Sacrifice worth it for Pagan ‘castaways’

Former representative Cinta Kaipat, front center, joins members of the group that went to Pagan and got stranded for a few days on one of the CNMI’s northernmost islands after their arrival at the Saipan seaport. (Contributed Photo)

Former representative Cinta Kaipat, front center, joins members of the group that went to Pagan and got stranded for a few days on one of the CNMI’s northernmost islands after their arrival at the Saipan seaport. (Contributed Photo)

Celia K. Selepeo and Sylvan Tudela, both part of a 20-member group that became stranded on Pagan for close to a week, said they were glad that no untoward incident happened during their brief “vacation” in one of the CNMI’s northernmost islands.

Selepeo and Tudela along with former Pagan residents, AP photojournalist Daniel Lin, representatives from nonprofit group Earthjustice, and other members of environmental organizations went to the island to see firsthand its biodiversity. They went on the nearly 200-nautical mile journey north aboard Super Emerald.

Tudela owns Chelu Photos and his staff—Diego Kaipat and Gus Castro—went with him to Pagan to film the documentary “Too Beautiful To Bomb.” They envision the documentary would promote Pagan and raise awareness to protest the U.S. military’s plans of creating a live fire training range facility.

The group left Saipan on Aug. 10 and was supposed to be back on Aug. 13 but strong winds and heavy rain caused by tropical storms Conson and Chanthu delayed their trip back. The low pressure area and the monsoon flow also added to their problems.

“Keli [Tenorio] who was in charge of the trip was in constant communication with her husband Norman on Saipan. The winds started picking up so we discussed and decided to stay put to wait the storm out,” Selepeo told Saipan Tribune.

“Super Emerald captain Bob Taguchi was forced to cut the anchor out and moved to the other side of the island to find shelter. We thought that we’re going to lose the boat but there was no mishap. The boat [captain] tried to find shelter and [they] hid there for a couple of days,” said Selepeo, who added their only line of communication was Lin’s satellite phone.

She said Lin, Earthjustice, and another group from California were surprised to see how beautiful Pagan was. “We went up there to show them where the military wants to make exercises. They learned that pagan is a beautiful place.”

“We’re going to try to do whatever we can to fight for Pagan. We’re going to make sacrifices for her since she’s for the people. It was a never tiring adventure and we all get together and laughed every night,” added Selepeo.

Tudela, meanwhile, said he and his documentary crew worked for two days in getting footage that would help them piece together the documentary. “We shot most of our footage in the first two days. We set up everything the first day.”

“Once we settled down, we did some drone shots on the two lagoon beaches. The next day we went out and hiked to different parts of the islands with Gus Castro as one of our guides,” added Tudela, who is the documentary’s director of photography. A nonprofit group is funding the documentary.

Rain, rain, and more rain

Tudela said they took refuge at Northern Islands Mayor Jerome Aldan’s house where they had to board up the windows and fix the door to keep them dry from the pouring rain. “The first night we were outside and kind of weathered the first part of the rain.”

“The next day, it was not getting better, and we decided we should get inside the house. When the rains stopped the following day, we fixed the house since the windows don’t have any covers and the door was open. We worked to shield us from the rain.”

He added that the tarp that they brought was not enough to keep them dry. “Our biggest problem was the rain, and there were lots of it. The first two days was kind of okay but it got worst after that.”

They collected rainwater using their empty water bottles since they were running low on drinkable water, other people caught wild pigs for food, and other members of the group cut wood and prepared the meat to smoke it.

MV Luta to rescue us

Selepeo said Norman Tenorio tried his best to find another ship or any vessel that was big enough to travel under the bad weather and rescue them in Pagan.

He got a hold of Lt. Gov. Victor B. Hocog and asked him if he could talk to the U.S. Coast Guard to allow the cargo vessel MV Luta to set sail and pick up the group.

“Norman’s plan went smoothly. The MV Luta was given clearance as the weather improved. We were picked up on Aug. 18 and got back on Saipan on Aug. 19,” said Selepeo.

“We’re very thankful for all their help and dedication to keep us safe. Their effort to send a ship that would sail despite the bad weather is truly good thing. We are very thankful to the crew of MV Luta,” she added.

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Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez has been covering local and international sports events for more than 15 years. His sports writing career started when he joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, when he was in college.

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  • captain

    So just what, WHY is Cinta getting into the center of this “photo op”?
    And what about Super Emerald? What happened to that vessel?

    But at any rate I hope this “documentary” will prove to be a help to keep the Military from bombing Pagan.

    • peter kang

      WHY, you have a problem with cinta, she was the one who ask for money to fund this expedition. i know, i was there. hate all you want, we honestly don’t give a sh*t what you think.

      • Tautamona

        Peter, Eat the big one, will ya?

        • jun

          Be nice chelu. Don’t lower yourself to their level.

          • Tautamona

            Thanks Jun, I do tend to get carried away at times! Good to hear from you and hope that you are well.

      • captain

        Well good for her. Yes I do have a problem with Cinta and some others (not on this expedition) And because I have a problem with her or/and some others (not associated with this group) does not reflect hate, it is people like you that do not have any common sense and attempt to attack anyone that has a legitimate question that just shows how immature, ignorant and down right brain dead you actually are.
        This also give some other negative or questionable comments very good substance to believe in the negativity of this trip along with ulterior motives that have been expressed by others.

        Grow up clown. this type of aggressive approach is why you will never result in anything or be able to hold a steady job unless it is a political appointed do nothing position. You should fit in well with the rest of the uneducated losers spread out within this Govt..Past and present.

        • peter kang

          if only you know how much i have disdain for this goverment will you ever know how i feel for what is happening for the past years you ever know how i feel for you will never know.

      • jun

        Yes, we do give a sh*t what captain thinks. Great mentality and no respect to others opinion. Maybe your ideas are the only way in our society. Is this what your group advocate? No respect to other individuals if they don’t agree on your agendas.

        • peter kang

          what you give is your nose up someones hole.

      • Tautamona

        Keep eating that big one Peter, it will not fill a mouth such as yours!

        • peter kang

          keep on with your side since you can take it in any hole.

  • agnosic1

    >>“He got a hold of Lt. Gov. Victor B. Hocog and asked him if he could talk to the U.S. Coast Guard to allow the cargo vessel MV Luta to set sail and pick up the group.”

    In the Continental United States you’re paying a hefty fine for jerking around the US Coast Guard. So how much money does this group now owe the US?

  • Tinalakattne Yantitiyas

    Pagan not being destroyed by US Mil and safety of the group is bigger than the MV Luta issue. We must unite on keeping US Mil “hands off” of Pagan and be very inquisitive and holding US Mil responsible in regards to Tinian. In unison, one strong voice that is needed to keep our islands intact and be there for our future generations. Biba Marianas!

  • Tautamona

    I can’t believe you ate the whole thing! Ha, ha, ha.

    • peter kang

      i didn’t believe you swallow.

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