Overcoming the odds: A look at Uncle Dave’s new book

Book signing today, March 13, at Joeten Susupe

Not a lot of people know who the first and second mayor of Saipan was, how the Japanese really treated the natives back then, the way the war was for our people, how Hyatt Regency Saipan came about, how our first governor won, how Atkins Kroll played an important role in bringing to the islands the biggest car seller in the world, or how the Saipan Chamber of Commerce or Saipan Rotary Club became well known.

David M. Sablan, more popularly known as “Uncle Dave,” holds his new book, A Degree of Success Through Curiosity. (Jayson Camacho)

David M. Sablan, more popularly known as “Uncle Dave,” holds his new book, A Degree of Success Through Curiosity. (Jayson Camacho)

Mostly, this is because there are not a lot of books out there that document the firsthand account of historic events in the CNMI, of the small but significant details of the early growth of the Commonwealth.

Now comes a new book written by the David M. Sablan, A Degree of Success Through Curiosity, which tries to remedy that lack with an intensely personal narrative of how he overcame the odds while growing up during and after World War II, while also giving intimate insights and tidbits of information on how the CNMI came to where it is now.

“Uncle Dave” said it took him nearly 10 years to finish his book due to his English grammar and the way he had to learn it back then. He described it as “difficulty in writing.”

In an interview with the author himself, Uncle Dave said he started out writing the book for his family and relatives so they will have something to refer to when it comes to knowing who is who. He narrates a brief history of the Sablan ancestry and how it came about and what side of the Sablans they come from.

Secondly, he wanted people to know that there was a guy named Gregorio San Nicolas “Kilili” Sablan, the first mayor of Saipan, and that after his death five months into office, Uncle Dave’s father—Elias Parong Sablan—became the second mayor of Saipan, serving three four-year terms until 1957.

“Very little has been said about these two people and essentially during World War II they were already leaders, and I think it is important that people should know the history of these people.

“At least within the Chamorro and Carolinian community, we should recognize our past leaders and somehow we missed that. They don’t really know who my father was or who the first mayor was. My father was the chief for the Carolinian community and not too many people know that because he was half-Carolinian. His mother was a princess from one of the islands from the southern part of Chuuk. That is why my dad’s middle name was Parong (in the past it was pronounced Parung). Parong in Carolinian is the hat, and that signifies something that is over your head, basically a definition of my grandmother’s last name.”

Third, he wants his legacy to be passed on, along with majority of the history he had gone through and especially his firsthand experience of World War II.

High praise
One of Uncle Dave’s schoolmates, back when he attended the U.S. Navy Dependent School, whom he finally reconnected with after 63 years, had nothing but high praise for Uncle Dave’s narrative of overcoming the odds and putting his experience into writing.

In an email to Uncle Dave, Ben Shirley said: “Once I started I couldn’t put it down and have read it cover to cover, enjoying every word, and as said, not being able to stop reading, it took me until midnight to finish.”

Shirley said he had always been curious about how the Japanese treated the Saipanese, and thought it was much worse than how Uncle Dave described it in his book.

Without going into the details of what Shirley read in the book, Shirley said he was truly impressed and fascinated by A Degree of Success Through Curiosity and thought that Uncle Dave did a fantastic job in getting to where he is at today.

“It’s very obvious that you had set your sights on a target and just took off, overcoming many very difficult hardships. The road you knew you had to travel, even when full of stumbling blocks, you just pushed them aside and moved on, sacrificing many things most people would not have thought of giving up.

“You knew where you wanted to be in a given time, and would, I’m sure, have climbed the highest mountain to reach that goal. I can’t help but admire the courage, strength, and effort you had to pull from deep within yourself to achieve your goal, and have done more than your share to get Saipan and its people to where it and they are today,” Shirley told Uncle Dave.

Uncle Dave’s message
Uncle Dave said another reason he wrote the book is to show that anything can be done if you are determined to get it done.

“I want people nowadays to understand to take that initiative, go out there, and when you are doing what you want to do, don’t lose hope. Instead, you fight and head toward a goal because it can be achieved. I want the generation now to look back and read this book and say, ‘Hey, Uncle Dave did it, we can do it too.’ That is what I really want to come out of this book,” he said.

There will be a book signing of Uncle Dave’s book today, March 13, at Joeten Susupe, from 4pm to 6pm. Uncle Dave is inviting anyone interested in reading his book to attend the book signing. His book will only be sold at Joeten Susupe.

Jayson Camacho | Reporter
Jayson Camacho covers community events, tourism, and general news coverages. Contact him at jayson_camacho@saipantribune.com.

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