Keeping the culture alive at the mini-expo


What started as a school project has become one Chamorro artist’s way of rediscovering an indigenous art—coconut carving.

Adrian Jose Castro is one of the Chamorro artists featured at the Indigenous Affairs Office’s mini-cultural expo last Saturday at the IAO office in Garapan.

“My daughter had a school project, she wanted to paint something on the coconut, and I carved it,” Castro said. “Now I am teaching my brother, who actually can carve pretty good, after I draw the design.”

This passing of tradition is exactly what the expo is all about—to preserve the Chamorro culture by providing avenues for the community to learn about and experience it.

Donovan Tudela, a Saipan Southern High School teacher who attended the mini-expo, said that it is very important that the younger generation expose themselves to these traditional practices.

Master carver Adrian Jose Castro use coconuts that fall from trees to create sculptural pieces. (IVA MAURIN)

“All of these traditional practices, especially the traditional medicine, making traditional food, might diminish within years from now, and events such as this is very enlightening,” Tudela said.

“Until you come to events like this, that’s only when you find out how beautiful and how interesting you could become,” he added. “It is time for the younger generation to get up and inquire and build the curiosity to want to learn these things [so we can continue these traditions].”

Aside from Castro, IAO’s mini-cultural expo also featured healer Rosa Salalila and cook Gloria Reyes who demonstrated how to prepare traditional medicine and local food, respectively.

Expo participants enjoyed generous servings of the detox and energy-producing juices Salalila prepared out of leaves, as well as the “ahu” (soup made with young coconut) and empanadas.

The IAO will be holding the mini-expo weekly, featuring arts and crafts, local food and medicine, and great local music, in preparation for the Indigenous Culture Expo in October.

Iva Maurin | Correspondent
Iva Maurin is a communications specialist with environment and community outreach experience in the Philippines and in California. She has a background in graphic arts and is the Saipan Tribune’s community and environment reporter. Contact her at

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