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

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Yvette Bennett wins Miss Idaho US International crown

(First published at the Marianas Variety)  
SAIPAN’S Yvette Marie Deleon Guerrero Bennett has been crowned Miss Idaho U.S. International by the Idaho Committee for Miss U.S. International.
Yvette Marie Deleon Guerrero Bennett
Bennett, the first beauty contestant from the CNMI to capture a state-level beauty title on the mainland, will now compete against other state contestants at the Miss U.S. International pageant in Orlando, Florida from June 27-30, 2013.
The winner will represent the U.S. in the Miss International beauty pageant which will be held in Okinawa, Japan next fall.
In a statement, Bennett’s father Ambrose said he and his wife Lillian know that the entire CNMI is as proud as they are of their daughter.
“We thank all of you who supported our baby girl. Yvette told us it felt amazing and was so much of a surprise. It is a real opportunity to show her abilities and potential as a title holder,” Ambrose said.
Yvette, for her part, said: “I felt that all my hard work had been vindicated and this was well-earned recognition. It also inspired me to work even harder on my walk, my interview and my wardrobe to grab another even bigger opportunity.”
She said her title as Miss Idaho International has put her in an even better position as a role model and advocate for the youth of the nation to live a better and healthier lifestyle.
“Having the support of my family, friends and the community back home means a great deal to me and I must thank everyone who has supported me back home, especially the social media spreading the word around. It has been a lot of motivation for me to continue participating in these Pageant competitions,” Yvette said.
Ambrose said they are now working to get financial support for Yvette’s entrance fee and wardrobe for the national competition.
“Yvette needs the help of the CNMI so if you are willing to be one of Yvette’s sponsors please contact us at 670-256-6602 or you can stop at any First Hawaiian Bank and make a deposit of any amount in Yvette M. Deleon Guerrero Bennett’s account,” he added.
Sponsors can email b_vettie@hotmail.com after making donations so their names will be added to the list of sponsors.
According to an official letter from the Miss International Beauty Pageant in Burton, Michigan, Yvette and the other contestants will be judged on beauty, charm, personality and poise.
The International Cultural Association, producer of the Miss International Beauty Pageant, has been producing the Miss International Beauty Pageant since 1967.
The pageant, which started in Long Beach, California in 1960 and which is also called a Festival of Beauty and Olympics of Beauty, is not based on looks alone. The contestants are expected to serve as “ambassadors of peace and beauty, showing tenderness, benevolence, friendship, beauty, intelligence, ability to take action, and, most importantly, a great international sensibility.”

Santa Visits Saipan via Skype

ALL eyes were glued to the huge screen as the Skype ring tone reverberated in the American Memorial Park Visitor Center theater on Saturday afternoon.
Cedrick the Magician from Tinian was trying to contact Santa Claus in the North Pole while the audience waited. After a few seconds, Santa’s jolly face appeared on screen and he greeted everyone with his booming laughter. He said he was on his way to Saipan.
Cedrick the Magician impressed the young and not so young audience and had everyone mesmerized for 45 minutes as he performed on stage.
Cedrick, 20, is one of the backstage hands for the SandCastle Magic Show at the Hyatt, and it was his first performance in public on Saipan.
Cedrick’s Magic Show culminated with the arrival of Santa Claus. Chilren and adults got the chance to have their pictures taken with Cedrick and Santa Claus in the Visitor Center lobby after the show.
“I was a little bit nervous at first but after the first few minutes, I began to relax and was happy to see the audience enjoying the show,” Cedrick said.

Cedrick is the fourth of seven siblings. Cedrick’s mother Joji, a teacher of Grace Christian Academy on Tinian, said she had never watched any of Cedrick’s shows before.

“His father always comes with him but this time, I decided to come out and watch. I was more nervous than he was during the first few moments of the show but later on, I started to enjoy it,” Joji said.
She wanted Cedrick to be an engineer, but added that their family will always support him in his endeavors.
Cedrick’s father Conrad Libut said: “Doing magic is what he wants, and we are here for him.”
Cedrick became interested in the world of magic at 9 after he watched a special TV marathon show titled “World’s Greatest Magic.” He devoured every episode and decided then and there what he wanted to do in life — magic.
He now performs for various occasions such as birthday parties, baby showers, cocktail parties or even business get-togethers.

Cedrick the Magician also performed during the Brilliant Star School bazaar at the multi-purpose center on Dec. 9. For more information, call 789-9197, email contact@cedrickmagic.com or visit http://cedrickmagic.com.

First published at the Marianas Variety

Friday, December 7, 2012

Cutz & Colours grand opening today

MEMBERS of the community are invited to attend the grand opening of Cutz & Colours His & Hers Salon, formerly Mercy’s Salon, at 10 a.m. today at the RJ Plaza Building in Dandan.
Marcia Ayuyu
Cuts & Colours owner Marcia E. Ayuyu, wife of businessman Joe Ayuyu, yesterday said she is very excited about the chance to pamper the community in her new venture.
“We are very excited to start serving our customers in our new and more spacious location,” Mrs. Ayuyu said.
Cutz & Colours moved to another unit right next to RJ and ReMax offices which are also owned by the Ayuyu’s.
The new unit has a reception area with comfortable benches. The main salon area is big and comfortable and has the latest equipment, a private room for the facial treatments, and a cozy massage room with two beds. A small gurgling water fountain adorning the wall and dim lights add to the blissful ambiance of the place.
“We really would like to make our customers feel at home, relaxed and pampered,” Mrs. Ayuyu said.
Cutz & Colours has three experienced beauticians and one masseuse to cater to customers’ needs. The beauticians have been with Mercy’s Salon which opened in 1986.
Promos and discounts
As a special promotion for the grand opening of Cutz and Colours, a 30 percent discount will be offered for all services today from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. Mrs. Ayuyu said those who cannot spare time for services like hair trimming, manicure and pedicure, facial treatments and other services today can come in and pay upfront to get the 30 percent discount and set up a later appointment.
Beginning today and until Dec. 31, each customer who comes in for any service will get a raffle coupon. The raffle drawing will be at 1 p.m. Attractive prizes are at stake. The raffle ticket holders need not be present to win.
Cutz & Colours offers haircut for men and women, hair styling, coloring, rebonding, make-up, facial, manicure and pedicure, foot spa, and massage therapy —your choice of sports massage or Swedish massage.
Cutz & Colours offers special group discounts for weddings, anniversaries, graduation and all other occasions.
“Just come in and we will tailor a package to suit your needs,” Mrs. Ayuyu said.
Cutz & Colours is offering a promotion of $45 for a three-session massage at one hour per session. A customer can opt to buy a coupon and have the massage at two sessions for an hour and a half each session or $20 for a one-hour massage.
Gift certificates are also available. Companies can buy gift certificates as corporate giveaways especially for the Christmas season.
Cutz & Colours is located beside Remax Office at the RJ Plaza Building in Dandan. It is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and from 12 noon to 7 p.m. on Sundays. For reservations or inquiries, call 235-1990.

