Humanities Council honors cultural heroes

The Northern Marianas Humanities Council recognized five individuals who continue to work in preserving the culture and values of the Commonwealth, in last Thursdauy’s 21st Governor’s Humanities Awards at the Giovanni’s at the Hyatt Regency Saipan. Gov. Ralph DLG Torres helped in handing out the awards along with NMHC executive director Leo Pangelinan, board chair Polly Masga, and member Frankie Eliptico.

CNMI historian Don Farrell (Research and Publication in the Humanities), Gordon Marciano (Preservation of Traditional Cultural Practices), Galvin Deleon Guerrero (Preservation of CNMI History), Victor Cabrera (Outstanding Humanities Teacher, classroom setting), and Cecilio Raiukiulipiy (OHT, non-classroom setting) were the recipients of the said awards.

The NMHC also recognized former executive director Scott Russell with the Lifetime Achievement Award in the Humanities and former board member, from May 2012 to May 2018, Mike White a special commendation for his contribution in advancing the humanities in the Commonwealth. Motherread/Fatherread Literacy Program coordinator Beth Demapan honored their former head Viola S. Deleon Guerrero for her years of service.

Saipan Southern High School senior Jeremiah Fernandez also delivered his winning piece in the 15th Annual Sengebau Poetry Awards titled Listen CNMI while Dandan Middle School seventh grader Oceana Teigita, who was a Team CNMI member in last year’s National Junior Speech and Debate Association national finals, recited the written piece of Velentine Sengebau “Searching.”

Farrell, a longtime educator, was recognized documenting the history of the CNMI and has recently published two books about the Commonwealth—Tinian and the Bomb, and Modern History of the Northern Mariana Islands—that could be used by future generations.

He said that he has spent a lot in working with the two books and the result of which is his labor of love. “I’m passionate on what I’ve been doing in the last 40 years now. And, as I’ve said before, I enjoy it very much.

Farrell then challenged the youth to someday begin writing the Carolinian side of the CNMI’s history. “There is one shortage, in the record of the history of the Marianas, and it would certainly help future historians do a better job of writing the history of the Marianas.

“Particularly the history of Saipan, that would be for some courageous young Carolinian to write the Carolinian history of Saipan. I hope someone would step forward with that challenge.”

Deleon Guerrero has combined his love for education and films with one of the results is the Mount Carmel School production of We Drank Our Tears: Rafael Mafnas’s Story. The movie won the Best of Festival award in the 8th Annual Guam International Film Festival.

He thanked Torres for being there to hand out the awards, which showed his strong support for the Humanities. “Your presence makes [the awards ceremony] more special. It speaks volumes for your support for the Humanities.”

Deleon Guerrero also thanked NMHC and the other people that supported their film project, including when it was written into a book 15 years ago and up to when they presented it to a motion picture that also involved MCS students Rafael Mafnas, Justin Ocampo, and Angelo Manese.

He also thanked Benjamin Abadilla, Francisco Babauta, Rafael Mafnas, and all World War II survivors in the CNMI whom the stories were based. “As we prepare to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII battles here on Tinian and Saipan, their stories are three of the many stories of survival.”

“It is an honor to keep their memories alive and to introduce it to a new generation of people who are, like you said governor, we need to remember our past.”

Cabrera, a Hopwood Middle School teacher, has been using a non-traditional method of having his students learn about gardening and raising animals as part of sustainability in our community. He has a business background and a 14-year teaching experience in the local Public School System.

“I’m hoping that though my unconventional methods, we can bring back the whole gardening idea. A lot of us here grew up in farms, it is not necessary a big one. But gardening, we were able to have additional subsistence to our homes as we eat the work that we put in. I’m hoping that the upcoming generations we hope to bring that back part of our culture.”

Raiukiulipiy has been sailing for over 35 years learning the traditional method under the guidance of master navigator Mau Piailug in Satawal in Yap State in the Federated States of Micronesia. His traditional voyaging methods have brought him to Hawaii, the CNMI, Japan, Australia, Guam, and the Philippines.

“Our skills and knowledge from our ancestors are very important and we need to pass it on to our community, especially the children. We needed to present all these skills, the skills that our ancestors have been using that are still needed today. These skills are very important,” said Raiukiulipiy.

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.

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