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

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hot & Spicy Wednesday nights at the Palms

IF the craving for something spicy and hot-hot-hot hits you, the place to be is at the PauPau Bar of Palms Resort Saipan on Wednesday nights.

A wide selection of hot & spicy dishes. Photo by Raquel C. Bagnol

A wide selection of hot & spicy dishes.

Last Wednesday, the restaurant launched its “Hot, Hot and Spicy night” theme with a full buffet of the hottest and spiciest dishes you could ever find in the island.

Palms Resort Saipan Executive Sous Chef Habib Akbar said this is the first time they are offering a fusion of Mexican, Mediterranean and Indian cuisine all on Wednesday nights.

“We would like to offer our clients variations in our hot and spicy buffet each time, in addition to the main dishes,” Akbar said.

The best sellers for the night are the fajitas, beef and chicken shawarma, spicy kebab, burritos, tacos, nachos and a wide array of curry dishes and salads.

A wide selection of tempting desserts is available in one section of the PauPau Bar—fresh fruits and cakes and desserts that carry Mexican flavors.

Complete your ‘Hot! Hot! Hot” dinner at the PauPau Bar as you choose from a wide selection of sumptuous dishes and cap your dinner with a choice of bottomless miller draft beer, tequila, or iced tea.

Nothing beats having a hot and spicy eat-all-you-can dinner with the blend of savory spices and herbs permeating the air, attentive waiters and staff garbed in Mexican attire assisting you to your tables, singing chefs serenading you with favorite hits, and a superb sunset at the backdrop.

Akbar said that in the next weeks, they would provide Mexican beats to add to the festive air.

“In the next weeks, customers can expect much improved services as we move toward transforming the whole bar into a Mexican-Mediterranean-Indian setting and provide customers with a satisfyingly unforgettable, hot and spicy dinner,” Akbar said.

Marianas Visitors Authority managing director Perry B. Tenorio said he enjoyed the wonderful food, the great service, the superb setting, and he “would be back for more.”

MVA’s Bruce Bateman shared Tenorio’s zest for the hot spicy night at the PauPau Bar.

“The food is fantastic, the setting fabulous and everything is a blast,” Bateman said.

Assistant Food and Beverage manager Christina Lustre reiterated her earlier statement that for Palms Resort Saipan restaurants, customer satisfaction is the name of the game.

“We are quite surprised with the wonderful turnout of customers for the launching of our Hot Spicy Nights, and for this we again thank the community for supporting us,” Lustre said.

Sunday brunch at Kaenju

True to its commitment of finding ways to satisfy the diversified palates of its clients, Palms Resort Saipan has another treat as Kaenju Restaurant opens its Sunday Brunch on August 30, 2009.

“This is another new feature we are offering to our clients, one that you should not miss and we would like to invite everybody to be with us as we launch Kaenju Restaurant’s teppanyaki Sunday Brunch,” Akbar said. For inquiries and reservations, please call 670-322-3311.

This article was originally published HERE

Monday, August 17, 2009

Minami Restaurant launches new food items

ALL the tables at the Minami Restaurant at the Palms Resort Saipan were filled as locals and tourists trooped to sample the new food items on the restaurant’s menu for brunch on Sunday. Palms Resort Saipan Executive Sous Chef Habib Akbar told the Variety they are very happy to see that the additional menu made an instant hit with the diners who made short work of the new food items from the curry station, the dessert section and Saipan’s only genuine Shawarma.

Shawarma is available in beef, chicken or lamb.

Shawarma is best eaten with hot, freshly-baked Nan bread and topped with various curry dishes.

“Our shawarma and Nan bread comes with a genuinely unique taste from the Middle East,” Akbar said.

Irresistible desserts

From MiMouth-watering cakes and pastries issue an irresistible welcome to diners at the Minami Restaurant. Photo by Raquel C. Bagnolnami Restaurant’s dessert section comes various cakes and pastries that would be hard-to-say-no to.

PRS’s new pastry chef Marvin Eupeña who joined the hotel early this month presented the diners with mouth-watering temptations like carrot cake, Dobosch cake, green pea cream cake, baked blueberry cheesecake, fruit tart cake, opera cake ( a concoction of chocolate and mocca), assorted pastries and Icecream Bombe.

“Diners can expect a variation of desserts everyday,” Eupeña said.

Customer satisfaction

Assistant Food and Beverage manager Christina Lustre said that PRS has more in store for their loyal clients in the coming months.

“We would like to thank the community for being with us, and you can expect more services from us,” Lustre said.

“We will not rest until we can give our clients total satisfaction,” she added.

Minami Restaurant can accommodate up to 150 persons. It is open for breakfast (7-10 a.m.) and lunch (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) from Monday to Thursday. Fridays and Saturdays are Steak Nights at the Minami from 6 -9 p.m. Sunday Brunch starts at 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Mexican Night

On Wednesday (Aug. 19), Akbar said PRS will introduce a delightful mix of new dishes as they launch the Mexican, Mediterranean and Indian cuisine at the hotel’s Paupau Restaurant.

