‘Raise the consciousness of the Pacific region’


The Pacific Century Fellows Marianas Chapter celebrated its inaugural “Class of 2014” at the Fiesta Resort Hotel last Thursday night.

The class of 18 professionals from the public and private sector were addressed by none other than former Honolulu mayor Mufi Hanneman, founder of the Pacific Century Fellows that began in Hawaii.

Tan Holdings, through the Tan Siu Lin Foundation, formed the Marianas Chapter, which began their nine-month program last year, beginning with a two-day retreat, and a daylong session each month featuring a guest community leader for discussions on tourism, education, government, healthcare and quality of life in the CNMI.

The class of 18 was made up of Abner Paul Acosta, Ivan Blanco, Emanuel Borja, Frank Lee Borja, Alfreda Marie Camacho, Jacqueline Che, Christopher Concepcion, Bobby James Cruz, Geralyn Dela Cruz, Matthew Deleon Guerrero, Angel Demapan, Michelle Kramer, Velma Ann Palacios, Leo Pangelinan, Vincent Seman, Joseph Taijeron, Juan Diego Tenorio, and Eulalia Villagomez

The 18 applied, were interviewed, and judged according to criteria, to be part of the program.

‘Raise the consciousness of the Pacific’

Hannmemann gave the special remarks at Thursday’s event, where he urged a Pacific and indigenous-based vision for the region’s future.

He took his inspiration for PCF from the White House Fellows program, which he was part of in 1983-84. He described it as his “dream and vision” to establish one in Hawaii and then throughout the Pacific region.

PCF had its inaugural class in 1997. There have been 14 graduating classes of fellows since them, Hannemann said, producing many government and private leaders.

A goal of the program was to establish networking that would “lead to working together rather than apart” and help fellows realize each had a stake in improving their community.

He said they’ve done just that, with their classes getting together regularly.

He added that their “most important” goal was to “raise the consciousness of the importance of the Pacific region.”

“Not from an European perspective, not from an American perspective, not from an Asian perspective, but from the perspective of the indigenous people who call Pacific home,” he continued.

He gave the Marianas fellows “three pointers”—to continue efforts to “repeat, recite, and reemphasize the story of the Pacific.”

“We are a unique people and our history has often been shortchanged. Our culture has been misunderstood, and oftentimes we are underappreciated for what we have done throughout the years,” he said.

“Just think about the glorious story of how the Pacific was settled, of how the Pacific came together,” he said, referring to Micronesian and Polynesian leader navigators like Mau Piailug and Nainoa Thompson, respectively.

“[These leaders] have been able to tell the people of the world: ‘The Pacific island people knew where they were going.’ They knew, guided not by modern day instrumentation but by the stars, by the birds, by their own instinctiveness and daring and bold adventurous souls” that “they were able to settle and navigate this Pacific,” he said.

He asked the fellows to “tell the world” that they have much to learn from the Pacific island peoples about issues with fisheries and climate change. “All those things we know instinctively, we know through our forefathers. And we should be part of the discussion and the dialogue and the solutions” to these problems, he said.

A grateful class

A class video played at the event on Thursday had all 18 members giving messages about the program and what they’ve gained.

One member, Angel Demapan, now a member of the House Representative since he joined the program, said that Hahnemann’s maxim: “Leave this place better than we found it” is something that will stick with him as he tries to better the himself and the CNMI.

Another member, Frank Lee S. Borja said, “Growth and progress is not of the West.”

“I come from a line of some of the world’s best navigators, healers, and warriors. And even in the face of a hundreds of years of colonization, they have the strength to retain their cultural identity,” he said.

Leo Pangelinan said one of his favorite PCF sessions was a talk on the importance of having a vision “using cultural principles and context” to lead.

Pangelinan said Pacific navigators had their islands “in mind,” not needing maps in their travels. Without this vision, he said, “they would have been lost.”

Christoper Concepcion took inspiration from CNMI leaders during the Covenant negotiations, who he imagined lived in a time that was “idyllic, serene, sleepy but exciting and full of hopes and dreams all at the same time.”

Matthew Deleon Guerrero said he found a dialogue within the group that was “not just rhetoric” but “moving toward a solution”—which is something the CNMI “desperately needs.”

Eulalia Villagomez said that “any solutions to anything we face in our lives or in the CNMI is within us.”

For Bobby James Cruz, the program was “not about knowing more than the person you are conversing with” but taking your skills and talents, listening with an open mind, and expanding discourse to “ignite innovative thinking and doing.”

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at dennis_chan@saipantribune.com.

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