Refalúwasch community gathers on Managaha to honor Aghurubw

Posted on Sep 30 2019

The celebration of Cultural Heritage Month this month continued last Saturday, with the Carolinian/Refalúwasch community gathering on Managaha Island last Saturday to pay tribute to a legendary leader, Chief Aghurubw, who is buried on the island.

The event is the 49th annual commemoration to recognize the leadership of Aghurubw, who led his people from the Caroline Islands 204 years and resettled in the Northern Mariana in 1815. At that time, the Caroline Islands had just been devastated by a typhoon.

A monument of Aghurubw was erected on Managaha Island on Sept. 18, 1970, in his memory.

Kodep Ogumoro-Uludong, a descendant of Aghurubw, and president of the Chief Aghurubw Foundation, said the monument not only represents the chief but also underscores his significance to the Carolinian community, also known as the Refaluwasch.

“He represents the settlement of the people,” Ogumoro-Uludong said. “Carolinians have been known to be great navigators—navigating, sailing, trading all around the region”

The Carolinian/Refalúwasch community present a wreath of flowers at the statue of Chief Aghurubw last Saturday on Managaha Island. (IVA MAURIN)

“He led the first group of [Carolinians] to actually settle here in the Marianas and that’s how we now have Chamorros, who have been here for thousands of years, and the Carolinians who settled and are now also recognized as persons of Northern Marianas descent,” he added.

Aghurubw Foundation vice president Mark Rabauliman added that the occasion is also a chance for the Carolinian elders to interact with the younger ones and be able to pass on the stories of Aghurubw and the early settlers.

“It’s a matter of embracing our identity, recognizing it, so that [future] generations could understand and identify who they are,” Rabauliman added.

Next year, with the occasion’s 50th anniversary, the celebration is going to be even bigger. Carolinian Affairs Office executive director John Tagabuel encourages the community to continue attending the celebration.

“Chief Aghurubw is the one who started everything for the Carolinian people, [who] brought us here,” Tagabuel said. “We encourage everybody to respect the man that started it, and to come and celebrate with us.”

Expect more from the CAO this October with the Pwo Ceremony, the highest blessing to becoming a traditional navigator, and the Indigenous Expo on Oct. 14. For more information on these upcoming events, contact the Carolinian Affairs Office at 234-6385.

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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