Friday, January 27, 2012

Peace Island at the Park

I HAVE seen this oval structure with steps around it leading to a large slab of cement from a distance hundreds of times in the last four years that I have been here, but have never really paid attention to this particular ‘island’ located at American Memorial Park until one day a couple of months back when I was left with an hour to spare.
I can say a butterfly I was trying to capture on camera brought me to the Peace Island. I have always thought that the cemented structure bordered with the traditional latte stones around is another tribute to something that happened during the World War 2 but upon closer inspection, the Rotary International logo above a flying bird symbolizing peace met my eyes.
Unlike regular islands that are usually surrounded by a body of water, the Rotary Peace Island is surrounded by flowers and greenery.
The towering monument states that the CNMI was declared as a Peace Rotary Island in 2000.
Browsing through the internet later, I learned that Saipan Island was declared a Rotary Peace Community after having been sponsored by Rotary Club Saipan, District 2750 and initiated by Saipan Rotary Club past president Glen V. Perez.
Members of the Rotary Club of Saipan unveiled the Rotary Peace Monument at the American Memorial Park as part of the group’s effort to promote peace and understanding around the world on November 17, 2000.
I also learned that the Peace Monument is just among other Rotary peace and friendship monuments erected in other parts of the world such as Spain, Berkeley, California in North America, Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park in US/Canada, Indiana, Georgia, Los Angeles, Colorado, Yukon Canada, Vancouver, Mexico, Uruguay, Australia, India, Japan, and other countries. Check this site for other peace and friendship monuments:
Like thousands of other people living here, I drive by the place every day or stop at American Memorial Park every now and then but have never really paid attention to this landmark or what it stands for.
It’s funny because you may have been here for years and taken everything for granted, but try to take a closer look around you. You might discover something that has always been there but you might have never known what that is. This small island is indeed full of treasures.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A perfect getaway on Saipan

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DRIVING down twisting roads and thick jungles in Talafofo leads one to another scenic spot where I would have loved to spend time — if only it isn’t too far.
Photos by Raquel C. BagnolOne Friday afternoon, I and a buddy decided to keep driving up Capital Hill without any destination in mind, but then I saw the sign “Kingfisher Golf” beside Tun Goru Snack House.
I told my buddy to follow the road. He had not been in the area before so he kept on asking where we were going and I told him to just enjoy the scenery and continue driving. He said we seemed to be in an underdeveloped remote area. He was right. Some electric posts and the paved road were the only signs of civilization we saw.
Very soon, the road forked and I told my buddy to drive straight to Kingfisher Golf Links — a place which seems to exist in its own world.
Non-golfers may consider the place as out of the way and wouldn’t waste time and fuel to drive all the way there just to enjoy the greenery and the breathtaking views, but the place is so relaxing and peaceful. It also serves as a perfect getaway to break the routine of everyday life.
While there, we felt like we stepped into another dimension and that Saipan was so far away.
Opened in 1996, Kingfisher is snugly tucked away on a lovely coastline, offering an awesome view of well-trimmed golf courses, lush jungles, Suicide Cliff, Mt. Tapochao, the vast blue ocean and open sky. It was a real delight to the senses.
We made our way down to my favorite spot — an artificial murky pond with lots of fish swimming beneath the weeds and other plants.
Here, everything was so peaceful and quiet, the silence broken only by the occasional sound of golf carts, the distant roaring of the waves crashing on  rocky cliffs and the occasional drone of a passing airplane.
We took time snapping photos of anything and everything and wished that we had more time to enjoy one of nature’s impressive showcases.
If it wasn’t that late, I would have loved to revisit the Hidden Beach beyond the Kingfisher Golf Links but that required leaving the car on the road and walking into the jungle.
Another time perhaps.