Friday, November 25, 2011

Tales from the lonely benches

HAVE you ever tried parking along the Beach Road and actually sit in one of those benches that are scattered far and few along the long stretch of beaches near the walkway?
You may say that these lonely-looking benches with wooden planks and metal feet, facing the sea exposed to the rain, sun and the winds day in and day out have been there forever. So, what’s with those ordinary benches by the seaside anyway?
I can say nothing much, except you’ll find some planks missing and some rusty nails sticking out but if you take a few minutes to sit down and be in for something you’ve always taken for granted.
Oh the stories those benches can tell!
Arriving an hour early for a massage appointment at the Beach Road one evening, I crossed the street and relished the chance to finally sit on one of the three benches facing the sea, stretch my legs, breathe in the salty tang of the ocean air and just let time pass and watch the world go by. It was a chance which I had been dying to do since forever.
I was in a daydreaming state when an angry-looking guy flopped down on the bench farthest from me. Not aware that somebody was there, he broke the silence and started yelling at somebody or whoever he was talking to in his cellphone. I was glued to my seat, not wanting to eavesdrop yet not wanting to get up and catch his attention. After a few minutes, the guy stood up and left, not knowing I was there.
Trying to recapture my earlier bliss, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath when two joggers passed by, pleasantly swapping stories to each other. Minutes later, a couple passed by, bickering about bills and family matters as though they were at home and not on a public walkway.
Talk about peace! The thought of relaxing flew away totally this time, and I began to see the benches in different way—as an avenue to learn about people and their lives. It’s like being given a chance to peek into a window and see things for what they are without the main characters knowing that you’re there. Okay, call it eavesdropping but no one can blame you for sitting there and hearing all those things. In the first place, you were there to sit and relax!
From that time, I never drive along the Beach Road without glancing at these benches which are deserted most of the time but if I do see anyone sitting there, I begin to weave stories in my mind as to what they are thinking and what they are going through.
Many times I see couples or families watching the sunset from the benches and had to curb the urge to stop and snap photos—after the blasting of horns and screeching sounds of the cars behind me of course.
Those benches could indeed provide several chapters to write a book. As for those bench occupants, be careful because one day, you might just find your stories in the pages of a book!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Peace on a marble tablet

A FEW steps behind the Flag Circle at the Court of Honor of American Memorial Park in Garapan is a wide marble tablet which I have always seen before but have not given it any particular notice, until last week when I had time on my hands and I was at the area.
After covering the solemn ceremony of the Veteran’s Day at the Court of Honor, I ventured near the wharf area to cool off and noticed with news eyes this monument that I had no idea played a very big role marking the end of the bloodiest battle in the Pacific.
Stepping on the tiled cement, I approached the tablets and read for the first time what was written there.
The middle tablet bears the following inscription:

PEACE AT LAST. At 6:35 August 15. 1945, the Commander in chief of the US Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas Admiral Chester W. Nimitz ordered all offensive action against the Japanese to cease. All the guns of war fell silent. The long post war process of healing, reconstruction and the building of a basis for mutual trust and lasting peace began. The signing of the peace treaty between Japan, the United States and the Allied Powers on September 8, 1951 at the San Francisco Peace Conference formally brought World War 11 to a close.

Flanking the middle tablet were two tablets signed by US President Harry S. Truman and Japan Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida attesting to their desire for peace and reconciliation.
Joggers and bikers around the area usually pass by without paying attention to this marble tablet, or maybe they already know it is there and thinks no big deal of it.
Here is something that the present and the future generations must continue to be aware of. The tablet is just a piece of marble, yet it is an instrument announcing to the world that although the scars of the war will always be there peace was finally attained. It signifies an end to tragedy, to a war that claimed thousands of both US and Japanese soldiers and civilians, and left thousands more of families homeless.
If you’ve got some free time, try to visit American Memorial Park’s Peace Memorial. It is one place that a lot of people from different parts of the world would give a lot for just to visit this monument of peace. It is right within your reach.

Friday, November 4, 2011

WW11 reminders at the airport

THE minute you emerge from the arrival area and out into the open at the Rota International Airport., a collection of Japanese WW11 airplane engines and anti aircraft guns neatly arranged in a row will meet your eye.
I saw the collection right away at the left side of the airport but had to curb the itch to walk over for a closer look and start snapping photos of these artifacts that continue to attract tourists and history buffs from all over the world. It was my first time to set foot on Rota and I had no spare time because a friend was picking me up in a few minutes. I vowed to come back, which I did the following day when I finally rented a car to do some exploring on my own.
The rustic airplane engines were placed in constructed stone pedestals surrounded by neatly trimmed grass. Albeit rusty, the engines were obviously maintained and oiled because they don’t show the impression that they are ready to fall off into pieces at a moment’s notice.
At the end of the row of airplane engines is an equally rusty yet well-maintained anti aircraft gun still intact after all these years.
I took my own sweet time inspecting the relics and capturing them on the lens to share to the rest of the world who haven’t had a chance to visit the island.
The variety of World War 11 relics scattered all over the island is just one of the many bonuses you get in driving around the idyllic Paradise of this 13km long island in addition to the rich historical sites, the long stretches of white sandy beaches, rich evergreen forests, and the slow, leisurely lifestyle.
History records show that Rota was occupied by Japanese forces during World War II and became an important link for the Japanese to get their supplies from Japan.
In an island where stop-lights are unheard of and where motorists wave at each other on the road, where a remote-island atmosphere rules in comparison to the hustle and bustle of Guam or Saipan 30 minutes hopper ride away, these World War 11 relics feel more at home.
Rota is a jewel waiting for visitors to come and explore its treasures, and these treasures can be seen right from the airport and all over the island.