows and dangling plywood from the cracked ceilings. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for these mute witnesses to the place

Mark playing superman up there

which once throbbed with life and laughter. The three sections-- Fiesta I, II, and III which used

to house shops, fast food restaurants, designer boutiques, movie theaters and a concert hall where performers belt out live musical renditions every night have become a thing of the glorious past.

La fiesta Mall taken from a15th floor balcony of Palms Resort Saipan.

(Who says I'm afraid of heights???)

I left the ruins with a heavy heart, sorry for the days-gone-by when La Fiesta stood in all its glory. I was not yet here to witness the non-stop activities but from the accounts of people who had contributed to the heydays of the mall, I released a huge sigh and realized I went sentimental over a past which I was not even a part of.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Missing Davao

Staying in an isolated island like Saipan does not necessarily make one a full-pledged islander. Maybe this does not apply for all but in my case, I guess the feeling of being a complete islander have not yet gotten into my system.

Having spent a huge number of years of my life in the urban areas which pulsed with life especially at night, a nocturnal being like me still finds it hard to momentarily settle for the rural life in this island-even after my five and-a-half months stay here, plus 19 months stay in Palau.

I wake up six mornings a week disoriented and grumpy, wondering why on earth I still keep the alarm clock whose screeching sound regularly wakes me up at 6:30 every morning. Maybe a lifetime habit of being nocturnal could not just change that easily despite constant clashing with my ex-boss, who was an early riser and could not understand the logic of working late in the night and waking up late, too.

Here on Saipan, one does not necessarily feel being a stranger because Filipinos are everywhere- in offices, stores, schools, construction companies, night clubs and anywhere. Some have stayed in this island for as long as 30 years and have totally adopted the island lifestyle, thinking only of going home to the Philippines for vacations. They have completely become islanders.

Well, to name a few of the tastes, sights and smells I miss in Davao that’s hindering me from adopting the island life:

Never-ending stream of traffic. Looking at the flow of vehicles occupying every inch of the road is just fantastic, and riding on a jeepney and being a part of the traffic has never irritated me. In fact, getting squeezed in a heavy traffic jam gives me the perfect opportunity to day dream. (Need i mention how many times a week do i have to get a ride back because I already passed by my destination???)

Tsokolate and pandesal from Bankerohan. Here the pandesal tastes just like any ordinary, oven-baked bread. It’s extra hard that if you hit your head with it, a lump will grow so fast before you can blink. I miss the fluffy yet crispy and salty pandesal cooked in a pugon. At our barracks, (which I baptized the named Ranch House), a pandesal vendor toots his horn on early mornings. Once in a blue moon, I would be up and catch him but oftentimes i would lay in bed in wishful

thinking hoping that he can read my mind and drop a bag of pandesal for me. Of course, he can't read my mind, otherwise he won't be selling pan de sal so early in the morning but out there making a fortune for himself. I would still be half in dreamland by then. By the time I decide I want that pan de sal, the vendor is long gone.

Tinolang native manok at the food stalls in Magallanes. Thinking of the huge slices of chicken here makes my hair stand.

Barbeque batikulon (gizzard) at Bankerohan side walk where I always buy three pieces on a stick for P5.

Manggang hilaw (green mangoes) with bagoong. Yo

u can buy a smallplastic of sliced green mangoes from street vendors for five pesos.

Durian. This is something I haven't seen on Saipan. Surely because it's prohibited. I miss our durian sprees at Magsaysay park.

The sight of news boys folding the Super Balita and Sunstar late at night in the office, and the newspaper-littered streets early in the morning as newsboys collate them ready for loading on their bicycles. (yes I'm up on some mornings).

Noise of internet cafes. Having no internet connection at Gwen's house, I had to walk exactly 300 steps to nearest internet cafe to do my research and bear the noise and smell of the kids as they swear and curse loudly while playing online games.

Open markets where you can buy fish and vegetables and where the vendors tried to outdo each other in making the loudest noise to attract more customers. I always cover my ears and rejoice in the loud humming they made.

Bulalo and hinalang na baka. Where one serving is often

tooo huge for me to consume.

Halo-halo at Chowking. I don't care even if it's 12 midnight o

r 3 a.m. when the urge to eat gets at me, I go out. The halo-halo I've tried here so far is from Shirley's. So far so good. Only the serving is not big. It's huge!

Instant McDonald meals or chicken feet from Mandarin tea garden. I'm a constant customer at McDonalds here, but somehow, although the food is the same, i miss the ambiance of the McDo branches in Davao. There's no place like home, nai?

A bottle of beer (s) shared with office mates at our favorite restaurant at Times Beach after work, where we take turns

(give me a safer word than backbiting...lol) our other office mates.

The eternal blowing of horns from jeepneys and public vehicles. You only blow your horns here on exceptional situations like if the driver of the car you’re following failed to turn on his lights, or if his tires are flat, gone square or missing.

The noise of the kids next door in my boarding ho

use at S.I.R. although everyone knew I wished to strangle them every minute when i was there.

Kids swimming like tadpoles at Times Beach at the Magsaysay wharf. *sigh*. I let a wonderful opportunity slip through my fingers when Sam of Sams Tours, owner of the biggest dive shop in Palau offered to give me a free open water diving lesson. Alas, that is after I LEARNED how to swim and he gave me two months time allowance.I flunked the challenge and forfeited the opportunity to go diving. The possibility o

f learning how to swim stepped back two planets away from my reach, andthe possibility of diving? about 15 planets away.

Well, nothing would come out of just staring into

space and missing home. I’ve got some serio

us thinking to do. If you can't beat them join them. I've got five months to decide...

street ice cream

ginanggang or banana cue

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sunset at a Japanese lighthouse

THERE is something about lighthouses that always sets my adrenaline level to ultra high and I just can’t resist the temptation to explore one. When friend Brad (not Pitt) invited me to see a Japanese lighthouse and said that it was a perfect place to view the sunset, I wasted no time and away we went up to the highest point of Navy Hill one afternoon. A slight drizzle started as soon as we were on Middle Road but I kept my fingers crossed, hoping the unpredictable Saipan weather would do me a favor for once.