Tourism from the students’ viewpoint

THE images of blue skies and white sand beaches flashed on the huge white screen mounted on the wall. Lively music filled the room as over 250 students from different schools have their eyes riveted on the screen watching familiar scenes come to life.
Jinky Kintaro of Saipan Southern High school shares her experiences of traveling to Japan as a My WAVE Club member.
Jinky Kintaro of Saipan Southern High school shares her experiences of traveling to Japan as a My WAVE Club member.
In a few minutes, the screen was filled with life and laughter as students and other people were caught on video enjoying the beautiful scenery that a lot of people from here just take for granted.
Seen from the eyes of these high school students, ordinary scenes from everyday life became more interesting and colorful, and that’s how the members of the Marianas Tourism Education Council’s MY WAVE club from Saipan Southern High School want to promote Saipan to the rest of the world.  
The video which was shown during the annual MTEC Summit held at the Pacific Islands Club last month was produced in a DVD called “I Love Saipan” by members of the SSHS MY WAVE Club. Aside from entertaining the other MY WAVE Club members from elementary, junior high and high schools in the island, it also inspired them to think of ways to promote tourism.
MTEC president Vicky Benavente earlier commended the SSHS MY WAVE Club for the DVD production and appreciated their understanding of the importance of tourism as the island’s prime industry.
SSHS MY WAVE Club is led by its energetic president Bertran Palacios who encouraged the students to keep their ears and eyes open to see what they can contribute to bring more tourists to the island.
Officers of MY WAVE Clubs from other schools also did their presentations on how they plan to promote tourism.
Here are some of the plans and projects of the MY WAVE Club members:
·  Beach and roadside clean ups
Saipan Southern High School My WAVE Club president Bertran Palacios answers questions.  Photos by Raquel C. Bagnol
Saipan Southern High School My WAVE Club president Bertran Palacios answers questions. Photos by Raquel C. Bagnol
·  Reaching out to the visitors
·  Having a sunny disposition toward the island and its visitors
·  Advertise Saipan to a greater level through the internet, TV, radio and print
·  Preserve the beautiful sites and attractions throughout the islands
·  Improve health services and accommodations
·  Improve the attitudes of hotel staff and those in the tourism industry toward everybody, not just tourists
·  Make it easier for tourists to move around like having more manageable hotel bookings, bus schedules, etc.
·  Work toward a cleaner environment.
MY WAVE, which stands for Marianas Youth Welcome All Visitors Enthusiastically is one of MTEC’s way of promoting tourism among students and get active involvement.
MTEC is a non-profit organization which aims to educate the public on the importance of the tourism industry. MTEC and the Marianas Visitors Authority began its annual outreach to the different private and public schools last month.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

New Ferrari car models introduced for Shell V-Power customers

IP&E and Shell V-Power introduced five new Ferrari model cars customers can avail themselves of for every purchase of Shell V-Power products.
In a press conference at the Hard Rock Café in Garapan yesterday, IP&E CNMI area manager Jeff Boyer said a cash purchase of seven gallons or more of Shell V-Power fuel entitles a customer to get a Ferrari model car for only $0.99 cents.
Customers can also get double points for purchases of Shell V Power gas for their Lucky 7 Rewards program, and get the Ferrari model cars free for redemption of Lucky 7.
The Lucky 7 Rewards Program has been in existence since April 2002 to reward loyal customers for gassing up at Shell.
Loyal customers enjoy the benefit of one point for every gallon of fuel purchased at Shell Stations. Boyer said they will be releasing one new model every six weeks or so.
“This promo is good only while supplies for the Ferrari model cars last so we are inviting you all to come and fuel up with Shell V-Power and avail of this promo,” Boyer said.
In his Power Point presentation, Boyer showed Shell, a global company partnered with Ferrari with a commitment and passion for motorsport and fuels technology. Together, Shell and Ferrari have won over 100 F-1 races, over 15 constructor’s championships, impressive record, and zero tolerance for margin error.
IP&E CNMI area manager Jeff Boyer discusses the advantages of using Shell V-Power during a press conference at the Hard Rock Café yesterday morning.  Photo by Raquel C. Bagnol
IP&E CNMI area manager Jeff Boyer discusses the advantages of using Shell V-Power during a press conference at the Hard Rock Café yesterday morning. Photo by Raquel C. Bagnol
“This means that in F-1 racing, it is all about quality and perfection,” Boyer said. He said through Shell’s relationship with Ferrari, the technological development of Shell’s unique formulation came about — the Shell V-Power.
He said Shell V-Power was initially developed as a race fuel for F-1 Grand Prix racing, refined for use on the road.
Boyer said the difference between Shell V-Power race fuel and Shell V-Power motor gasoline is one percent, which means that Shell V-Power users today enjoy the benefit of 99 percent of the technology developed in F-1 racing which is a high-quality fuel refined for use on the road.
Boyer cited the qualities of Shell V-Power which include five times more cleaning power than required by the U.S government standard, qualifies as a top tier fuel, and exceeds top tier standards by two times more cleaning power. He a said Toyota, GM, Ford, Honda, BMW, Audi and Volkswagen all endorse the use of top tier fuel.
He said Shell V-Power is the best premium gasoline available on Saipan today.
“Shell V-Power cleans intake valves and fuel injectors for enhanced engine responsiveness, and helps to prevent rust on all surfaces of your engine that Shell V-Power comes into contact with,” Boyer said.  
IP&E acquired the marketing assets of Shell and secured a license agreement to carry the Shell branded fuels at the gas pumps in August 15, 2010.

Monday, November 19, 2012

ExploreCNMI: Tribal Theory draws over 500 to ‘Home Coming 2’ concert

ExploreCNMI: Tribal Theory draws over 500 to ‘Home Coming 2’ concert
First published at the Marianas Variety

