We had International Women’s Day not too long ago, and we recall that after the commercial success of Mother’s Day, the holding of Father’s Day was not too far behind. I do not know when the Chamber of Commerce will create a potentially rich shopping day but I suspect it is not for long. We had international women’s day a couple of weeks ago; the day for men will follow (already observed in India and Russia) but I am declaring mine for March 22.
My Papa after whom I was named would have been 103 today in Honolulu where he died at 95, two years past recognizing who I was. I often mention him as my primal role model of manhood when growing up until I could hold up a candle on my own.
In Europe’s tradition of chivalry, the female is, at best, adored and adorned. She is considered less to be taken seriously as she is one to be pawed and pawned over, or strutted unemotionally down the catwalk wearing boutique clothes that hardly anyone wears or buys. The trails of patriarchy, except for very few places in the world, still sadly prevail.
This is not a lament on matriarchy, or a paean for patriarchy; it is rather a song for manhood, the kind where selfhood is expressed and exuded sans machismo. Two literary role models come to the fore on Saipan in my circle of acquaintances.
Lino Olopai, in his introspective account of the Carolinian tradition titled Rope of Tradition, takes readers to a reflective and geographical journey of the Carolinian migration to the Marianas, and when it was that he decided to uphold tradition in a fading world impinged upon by modern land-based cultural understandings, without regard for the art and discipline of canoe building and ocean navigation.
Lino propagates indigenous and off-island seedlings on his leeward side farm in Mt. Tapochau but he sails the lagoon from his hut in Chalan Kanoa, at one time entertaining a whole 6th grade class on retreat from regular SVES classes. His dwelling, shaded by tall sandbar ironwood trees and undulating coconut trees by the lagoon, remains a quaint shoreline littered with leeside flat proas; the area now buffeted by real estate development with a newly constructed multistoried building on his south side. His book is reportedly included as a reading in a UCLA class this term. To come to Saipan without dropping in on his shoreline is a serious misdemeanor!
Uncle Dave Sablan is our other male role model. Son of the former second mayor of Saipan, one of 13 children, he is an activist of Olympian zest and proportions, and it is amazing how he covered every step of his tracks with a modestly titled book, A Degree of Success Through Curiosity. He knows how to communicate, his apologies on language notwithstanding. Pictures are worth a thousand words, and his book is littered with many.
If Lino sailed the open seas on his handmade proa, Dave Sablan rode on the modern tidal waves that left footprints way off beyond the sands of Saipan. Mr. Sablan took the new world by the horns without the glitter of the vaunted academic credentials and galloped like a cowboy in Saipan’s Cowtown with much relish. He took seriously the two-century-old experiment on individual freedom from the continent of North America and did the same across Micronesia with commerce and industry. An indefatigable doer, with an array of awards and recognitions under his belt and on his home mantle, he remains socially and professionally active.
It is not as if he keeps his emotions hidden for he is ever gracious and all-smiles to everyone. His account of his family’s ordeal during the invasion of Saipan by U.S. forces against the soldiers of Imperial Japan tugs at the heartstrings deeply but his telling of his family’s ordeal does not look as being in praise of personae, his or his family, as it is an outpouring of selfhood and service toward a resolve to survive and create a new Northern Mariana Islands in the process. He is a man of action who deigns to play so many roles that even in the ripe age of the sunset of his years, he continues to head a business and participates in the social scenes of Saipan.
Lino Olopai and Dave Sablan, both former marshals of Liberation Day parades, may be a bit my seniors in age but they serve more as elder peers who exemplify with deeds the preserving “the internal feel” of a fading past, and the lively domestication of future shock rude awakenings. They serve well as male role models for the islands and to this admirer.
I am sure there are other literary accounts of folks’ journeys around Micronesia, but for now, with Lino Olopai and David Sablan, I hold my Dad up (his literary talent was translating Sunday School materials into Ilocano in Hawaii) on my choice date of Happy Manhood Day!