It was a bright and sunny day as thousands of community members came together to take part in yesterday's 67th Liberation Day festivities, with calls from key leaders and organizers to remember the war veterans, active duty military members, and other heroes whose services and sacrifices made possible the freedom that the CNMI and the rest of the nation enjoy today.
Wednesday's celebration kicked off at exactly 10am, when the Liberation Day Parade made its way toward the festival grounds at the Garapan Fishing Base from its starting point at National Office Supply.
Saipan Mayor Donald G. Flores and 2012 Liberation Day Committee chair Jonas Barcinas were on foot to lead several dignitaries, government agencies, ethnic and non-profit organizations that joined the parade.
David Mangarero Sablan, who was chosen as this year's grand marshal, looked debonair in his suit as he waved to the crowd aboard a silver, convertible Mustang. A survivor of the Battle of Saipan, Sablan is a well-known entrepreneur and community advocate and has recently received the Rotarian of the Year award.
Following the grand marshal was the lovely 2011 Liberation Queen Joni Francesca C. Castro, who was with her two young assistants on another convertible Mustang.
The cavalcade of participants moved along with much fanfare as other groups came into view: the thunderous motorcycles of the Matua Riders and Guam Hogs; the Color Guards and JROTC teams of public high schools; U.S. Navy; Commonwealth Utilities Corp.; CNMI Boy Scouts; Man'amko King & Queen; Family Violence Task Force, including the Ayuda Network, Karidat, and the Northern Marianas Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence; Division of Youth Services; Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws group; Public Health; Saipan Awaodori Team; Palau Community Association Youth; Center for Living Independently in the CNMI; Joeten-Kiyu Public Library; Falun Dafa; Foremost; Coca-Cola; Northern Mariana Islands Football Association; and Disturbed Rides.
The groups were followed by eight floats, five of which competed in the float contest. (See related story). They were the Eugene A. Borja (Lancheros) of As Teo; Marianas High School Lancheros led by agriculturist Isidoro T. Cabrera; CAB Cultural Dancers; United Filipino Organization joined by the Saipan Music & Dance Studio; Return of Chinaman; Homeland Security and Customs Service units and vehicles; KKMP together with the Domatsuri Japanese group and the Japanese Society of Saipan; the Korean community composed of visiting dance groups Sobaek Dance Theatre, Song Mi Sook Dance Company, Lee Jae Jung Dance Company, Sang Myung University Nam Jin Hee Modern Dance Company, Ryu Dance Company, BJ Dance Company, Woo Suk University Dance Company, and Ye Hwa, Dance Company; and the 2012 Liberation Queen and Royal Court.
Each group was given several minutes to perform for the spectators by the JP Center where KSPN News did its live coverage of the event, and in front of the makeshift stage by the Kristo Rai Church where dignitaries where seated.
Parade committee chair Donald Crisostomo said that except for the big gap because of the performances of the large contingent from Korea, they did not have any issues during the event. He thanked all participants for paying attention to instructions to facilitate traffic flow.
The crowd was evidently smaller this year, with fewer tents set up along Beach Road and less viewers who didn't have to scramble for a better vantage point.
The spectacle proceeded to the festival grounds, where the program proper hosted by LJ Castro took place.
Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, in his remarks, said that while the rest of the nation celebrates its Independence Day, the island community gathers each year to celebrate the gift of freedom and the “blood, sweat, and tears” sacrificed by many to win the battle for Saipan
He said that the theme “Enlightening our Culture, Courage, Freedom & Unity” enjoins the public to recall the importance of fostering a prosperous future by learning from the past.
“As citizens of this nation, we remain ever so proud of our heritage, indebted for our liberty, and certain of our future. Our nation and our Commonwealth remain proud to continue carrying the torch of freedom. We continue to place our trust in the protections of divine providence. We pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor to the defense of freedom,” said Fitial.
Capt. Richard A. Rainer Jr. of the U.S. Navy, for his part, assured the public of the Navy's commitment to defend freedom and democracy by protecting the nation and its oceans.
“We are proud to contribute to the local economy and are proud to serve as a 'global force for good' in the finest Navy in the world,” he added.
Rainer also recognized war veteran Marven Avilla, who was on stage among the dignitaries, and the family and friends of the late Derry D. Noisom, who recently passed away. He said the two are examples of military personnel who deserve credit for their service and sacrifice.
The 2012 Liberation Queen, Lydee Rose Sablan Pangelinan, during her address, shared how honored she is for her title. She related her experience, which she described as akin to “a car running on an empty tank.”
Pangelinan said that during her journey leading to her crown, she was with an “amazing” group of girls who were equally dedicated, motivated, and hardworking. She recognized her family and friends, her support group adviser, and sponsors for their contribution to her success.
In an interview, Mayor Flores said he is elated with the success of this year's parade. “It's the community that enjoyed our festivities the most.”
Flores and chair Barcinas agreed that the drug and alcohol-free rule for the Liberation festivities was effective. According to Barcinas, this would help raise awareness in the community and find solutions to diseases that have become a huge concern for many residents.
The celebration was also broadcast live through KKMP radio station.