Tribal Theory draws over 500 to ‘Home Coming 2’ concert

TRIBAL Theory, the reggae band based in San Diego, California, left the island yesterday after performing for a crowd of 500 during the “Home Coming 2” concert at the Fiesta Resort & Spa beachfront on Saturday night.
Rob Travilla, founder/creative director of Salbahe Brand, said the concert was a huge success.
On Saturday, the concert started at 7 p.m. with Guam’s ukulele player extraordinaire Ryan Imamura, and his father, Troy Imamura.
Saipan’s Tom Basa Jr. performed next, followed by one man band Marvin Deleon Guerrero, 15 Rootz, Ben the Human Beatbox and then Tribal Theory which brought everyone to their feet until 11:30 p.m.
Travilla said the group had a good time here.
“They did some water sports on Sunday then took a little tour of the northern part of the island, sight seeing and viditing historical landmarks and also swam at the Grotto,” Travilla said.
Tribal Theory did an “encore performance” at Poseidon Bar in Garapan on Sunday night.
“Tribal Theory commends the island and the people for the awesome hospitality and great food,” Travilla said.
Over 400 concert tickets were sold at Boarderline Surf & Skate and Docomo Pacific as well at Fiesta Resort & Spa on the night of the event.
Last year, Salbahe Brand and Betelnut Radio brought Tacoma, WA’s Island Trybe.
“Please stay tuned as we bring more bands from the mainland to entertain the people of the CNMI,” Travilla said.
The Tribal Theory concert tour was organized by Salbahe’ & the disFUNKshunal LaFamilia, Betelnut Radio, Budweiser/Marpac, and United Nesia.
“We would like to thank everyone who came out and supported our event. We will work hard to continue to bring the islands top-notch entertainment,” Travilla said.
Event sponsors included Docomo Pacific, Tan Siu Lin Foundation, Power99, KMMNWLTH Stars & Stones, Mestisu Visuals, Fiesta Resort & Spa, KKMP 92.1FM, Boarderline Surf & Skate Shop, Budget Car Rental and Poseidon Bar.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

VA official touts progress in providing benefits to veterans

DESPITE the challenges that the CNMI and the rest of the Pacific Islands are facing in availing themselves of health care benefits for  veterans, progress has been noted, according to Dr. James E. Hastings, director of the Veterans Affairs Pacific Islands Health Care System.
Tracey Betts, director of the Veterans Benefits Administration of the Honolulu Regional Office, updates veterans about the benefits they’re entitled to. Photo by Raquel C. Bagnol
Tracey Betts, director of the Veterans Benefits Administration of the Honolulu Regional Office, updates veterans about the benefits they’re entitled to. Photo by Raquel C. Bagnol

He flew in yesterday from Hawaii for the first veterans appreciation and outreach program on island.
He said he is very pleased with the progress in providing benefits to the veterans in Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa and the CNMI.
Hastings has been serving  veterans for over 50 years and visiting the CNMI for the past six years to ensure the delivery of healthcare to the veterans here.
“We are on the right track to develop significant standards on how veterans should be taken care of,” he said.
Veterans Affairs, he added, was able to address two new concerns — the special needs of women veterans and the homeless.
Hastings noted that 15 percent of the armed forces are women.
Homelessness is another issue that the VA office is addressing, he said.
“Our goal is to end homelessness of veterans in the next three years — one tough assignment but we are making progress,” Hastings said.
In Hawaii, Hastings said about 40 percent of the homeless veterans have been housed and resources have been made available to give shelter to veterans on the streets and help them get back on track with their lives.
Hastings said the VA outreach has changed and evolved in many ways for the past 20 years.
“We have developed VA clinics in and gone out to smaller areas with lesser populations,” he added.
U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, in his message, said the VA clinic on Saipan is just  the first step to increase the base level of medical care for the veterans in the CNMI.
Acting Gov. Eloy S. Inos said the government recognizes the efforts of the VA clinic and the benefits provided to local veterans.
Tracey Betts, director of the Veterans Benefits Administration of the Honolulu regional office, said services have been improving for the veterans in the CNMI.
The veterans appreciation and outreach event was held yesterday at the MH2 Building in Puerto Rico.
(Published at the Marianas Variety)

Environmental group invites community to 5th PIC Palooza

THE Mariana Islands Nature Alliance is requesting members of the community to join the 5th Palooza at the Pacific Islands Club on Saturday, Aug. 25.
MINA executive director Sam Sablan, the guest speaker at the Rotary Club meeting on Tuesday, said  they are happy to be the recipient of this year’s Palooza, a fundraising event that start at 7 p.m. at the PIC Charley’s Bar. This year, it will carry the theme “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
“We are asking for your support for this fundraising event to help with our ongoing community projects in protecting the environment, and having fun at the same time,” Sablan said.
MINA is a non-profit organization that depends on donations for its education and outreach costs, accounting and other operational expenses.
Sablan said they rely on the generosity of businesses so they can implement programs that promote environmental stewardship.
PIC has helped raise funds for other organizations through it annual Palooza event in the past years, including Karidat, Beautify CNMI, Guma Esperansa and PAWS.
For this year, entrance costs $25 per person and it includes an eat-all you can buffet and drink-all-you-can soda, wine and beer.
Live entertainment will be provided by the PIC Clubmates, as well as fun games and exciting raffle prizes for lucky ticket holders.
For more information about the PIC Palooza, call 237-5101 or 5148.
(First published at the Marianas Variety

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Online Pagan petition now has over 3,000 signatures

THE online petition that opposes using the island of Pagan as a dumpsite for Japan’s tsunami debris already has 3,161 signatures from supporters from Hawaii, Australia, the CNMI, Guam and the states.
The controversial proposal has apparently been abandoned already, but supporters of the petition are still aiming for 10,000 signatures.
The supporters of the petition said the remote volcanic island should be preserved to conserve its wilderness habitat for future generations.
They said Pagan is “sacred” and should not be desecrated with toxic debris.
“Land and soil to the people are precious and people have to protect their paradise,” they added.
They said the CNMI should “avoid the tragedy of Pagan falling into ruin” and that “no island should be turned into a dumpsite.”
The Facebook group “No to Dumping Trash on Pagan”  has already 4,446 members.
It states that Pagan has one of the best top soils in the Mariana chain and it should be used for agricultural purposes.
According to the petition, which is addressed to the commonwealth’s leaders,  the “uniqueness of the CNMI and its culture should be celebrated and protected, not desecrated with a wealthy country’s garbage.”
By signing the online petition, an individual shows that he/she supports protecting Pagan against the potential environmental impacts of leeching chemicals, loose debris, and sedimentation of the reefs and surrounding waters.
To sign the online petition or get more information, go to http://www.change.org/petitions/don-t-turn-pagan-island-into-a-garbage-dump or  http://savepaganisland.org.
To read comments and share your views or interact with other supporters, join the “No to Dumping Trash on Pagan” group on Facebook.
(First published at the Marianas Variety)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Macaraig will be a guest in premiere episode of ‘Usapang Pinoy Saipan’

