May Day


May Day the common workers’ day, observed in many communist and socialist countries, skewed by the West for the same reason, though the origin of the commemoration was in the Haymarket incidence in Chicago when workers went on strike, and a clash with the police ensued. May Day is usually the first of the month but observed as a holiday in some places on Monday since the first of May this year is on a Sunday.

On Saipan, we begin this first week of May as the Teachers’ Appreciation week, quite embarrassing since teachers get to pass out flyers including an Apple Day in a tropical island that imports them from temperate zones. Yo! Our native apples are of a different kind from the popular Mackintoshes in the PSS lunch trays, in case we have not noticed!

But, taught to ape and mimic Europeans and Americans, our taste buds go the Californy and Hispanic way!

We call our workers CWs. When it was advantageous to label garments with Made in the United States without paying the federally mandated minimum wage since labor was kept domestic and the unions in the U.S. were up in arms, the China-dominated industry flourished and our reputation as a sweat shop went along with the fame.

Off-island professionals are not referred to as CWs though they labor with contracts; CWs are our blue-collar workers though even that color code of the collar is geared toward the temperate zone where dark colors absorb the heat rather than refraction of white, gray, and beige more suitable for the tropics. Ah, words and how they form our perception of things.

Indigenes unfortunately are considered to be government functionaries who seemed trained by the Spaniards to do less for more pay because of status positions leaving many offices often in the able hands of associates with stuffy figure heads. This is not condemnatory, just a statement of observation, and I do not mind being properly corrected.

Meanwhile, the CWs, mostly of the Pinas variety that constitute 70 percent of the Asians who are half of the population, the predominant ethnic group on island also constitute the mass of the CWs. They are, in the famous words of the nation’s hero Lolo Pepe Rizal during the Spanish time, a docile group; they seem so still. But they are reliable labor compared to the Pacific Islander counterparts and the other Asians save those from Sinosphere (China, Japan, and Korea).

I am not a racist of the fair skin variety. Our use of ethnic identity only mirrors the demographics reported by the U.S. Census bureau and the popular reputation I hear as occasionally a member of the press and a public school teacher of the lower grades.

Our concern for the moment are the CWs and May Day that will be observed by a few union members who may trace their consciousness to the events of early industrial Europe and America where capital rested on the cheap cost of labor. Post WWII, that ethos moved to Sinosphere who were disciplined enough to aim for the monetary benefit of miniaturizing goods and producing them well but affordably. They are the current target of Saipan’s tourist industries, now being egged in the direction of gaming that is a scourge on the habit of not a few in Sinosphere exploited by the casino group.

Most of the CWs are the “docile” Pinas of our acquaintance. They are voracious consumers of Uncle Sam’s manufactured good in Sinosphere, now moving to the factories of South, Central, and Southeast Asia. Along with it is the ingrained Aryan superiority carried by the New England and European ethos. To many, it is a status symbol to carry a credit card, usually maxed, which then gives one the reason not only to advance in the employment ranks, but to add a second job, as well.

The racial tone of this morass came one day when an African-American Filipino child was in tears because someone referred to her as “black.” I had known long time ago that all humans originated in West Africa and that 97 percent of our DNA are the same, the melanin simple a consequence of weather, and having spent some time in Nigeria of the West African coast, still carrying the luggage of my Hispanic upbringing and Aryan exposure, I can truthfully agree with the adage that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Having also been exposed to the deep South of the U.S. in the Civil Rights days, “black is beautiful” was more than a slogan. It was a lived reality. When I echoed the slogan to my young ward, she beamed with a smile, and when I told my class that I was “black” and I was “beautiful,” she beamed some more.

May Day is a day of pride, for the fruits of labor and the equal status of workers in the scheme of human profundity. “Paleface” was a slight insult when I was growing up, but many still consider the fairer of skin as somewhat superior to their darker kin. Wanna know the best selling cosmetic in Sinosphere? Yup, skin whitener! I suppose, to cover up the slight “yellow” tint on the skin.

May Day of CWs in Saipan, a good time to claim the pride of the Malay race!

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at

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