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

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Reunion with nature at the Tank Beach

CHARTERING unfamiliar grounds by following signs has always been a challenge I find hard to resist and last Sunday’s wanderings rewarded me with one more attractive spot in these islands.

Photos by Raquel C. Bagnol

Driving all the way past Kagman High School toward a dirt road last Sunday brought me and a buddy to a sign standing amidst thick bushes which says “Tank Beach”. As I haven’t heard of the name before, I knew I had to find the place. As there was no other sign on the road, our first turn ended in a private residence and we had to go back to the main road. Our second try brought us to the right place.
The place was deserted, and we found that it was one of the protected areas on Saipan where you can only feast your eyes in the beauty of nature but not disturb anything.

The white sandy beach stretched far on both sides, making us feel small and insignificant in the noonday heat. The rolling waves and the clear waters issued a silent invitation for a refreshing dip.
Tank Beach is a perfect place to bond with nature. This is a spot where it feels like sin to step on the sand and leave footprints in the deserted beach, where you will feel guilty by merely taking pictures of multitudes of butterflies in the flowering patches near the shore.
Tank Beach is one spot where you can delight on the wonders of nature, yet you get a feeling that you shouldn’t be there. You feel like an intruder that unlike other beaches which entices you to shout and run and play on the sand, you would feel guilty just by treading on the pristine shores.
For the beach fanatics, Tank Beach is a haven, great for snorkeling and hanging with friends.
Just be careful not to remove any corals from the waters off the entire reef at Tank beach as it is prohibited. Fishing regulations exist, and disruption of habitat is prohibited.
At this spot, the lines “leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures, and kill nothing but time” applies.
See you on our next adventure!

(This article was originally published here)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Chulu Beach: Tinian’s hidden cove

DRIVING over rock-paved roads about a mile or two away from the famous bomb pits on Tinian will lead you to one of the tropical spectacles the island can boast of — Chulu Beach.

Tourists pose for a souvenir photo at Chulu Beach. Photos by Raquel C. Bagnol

From the main road, you couldn’t see the water as the place is cloaked with thick foliage and green shrubbery but the minute you step out into the clearing, a stretch of pristine beach that is ideal for a movie set in the Pacific awaits you.
Chulu Beach is a beach bum’s dream: white sandy shores, crystal clear waters, and ideally placed palms swaying to the breeze. The sound of the rolling waves breaking a few meters away from the shore and the sense of privacy creates an instant lure to anybody who steps on its shores.
Overlooking the Philippine Sea to the west side of the island, you will know you have come to the right place when you see a Japanese pillbox at the end of the road.
Japanese Pillbox

Japanese Pillbox

My guide told me Chulu beach is also known as Star Beach to the locals. Here is a beach whose history stretches past beyond the footsteps on the sands created by visitors. It carries ghosts of the past and has been a mute witness to the bloody events of the World War 11 more than 60 years ago.
Ah, how tempting to sprawl on the beach and allow yourself to be lulled to sleep by the sound of waves and the gentle slap of the ocean breeze on your skin.
I hated to leave but time was a harsh enemy. I had 12 minutes to grab a quick lunch and catch the 1 p.m. ferry for Saipan.

Come with me next time on yet another trip and let’s scour famous as well as hidden beaches and explore nooks and crannies of this paradise called the CNMI.

Monday, September 8, 2008

I flunked culinary class!

So what’s new with that? I have never been at home in the kitchen, whether to eat or to cook. I mean I’m not a hearty eater (ever hear of the phrase I eat for survival?) I cook for survival too. Living alone for as long as I can remember has its effects and one of those is developing the habit to buy ready to eat or order from a fastfood whenever hunger strikes. Which is not very often in my case. The best and must-not-meal for me is dinner. Breakfast and lunch I can go without, but not dinner.

Anyways, I signed up for a culinary class for overseas Filipino workers at the OWWA office in Susupe a couple of months ago with 'ranch-mates' Junhan, Raymond, Tita Lits and Terri. What never occurred to me was that the classes would require five Saturday afternoons because if I did, I would have relegated my slot to somebody else. I know I just don’t have 5 consecutive Saturday afternoons free.

We missed the first session which was soup making. The second first session was into Japanese cuisine. Haha when I came into the class I felt I flunked right away. Everybody had an apron and a head gear or hair net. It never even occured to me to get one huhu.

Not a big fan of Japanese food myself (or any other cuisine in that matter) I just observed as Hermie the instructor whipped up sushi and all those rolled Japanesy-foods which I always thought comes in ready made packages.

I kept notes but now I can’t even read what I wrote. If I give it to a pharmacist Im sure I will be given prescription medicines. Tasting time proves rewarding for everybody else except for me.

On our second (and my last alas) session we were into pasta making. Alas, I never cared that much for pasta. I eat them but I can't or wouldn't die for pasta. We were taught how to whip up red and white sauce, spaghetti, soba, and the whole noodle family. I just sat on a corner feeling so drowsy for five hours of staying in one room (*ewww you don’t know how hard that was) The fourth Saturday I had to be on Tinian to cover the Poker tournament at the Tinian Dynasty Casino, so another absent.