Akbar said that the launching will feature an eat-and-drink-all-you-can at $25 per person.

For reservations, please call 670-322-3311.

This article was originally published HERE

Friday, August 7, 2009

A morning hike to Naftan Point

5 a.m. The shrill ringing of the alarm clock jolted me from an hour’s sleep on Saturday morning, and I had to drag protesting muscles up to get ready for a trek to another one of Saipan’s famous hiking destinations.
Photo by Raquel C. Bagnol

Hiking to Naftan Point, says our trek organizer Jacob, would take only about 20 minutes from his cousin’s house. We started walking in the darkness toward this historical spot at the southernmost part of Saipan, but it was only after almost an hour later when we reached the Hawaiian Rock where the real trek began. Talk about 20 minutes!
As the sun began its ascent to the skies, my energy level was slowly beginning to drain, not to mention that there was actually none to start with.

We plodded on, asking over and over how far do we have to go and agonizing over the thought of the way back until we finally emerged through a clearing and stepped into a whole new world.

A spectacular panorama was before us but an eerie silence seems to pervade the place. It felt as though we were intruders into another world.

Naftan Point is an enchanting rugged terrain, with grass-covered corals, steep cliffs, numerous caves, plateaus, bushes and more ruins and relics from the World War 2. From a distance, the Forbidden Island seemed to issue a silent but daring invitation to anyone who would want to challenge its name. Over 50 feet below the sharp cliff lines, the thunderous noises created by the crashing waves would make one think twice before standing on the cliffs’ edge.

Hiking to Naftan Point without proper ammunition (a.k.a. camera and tripod) would be unforgivable because the place is a photographer’s dream. It was not that easy to pick your way through the sharp stones and rocks concealed by the untrimmed grasses though. One wrong step and the corals you are stepping on could crack. I did not have the chance to go near the very edge of the cliffs because aside from my progress being hampered by the tripod, I had second thoughts about gambling my life and my camera from the edge. After a few quick bites of tuna sandwiches and sips of water, we took a few minutes of rest but our time was running out. With only the shelter from the huge rock, we know it would not be long before the shade would be gone as the sun gets higher.

We found an old Japanese canon in one of the ruined bunkers at Naftan Point, along with several other war relics. I could just imagine the war when the canon spewed death fumes all the way to Tinian.

We finally started our way back. And that was when everything turned awry.

Two of my companions—Jeanette and Fe went ahead of the group. The six of us followed, but Jacob got other ideas and led us into a “short cut”, which we hesitantly took. But anyway, any change in the road seemed welcome so we followed the leader. However, the road we were following seemed to be going in circles and we seemed to be walking endlessly. When we began to see pink flowers on the vines along the road, I began to guess that the trail we were following was leading to Obyan Beach, much much farther from our car. I was dreadfully right.

We plodded on and reached the end of the shady trail. Suddenly, a dusty, winding road shimmering in the noonday heat stretched out before us. Obyan Beach was a few miles below, and I knew there was no choice but to force my over-tired body to move on.

It was not easy for somebody like me whose only exercise everyday is to go up the stairs of the office or the Superior Court. Imagine walking up the Obyan Road toward the direction of Hawaiian Rock under the 11 o’clock sun, with not a single tree or shade in sight. I was at the farthest rear of the group, trying to concentrate in putting one foot ahead of the other to walk on.

With every dragging, agonizing step I took, my camera seemed to grow heavier and it took real effort to stay awake and not give in to the darkness that threatened to envelop me. After over an hour of fighting the urge to cry, I finally convinced buddy Andrew to seek some shade in the bushes. Under ordinary circumstances, I would never imagine going into those bushes. Andrew volunteered to spread his towel to cover the sharp bushes so we could sit on for a while. Just when I felt so helpless, I got a call that a car was coming for us. I could have kissed the car's wheels with joy!

Naftan Point has still so much to offer and we missed much, but I would love to go back anytime. Minus the unplanned miles of hiking.

This article was first published HERE

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Villagomez gets 7 years - Santos couple to serve 78 months in prison

FORMER Lieutenant governor Timothy P. Villagomez will serve 87 months, or seven years and three months, in jail while his sister Joaquina and her husband, former Commerce secretary James Santos, will each serve six-and-a-half years in a federal prison in connection with their past corrupt deals at the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. involving U.S. funds.

U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands Chief Judge Alex Munson handed down the sentence to Villagomez and Mr. Santos yesterday morning while Mrs. Santos got her sentence late in the afternoon.

The three must also restitute the U.S. government $346, 125 for their offenses. Each must also perform 200 hours of community work service upon release.

A somber mood dominates Munson’s chamber as the relatives of the three grieve over the prison terms meted to them.

A12-man jury convicted the three of five counts conspiracy, wire fraud, theft of federal funds and bribery.

