Thursday, March 26, 2009

Island Explorer: Amid the pillars of a historic house

Stone moPhoto by Raquel C. Bagnolnoliths are among the mysterious attractions in the Pacific Islands, and CNMI has got a fair share of these stone edifices that has existed and weathered the elements of nature for years. The stone monoliths play a special role in the islands as though the people wanted to leave something to remind the future generations that centuries before, they existed.

The House of Taga on Tinian is one example of these monoliths. In fact, it is one of CNMI’s main attractions as visitors spread the word about its strange and unfathomable existence.

The huge pillars of stone which people of long ago had industriously and painstakingly hewn out of solid rock or reef corals were supposed to be the foundations of an elevated structure or meeting house.

According to Tinian representative Edwin Aldan who volunteered to give me and my buddies a tour of the island, the pillars were believed to be the base or foundations of the house of Taga, a 17th century Chamorro leader who possess great strength and wisdom. He was known for aiding Spaniards who were shipwrecked in the island. Legend has it that when the last of these group of latte stones fall down, the famous Chamorro leader will return to Tinian.

Even in broad daylight, it felt strange and kind of eerie to be walking around the huge slabs of stones that had been mute witnesses of the events of long ago. If the stones can talk, they would have so much to tell, more than enough to fill volumes.

A visit to Tinian will never be complete if you miss out this famous edifice that is located right at Tinian’s central area in San Jose. It is readily accessible to anybody who will spare a few minutes to drop by and marvel at this piece of history that will be here for a long time.

This article was originally published HERE

Friday, March 20, 2009

An afternoon’s escape at Tachogna Beach

IN one of my trips to the scenic island of Tinian, I grabbed the chance to escape and do some exploring on my own one late afternoon as my companions were emerged in a fierce battle with the one-cent slot machines.

Photo by Raquel C. Bagnol

A leisurely stroll from the Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino on that bright afternoon led me to Tachogna Beach, a few meters south of Tinian’s famous Taga Beach.

Save for a few cottages, the beach is still unmarred by changes brought about by modernization and has retained its natural scenery.

A stress-free atmosphere pervades the place. It’s an entirely different world out there, as though time stands still and nothing else exists except for the long stretch of white sandy beach, the endless, blue skies and the shouts of glee as children chased each other to the sea. Anytime of the day, parents and kids can be seen frolicking in the sand.

Tachogna Beach is an ideal spot for get-togethers, picnics, or simply for hanging out. The coconut trees on the seashore provide an excellent shade to individuals who just want to unwind.

The beach is the venue for the Tinian hot pepper festival which never fails to draw huge crowds each year.

Taghogna Beach is Tinian’s best spot for snorkeling with its crystal clear waters which continue to lure not only tourists from all parts of the world but locals, too.

For several months now, I had been combing the island’s famous and not-so-famous beaches, nooks and crannies and writing about it to urge the residents to look at the beauty of this place with new eyes.

When you are on the island of Tinian, try to spend a few minutes of your time to visit Tachogna Beach, and one tip—time your visit in the late afternoon and you will be in for a very wonderful experience of seeing the sunset at Tachogna Beach. It’s one of Tinian’s unequalled wonders.

This article was originally published HERE


Sunday, March 15, 2009

A sunrise treat at Marine Beach

FPhoto by Raquel C. Bagnolor nocturnal beings whose deepest and sweetest sleep starts just when the rest of the world is getting up, a sunrise is a rare treat, and living all the way up in Dandan requires you to really get up earlier if you are planning to catch the sun rise on the other side of the island.

We drove straight to Marine Beach in Kagman on Saturday just as pink and orange streaks were blotting the sky, slowly devouring the darkness. Only a few cars were on the road yet but we hurried on, passing Chacha Road and in no time we were on the sloping rough road before reaching Marine Beach.

I jumped out of the car even before it came to a complete stop in the parking lot, forgetting the tripod as I hurried to the beach. A strong wind was blowing, and I mean “strong winds” which threatened to blow me away effortlessly. Except for a couple of teenagers and a flock of birds who were scouring the shores for food, we had the whole place to ourselves

Alas, the sun was nowhere and in fact, dark clouds started to gather in the skies. Beginning to get discouraged, I turned my attention to the gigantic waves crashing on the rocks.

The sun was just maybe testing my patience for lo and behold, although it was not the full, round sun I’ve always dreamed of seeing, it was the sun just the same, slowly inching its way up from the horizon. I stood gaping, knowing that the moment would not last long. Before I knew it, the sun was already up in the sky and I’ve snapped just a few photos.

I found capturing the rising sun through the lens a real challenge. Twice last month I had sacrificed and groped my way out of the house before five o’clock in the morning to proceed to the Bird Island lookout where somebody told me “offers the best view of the sunrise.”

Both times we were disappointed because the sun refused to cooperate with our sleep-befuddled system. On the first morning, there was a slight drizzle, and on the second time dark clouds hang over the skies, blocking out any chance of seeing the sun.

What’s so special with a sunrise anyway? It arises everyday, we all know that but try catching those few precious moments when it makes its grand entrance into the world and you will witness one of nature’s spectacular wonders.

Marine Beach is not ideal for swimming because the current is so strong and the waves so high you would be swept out to sea any minute, but the place is perfect for hanging out.

This article was first published HERE

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Twilight at the Fishing Base

Photo by Raquel C. Bagnol

My most favorite moment in a day is when the sun begins to set, signaling the end of another day and the moon begins its journey to the skies to rein when darkness falls.

Perched on the hood of a car, I waited with the shutter poised, savoring each second before capturing what I wanted through the lens—the sunset and a moon half-hidden in the clouds. The tide is still out but at the dock there is a flurry of activities. While some boats are quickly closing the gap between the sea and the dock where where pick up trucks are waiting to tow them home, some are preparing to go out fishing for the night.

Transitions are taking place and it’s a wonderful feeling to be an observer of it all.

I was not at some exotic dream location whiling away time and splurging my hard-earned money but at a place known to everybody which is just a few minute’s walk from the road — the Fishing Base in Garapan.

The place is a favorite hangout of many. A visit to the place at noontime will reveal cars parked under the shade of the trees while its passengers are having lunch break or a few minutes off from work. Others just want to sniff a breath of salty air from the sea while others just want to relax.

Saipan is blessed with so many beautiful spots where you can do many things for free, and the Fishing Base dock is one of those places.

You need not take weeks off and spend thousands of dollars for a lavish vacation in some paradise you see advertised in travel brochures. Paradise is right within your fingertips all for free, and a few minutes are all you need.

Take those few steps across from Kristo Rai Church in Garapan and get rewarded by the wonderful sounds, smells and sights of local color unfolding before you especially as dusk falls in the place.

This article was originally published HERE