The Refaluwasch of our watch


Indigene Language Heritage Month was celebrated April and was dismally observed at the fest in my school, sparsely attended by both parents and teachers. Of course, we also have the Cultural Heritage Month in September but for now, we stay with what one nitwit coined: the Chamolinian Language Heritage month!

I hang out with a former police officer and farmer who espouses the CNMI’s independence from the United States. I call his sandwiched place by the Sandy Beach Homes and a Russian retreat place at the CK lagoon beach, the Lino Olopai Park. He is a celebrated personality and I mention his name rarely less we be thought of living off his reputation more so now that I see his Benson photo on a May Memorial Day celebration poster at our school.

Chamorro in Guam (a place “to have,” Guahan) evolves and its formalization from its Austronesian roots recent, more so now that the language is taught as an academic discipline, which makes the Carolinian of Satawal serve a more ancient but naturally spoken tongue among Saipan indigene, though it was equally subjected to the influence of the areas colonizers—Spain, Germany, Japan, the United States, and now, Korea, China and the Philippines.

This, however, does not explain the paucity of our presence at the Olopai Park of late. It is actually a practical matter. When I started teaching first grade, I discovered nine in my class of 23 carrying the flu; on my second day, five of them were actually sick of various forms of infections, universally downed by coughing. I have since worn a towel for a scarf to cover my mouth when I sneeze so as not to spread the virus broadly as well as attempt body immunity.

April 4-8 hosted the invasion of viruses of D-Day proportion, which I welcomed for a while to hasten the immunity. With the help of Ms. Inday and Mr. Nay Quil, I kept the coughing to a minimum, even entailing the services of Drs. Rubitussins and various collaborators along with numerous fancy and expensive antibiotics and analgesics, and the ubiquitous vapor rub a handy ointment for below the nostril, as sticking it inside is no longer advised. I am still wearing a towel around my neck in the classroom a month later even as two of the students stayed home last week downed by flu.

It did not help that my homeroom is equipped with two air-conditioners spewing cold air; eureka struck halfway to my term when I discovered that the window louvres were not permanently latched but could be opened with a push of the finger. By then, 18 of my 23 were coughing. I let the fresh air in.

We spared Lino at his park from being a target of various viruses and so we don’t go to our favored fresh lagoon air these days. But on the 4th of May, I rid myself of the scarf towel, and with the fresh air into the classroom, I aimed to rid myself of the various viruses and foray bravely into challenging world of first graders, to teach them to learn how to learn. Didn’t work, the virus and the pedagogical prowess of learning how to learn.

I ran into a retired colleague who taught upper grades at SVES with me; he commented that at the time, to pry the truth from anyone was like pulling teeth on a dentist chair. He consented to sub-teach second graders at my school, and boy, did he get the reverse earful from his students. My first graders and his second graders, unlike their fifth and sixth grade brothers and sisters who would not “squeal” as a matter of honor, endlessly and delightfully volunteered “to tell on fellow students” immediately after a semblance of misbehavior.

“Telltale-ing” is a frequent quality of discourse in my class. Students do not waste time squealing on their classmates’ misdemeanors. “So-and-so” picking on “so-and-so” is not an infrequent refrain, regardless of whether the one telltale-ing is an involved party.

The letters we get for our articles are usually of the benign kind, though a recent one castigated us for using the Chinese name of the Yalu River bordering into the Koreas rather than its Korean name. Fair enough but the Yalu is the better-known name in the world press that readers would recognize. Nonetheless, I apologized.

In another piece, I made the mistake of lumping Chamorro with the Carolinian, though not using the dreaded created term “Chamolinian” for the generic “indigene.” It got me into hot water. I echoed the much-repeated Internet stereotype that ethnically, Carolinians were darker than Chamorros, and the responder took exception to that as he traced his ethnicity to both groups denying the skin coloration, though I suspect, the bloodline is sprinkled with some European strain as well.

The responder seemed more interested to harass rather than to dialogue so I dropped efforts for a sane discourse. Mentioning Lino did not sit with the writer as well. But with the Memorial Day poster now prominently by my desk at school, I shan’t hesitate to invoke the Refaluwasch on my watch! They do sound more ancient. Olomwaay!

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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