PHILIPPINE Consul General Medardo Macaraig will be the first guest in the premiere episode of “Usapang Pinoy Saipan,” a talk and entertainment show for all Filipinos that will be launched in the second week of September.
The show is produced by Digital Motion under  production manager Edwin Sta. Theresa, and  will be hosted by Anna Mae Adaza and Michelle Villaraza.
Sta. Theresa said “Usapang Pinoy Saipan” will cover issues and concerns of Filipino guest workers not only on Saipan but the entire CNMI.
“The first episode is ready for airing with Consul General Macaraig as our guest,” Sta. Theresa said. The second episode will feature Overseas Workers Welfare Administration representative Julie Fabian.
“The talk show aims to give Filipinos an avenue to air their views about pressing matters like their status in the CNMI, and other concerns,” Sta. Theresa said.
He said the program also hopes to give inspiration and hope to Filipino workers facing an uncertain future.
Sta. Theresa said they have been working on the talk show for the past months.
“We encourage Filipinos here to give us feedback and send us suggestions  for upcoming episodes by logging on to our Facebook page (Usapang Pinoy Saipan),” Sta. Theresa said.
After the first few episodes, they are planning to go live so people can interact and call in to submit questions and suggestions.
“We are inviting you to watch the show as soon as it goes on air — and participate in the program to help our fellow Filipino workers,” Sta. Theresa said.
“Usapang Pinoy Saipan” will be aired from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursdays and Sundays on Channel 14, the Weather Channel. (First published at the Marianas Variety)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Marianas Made opens at Thursday street market

First published at the Marianas Variety
THE community is invited to check out Marianas Made, a new consignment store displaying locally made products at the Garapan Fishing Base street market tonight.
localproductDebra Kay, owner of Marianas Made, said the store “will specialize in locally made art and crafts as well as packaged specialty foods.”
Vendors have answered her call for products that were screened in Garapan on Tuesday afternoon. These included coconut oil, recycled goods, banuelos, necklaces and fashion jewelry from seashells and beads.
Kay said she came up with the idea of a consignment store because she saw the need for a place for vendors to showcase their products made in the Mariana islands.
The store will be a cross between an art gallery and a cultural gift shop, and will carry an assortment of prints, note cards, small stone and wood sculptures, beadwork, jewelry, candles, woven mats, coconut art, ceramics, wood carvings and music — all made in the Marianas.
“We will be displaying the products at the Thursday street market for the time being, until we find a suitable location for a permanent store,” Kay said.
She is encouraging other vendors and manufacturers of local products to contact her and have their products displayed at Marianas Made on a consignment basis.
She said Marianas Made will provide vendors a chance to introduce and sell their products and for consumers to buy them.
“It will be like a one-stop shop to create a link between vendors and buyers of local products,” Kay said.
In 2009, the Made in the Marianas festival was held at the CNMI Museum of Culture & History compound where entrepreneurs manufacturing local products showed up and sold local products to spectators including local wine, artwork, fashion jewelry, beads products, ceramics, preserved foods, and more.
For more information about Marianas Made, call 287-0772 or e-mail changebuilding@gmail.com

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

‘Geocaching’ may be NMI’s newest tourist attraction

(First published at the Marianas Variety)
HAVE you ever heard of the word “geocaching”? Marianas Trekking, Saipan’s adventure company says it may attract more tourists to the CNMI.
The Barracuda team composed of children who joined the Eco Camp poses at the entrance of Suicide Cliff before going on a geocaching adventure. Contributed photo
The Barracuda team composed of children who joined the Eco Camp poses at the entrance of Suicide Cliff before going on a geocaching adventure. Contributed photo

Geocaching, according to Marianas Trekking general manager Elly Stoilova, is a fun high-tech treasure hunt game in which participants use GPS to discover hidden caches.
“This game is a great motivation to get outdoors with family and friends and discover new places, as usually the caches are hidden in beautiful locations such as sightseeing spots or educational sites like those related to history, architecture, and more,” Stoilova said.
She said she has been doing research on how geocaching can boost tourism.
Stoilova said  geocaching is very popular in Japan, Korea and Guam. There are 8,424 hidden caches in Japan, 5,502 in Korea, 640 on Guam, 4 on Saipan, 3 on Tinian and 4 on Rota.
“There are close to 2 million caches hidden around the world  (1,851,666) and the total registered participants in this high-tech treasure hunting game have already reached over 5 million worldwide,” Stoilova said.
She said Marianas Trekking introduced geocaching last July 1 at Eco Camp.
Stoilova  earlier searched online for some new activities that would be interesting for children.
“I found ‘geocaching’ listed as activity in several camps and I was intrigued to learn more about it. As soon as I registered online and learned more, I was hooked to this fun idea,” Stoilova said.
She said her team, the Barracudas, searched for one of the only four hidden treasures on Saipan near Suicide Cliff and found it.
“It was our first geocaching and we were so excited about! I revisited the place where the cache is hidden and added a few bo-jo-bo dolls there for off-island visitors to take,” Stoilova said.
Stoilova said in geocaching, those who find the caches do not take them but just log that they have found them. This way each geocache can attract many hunters for years. She said  occasionally people leave tradable items there, which can be taken if replaced with other items of the same value.
One can find items in the cache that can be trackable.
“These items have their own unique number and a purpose to travel around the world, to which geocachers can contribute,” she said.
Stoilova cited as example the cache near Suicide Cliff where there is a trackable lucky clover and the goal is to visit a brewery in Dublin, Ireland, and to take picture there that shall be shared with the clover owner. She added that the family that sent this trackable around the world lives in Orange, Michigan. The trackable has travelled already over 12,000 kms.
Stoilova said that geocaching is not only for tourists but for locals too.
“Geocaching is for everyone. Tourists involved in the game will be happy to add to their logs to more caches in exotic destinations or places they haven’t been before while traveling for business or leisure. Local families can enjoy this activity as a fun outdoor activity for the entire family,” Stoilova said.
She said  she has been watching the Saipan caches and from the logs so far she saw that those finding them are Saipan tourists who have visited the island as tourists and for business purpose.
Behind the fun the treasure hunting can give to the participants, Stoilova said geocaching promotes eco-tourism and outdoor activities, educate people about nature and give them a reason to travel, explore and be happier.
Impact on Tourism
Stoilova said  geocaching is a new niche market and the CNMI is ideal for it: beautiful nature, caves, beaches, trail in the jungles, amazing sightseeing and historic spots.
“Having caches hidden in all these areas would be the next step. There are serious hunters out there looking for new places to visit. There are geocachers in Guam, Japan and Korea and I would be great to create more reasons for them to visit Saipan, Tinian and Rota,” Stoilova said.
She is planning to place a few new caches in the next months and cannot wait to see who will be the one to find them. She is also looking at presenting geocaching to the Marianas Visitors Authority if they will be interested to support geocaching tours and challenges.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sunset collection

Sharing some of my favorite sunset images. 
These are mostly Saipan and Tinian images but I've thrown in a few sunset images from Palau.
Please sit back and enjoy!  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Wish upon a pair of Bojobo dolls