Funny but I took more photos of my classmates and of the food and ingredients than what my mind absorbed. I still find it still easier to just point what you want and leave the messy job of food preparation to the expert chefs in the kitchen. I was a misfit in the kitchen. Maybe I was thinking of photography class afterall when I submitted my application form.

The graduation was last Saturday. Only Junhan and Teri were able to make it. We three flunked the classes because we had more than two absences.

Somehow there are some people who could never be at home in the kitchen and I am one of them. My sis and my brod took that talent when I was away and only two were given to each family I guess…

What I would have wanted to join though was the bread baking and cake decorating classes. That im sure I wouldn’t feel drowsy but the list is long and the next classes may be held next year yet.

Maybe I will just have to content myself with taking photos of food, not preparing them.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Hyatt grabs grand prize at 9th wine rally

THE moment the bar opened and the Happy Hours started, there was no stopping the guests from downing glasses after glasses of Rutherford Ranch Merlot and Rutherford Ranch Chardonnay (California).

The grand prize winners. Photos by Raquel C. Bagnol

The grand prize winners

The final party has begun.
In a lavish finale on Thursday night, Hyatt Regency grabbed the most coveted grand prize for the 9th Wine Rally campaign which ran from May 1 to Aug. 31, 2008— a Wine Rally prize tour to the Rodney Strong Winery in Sonoma Country.
Hyatt Regency came up with a total of 1,497 points by cases, followed by the Pacific Islands Club with 1,078 points; Aqua Resort Club with 493 points; Fiesta Resort & Spa with 342 points; Sandcastle Saipan with 190 points; World Resort Saipan with 135 points; Palms Resort Saipan with 125 points; Revolving Restaurant 360 Inc with 80 points; Mariana Resort & Spa with 75 points; Country House Saipan with 65; Tony Roma’s with 13; Coral Ocean Point with 10 and Capricciosa Saipan with 3 points.
With sheer luck, Northern Marianas Bartenders Association president Lito Espino’s cork entry was drawn as this year’s winner of $500 from a barrelful of entries.
For the past four months, key players in the food and beverage industry competed with each other in a battle of salesmanship. Four monthly wine rallies were held at Saipan World Resort, Grand Hotel Saipan, Palms Resort Saipan and at the Aqua Resort Club.
A beaming wine rally raffle draw winner Lito Espino of the Aqua Resort Club waves his giant $500 check.

A beaming wine rally raffle draw winner Lito Espino of the Aqua Resort Club waves his giant $500 check.

Food and beverage staff members of hotels and restaurants and the industry’s top executives had a grand time sampling and sipping the best wines, participating in games, mingling with old friends and making new ones while listening to the upbeat music from different bands.
The Wine Rally is an annual promotion organized by the Pacific Wine & Spirits, a competition to encourage servers to sell as many bottles of fine wines as possible during the promo duration.
“The parties are our way to say thank you to the food & beverage industry for their hard work in promoting PWS’ fine wine brands,” Anneliese Wenden, PWS Brand Manager said.

(For more photos, PRESS ME. This article is originally published here)

Party host Brad Ruszala reads the name on a winning cork while PWS marketing coordinator Orleyne Tabucanon prepares the cash prizes. Looking on are PWS general manager Dan Matsuno (second from left) and Steve Balakrishna, PIC Food & Beverage manager.

Party host Brad Ruszala reads the name from a winning cork while PWS marketing coordinator Orleyne Tabucanon prepares the cash prizes. Looking on are PWS general manager Dan Matsuno (second from left) and Steve Balakrishna, PIC Food & Beverage manager.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Tinian blow hole

I finally had the chance to visit the famous Blow Hole located at the Northeast part of Tinian, on the Pacific Ocean side last Sunday. This is one place I had always wanted to visit but never got the chance to do so, and i have Kiri Jackson, Tinian Dynasty's casino marketing and promotions to thank for arranging a quick tour for me.

The noonday heat did not deter me from going down to the limestone cliff that ran the full length of the side of the island (I won't mention that I was wearing 2-inch heels) just to snap photos and catch an amateur video using my ever-handy Sony point and shoot. From the Blow Hole, you can see Saipan at the back drop. I felt so alone in the vast stretch of sea, limestone and grasslands, a solitary being snapping fotos under the sweltering heat of the sun.

The vertical hole, a little bigger than a basketball is something that mother nature has carved in the rocks, spews out a geyser when waves roll in. I stood at a distance of about 8 meters away and got wet when a particularly huge wave rolled in. If I was only wearing slippers and prepared to get wet, I wouldn't have missed the chance to really go as near as I can to the hole but alas, I had to think of the ferry trip back to Saipan ( ughhh thinking of it is starting to make me dizzy) and I had to go straight to the office to file my stories. The one hour tour was not enough and I had to really hurry to grab some lunch from One Broadway before boarding the ferry. I had to put something in my stomach just in case the waves decided to get any bigger and I wouldn't want to vomit my intestines out.

ANyways, luck was with me and the ferry trip back was bearable. More about my solo trip to Tinian later. Enjoy the amateur video!