13 fishermen commemoration aids in recovery


Florence Selepeo’s brother was one of 13 fishermen aboard the M/V Olwol that was lost at sea 30 years ago. She has since learned to re-channel her grief by honoring Sylvester’s memory, along with the rest of his fellow fishermen who were lost at sea in 1987 by helping organize an annual commemoration ceremony at the 13 Fishermen’s Monument along Beach Road.

Selepeo was once again at it last Saturday, gathering with the families of these men at the monument to honor their memory. She said the annual ceremony has helped her find peace within herself. For years, Selepeo has struggled to move on from the loss of her brother and many of her other relatives.

“I have since come to accept it,” she said. “We have to let go.”

A factor that has helped Selepeo and many of the victims’ families was transforming the traditional memorial ceremony into a sort of celebration ceremony.

“It really helped and it opened up the door for others to partake,” she said.

For 29 years, the ceremony was only open to the families of the deceased fishermen but they have since opened it up to the community. Selepeo believes this is the way it should be—that the fishermen be celebrated and the community be welcomed to join.

According to Selepeo, a traditional Mass was held in the fishermen’s honor but it was held last Sunday at the Chalan Kanoa Cathedral.

The 13 fishermen had set off for a fishing expedition to the Northern Islands on Sept. 23, 1986. Besides Selepeo, the other fishermen were Joseph T. Lisua, Martin L. Saures, Pedro L. Mettao, Joseph R. Kaipant, Benusto M. Lisua, Juan Benusto R. Olopai, Isidro R. Romolor, Jovencio C. Falguera, Joaquin L. Moteisou, Jose T. Igisaiar, Enrique L. Moteisou, and Guillermo Saures.

Their names were carved into the monument along Beach Road. Two other names of fishermen, Emilio T. Lisua and Antonio S. Fitial, were also etched on the monument since they passed away that same day.

Saturday’s ceremony also honored the memory of late representative Jesus P. Mafnas who donated the monument.

Selepeo also said the ceremony honors the memory of Sue Mafnas, the wife of late representative Jesus Mafnas, after passing away just weeks before the memorial ceremony.

The ceremony started off with a prayer, laying of mwars and flowers on the monument by the family members of the deceased, and then a feast for the family members of the deceased and for all who were present at the ceremony last Saturday.

Kimberly Bautista Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Bautista Esmores has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.

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