Saipan a Century hence


The title is from a historian on the Philippines, made famous with Rizal’s annotations, but ours is not a projection on what I think Saipan is going to be like a century from now. My title’s Century is capitalized, the one I associate with Tan Holdings.

We had Saipan in yesterday’s reflection. Today, I deal with Century Tours before returning to Shenyang, China. I am not in any way related to any of the Tan Holdings companies, though I write for its newspaper. I had some interest in Century Tour’s plans, personally and professionally. Once I ran into Jerry Tan at the Pudong International. I took the inaugural flight to China before so I was not surprised to see him at the airport; I on the Shanghai-Saipan flight. Of nodding acquaintance on Saipan, we exchanged greetings and I discovered that they were enlarging travel coverage to other cities in China. I was interested in charter flights from Shenyang to Saipan so I could bring a group of English learners to an English-speaking U.S.-related island in the Pacific, two to three times a year, especially during the cold season when it would be attractive for families to come down to the sun.

The visitors’ industry is clearly a major part of Saipan’s future and it has great developmental potential beyond just scourging the visitor of ze life’s savings on ticky-tacky offerings that makes for a cheap Disneyland.

But first, let me describe a place outside of Dalian’s train station. A wide open park sits in front of the old station but underneath are shops where Russian, Japanese, Korean, English, and Chinese languages are spoken. Dalian had been colonized by Russia and Japan. Though in Manchu territory, Manchuria of the Hans supported the Gong Chang Dang (Communist) against the Kuomintang (Nationalist) so the Putunghua (or Mandarin, literally common language) is the main language. Hangguel (Korean) is but a ferry away to NoKor and SoKor, and English from the British Admiralty and the American influence since the Beijing Olympics 2008 is now widely spoken. Five lingos are spoken in a city that has the reputation of being the Hong Kong of the north (or Hong Kong is the Dalian of the south!).

This week on Saipan, I heard Urdu, Marathi, Bengali, Hindi, Thai, Khmer, Yuenan (Viet), Russian, Korean, Japanese, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Belgic, Arabic, Jewish, Fukien, Cantonese, Mandarin with a spattering of Yuruba and Swahili, along with Chamorro, Carolinian, Marshallese, and Palauan. Not to mention the multitudinous CW-conscious Filipinos with nine languages and dialects. Saipan is not an isolated island in the Western Pacific. It is pluralistic and diverse in composition. To harp on indigene vs. foreigner demographics only aids the few who are favored by landownership laws.

I stayed at the Century Hotel. Shirley’s Restaurant at the lobby sees middle income Pilipinos who bring family and guests to crowded tables. Jhems Restaurant is more for drinking before food. The lower income end goes to D’Elegance where I went because of their quick turo-turo (point-point) cafeteria service. Shirley’s menu style requires wait time for the kitchen to do their thing. With the new sidewalk curtailing D’Elegance parking, it caters more to the pedestrian Pinoy traffic. I was at home there until I asked for a copy of the Tribune and discovered that they only sold the Variety. Of course, Shirley’s only carries the Tribune as well, so tit-for-tat made the situation understandable, but I started ordering from the menu.

Century’s sister hotel is the Kanoa Resort where a family of one of my pre-schoolers in Shenyang stayed on a week tour to the Commonwealth last spring. I heard that Century was in the process of initiating tours from Wu Han in Jiangsu, Hangzhou in Zhejiang, and Tienjin, one of China’s four urban municipalities directly administered by the central government. Since I chose to hang out in China for most of the coming seven years, I was curious of plans especially as the Century Tour group was rumored to have Shenyang on its sights as well.

Our enthusiasm was momentarily drenched. Saipan originating flights to China on U.S. registered planes earned the envy of other American carriers vying for additional inland city markets. Century might just find itself charter soloing to Beijing and back without spreading its wings further, if the big flyers have their way.

My interest is to utilize Saipan’s strength as a destination for those in China and Russia (Bol’shoye spasibo pozhalujsta, will have to wait for another article), the primary tourist source at the moment, who might want to stretch the limits of their spoken English. Many of our CW children are good English speakers, and aside from the beautiful sceneries and historic locations, it might be well for Century Tours to keep a list of English speaking hosts (children will be fine) in case I can gather learners on the other end to send to our shores. A people-to-people encounter is my pedagogical line.

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

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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