LEGEND has it that these little dolls resided in the woods and used to peep out from Bo Jo Bo vines in the village of San Roque, Saipan  hundreds of years ago.
Now, fashioned into dolls from coconut husk and fiber, the Bojobo dolls populate the stores in pairs to make any visit to Saipan, Tinian and Rota complete.
Bojobo dolls are always sold in pairs, a male and a female, sporting a variety of skirt colors are available in various sizes which you could conveniently hang in your car, room, with your keys or anywhere you want to.
Believed to bring good luck in love, money, prosperity and make other wishes come true, the Bojobo dolls have become one of the most-sought and must-not-leave-CNMI-without-it gift item.
From Saipan, Tinian and Rota, the Bojobo dolls have spread out to all parts of the world where tourists come from to serve as a souvenir and remind them that they that they had been to the CNMI.
“Faith can move mountains, and all you have to do is follow the instructions. Entwine the dolls according to what you wish for, hang them in a place where you can see them often and believe in your wish,” a tourist told the Variety in Garapan one day.
“There’s no harm in believing, and besides, the dolls are perfect gift items and decorations,” the tourist added.
If entwined correctly, the Bojobo dolls are believed to bring you luck in love, money and wealth, marriage, fortune, strength, happiness, long life, children, prosperity, friendship and peace.
Bojobo dolls can be bought from $4 and up from all department stores, souvenir shops and hotel gift shops on Saipan, Tinian and Rota, during the street market in Garapan every Thursday, and from online stores.
Grab a pair of these dolls which has become a significant symbol of a visit to the CNMI.
Instructions on how to tie the Bojobo dolls are attached when you purchase the dolls
1. PEACE. Leave us as is
2. FRIENDSHIP. Cross his left hand and her right hand together.
3. LOVE. Cross his left hand and her right hand together. Cross his right hand and her left hand together.
4. MARRIAGE.    Cross his left hand and her right hand together. Cross his left and right hand together. Cross her left and right hand together.
5. PROSPERITY. Cross the left and right hand together.
6. HEALTH. Cross the left and right hand together.
7. STRENGTH. Cross his left and right hand together. Cross her left and right hand together.
8. FORTUNE. Cross his left and right hand together. Cross her left and right leg together.
9. WEALTH. Cross his left and right hand together. Cross her left & right leg together. Cross her left and right hand together.
10. HAPPINESS. Cross his left and right hand over her body.
11. LONG LIFE. Cross her left and right hand together. Cross his left and right hand over her body.
12. CHILDREN. Cross his left and right hand over her body. Cross her left and right hand over his body.
First published HERE

To catch a dream

IF you’ve been at the souvenir shops around the island, you probably have seen these attractive round things with colored feathers and a web of colored yarn or twine crisscrossing in web-like patterns all over the ring like a trap with a small hole at the center.
If you haven’t seen a dream catcher before, you will think that they are just one of those regular door decorations ideal for souvenir or a gift.
Dream catchers  are usually hung in the doorways. They look like a huge mischievous spider’s web, colorful feathers fluttering as they spin with the wind.
But I learned that there is more behind each dream catcher.
Dream catchers, also known as dream nets, are believed to snare your bad dreams and get them entangled in the sinewy threads while the good dreams slip through the center hole.
These were hanged above the cradle of the babies in the ancient Native American Chippewa tradition.
Go online and you will find several fascinating versions of the legend of the dream catcher.
The traditional dream catcher was intended to trap the negative and bad dreams in the web while allowing the good dreams to slip through the hole, slide down into the feathers and straight to where you were sleeping. You tend to forget the bad dreams with the rising of the sun.
Some enterprising artists in the islands came up with a new design. Instead of the tangled web with a hole in the center, they placed a corkboard material and painted it with scenic views of the islands. Saipan, Tinian and Rota are printed on one side.
I bought a medium-sized dream catcher a year ago and it’s still hanging from a nail in my bedroom wall. I later learned that you should give a dream catcher space to freely spin around, contrary to what I earlier did, but mine was the localized version of the dream catcher, with an attractive painting of huge waves and an island scene.
Though the idea of trapping the bad dreams in the tangled web is gone, the revised version is still a hit among tourists as gift or souvenir items.
“It doesn’t matter whether you believe in them (dream catchers) or not, but they look lovely hanging from the doors and even on cars,” one tourist said.
Dream catchers come in various sizes, costing from $4 and up, depending on the size and they are available in all main stores such as Joeten , Star Sands Plaza, and all other shops where souvenirs are sold on island.
(This article was first published HERE)

Luxe Duty Free: Saipan’s newest shopping option

THE economic crisis is not an excuse to forego simple joys that will make one feel beautiful, according to a businesswoman who recently opened a luxury shop in Garapan.
Beauty consultant Hou Na promotes the Tony Moly products of Luxe Duty Free in Garapan. Photo by Raquel C. Bagnol
Beauty consultant Hou Na promotes the Tony Moly products of Luxe Duty Free in Garapan. Photo by Raquel C. Bagnol
Braving the gloomy economic situation, Luxe general manager Diane Lee (Hye Sook) opened  Luxe Duty Free Shop beside Shenanigan’s in Garapan to try to lift the spirits of the people, especially the women and help them to look beautiful and feel cheerful without having to spend much.
Lee, who has been living on island for the past 24 years and is operating two other businesses, said she had to think many times before finally deciding to open Luxe a couple of weeks ago.
“The economy here is bad, but I want tourists and locals to have more shopping options. When I look at the people, I want to help make them beautiful by offering high quality products at affordable prices,” Lee said.
All the bags, shoes, jewelry, watches and other designer items are from the U.S. and Europe while the cosmetic lines are from Korea.
Luxe Duty Free carry complete lines of skin care products and cosmetics from Tony Moly, a popular cosmetics brand for all age groups in Japan and Korea.
The Tony Moly brand has a wide variety of perfumes, skin care, lip care, cleansing, massage and pack, makeup, hair and body, men’s care and accessories that give solution to troubled skin care.
“Our cosmetics are safe to use for all skin types, and we have a trained and licensed beauty consultant who can help recommend what is best for each customer,” Lee said.

 She added that one would be enticed and proud to carry their products which are housed in creative and attractive containers. Lipsticks are not all in regular tubes but rather in attractive cases shaped like apples, oranges, lemons, and more.
“Don’t be scared by the name Luxe (short for luxury) because you will find lipsticks, lip gloss, skin creams, and other high quality cosmetics and accessories starting at $10,” Lee said.
She is saddened to see individuals who do not take care of their skin and are not fashion-conscious.
“I know times are hard, but we can still be beautiful and fashionable. I love the people here. It is where my two daughters grew up and became successful and making all feel good and beautiful is my way of giving back to the community,” Lee said.
Luxe Duty Free offers free makeup consultation and free makeup to anyone without obliging them to buy.
“Being exposed to the harsh rays of the sun every day, the people here need to take care of their faces and skin and we have the products to meet that need,” Lee said.
Luxe Duty Free provides shoppers a relaxing experience with its ambiance complete with Korean music playing in the background.
Check out Luxe Duty Free’s display shelves for designer bags and purses like Coach, Fendi, Liu-Jo, Ensoen, Serapian, Bellemarie and more, shoes, watches, jewelry, accessories and locally produced items like virgin oil, noni juice, coffee and other merchandise.
Luxe Duty Free is open from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Monday to Saturday. Major credit cards are accepted. For inquiries, call 233-2525, 233-4747 or email dianeklee@pticom.com.

