Officials celebrate native culture, CNMI as melting pot

Government officials yesterday celebrated the islands’ cultural diversity and urged the preservation of the unique traditions and customs of Chamorros and Carolinians as the CNMI celebrates Commonwealth Cultural Day today.

It marks the ninth year the CNMI is celebrating the holiday. Public and private schools, government agencies, and banks are closed today in commemoration of the former Columbus Day.

“The administration wishes everyone in the CNMI a wonderful Commonwealth Cultural Day as we individually or collectively express and share with each others our unique cultures and traditions,” said Gov. Eloy S. Inos’ acting press secretary Ivan Blanco in an email.

House Speaker Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) seconded the administration’s call for respecting all races and their unique cultures. At the same time, he urged the native people of the CNMI to continue to perpetuate and cultivate their own traditions and customs.

“As we embrace our own individual cultures, it’s also a good time to acknowledge the diversity of culture in our islands,” he said in a phone interview.

He also said he’s glad that the CNMI chose to replace Columbus Day with Commonwealth Cultural Day in 2006.

“Columbus didn’t discover us. It would’ve been Magellan Day [if we didn’t opt for Commonwealth Cultural Day],” he said in jest.

Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-Saipan), meanwhile, championed the preservation of the CNMI’s Chamorro and Carolinian cultures in his message to the community.

“From the freedom of expression we all feel when speaking our indigenous language, to the great strength we all find in our family ties, our Commonwealth culture remains central to our lives today and every day. I wish everyone the best on Commonwealth Cultural Day and urge us all to respect and preserve our unique and ancient heritage.”

According to the 2010 CNMI Census, the Northern Marianas is home to over 15,000 Chamorros and Carolinians, more than 3,000 Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, more than 3,000 Chinese, over 19,000 Filipinos, more than 2,000 Koreans, and nearly 2,000 citizens of other Asian countries.

Columbus Day was renamed Commonwealth Cultural Day, pursuant to Public Law 15-4 that was enacted in April 2006. This law, which renamed Columbus Day, also declared Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a legal holiday in the CNMI, and combined the Jan. 9 Commonwealth Day and March 24 Covenant Day into the Commonwealth Covenant Day.

Columbus Day is a legal holiday commemorating the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1492. It is observed by most states on the second Monday of October.

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at Mark_Rabago@saipantribune.com

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