Say you, say me


The line is from Lionel Ritchie, an entry into a situation where what is said somewhere is negated elsewhere. Maybe, we need to focus on the function of the cerebellum that balances things a-kilter, to operate out of the “heart” rather than the mind, the senses, and the body politic.

Gov. Eloy Inos was a sickly man when I first met him, along with Ben Fitial. I ran into them in Tokyo transiting on a flight to Saipan from either Honolulu or the mainland. One time, it was even both Ben and Eloy together. Ben is a seasoned “elder” among Carolinians; he played the role well of being the kingpin, respected for his attained status more than the virtue of his political stance. He ran into America›s pretensions at democracy.

The last time I saw Gov. Eloy, it was obvious that his days were numbered. He opened the Agri Fair by the public market across the Kristo Rai church. Maligned by virtue of his support of casino interests in the Commonwealth, he went against the two-time referendum vote that defeated casinos on Saipan, though gambling through the one-armed bandits were already tolerated.

Whether Eloy was corrupt or not is a matter to be legally adjudged; those claiming him to be so had better come up with hard evidence, now that the man «moved upstairs.»

I wrote once that while attending a family gathering in China, the story of two brothers was told, one in government and the other in the private sector. The university town where my school is located was relatively new, the «downtown» being only 30 years old as an urban center. It used to be surrounded by farmlands before the city decided to decongest downtown Shenyang and build a satellite city in Shenbei.

The older brother revealed the government’s plans, and the younger brother kept his ears open. He then acquired farms and turned them into sites for apartments and high-rise buildings. A decade later, at a family gathering, the younger brother distributed the traditional red envelopes for the younger relations, and a thick wad for his brother who barely subsisted on a government salary.

In Meiguo (the United States), that is a case of corruption; a family member profits from a privileged position. Among the Chinese, the younger brother was just performing common sense, filial devotion and necessary obligation. While he took advantage and prospered from privileged information heard around the dining table, he did so without collusion with the older brother, and he acted swiftly and decisively to be first in line in what proved to be rich gravy.

Yin-yang is the term given by the Orient on this religiously observed balancing act that avoids extreme conflicts, which in the West sees virtue in annihilating an opponent, or in a synthesis of thesis and antithesis, creates something new from remnants of the old. Chinese commerce never sets on the fixed price. The haggle of give-and-take is a given. A foreigner who does not haggle ends up paying more, a frequent occurrence in public markets in Sinosphere.

A two-tiered monetary system abided in China on my first trip in 1989, with the visitors encouraged to shop at the Friendship Store where yuan currency was the medium of exchange. Local markets used renminbi (the people’s money). While the two tiers no longer apply with one currency standard, the practice continues as department stores fix prices while the street markets are still “haggle-able.”

Now, back to our former governor. We are moralistic in judgments of maneuvers, and clearly, the governor, rightly or wrongly, thought it expedient to ride the inevitable and make sure the government coffers—which no longer had the luxury of the former garment industry—had access to funds.

We will be blunt with the casinos. Las Vegas is diversifying. Singapura has integrated resorts, a model of having a casino as a part of a larger “family” resort, albeit tailored to be commercially viable to the moneyed class. Aomen (Macau) as a gaming destination is losing revenue as Beijing caps the flow of public funds into its tables. That leaves Manila, Kuala Lumpur, and Xiang Jiang (Hong Kong). Manila contends with the Vatican as KL does with Islam, both unfriendly to commercial gambling. HK is in the same boat as Macau. Private interests tried to destabilize the local regime this year so it can move more freely than what Beijing allows but the dance is one step forward, two steps backward, the support from student activism notwithstanding.

Gov. Eloy was vilified for being too cozy with the powers-that-be of the gambling world that play their PR manners well. “Say you, say me” was the administrative tenor in the CNMI that is swiftly turning the isles into the gaming mecca of the Pacific.

Judgment after the fact is futile. We are better off assisting the new Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ options, given that we are a tourist destination, and gambling is the favored game on the table. That, or be Pentagon’s “strategic military location.”

Roll the dice here, please!

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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