Commonwealth bids farewell at funeral
Fr. James Balajadia says the final benediction and prayers, while police officers stand at attention over the late governor Eloy S. Inos’ coffin at the Chalan Kanoa cemetery yesterday during Inos funeral. (Dennis B. Chan)

Fr. James Balajadia says the final benediction and prayers, while police officers stand at attention over the late governor Eloy S. Inos’ coffin at the Chalan Kanoa cemetery yesterday during Inos funeral. (Dennis B. Chan)

The late governor Eloy Songao Inos was laid to rest yesterday, Jan. 12, at the Chalan Kanoa cemetery after a day of mourning and final tribute at the Mount Carmel Cathedral.

The Commonwealth bid farewell to the only governor to have passed away while in office. Inos died last Dec. 29 due to complications from diabetes. He was 66.

Inos’ funeral took place exactly a year after he was sworn in as governor last year January. Those who paid tribute yesterday remembered his kindness, generosity, and desire to learn, listen, and work tirelessly to make the Commonwealth a better place to live, now and for future generations.

At around 7:30 yesterday morning, a motorcade bearing family members accompanied Inos’ hearse from the Borja Funeral Home in Oleai to the Mount Carmel Cathedral. Inos’ casket, draped in the Commonwealth flag, was taken inside to a crowd of family members and officials. A public visitation period was opened from morning up to early afternoon for people to visit Inos where he lay in front of the altar.

Inos finished high school at Mount Carmel School and later graduated cum laude at the University of Guam. Singing the school’s anthem, members of the MCS Class of 1967 said their goodbyes to their classmate around 1:38pm yesterday.

Lawmakers, Cabinet members, and off-island dignitaries—including Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo, former Guam governor Felix Camacho, Vice Presidet Yosiwo George of the Federated States of Micronesia, Yap Lt. Gov. James Yangetmai, and Office of Insular Affairs Assistant Secretary Esther Kia-aina—also paid their final respects yesterday afternoon.

Distraught or solemn, officials and family members stood in front of the casket to say their prayers, speak directly to Inos, or reach down over him as if in embrace as they said their goodbye.

A steady procession of people from a cross-section of CNMI society and of all kinds of nationalities streamed into the cathedral from morning to afternoon, forming two long lines that stretched from the entrance to the altar to pay their respects and convey their grief to the family.

At 3:15 pm, Inos’ children, siblings and relatives bid their final goodbyes and Inos’ casket was closed. A large Bible and rosary beads were laid on top of the casket, after it was brought into position in the middle of the aisle.

Rep. Angel Demapan (R-Saipan) gave a eulogy and a Mass of Christian burial was held.

At 5pm, the cathedral’s bells tolled and a few minutes later, guests in the cathedral filed outside, standing at the sides of the church and near the road as Inos’ casket was led out.

The community then followed the line of pallbearers and color guard carrying and leading Inos’ casket to the Chalan Kanoa cemetery. It was a quiet walk and the late afternoon sun warm and the air cool.

Around 5:30pm, Inos casket was carried into the cemetery, and a few minutes later police officers carrying the casket was placed on its final resting place.

Fr. James Balajadia made the final benediction and prayers, the officers removed and folded the Commonwealth flag that had been draped Inos’ coffin, and officers standing several yards away gave a 21-gun salute.

Family and the community tossed flowers and laid wreaths on Inos’ casket as it was lowered into the ground, women with ukuleles sang melodies that included the CNMI anthem.

By 6pm, slabs of concrete were lifted and were sealed over Inos casket. By then, most funeral guests, except for close family and friends, had filed away.

Remembering Inos

Inos was remembered yesterday for devoting himself to a life of service for more than three decades. His hard work, his ethics, his mastery of accounting and “can-do attitude” were cited for propelling him through the ranks of government as one who stabilized and monitored the finances of the Commonwealth.

Inos was known for his positive outlook and energy that “made you feel safe,” calm, and secure, said Demapan in his eulogy. Lifting austerity measures and safeguarding the NMI Retirement Fund system from collapse were some of the solutions he sought to find as he led the Commonwealth through some of its most trying times. 

Inos sought to tackle these monumental tasks because he wanted to restore the people’s confidence in their government, Demapan said. And because he wanted everyone to be proud of the islands they call home.

“Governor Inos loved ribbon-cutting ceremonies,” said Dempan. “And it wasn’t because of the photo-ops and good press that came with it. He loved it because every ribbon cut was a symbol of getting things done. He would always tell us that his favorite tools were the pen, the shovel, and the scissor. For him, these stood for the plan, the action, and the result.”

Demapan said Inos will go down as a key figure in the economic development of the islands, who saw ways to jumpstart a stagnant economy when other only saw limitations ahead.

“Everyone knows the work that this true statesman has done for us and our Commonwealth,” Demapan said. “We wake up to it every day.”

Inos was also a man of many “firsts.” On Nov. 4, 1986, the Covenant Agreement between the United States and the Northern Mariana Islands—which established the U.S. and CNMI relationship—became fully effective. Two days later, in a commemorative ceremony in Washington, D.C., a 37-year-old Inos became the first from the CNMI to receive a U.S. passport.

“Who would’ve known that 27 years later, that same person would become chief executive of this United States Commonwealth?” Demapan said.

Inos was also elected to the first Saipan and Northern Islands Municipal Council, where he was also elected chairman. In April of 2009, then Secretary of Finance Inos became the first person in the CNMI to be appointed lieutenant governor and seven months later, was elected by the people to continue serving as lieutenant governor. In February 2013, Inos became the first lieutenant governor to be elevated to the position of governor. Nearly two years later, Inos went on to win the overwhelming confidence of the people to continue serving as governor, making him the first and only person to fill the top two positions in government by ascension before subsequently being elected to fill them.

Demapan echoed President Barack Obama in calling Inos a tireless advocate.

“…No matter how painful he was feeling, he worked tirelessly in pursuit of a better Commonwealth for all of us. If he found himself in the hospital, it didn’t mean it was break time. He’d constantly call us at the office asking for all kinds of documents and files that he needed to review.”

During a trip to Hawaii once, Demapan recalled hearing news that his mother had passed away. Inos told him that he had to go home right away. And as Demapan was on the phone to call to have a ticket booked, Inos dropped his credit card in front of Demapan and told him to change his flight too. Inos was supposed to get treatment in a Hawaii hospital the next day, Demapan said, and he objected, but Inos said, “No, we’re going back home.”

“We’re going back home if it means I am going to chew on ice cubes the whole flight,” said Demapan, recalling the late governor’s words.

“…To take that plane ride with me,” said Demapan, “even if it meant one day overdue. Gov. Inos was one of a kind.”

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at

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