Friday, August 3, 2012

5th Saipan Awaodori Festival: an affair to remember

THE beating of the drums rose to a deafening level and the crowd flocked closer to the stage to witness a showcase of color and skill at the height of the 5th Awaodori Festival on April 19.
Kids and adults craned their necks to watch how fast the dancers’ feet caught up with the beat but the members of the professional Tokyo Tensuiren Group from Koenji, Japan and the 45 members of the Saipan Awaodori team did not miss a single beat.
The unexpected construction undergoing at the Coral Tree Avenue in Garapan prompted organizers to move the Thursday market to the Fishing Base, and the new location gave the performers more elbow room to do their show.
For first timers, watching the Awaodori Dancers is a real treat. It’s like being given a glimpse of the biggest festival held every last Saturday and Sunday of August in Koenji. The drum beats will bring spectators to the narrow streets of Koenji and squeeze through hundreds of thousands of people from all parts of the world and watching thousands of Awaodori Festival dancers in their flashing and colorful costumes.
PDM Promoters Inc., is the organizer of the annual Saipan Awaodori Festival under its president Misako Kamata. Sonia Siwa of the PDM Promoters said that this year was special because members from three Awaodori groups flew in from Tokyo.
“We usually only have the dancers and musicians of the Tokyo Tensui-ren group but this year, we have representatives from Benkei-ren and Aoi Shin-ren groups and these are among the very famous groups in Japan. This is very good news. Hopefully this can encourage more groups from Japan to participate in the future Saipan Awaodori Festivals,” Siwa said.
From 5:30 p.m. all the way through 8:30 p.m. on Thursday last week, the joint Awaodori teams from Japan and Saipan impressed and stunned audiences along the streets of Garapan—all the way from Fiesta Resort & Spa lobby to the front of the Shenanigan Restaurant building, and heading toward Duty Free Shop Galleria for a short performance before capping the day’s festivities with a hit performance at the Fishing Base street market.
The group also performed during the opening of the Flame tree Festival at the Civic Park Center on Friday evening.
MVA recognition
Marianas Visitors Authority represented by Judy Torres presented a certificate of appreciation to the Tokyo Tensui-ren group for its continued support and promotion of the CNMI as a preferred travel destination during a break in their performance at the street market on Thursday.
Except for last year where PDM Promoters Inc had to cancel the festival in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March last year, the Tokyo Tensui-ren group had been coming here and performing for the past four festivals.
Major sponsors for the Awaodori Festival are DFS Galleria, Docomo Pacific, Tan Sui Lin Foundation and Kinpachi Restaurant. For more information, please call 234-6900.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The secret of the Singing Bowls

MY hand started to shake as I balanced myself to keep still. I was in an antique store and a 6.5-inch dull gold bowl was on my left palm. The store manager, a friend of mine handed me a piece of round wood which came with the bowl. I held the wood, which was called a striker, in my right hand.
Photo by Raquel C. BagnolUnder his  instruction, I began to rotate the striker on the sides of the bowl awkwardly, impatient to get feel that vibrating feel. I did
not feel anything except for added nervousness in case the bowl would fall and break.
I kept trying and learned the technique and very soon, I started to hear a soothing sound and feel a pleasant vibration from inside the bowl, going to my palm. I kept on rotating the striker and imagined myself inside a peaceful temple, deep in meditation. I imagined grassy meadows, flowing rivers, wide expanse of blue skies. Without meaning to, I got lost in thoughts and felt myself slowly slipping into a relaxed stance.
Coming back to reality, I looked at the set of Singing Bowls with new eyes. I’ve always taken them for granted as part of any antique displays and I never go near them or touch them.
playing the singing bowls
Digging a little into the history of Singing Bowls, I learned that these are classic instruments and meditation tools in Tibet but these are also known as Himalayan singing bowls.
If you haven’t seen or tried playing a Singing Bowl, drop by the Fu Dogs & Qi shop at the Marianas Business Plaza in Susupe.
Singing Bowls come in different sizes, shades of color and designs and they are priced based on their weight, size, and condition. It means that the bigger the Singing Bowl is, the higher the price.
My friend said that today, lots of people have Singing Bowls in their homes although not everybody believes in the spiritual traditions and religious practices.
People now are also using the Singing Bowl for meditation, trance-induction, relaxation, healthcare, and personal well-being.
When you are tired from a day’s work or just bored and needs to rewind, try playing a Singing Bowl and see what it will do to calm your soul.
This article was first published HERE

Mass cremation at the Marpi jungles

open cremation
Chosen as Story of the Week for JPG on September 22, 2011.
  First published at the Marianas Variety

