Occasionally, I would visit families and friends in the villages to get a feel of the pulse of our community. Some would mask their sentiments but most have given me their straightforward expressions or the entire nine yards.
On either side, you could feel the anger and troubled thoughts in their blank faces and voices. It’s a voice I would steer clear of if I were an incumbent politician. The hardship is such that even in festive family gatherings, siblings come close to blows when they talk about pension cuts, health insurance, power bills, and other skyrocketing costs that have robbed families of their buying power. Woe!
I would head home mentally rewinding issues discussed, people in the discussion, and the origin of the hardship spewing out of their mouths.
The divisive casino issue enlisted the most reactions, especially among retirees. Half don’t care about the long-term negative effects of Speedy Gonzales casino legislation for as long as they are paid their 25 percent.
Power bills come in tandem with health cost. A near third is the spike in basic food items. The hardship is nailed to its coffin with stagnant wages for over 10 years.
The discussions reach fever pitch emotion; it’s useless injecting any rational discussion. How do you talk sense to retirees who got hit heaviest in umpteen ways that emptied what’s left in family pocketbooks?
How do you navigate the fate of a retiree who was illegally denied 25 percent of his pension? Add the 40-percent increase in health insurance, $500 to $1,000 in deductibles and 40-percent spike in medication.
Put in the power bills and other family obligations, including real estate loans and insurance, etc. He’s left with nothing but his check stub. What if he’s also helping kids in off-island colleges and universities? It isn’t doubly hard but a financial impossibility. Call it misery in forced destitution. What legacy from a half-cocked leadership!
This is the pulse of our community throughout the entire pearly isles of the NMI. If it’s hard on Saipan, it’s even harder on Tinian and Rota. This is the time when leadership is needed to ease the hardship in the villages.
Sadly, it’s nonexistent! I’d like to hear what suspect leadership has to offer the very people it has neglected for a long, long a time. Empty promises simply means we will empty you out of the ballot boxes this November. No mas!
Class of 2014, ‘15’, ‘16
In three months time, we would see the Class of 2014 march through pomp and circumstance. Each student must have anxiously dreamed of “the day after” tassels are turned, heading off beyond campuses. What would that day be? Will it be a hopeful one or uncertainty?
Will it be college or a job search? Would they ably pay for college tuition and other obligations? If they wish to take a break from academia to help out mom and dad, would they be able to find jobs locally? But I’m sure each would have some fair idea which side of the forked road to take.
For those who move on, what happens to them upon graduation from college? Would returning home be advantageous as they begin plans of their own to live in the community? Would there be suitable jobs for them beyond the government sector? Or would it not be better seeking greener pastures across the country?
Again, the future of young scholars and the expectation that they return and help out in the NMI goes back to crafting meaningful plan from start to completion. We have four years to plan for their return home. The prevailing “sink or swim” attitude doesn’t foster hope for them returning home four years from now.
High school 46 years ago
About 46 years ago, Hopwood’s Class of 1968 proudly intoned its theme song, Climb Every Mountain, and sang it with enthusiasm in pomp and circumstance. Our graduation exercise came immediately following Superstorm Jean. She pummeled the island and left it in total ruins, literally.
The next day, we lined up for breakfast at the Oleai Elementary School field kitchen, emplaced by the military to help islanders regroup. It must be the gift for our graduating class—something to eat—when nothing else works. Imagine rebuilding on our own when everything turns into trash, i.e., breadfruit and bananas slammed in umpteen ways or farm-raised animals killed by the superstorm. It would have been one long scorching summer.
We are ever grateful for all our teachers from grammar to high school. They patiently showed us that there’s the torch we must carry forward into the hands of the next generation. I think we’ve successfully accomplished it and grateful too for our contributions, modest they may be.
1968 was a setback for the entire island. Our folks collected what materials they could scrounge from the old house slammed into scattered piles. It was one time when hammers echo into the wee hours of the morning, non-stop. Slowly, life returned to normalcy.
The Class of ’68 took its place in our communities, though more than half is gone. It was a journey worth all the troubles and rewards. Make the best of it as we immerse ourselves in what’s known as the Golden Years. We only pass through this valley once. Didn’t we Climb Every Mountain?
John DelRosario Jr. is a former publisher of the Saipan Tribune and a former secretary of the Department of Public Lands.