The 14th Annual Valentine Sengebau Poetry Competition hosted by the Northern Marianas Humanities Council highlighted the indigenous culture of the CNMI, its loss of identity, and its politics.
A total of 30 students from junior high and high school went on stage at the American Memorial Park Visitors Center theater last Tuesday night to showcase their interpretation of the pieces that they chose from Valentine Sengebau’s book of poetry, Microchild.
In keeping with the competition theme, the performers chose poems that focused on the CNMI’s indigenous culture, the loss of cultural identity on the islands, and even politics in the CNMI.
According to Humanities Council executive director Scott Russell, the students who take part in the competition only get better each passing year.
“Everybody was really good. I did not see any weak performances, everyone was strong, polished…” he said.
What made this year’s competition more exciting, Russell said, is that Rota and Tinian students ventured to Saipan for the contest.
Russell said the competition not only promotes literary skills but also capacity building in junior high and high school students and promotes what the humanities stand for.
“The idea is getting students as young as junior high school involved in humanities programming and in practicing the humanities,” said Russell.
First-time competitor Vivian Liu was amazed that her interpretation of the piece she chose won her second place in the junior high school division.
“I was shocked, I thought everyone was better than me,” she said.
Liu said that she will definitely continue competing. She took home $150 as her prize.
First place in the junior high division went to Juliet Inocencio, earning her $200 and a plaque.
Patresiha Concillado, Elaine Fernandez, and Jonathan Wolfe were awarded third places and each were awarded $100.
For the high school division, first place went to Jeremiah Fernandez, second place was awarded to Edson Valdisimo, and third place was awarded to Monica Aira Usi. The high school division got the same awards as the winners of the junior high school division.