THE silence of the damp morning air was broken by the crackling and hissing sound as dried pieces of wood caught fire from the lighted torches. Members of the Kuentai, a Japan-based non-profit organization whose goal is to return the remains of these dead soldiers to their homeland was starting the first ever mass cremation of the human remains of 575 Japanese soldiers who died in Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, during the bloody World War 2.
While the entire nation was recollecting the horrifying 9/11 events 10 years ago, the Japanese community in Saipan were also mourning for their soldiers who lost their lives.
But unlike that fateful day when their bodies were dumped and buried in a mass grave over 67 years ago, the skeletal remains that were recovered following months of excavation from different areas in Marpi were neatly piled and stacked on tin plates and placed on top of firewood.
Under the shade of a canopy, representatives of the Japanese community and local island officials honored the memory of the dead soldiers and offered flowers for the sacrifices that they gave. The atmosphere in the small clearing that was once an airport in Banadero, Marpi took on a surreal mood as the yellow and orange fires hungrily licked the firewood that would eventually reduce the pile of bones into ashes, the only remnants of the Japanese soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice during the battle.
Trying to overpower the strong smell of gasoline and the stench of burning bones, I went around in a blur, capturing the memories of the first open cremation I have ever witnessed on camera.
As the flames on each pile got hotter, the smoke got thicker and rose higher above the treetops surrounding the area. If you close your eyes you could almost see the souls of the dead soldiers rising up with the smoke from the bone piles.
547 sets of the soldiers' remains were unearthed from the mass grave the Kuentai group excavated in the village of Achugao, San Roque, Saipan, in May and June this year. 28 sets of skeletal remains have been excavated earlier and had been stored at the CNMI Historic Preservation Office and added to the latest number of human remains.
In a solemn ceremony, Yukio Tanabe, Envoy of the Japanese Government for the Recovery of the Remains in Saipan expressed his thanks to the members of the recovery mission, the CNMI government and the local people for the recovery of the remains of our soldiers on Saipan.
skeletal remains
Kuentai secretary general Usan Kurata said that the 575 recovered remains was like scratching the tip of the iceberg. Kurata said that there are still over 26,000 remains of Japanese soldiers on Saipan that they are hoping to excavate, cremate and give a proper burial in Japan.
The excavation and cremation raised quite a storm among locals, and especially from former U.S. soldiers who questioned the identity of the human remains, if all of the bones belonged to Japanese soldiers, safety concerns over holding an open air cremation, and other issues.
Kuentai said that the remains of Japanese soldiers cremated after proper identification procedures. The Kuentai Bereavement Group showed a 60-page report on the project done by archaeologists Randy A. Harper, Marilyn K. Swift and principal investigator Michael A. Fleming of the Swift and Harper Archaeological Resource Consulting where chronicles the processes they underwent before the excavations.
The report showed that three previous testing and data recovery programs were conducted in the area where the mass graves were located in Achugao, Tanapag in 1990, 1991 and 1995 and all the testing were in compliance with the U.S. 1935 Historic Sites Act, the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and the 1980 National Historic Preservation Act amendments as well as CNMI Public Laws 3-33 and 3-39 which pertain to the removal or treatment of human remains for historic preservation.
The archaeologists' report stated that the team dug a total of 77 trenches all over Marpi— 37 trenches from May 21-24 and 40 more trenches from June 27 to July 3 before the mass grave was finally located containing 547 sets of human remains. All the trench excavations were monitored by the archaeologists and the bones were identified to belong to Japanese soldiers.
The archaeologists also kept tallies of the number of skulls recovered and cross referenced with the total number of bones like femurs and tibias, to identify how many sets of human remains were recovered. The team retrieved a lot of items along with the skeletal remains from the mass graves including rifles or machine guns which the soldiers carried when they died, grenades, bayonets and knives, helmets, water canteens, a Japanese canister with medicine to counteract poison, belt buckles, buckets, wire, ribbed rebar, a mess cup, nails, metal braces, ammunition, ordnance, miscellaneous metals, and shrapnel.
The cremation was done at about 5 p.m. that day, and they had to wait till the ashes cooled enough to be placed in six different containers and flown off to Japan the next day.
I left the little clearing a couple of hours later, the memory of the hungry flames devouring the pile of the unknown soldiers' skeletons and the strong stench in the air etched into my memory forever. Some remnants of any bloody war could not just be blotted out easily.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Pancha is 2012 Saipan’s Next Top Chef

A DISH of pan-seared Certified Angus Beef bathed with shallots and peppered corn mango sauce got the nod of the judges and gave Marianas Resort & Spa section chef Emmanuel Pancha the title of Saipan’s Next Top Chef in a competition at the Pacific Islands Club on Saturday afternoon.
Emmanuel Pancha shows his winning dish. Photo by Raquel C. BagnolPancha’s dish, which also included a serving of potato pancakes with mascarpone on top and vegetable spaghetti, bested three other chefs.
“I did not expect to win but I am very happy,” Pancha said in an interview.
A dishwasher at the Marianas Resort 10 years ago, he got promoted as section chef five years after.
He said  he experimented with his entry a few weeks back, cooked samples of it and perfected the flavor and presentation.
Second place was Pacific Island sClub’s chef Joshua Ngeskebei while Jessie Aguon of the Hyatt finished third. The other participant was chef Nemencio Tulio of Fiesta Resort & Spa.
Event organizer Shelli Neal said more people turned up for this year’s event.
Another organizer, Vicky Benavente of the Pacific Islands Club, said “ticket sales went beyond our expectations, and we are very glad for the overall support we got from the community.”
Peter Duenas, Guam celebrity chef and event host, said  the competition was “great,” as it encouraged island chefs to use local ingredients and boost their morale.
He also noted that the competition was for a good cause and participating is rewarding in itself.
Duenas said the competition will be aired on his “TV Outdoor Chef” show’s next season.
The event was organized by the Empty Vessel Ministry Foundation to help raise funds to support low-income women, children, and families on Saipan, Kenya, the Philippines and Bangladesh.
Published HERE

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Castro wins 2012 Queen Marianas Gay crown

A CANDIDATE from Guam bagged the 2012 Queen Marianas Gay Pageant title after besting four other contestants in the Hibiscus Hall of Fiesta Resort & Spa on Saturday evening.
Scarlett CastroScarlett Castro, first runner up in the 2011 Miss Guahan pageant, also won the Best in Talent and Best in Lingerie awards.
“I am very happy and thankful my family and friends from Saipan and Guam came to the event to support me,” Castro said.
She said the competition was tough but she did her best. Castro was born on Saipan but relocated to Guam when she was five.
“I am always happy to be back home here,” she said.
Castro’s priorities are to help educate the people of the CNMI and Guam about the lifestyle of  gays, and to do what she can to combat domestic violence.
2012 Queen Marianas Gay Pageant first runner up was Leah Salas, also from Guam. She was named  Best in Girls Night Outfit and Evening Wear.
Prostee Lahore was named Miss Photogenic while Nina Camacho was Miss Congeniality.
The 2012 Queen Marianas Gay Pageant was hosted by Ge’la & Friends Production whose president is Elsa Nieto.  She said  she was happy with the turnout for the event.
“The pageant was a success, and we were able to deliver what we promised and that was a fun and entertaining evening,” Nieto said.
She said they will be making a donation to Guma Esperansa, which provides sanctuary, counseling and advocacy to  victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
“Ge’la and Friends would like to thank all of the sponsors and supporters to make this event a success. This is just the beginning of our journey to provide help and hope to those in need,” Nieto said.
The judges were Eulalia Villagomez, Tonnei Camacho, and Nida Deleon Guerrero.
The performers were Milkshake, the Party Rock Group and 2011 Queen Marianas Trinity Hufana from Guam.
Sponsors were Fiesta Resort & Spa, Pacific Islands Club, Saipan Ice & Water, Star Water Company, Islander Rent a Car, Marpac, Pacific Trading Company, National Office Supply, Duty Free Shoppers, Stickers Express Guam, Power 99, Saipan Music & Dance, Top Notch and Kevin’s Department Store.

