Sunday, December 29, 2013

US Air Force Brig. Gen. Steve Basham visits Saipan, Dec. 19.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

GAO cites Guam’s public infrastructure deficiencies in meeting Marines realignment plan

GAO cites Guam’s public infrastructure deficiencies in meeting Marines realignment plan

Monday, October 28, 2013

Fe Ada Cepeda, 71

Fe Ada Cepeda
Jan. 2, 1942 - Oct. 24, 2013

Fe Ada Cepeda, wife of Vietnam War veteran Frank Cepeda, passed away Oct. 24 at the Guam Memorial Hospital. She was 71.

Fe Ada Cepeda receives the American flag at the CNMI Veterans Cemetery in Marpi during her husband Frank's funeral Aug. 23.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tan Escolastica Tudela Cabrera: Pioneering Chamorro businesswoman, 83


LOVE and take care of each other.

These were Tan Escolastica Tudela Cabrera’s last words to her children before she breathed her last yesterday. She was 83.

She passed away at her Capital Hill residence at 5:15 a.m. yesterday.

Her son, Sid Cabrera, confirmed to Variety that his mother arrived from Hawaii a week ago and she was taken to the hospital on Saipan over the weekend.

“Yesterday, we took her up to the house on Capital Hill,” said Cabrera.

He said he and his siblings were with her. “We were around her through the night.”

He also said, “Her condition deteriorated very fast.”

Cabrera was brought to Hawaii early this year for medical treatment.

While in Hawaii, Cabrera said the Cabrera matriarch was ready to go.

Before she left Saipan, she complained of difficulty breathing.

Cabrera recalled that his mother was still talking last night.

He said his mother reminded them to “take care of each other and to follow in her footsteps.”

Daily rosary is being held at the Kristo Rai Church in Garapan.
Cabrera said that, tentatively, they have set her burial for Tuesday next week at the CNMI Veterans Cemetery.

The Mass of Christian Burial will be officiated next Tuesday at the Mt. Carmel Cathedral at 1 p.m.

Tan Esco Cabrera

Tan Escolastica or “Esco” to those who frequent her stores in Chalan Kanoa and on Capital Hill, was a devout Catholic. She regularly recited the rosary and attended Mass.

She was born on February 10, 1930.

At age five or six, she enrolled at a Catholic school. By the age of seven, she had her first communion.

She went to the Japanese school kogakko for Chamorro and Carolinian students.

At Saipan kogakko, Cabrera told Variety in an interview two years ago, they were taught reading, writing, arithmetic, storytelling, and farming.

She also recalled they planted Carnations and sold the flowers to Japanese officers’ wives for 10 cents a bundle.

At the age of 81 during the interview, Cabrera could even recall the last names of her Japanese teachers from first to third grade: Kaneko, Tominaga and Sugaruma.

She told this reporter that of all the teachers, she found Sensei Sugaruma “very bad.”
Cabrera remembered how the teacher, who moved from Kagman to Garapan, would employ corporal punishment.

“He was very strict. He would beat us up,” she said.

During the time she spent at the kogakko, she learned Nihongo or Japanese. She said it was mandatory and that they were told to speak Japanese to their parents.

She graduated and finished at the top of the class, recalling that her diploma had the emperor’s signature.

But this diploma and other belongings were lost when war came to Saipan in 1944.

At the time, she said, the Japanese had been talking about an imminent war but they only informed their fellow Japanese, leaving the Chamorros and Carolinians out.

She said when the Japanese took Guam, two of her brothers were recruited to work there.

She was put to work at the planned airbase on the stretch of land from what is now Toyota to the police station in Chalan Kanoa. Many women worked and dug at the proposed site for the Japanese airbase.

‘We drank our tears’
When war came, the Cabrera family, like every other family, went into hiding in caves.
Initially, they wanted to hide in a large cave that could house about 200 people; unfortunately, the Japanese kicked them out.

They had no choice but to hide in a smaller cave where 39 of them huddled together.

During the time inside the cave she said they just sat — they couldn’t stand up.

They stayed at her father’s farm near a spring. Despite this, they couldn’t come out of the caves as bombing intensified.

As the pangs of hunger and thirst gripped them, the children cried. As others hushed them up for fear of being found, Cabrera said she remembered her father Tun Vicente Ramirez Tudela telling her sisters, “Never mind. Keep crying and drink your tears.”

They wept to slake their thirst.

After 19 days, they were found by an American soldier and they were brought to Camp Susupe.

