September: Cultural Month

September was proclaimed “cultural heritage” month to honor the cultures of these islands. As we mull over it, it also presents a number of vital issues we’ve opted to avoid or acquiesce since recent past.

In other words, we lack the conviction to probe the issue to the hilt to secure a realistic view how destructive agents of change have become a permanent fixture in our living room. In short, our traditional bull cart now pulls the beast rather than the reverse.

What are these agents of change and didn’t the NMI simply acquiesce their existence, singing “que sera”? We’ve morphed from the slot machine era, supplanted by poker and now casino. Throughout the period there’s the accompanying mounting use of potent drugs NMI-wide.

In the late ’60s, we welcomed investments as it settled in our community as partners. However, these same investors have taken an exodus, selling everything they had as they take to jet ways. In the process, the new investors here locked in their single most vital goal: money! Screw other primary issues relating to local partnership.

It also alienated the community as to openly show that our exclusion isn’t anything to be concerned about. And so we’re victims of investments that couldn’t care less what becomes of the permanent hosts of these isles for as long as they make money. It is an issue we didn’t quite read in advance nor do we seem enthusiastic dissecting the beast for our protection down the stretch.

Was it ever cultural to gamble away scarce familial resources? Isn’t this contrary to our elderly’s advice that we save some for that rainy day? Is addiction to drugs and gambling the new modern fad among cultural paragons preaching vacuous indigenous issues just so they exploit the public trough? And isn’t the polished platitude detrimental for the innocent over the long haul? When do we stand up against these indigenous and investment flakes?

For those in government assigned the fate of the indigenous people you must address gambling and drug addiction and is the current investment atmosphere of total exclusion the way to move forward in strengthening the fast eroding cultural traditions of the islands? Don’t chance half-cocked rationalizations just so you could sound relevant or some suspiciously intelligent marshland professor. Get down to the real business of ensuring the perpetuation of cultural strength that provides edification to our way of life.

Health: Federal policy forbids allowing foreign doctors from practicing medicine here without meeting AMA requirements. Yet we send our patients to the Philippines. I didn’t know hypocrisy could be fine-tuned into an art.

Moreover, the health of the indigenous population has deteriorated with Type II diabetes, heart issues and now a myriad of cancer. These conditions would feed into the medical referral program as cost piles up by the millions. Any plans to reinvest some of these funds at CHC?

Funnies: For about 25 years, I was an active musician that included backing singers and dancers between here and New York. I had to overcome two major hurdles: work diligently to improve my level of musicianship and dealing with artists who needed backing for an evening show.

Initially, it wasn’t a walk in the park thing. Hell, foreign musicians are good with standard songs, swing, jazz and Latin music. I had to learn my guitar chords just to accompany wind blown instruments or professional singers. Along the way, I learned what entails the world of a professional musician.

Amateurish inadvertent performance includes tuning our instruments on stage. Then we begin the next number when the ship arrives from the Northern Islands. It’s the usual island grand mañana. It never occurred to us that we were hired to play, not tune our instruments on stage. Ignorance?

Remembered a good group of musicians and dancers on a dinner cruise boat that sails around the lagoon before sunset. Even I take pride in what the group has put together by way of local music and dances. Then a few weeks later the group no longer strums ukuleles and guitars. I asked management what happened. Said the boss: “Had to fire them for stealing from tourists.” Dios mihu!

Dance: Often, I’d quiz why we’ve never seen Chamorro dance alongside our adopted cultural “hula” from Polynesia. Was it ignorance or the lack of it? In fandango parties I’ve seen the batsu, lotis, and mestisa or Spanish-Chamorro hula. Hula? Yep! We say “cultural” as a single pill cures all inadequacies!

The old master dance instructors in Carolinian have also sailed into the sunset. But they leave behind the indelible traditional dances, picked up by younger folks. It still is a strong part of their traditional dance repertoire. Great!

Over the last three decades, everything in what we know as adopted Chamorro dances have sailed into the sunset. It’s now reggae giving island super wide bodies the chance to swing around the stove, washers and BBQ pit. And we come back and call it “cultural.” Dios mihu!

Sharing: If anything, islanders throughout the Pacific share a commonality: communal sharing, be it food or lending a hand to a neighbor doing home extension.

Here at home, preparing for a fandango (wedding) party is where assignments are split into firewood collection, fishing, slaughter and butcher of animals, pastries, among others. Cost has killed this once customary wedding preparation.

It included the final word of go ahead for the couple’s wedding the next day in what’s known as komplimentu. The parents of the groom present the wedding dress and ring to the bride. This is where the fandango kicks off! It’s now all a part of history!

There are federal laws that instantly annihilate even food delicacies. It’s good to review if these impositions aren’t in violation of indigenous rights to self-government. It’s on our side of the court where due diligence snoozes.

John S. Del Rosario Jr. | Contributing Author
John DelRosario Jr. is a former publisher of the Saipan Tribune and a former secretary of the Department of Public Lands.

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