First published HERE

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

5-Year Extension Requested For CNMI Immigration Federalization

‘Void of skilled labor’ when visa period expires raises concerns

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, June 27, 2012) – The Saipan Chamber of Commerce recommends another five-year extension of the federalization transition to prevent the loss of the islands’ human resources and save the ailing Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands’ (CNMI) economy.
The recommendation was based on a poll conducted among the chamber members in response to the request of the U.S. Government Accountability Office that they comment on any "uncertainty" they are facing as a result of the federalization of Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) immigration.
Chamber members believe that if an additional transition period were not to be granted, existing businesses would no longer be able to secure Commonwealth-only worker (CW-1) visas past Nov. 2014 for foreign national workers, and there would be a corresponding void of skilled labor no longer available thereafter within the commonwealth for businesses and essential services.
The transition period ends on Dec. 31, 2014.
Chamber president Douglas Brennan said regardless of the eventual date, the CNMI economy will suffer as a result of loss in human resources.
He said chamber members were "overwhelmingly consistent in attesting to the…uncertainty created with the approaching date…when all CW-1 visa holders would be ‘zeroed out,’ and companies employing CW-1 applicants in skilled positions would not be able to easily locate qualified replacements."
The chamber maintains that CW-1 visa holders have "an enormous position range in the CNMI — positions in management, business and finance, computer and math, engineering and architectural technicians, legal and educational occupations, entertainment, healthcare support, protective services, food preparation, maintenance, sales, office administration, farming and fishing, installation and repair, automotive, production and transportation — all part of the 11,739 CW-1 visa applications [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services] received for CNMI employers."
The chamber said its members believe that "the CNMI has been, and will continue to be, dependent upon foreign national employees to supplement the small numbers of U.S. local potential hires" in the commonwealth.
"This is in addition to the fact that there isn’t much training available in the CNMI for technical positions, which means the dependence will continue until a change in education evolves," the chamber added.
It noted that local employees leave the island for greener pastures once trained or after receiving their formal education.
The chamber said in the past five years, operations shrunk and the business customer base has decreased by over 25 percent.
At the end of the current transition period, without CW-1 visas, the economic meltdown will worsen, it added.
According to the chamber, "a startling example of the disruption that would be caused when CW-1 visas are eliminated would be in the case of the Commonwealth Healthcare Center [once] those CW-1 visas were no longer available."
CHC has a little over 100 nurses, and 90 percent of those nurses have been applied for CW-1 visas. None of those applications from the CHC have been processed and/or issued yet.
If those CW-1 visas were no longer available the hospital could not function and would stop serving those needing medical services, the chamber said.
CHC has the only real operating rooms in the CNMI. "Without nurses and attendants, everything stops," the chamber said.
If the U.S. Labor Department recommends ending the transition in 2014, a potential health threatening situation would unfold, the chamber added.
"It is also fair to say that without a functioning public healthcare center available for companies and their employees, CNMI residents would suffer. Further, future investment, the chamber’s sought-after retirement visa program and other new economic possibilities, are severely threatened with this healthcare ‘uncertainty’ that will surely occur should the transition period not be extended," the chamber said.

Published at the Marianas Variety and Pacific Pacific Islands Report

Friday, June 15, 2012

Freezing moments of daily life in the Marianas

HAVE you ever thought of how your copy of a daily newspaper comes into your hands? Or how a flat tire returns to normal so you can drive your vehicle again?
CNMI Museum of History & Culture executive director Robert Hunter and his mom Gloria Hunter at the Marianas Wide photo exhibit.
CNMI Museum of History & Culture executive director Robert Hunter and his mom Gloria Hunter at the Marianas Wide photo exhibit.
If you need a haircut or makeover, a visit to the beauty parlor solves it all. If you need to get around the island and you have no car, there are taxis  to take you to your destination. Go to a store and a salesclerk will be there to assist you.
Each of these everyday things that we all take for granted are possible because of real people with real lives.
For two weeks in August last year, renowned photographer and historian Dr. Dirk Spennemann made the rounds observing and capturing people from all walks of life on Saipan, Tinian and Guam, freezing moments of everyday life.
Spennemann covered a wide variety of subjects documenting the daily lives of people in the Marianas, both at work and at play.
All these moments are now available for free viewing in the exhibit “Marianas Wide,” which opened on Wednesday night at the CNMI Museum of History and Culture on Middle Road in Garapan.
Go over the images and see for yourself how Spennemann captured the everyday stories in  stores, churches, the night market, tourist sites, farms and a scrap metal shop, as well as other work places, at the cultural center and historical sites. You will meet familiar faces in these powerful images.
They tell stories about life and people in the Marianas. Spennemann crossed borders and cultural barriers in these snap shots, capturing Chamorros, Carolinians, Koreans, Japanese, Bangladeshis, Filipinos, Chinese and other islanders in Micronesia.
These images will be valuable parts of the history of the islands, giving future generations glimpses of what life was in the Marianas in the early years of the 21st century.
Photographer Dirk Spennemann shows the Widelux Panorama camera he used for the photos on exhibit at the CNMI Museum of History & Culture. Photos by Raquel C. Bagnol
Photographer Dirk Spennemann shows the Widelux Panorama camera he used for the photos on exhibit at the CNMI Museum of History & Culture. Photos by Raquel C. Bagnol
About the artist
Spennemann is an Australia-based photographer whose work explores the interaction of cultural expression, landscape and human experience through the medium of photography. He is associate professor of cultural heritage studies at Charles Sturt University in Albury, Australia.
Spennemann used a vintage 1960s Panon Widelux — one of those Japanese 35mm film cameras designed to reproduce a panoramic image covering 120 degrees, the same breadth of vision that the human eye normally sees.
Spennemann’s photographs have been exhibited in museums and galleries in Australia, Alaska, California and Saipan. Visit http://www.ausphoto.net to see more of Spennemann’s images.
Photographers, historians and community members attended yesterday’s opening of the exhibit, which will run until July 13. For more information, call the CNMI Museum at 664-2160.

First published HERE

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Consumers told to be alert for credit card fraud

CONSUMERS and businesses should learn to protect their credit cards, ATM cards and other access devices to avoid being victimized by fraud, U.S. Secret Service special agent Glen T. Peterson said.
U.S. Secret Service special agent Glen T. Peterson shows a counterfeit credit card to participants of the credit card and currency training session. Photo by Raquel C. Bagnol
U.S. Secret Service special agent Glen T. Peterson shows a counterfeit credit card to participants of the credit card and currency training session. Photo by Raquel C. Bagnol
In the credit card and currency training session he conducted in the Saipan Chamber of Commerce conference room last week, Peterson said more than 10,000 credit card transactions are made every second around the world and that credit card fraud cost banks about $1 billion each year.
E-merchants are also victims of credit card fraud, he added.
He said fraud rates outside the U.S. are higher and credit card fraud is usually done through skimming, hacking, phishing or scams as well as through lost, stolen or counterfeit credit cards.
Safety tips
Peterson said to prevent credit card fraud, retailers must be aware of policies, procedures and security features.
Warning signs to watch for: a customer offering a credit card but refusing to offer identification; the name of the credit card is different from the identification card; the card is unsigned’ the signature appears different than the identification; the card has already expired.
Peterson said retailers should use a UV black light to detect the holograms in the credit cards, the embossing, the magnetic stripe for the Uniform Commercial Code and the signature panel. Counterfeit cards usually lack these security features.
Consumers are also urged to secure credit cards and PIN numbers, limit skimming possibilities and report lost or stolen cards immediately. They should not  leave cards unattended, must not respond to unsolicited email that request you to provide sensitive information like date of birth, Social Security number, bank account information and other personal information.
 First published HERE