On her way to the camp, she remembered seeing the road littered with dead people.

At the camp, she said they slept on the sand and there was no privacy.
The camp internees also initially had to deal with severe diarrhea.

After six months at the camp, they moved to Chalan Kanoa village where the old houses of employees of the NHK sugarcane company stood.

Esco, the Entrepreneur
At 15, she resolved that she would no longer go back to school; she wanted to work and earn a living for her family.

She volunteered to work as a tailor for Commander Victor Schauss’s wife in As Matuis.
Later she worked for Commander Smith.
Escolastica Cabrera at work in her kitchen. Photo courtesy of the University of Hawaii Trust Territory Archives

Later still she worked at the commissary, answering phone calls at a beauty salon where she earned 35
cents a day or $8.50 a month.

When the opportunity arose for her to buy the salon’s equipment for $500, she went to the Bank of America and took out a loan that funded her Escolastica Beauty Salon in Chalan Kanoa.

She kept the business until 1953, two years after she married police officer Gregorio Cabrera.
Then she was the first to venture into selling clothes.

She also sold bread.

Later, she pioneered the sale of bento lunches, serving lunch and snacks to students at Mt. Carmel School and Hopwood.

Each bento sold for 10 cents.

She and her husband would wake up at 2 a.m. to prepare the meals.

Then she was offered the chance to serve coffee and snacks at the airport.
Cabrera said she never felt tired, hungry or sleepy. She wanted to work and eke out a living for her 13 children.

She relocated to Capital Hill after buying a piece of property in 1959.

There her store would be frequented by employees of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.

Then Typhoon Jean came in 1969, destroying her store and taking two years to rebuild.

All her life she worked and worked hard.

Her advice to the young generation, she told Variety in 2011, “Do not be lazy. Work hard.”

She asked the young generation to learn from the manamko’ and follow their example.

This was what she also told her children the other night — “follow in my footsteps.”

Escolastica Cabrera: Pioneering Chamorro businesswoman, 83

Escolastica Cabrera: Pioneering Chamorro businesswoman, 83

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Saipan, Tinian to celebrate 70th Anniversary of Pacific's D-Day in June 2014

 Saipan, Tinian to hold 70th Anniversary of the Pacific's D-Day in June 2014
(70TH ANNIVERSARY BATTLES OF SAIPAN/TINIAN COMMEMORATION COMMITTEE) — Eight months from now, the Northern Marianas will be commemorating the 70th anniversary of D-Day in the Pacific.
The Commemoration Committee for the 70th Anniversary of the Battles of Saipan and Tinian will be holding a weeklong celebration of peace on June 10-16 on both islands of Saipan and Tinian with the theme “Reunion of Honor.”
Coinciding with this slate of weeklong activities, the Northern Marianas Humanities Council will be having a history conference where academicians and historians will give presentations on the theme, “Cultures in War: Combatants, Islanders and Settlers in the Pacific War (WWII) and After.”
The celebration will culminate on June 15, 2014 — the 70th year of the invasion of Saipan.
An ecumenical service will kick off the celebration, to be followed by a parade that will include visiting American and Japanese veterans and their families.
At the American Memorial Park’s Court of Honor, the committee will be holding a recognition ceremony honoring the veterans and their families.
Moreover, there will be a “fire side chat” with the veterans that will allow the younger generation to get to hear their personal accounts of the war and their stories of survival and hope.
Local families will also be afforded the opportunity to get to know them more through the Adopt-A-Vet program.
For those interested to take part in this historic occasion, the Military History Tours and Valor Tours have prepared their calendar chock full of activities including guided island tours to cultural and historic sites like the invasion beaches, coastal bunkers and caves, Japanese airfield landmarks surrounded by B-29 taxiways and accompanying parking "hardstands" and more. Visit their sites at or at
Sponsors, volunteers and vendors are highly encouraged to take part in this historic occasion.
Visit the Marianas and be part of this historic celebration of peace and honor.
For more information, contact 70th Anniversary Battles of Saipan/Tinian Commemoration Committee Chairman Vicente “Ben” Camacho at 287-5351 or email at

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Mediterranean cuisine at the Caravan Restaurant. Call 670.234.0638.

