CAROLINIAN NAVIGATOR REMEMBERED ON SAIPAN

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By Haidee V. Eugenio

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Sept. 17) - GARCY Kaipat, 42, says she tries to take her family to Managaha every September to honor Chief Aghurubw who, as a clan chief and great navigator, resettled his people in the Northern Marianas in 1815 after a major typhoon destroyed their islands in Satawal, which is now part of the Federated States of Micronesia.

"Coming here is a family tradition to celebrate the greatness of the chief," Kaipat, of Kagman, told Variety as she watched her son Jason Lampkin, 11, and other children in her family who were swimming in the Managaha waters on Saturday after the Mass for the 38th commemoration of Chief Aghurubw Day.

[PIR editor’s note: Managaha Island is just off Saipan’s western coastline.]

Kaipat and her family were among an estimated 200 descendants of Chief Aghurubw, families, friends and other members of the CNMI community led by Gov. Benigno R. Fitial who took ferries from Saipan to Managaha for the commemoration which included a Mass and a feast on Saturday.

"I am here because these people prayed for the success of my surgeries," the governor told Variety in an interview on Managaha. "It is also incumbent upon me to participate in this Carolinian cultural occasion." Fitial is of Carolinian descent.

Chief Aghurubw, of the Ghatoliyool clan of Satawal in what was then known as the Carolines, was known for his great courage, humility, and navigational skills.

When a major typhoon left Chief Aghurubw’s people with no food and water, he braved unpredictable weather and uncertainties to bring his people to a land of refuge.

His humility showed itself in his decision to first ask permission from then Spanish governor Medinilla to settle his people on Saipan, according to historical accounts.

Chief Aghurubw’s remains lie on Managaha, where a monument stands in honor "of the chief who changed the course of history and the lives of his people and who gave himself to shape their destiny."

The governor, after the mass, said it was Chief Aghurubw’s request that he be buried on Managaha.

Jack Ogumoro, 48, recalled that he was in fifth grade when he tagged along with his relatives to erect the first monument to Chief Aghurubw on Managaha in 1969.

The second monument, which is a life-sized statue of Chief Aghurubw, was built in the early 90s, according to Ogumoro, who is a member of the Chief Aghurubw Foundation which organized Saturday’s event together with the Carolinian Affairs Office.

"I have come here every year for the past 37 years except when I went off island to school," he said. "What we are celebrating is the date the first monument was completed."

He said the annual event not only serves as a family reunion but a tool for promoting Carolinian culture.

"This occasion reminds us of where we came from, who we are and where we are going," Ogumoro said. "We hope that wherever we are, good tidings await us. We’ll accept whatever the Lord gives us; we leave it up to him."

A larger crowd took part in this year’s commemoration than last year’s.

"Despite last night’s heavy rain, we’re thankful for the weather today," said Kodep Ogumoro right after the mass.

Laura Ilal said she’s continuing the tradition passed on to her by her mother to always go to Managaha for the annual Chief Aghurubw Day, bringing with her candles and the juice of young coconuts.

"We put them on the chief’s grave. It’s a family tradition," she said while preparing the table used for the mass.

After the mass and the feast, most families stayed behind to enjoy the white sand of the island, which remains one of the most famous tourist spots in the Northern Marianas.

Saipan Sea Ventures Inc., Tasi Tours and Transportation Inc., and Pacific Subsea provided free transportation to and from Saipan and Managaha Island for Saturday’s cultural event.

Also present for the occasion were police officers and government officials, including House Minority Leader Arnold I. Palacios, R-Saipan, Commonwealth Ports Authority Chairman Rex Palacios, Department of Lands and Natural Resources Secretary Dr. Ignacio Dela Cruz, and Department of Labor Hearing Office administrator Rose Ada.

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