Munson sentenced Villagomez to 60 months imprisonment for the offense of conspiracy, and 87 months each for counts 2, 3 and 4.

The sentences will be served concurrently, which means a total of 87 months imprisonment and a supervised release of three years.

The defendants must not commit another federal crime, use or possess uncontrolled substance, submit to collection of DNA sample, prohibit from possession of firearms or dangerous weapons and provide the Probation Office with financial information when required. The mandatory drug testing has been waived for all three defendants they do not present a risk or danger to the community.

U.S. Assistant Attorney Eric O’Malley recommended a 15-year jail term for Villagomez and nine years for the Santos couple.

O’Malley said he respects the court’s decision but believes that a stiffer sentence would have sent a stronger message against people who will get involve in public corruption.

Free for now

O’Malley said the three will remain free until the Bureau of Prisons asked that they be surrendered to the U.S. Marshal.

He said the bureau will also determine which federal prison the three will be assigned.

The judge said the three must call the Probation Office every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 – 11 a.m. to determine if a detention facility at the Bureau of Prisons has been allocated for them.

Leniency request

Defense lawyers Leilani Lujan for Villagomez, Victorino DLG. Torres for Mr. Santos and Ramon Quichocho for Mrs. Santos asked the court for leniency and to step outside the sentencing guidelines for the defendants, asking for probation or home confinement for the defendants. Villagomez’s two other lawyers David Lujan and Joey San Nicolas were also present at the hearing.

Lujan objected to the $346,125 total amount of loss and pointed out that no determination as to the total amount of loss involved was made by the jury.

Lujan argued that there has been no proof or evidence that Villagomez planned and negotiated any of the alleged crime in the case or that he imposed or pressured any of the CUC employees to do his bidding as an official.

The defense asked the court to step out of the sentencing guidelines and reduce the level of crime based on the defendant’s acceptance of responsibility by resigning from their positions after the verdict.

The defense said that the numerous letters of support and an unsolicited petition with over 600 signatures representing cross-sections of the CNMI is enough to attest to the high respect and esteem the defendants hold in the community.

Extra-ordinary family ties

The defense asked the court for consideration on the defendant’s extra-ordinary family ties and responsibilities.

The defense said that incarceration on the three defendants would mean huge burden on their families.

Lujan said that Villagomez help his three other siblings in taking care of their sick mother. She said that Villagomez’s sister Joaquina face imprisonment, and his other brother Kevin was ill. To add to this, Lujan said that Villagomez had five children and his wife’s income could not support the family.

Torres representing Mr. Santos said his client takes care of his mother, an amputee who lives with them. Torres said the Santos couple had two children, one of them a minor, and Joaquina takes care of her mother, too.

Quichocho, representing Mrs. Santos asked Munson for compassion in sentencing her, and to “take into consideration Joaquina’s sick mother and mother-in-law, and a teenage daughter who needs at least one parent at home.”

Major players

O’Malley said the defendants are all major players in the scheme to defraud the government.

He said that the transactions, especially the sixth which took place in 2007 happened at the time when CUC was struggling to survive.

He added that only 10 drums or 550 gallons or Rydlyme was legitimately requested but 3,000 gallons were purchased. He said that had Mrs. Santos added one more gallon to the 3,000 gallons, the Commonwealth could have saved $15,000.

“He is supposed to be a role model but he breached the public trust,” O’Malley said.

The government also argued that there was no acceptance of responsibility from the defendants by resigning from their positions after the verdict.

“I hope that tomorrow, when somebody from Capital Hill will think of stealing funds, they will think of what happened today,” O’Malley said.

In a statement U.S. Attorney for Districts of Guam and NMI Leonardo M. Rapadas said the sentences send a message to all government officials that “no matter what positions of authority they hold, they will be held to high standards of conduct because of the trust placed on them by the people.”

O’Malley prosecuted the case with First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Strand.

Fair sentence

Munson said that the sentences imposed to the defendants are just and fair. He said that the defendants were sentenced for four very serious offenses. Munson added that the defendants are well-educated and come from privileged families, and the court took into consideration the fact that the defendants are first-time offenders with no criminal history.

Munson said that the sentences of the defendants were the lowest in the sentencing guidelines, “not greater than necessary and this should serve to promote respect of the law,” Munson said. He added that he hopes this should be a deterrent to others who would follow the same.

Munson said that probation is not appropriate in the case of the defendants.

“The defendants’ case is not an exception in terms of family ties and responsibilities,” Munson said.

The judge said that he did not see any sign of acceptance of responsibility from the defendants and “resigning from their positions only after 19 days of jury trial does not show acceptance of responsibility.”

Munson said that based on earlier statements of the defense, the defendants has a huge family who will come out to take over the responsibilities left by the defendants.

Villagomez and the Santos couple have 10 days to file their appeal in court. Munson said the court will hear the defendants’ motions for continued release after Sept. 1.

This story was originally published HERE