A great way to start the day. Breakfast at The Caravan. Located next to Marianas Variety office, Alaihai Street, Garapan

Doughnut -- whole wheat

Falafel salad


Kebab with Arabic rice


From the archives: Saipan Intermediate School / Hopwood Class of 1957

The members of Class 1957 of Saipan Intermediate School (Hopwood) are seen in a reunion last July 2011 hosted by Frank and Fe Cepeda at their As Matuis residence on Saipan.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Plane crashes on Tinian, 3 dead

Star Marianas plane crashes in Tinian jungle; 3 dead, 4 survivors
ALL PHOTOS by MARIANAS VARIETY/alexie villegas zotomayor

Governor Eloy S. Inos and other local officials gather at Agingan Point on Saipan. Photo by Marianas Variety

TINIAN — Three people were killed and four survived a plane crash in the jungles of Mt. Laso early Sunday morning.

This is the second fatal crash following a Nov. 19, 2012 incident on Saipan that claimed the life of a female tourist.

The fatalities in Sunday’s crash were pilot Luis Silva, and two unidentified — one male and one female — tourists from China.

Silva, who was in his late 40s or early 50s, was a former Freedom Air pilot and was described as “very experienced.”

The four survivors, also Chinese tourists, were flown to the Commonwealth Health Center a little past noon.

The plane was a Piper Cherokee 6 PA-32 belonging to Star Marianas and the reason for the crash has yet to be determined.

CNMI and federal authorities set up a unified command post at the Puntan Agingan early yesterday morning and held a media conference at around 10:30 a.m. to announce details concerning what was then described as a missing aircraft carrying six passengers and a pilot that left Tinian at 2:40 a.m. yesterday.

“All we know is that there is a report of an overdue plane. That is what we are trying to validate,” Special Assistant for Homeland Security and Emergency Management Marvin K. Seman said in the media conference.

He was joined by Gov. Eloy S. Inos, Lt. Gov. Jude U. Hofschneider, Commonwealth Ports Authority Executive Director Maryann Lizama, Francisco C. Ada. Saipan International Airport manager Edward B. Mendiola, DPS Commissioner James Deleon Guerrero, Marianas Visitors Authority Managing Director Perry Tenorio, Press Secretary Angel Demapan, the governor’s legal counsel Teresa Kim-Tenorio, American Red Cross-NMI chapter executive director John Hirsh.

While the press conference was going on, Variety learned that a report was received that the crash site had been found on Tinian where three U.S. Navy helicopters had been dispatched.

As the command post was relocating to Sugar Dock, Seman, Inos, Hofschneider, Lizama and other officials, flew to Tinian immediately.

Seman said they received information sometime around 10:30 a.m. that a helicopter had spotted the crash site on Mt. Laso here on Tnian.

The four survivors were airlifted to Saipan immediately.

Seman said a little after 11 a.m. they received a call that the bodies of the pilot and the passengers were found in the wreckage on Mt. Laso.

“We discovered the three [fatalities] 30 minutes after the initial call,” said Seman.

Search and rescue
As soon as notice was received that an aircraft with six passengers and the pilot was missing, the unified command consisting of federal and local responders began search-and-rescue operations.

Vessels from CPA Harbor Patrol, DPS Fire and Rescue Boating Safety and the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Assateague conducted a search by water while helicopters from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Two Five searched by air.

Seman said the plane left Tinian at 2:40 a.m. and was bound for Saipan. The flight usually takes 8 minutes.

“We got the call at roughly 4 a.m. about an overdue flight,” Seman said.

The wreckage was scattered around, he added, referring to the scene at the site which is about a 5-minute drive from 8th Avenue or east of the International Broadcasting Bureau.

As of the 3 p.m., Seman said they had yet to identify the bodies pending the arrival of Federal Bureau of Investigation personnel.
The crash site is an area covered with thick foliage and local and federal responding units used a bulldozer to clear a path to the site.

“It is really thick in there,” said Seman. “It wasn’t a pleasing site.”

Tinian Mayor Ramon M. Dela Cruz said the three fatalities included the pilot, adding that parts of the airplane were scattered about.

“There were two bodies trapped under the engine — the pilot and one female passenger. The other fatality — a male —was found outside the plane on the ground,” he said, adding that the site was “gruesome.”

Seman said the aircraft probably tried to make an emergency landing and hit the trees.

Other sources who declined to be named said that the pilot had complained about his schedule.

“It could be a case of fatigue,” sources said.

The pilot’s girlfriend Lorraine, who was at the crash site at around 2:30 p.m. yesterday, said her boyfriend did not have a heart condition.

Another source who knew Silva said the pilot was in “good shape.”

But Variety learned from other sources on Tinian that the pilot had figured in a minor incident on the runway. On Saturday, just as his plane was taxiing the runway en route to Saipan, the aircraft hit a ditch.

