Friday, June 29, 2012

A rusty red piece of history

IMAGINE this piece of small car chugging running around the island on narrow railroad tracks transporting sugarcane from the fields to the processing plants and contributing its small share into what made Saipan’s sugar industry boom in the late 1920s.
This piece of red rusty sugar train displayed at the front part of the Sugar King Park in Garapan has always been there for as long as anyone remembers.
Lately, this sugar train relic has been reclaiming history as a site for couples on pre-nuptial or wedding shoots or as backdrop for fashion shoots. Thousands of images of this historical piece are posted in popular networking sites such as Facebook, photoblogs, and other websites—all taken by tourists, amateurs, hobbyists  or professional photographers.
Last Saturday, I finally got the chance to to inspect this sugar train up close. It was not one of my stop-shoot-run errands but I had plenty of time to relax and enjoy the park.
Rusty as the pieces of steel are, they still look sturdy. The single trailer attached to the train looks like it could still do a lot of work despite its exposure to the harsh elements of nature.
Slowly running my fingers on parts of the train, I couldn’t help but imagine what it looked like when this train was in its heydays—when it was always loaded with sugar cane running along the tracks, handling sharp curves wihtout letting go of its precious cargo.
History tells us that sugarcane became the economic backbone of the CNMI throughout the 1930’s, and this little red rusty car had played a big role in that economic boom.
This rusty yet powerful piece of history stands proudly in its place today—a reminder of the famous Sugar King Haruji Matsue who saw a bright future in the islands.
On a sad note, although the rustic volumes of history in this little car is appealing, some people just don’t care. Bottles and soda cans and plastic wrappers always adorn this piece of historical ‘junk.’
Got some spare time in your hands? Why don’t you stop by and have a few minutes to board a time machine and take a trip back to the 1920s and 1930s where the very ground you are standing was a huge sugar plantation? The key to the time machine is within your reach—through a red rusty piece of history called the Sugar Train.
First published HERE

Friday, June 22, 2012

Sailing Slow

THE invitation to go sailing in one of the sailboats peacefully tied to the dock of Smiling Cove Marina was one I did not hesitate to jump at a couple of weeks back.
The bright afternoon sun shot painful rays in our unprotected skin but it was one adventure I was not willing to quash with the fear of a few sunburns. We drove to the Smiling Cove and for the first time, I had the chance to walk on the floating docks—a chance that only boat owners and their friends usually have.
At the end of the long dock wedged in between two other sailboats was the Zen, owned by friend Matt from NMC. I eyed the boat doubfully as I calculated there were six of us and it was not a big one but honestly, I was more concerned for my camera since I conveniently forgot to bring a plastic cover for it.
Friend Donna maneuvered the sailboat smoothly out of the cove and toward the open water of the Saipan lagoon. Matt and one other companion, Jason started unfurling the sails and suddenly the wind caught—which caught me by surprise. The sailboat tilted to a precarious angle which honestly alarmed me. I have boarded boats of different kinds even under the angriest of waves in the Pacific before, even survived an inflatable boat ride over Saipan’s choppy waters but that time was different. I was not prepared to die. Or drown my new camera which had me scrimping for a long time saving money to pay for it.
Matt removed one of the sails and the boat went upright again, this time sailing straightly on the not-so-calm waters.
With only single ropes acting as handholds around the boat, it was quite challenging having to jump to the other side when the boat tilts to one side and maintaining your balance so as not to fall off the sides but that added to the thrill.
As the sailing trip was unplanned, Matt didn’t have a GPS to guide us so we just sailed back and forth in the lagoon, enjoying the view from the sea and watching schools of fish swimming near the boat.
An hour later, we were rewarded with one of nature’s gifts bestowed on this side of the planet—a spectacular sunset which we raced to capture with our cameras. When the last rays of the sun was safely tucked beneath the horizon for the day, we slowly made our way back to the dock.
The cruise boats offering sunset dinner cruises for tourists and locals also started gliding back toward the dock. From a distance, we could see the passengers of the Stars and Stripes waving at us as they joined the festive dancing on deck.
With shaky feet, I jumped on the floating dock of the Smiling Cove Marina after the boat was securely tied, glad for the experience albeit unplanned. One day, look for the right time to experience slow sailing around Saipan’s waters. You will be surprised at what lies in store for you.

First published HERE