The inaugural Marianas Trench Fishing & Seafood Festival aims to get the people of the CNMI back to eating more products from the sea like the different varieties of edible fish found in the waters that surround the islands.
KKMP radio host Gary Sword, one of the event organizers, said they are hoping to promote the benefits of seafood especially to the younger generation. “Traditionally, Pacific islanders are fishermen. So it is better for us to enjoy the bountiful fruits of the sea.”
“We’re hoping this event would help people get back to before where eating fish was part of every meal. Fish is a nutritious, tasty, and good food,” said Sword, who added that fish and other seafood could be cooked and prepared in a variety of ways for everyone to enjoy.
Increasing awareness in taking care of the ocean is also part of the event’s goals. “We must keep the ocean clean. It is the fish’s habitat. If you throw your trash there in the ocean and the fish eats it, somehow you’re eating trash.”
Sword said their original plan was to have the festival as a side event of this year’s 32nd Saipan International Fishing Derby held last weekend. “But there are rules and regulation at the American Memorial Park so we decided to hold it one week after.”
“And judging from the crowd’s reception, people want this kind of thing. It can stand on its own and we could either hold it before or after the fishing derby. It will be another event that the community could look forward to every year,” he added.
“We are thankful for the community who came out and supported us, and to all the sponsors that helped us in organizing this event. KKMP is a radio station of the people, they support us and we support them.”
He added Hawaii has been doing the event for seven years now and he thought of doing it on Saipan after he visited the 50th state of U.S. three years ago. “It took us four months to plan this. We’re hoping to have a bigger and better event for next year.”
Different varieties of fish were also on display like yellow fin tuna, blue marlin, dogtooth tuna, jabfish, and gindai. A cooking contest was also held with contestants must have their own version of poki and one signature dish for the open category.
Patrick Cepeda won the amateur chef category to bring home the $300 cash prize, while Hyatt Regency Saipan’s Jonathan Borja and Kevin Patubol ruled the master chef division and shared the $300 champion’s purse.
“We thank chef Ty [Pauling] and Gabriel [Colombo] for convincing us to compete,” said Borja, one of the products of the Northern Marianas Trades Institute. Both he and Patubol are cooks at Kili Café.
Kanoa Resort’s Romeo Cabrera and Sonny Encarnacion came in second, while Naked Fish Bar & Grill’s Orly Abiera came in third. John Reyes did not compete but just let people taste his “Fantasy” fish dish and received a special award.
“This is a recipe that was passed on by my father, who got it from my grandfather, who then learned it from my great grandfather. It was handed down from generation to generation,” said Reyes, who used yellow fin and kamias that is sometimes used to cooking sinigang.
“I’m now 67 years old and I learned how to fish when I was 7 since traditionally Chamorro boys are taught how to fish. I just joined here so I could let people taste my dish that we learned from my great grandparents.”
JDN band—composed of Nolas Caliga, Dan Laniyo, and Nolas Caliga (Joe Takai was also a member but was not present last Saturday)—the MACPS (Manatigu Cultural Production Petlas Marianas Sinmiya Lina’la), Uncle Ben’s Studio, and Boiz2mix provided entertainment.
The Department of Commerce’s Alcoholic Beverage & Tobacco Control and Small Business Development Center are the event’s sponsors with Kanoa Resort, Best Sunshine, Wespac, the Bureau of Environmental & Coastal Quality, Department of Lands and Natural Resources, Division of Youth Services, the Department of Public Safety (Boating Safety and NHTSA-CIOT), Northern Marianas College-Cooperative Research Extension and Education Services, Division of Public Health (BIBA, Emergency Response Team, and NCD Bureau), Marianas Visitors Authority, Express Financial, Bridge Capital, Mariana Islands Nature Alliance, and the Community Guidance Center-Crisis Counseling Program as partners.