Variety was also told that, while the plane was hovering near the Voice of America transmitter, Silva called the tower on Saipan to check the weather. This was the last message heard from the pilot.

Extricating the bodies

As of 4:30 p.m., the bodies remained at the crash site as the FBI and DPS continued the investigation.

Seman said the crash was an “isolated event.”

Close to a year ago, another Star Marianas Air Piper Cherokee Six PA-32 crashed on Saipan.

Then, the aircraft was piloted by Jae Choi who sustained injuries and was medevacked to the Philippines for further treatment.

His passengers were one Filipino and four Chinese, one of whom died.

Prior to this crash, the last aircraft accident to occurr was on Aug. 11, 2006 involving Taga Air’s Piper PA-32-300 aircraft but all seven people on board survived.

Stable condition

The four passengers who survived the plane crash were in stable condition, according to the Commonwealth Health Center yesterday afternoon.

CHC emergency preparedness coordinator Warren Villagomez said in a press briefing at the hospital that they received the first call about the incident at 5:45 a.m., Sunday.

CHC was placed under a “Code D,” or Code Disaster, alert at 8:45 a.m. and the first two victims arrived in the hospital’s emergency room at 12:43 p.m., followed by two other victims at 12:44 p.m.

Villagomez said the victims were tourists. After the press briefing, members of the media were led to a room where the victims’ families and friends from China were being assisted by the American Red Cross-NMI chapter. None wanted to make comment.

The emergency room physician, Dr. Marty Rohringer, said the three adults were “in critical but stable condition,” while the child was in “serious but stable condition.”

CHC chief executive officer Esther L. Muna did not want to release more information about the survivors because their families had not been notified yet. Variety was told by sources that the child was three years old while the other passengers are in their 20s or 30s.

Variety also learned from sources that the first two victims who arrived at the hospital were a man and a woman followed, a minute later, by another woman and a child.

Rohringer said the patients were conscious when they were brought in.

“We had an excellent response to the Code D calls so all surgeons, anesthesiologists and staff came to assist,” he added. “So there was no manpower shortage at all. We acted promptly. We were actually standing in the hallway as the patients arrived.”

He said two of the adult patients required emergency surgery while the third adult “may or may not” need surgery, as the ER staffers had stabilized the patient very well “so the patient may not need to go to the OR although we thought the patient might initially.”

Villagomez said the response was a well-coordinated effort, adding that their previous disaster preparedness training and exercises had paid off.

“I thank everyone who was part of the response effort,” he added.

All the needed doctors and nurses were mobilized immediately, he said as he also acknowledged the assistance provided by the Red Cross led by John Hirsh.

“We have family members of the victims here and we are providing everything that we can to calm them and mitigate the situation,” Villagomez said.

Hirsh said the Red Cross has a long history of working very closely with CHC, “and we value that partnership that really played out today.”

He said there were a lot of volunteers who came to the hospital to comfort the families and friends of the victims.

Muna said they assured the families and friends of the victims that the survivors were provided with the best care from a medical team that was quick to respond.

In a media release yesterday, Tinian Transportation Management Solutions Inc., which is doing business as Star Marianas, said:

“The company is very sorry about this tragic loss. We are doing everything possible to assist the victims and their families.

“We are also cooperating with [federal authorities] in investigating the cause of the accident and we are not at liberty to discuss the specifics of the accident at this time.

“We want to thank DPS, CPA, U.S. Coast Guard, CHC, THC, Red Cross and other rescue and response personnel.

“[T]he notifications to the families in China have not been made at this time. Therefore, we are unable to provide a list of the passengers.”

Still in the jungle

As of 7 p.m. Sunday, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Public Safety personnel were still at the crash site in the jungle.

At 4 p.m., authorities brought out the first body while federal and local authorities were extracting the remaining two bodies from the airplane.

From the main road, where the command post was set up, authorities had to create an access road by using a bulldozer to clear the vegetation. From there, one had to walk for 10 to 15 minutes to reach the main crash site.

“We have been up since 4 a.m., and we had to use a bulldozer to clear the area to help federal and local authorities reach the site,” Office of CNMI Homeland Security and Emergency Management acting special assistant Marvin Seman told Variety.

Before lunch time, a boat from DPS boating safety office ferried the department’s crime scene technicians from Sugar Dock to Tinian following the discovery of the bodies and the airlift of the four survivors by a U.S. Navy helicopter to the Commonwealth Health Center