Friday, February 26, 2010

Once I Made Her Smile

I remember the day you were taken away from us. They say that this is the kind of thing that will never leave, a thing that will continue to be recounted. They don't know. I carry you with me everyday. For almost a decade now, I've kept the best memories of you and less of the tragedies. But today, my heart breaks again into fragments that I can't count. Is it because I am unable to count the pieces that I am unable to put them back together? I feel like such a mess.

Alone I mourn your loss, in the quiet of my own space. I try to push away the regrets, the faults, my fallible humanness and I am feeling sorry for myself. Why do I feel so lost? In the selfish way that they want to miss you, they forget that I mourn you too. They know that I am not to blame yet they need someone to direct their pain. So I steped up, my dear. I let them take, and give, and hate, and hurt. I've been beaten up but what does it matter anymore? I still can't bring you back and neither will their pain. But doing so doesn't honor you.

How have I honored you since then? Not enough. I am afraid, that I don't celebrate life enough as I should. I am a coward who just the other day wished aloud that it should have been me rather than you. How disappointed you would have been to hear me: the one who once made you smile.

I am sorry, my dear. It is just a weak moment and I just miss you. I miss your love.

Fly me up to where you are
Beyond the distant star
I wish upon tonight
To see you smile
If only for a while
To know you're there
A breath away's not far
To where you are
Ti napu.

The Beachcomber

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Acho’ Atupat & the Koru

I found my first sling stone on Saipan in 2004 while jogging at Beach Road. Holding the artifact, I was amazed by its craftsmanship as I contemplated how the ancients came to design and fashion it without the use of modern devices. It was a connection to the past. This find fueled my fascination with one of the principal weapons of the ancient Chamorros.

The Chamorro name for sling stone is acho' atupat (or atupak) and produced them in the Latte Period/Phase (1000-250 BP). History books describe them as egg or acorn-shaped stones fashioned with “jasper-like” stone, or with sun or fire-hardened clay. People now use the words biconical or football-shaped to describe them. The ancient people wielded them with deadly accuracy.

The biconical shape of the Chamorro sling stone is supposed to be state of the art as compared to sling stone designs from other parts of the world. Here is an article about some archaeologists studying them. I though, that they come in more shapes than what has already been described. Some are more like flattened deflated footballs and others have one side that is flat.

The Flag of Guahan has an acho' atupat.

I believe that making a sling stone required a good deal of artistic ability from selecting the right materials to the fashioning of the shape and the polishing of the final stone. This fascination fueled my desire to experiment in making my own sling stone replicas using modern tools. I had to do a bit of research, into cutting, grinding and polishing limestone. Then I had to buy materials and tools that would make my labor easier. Even though I used modern tools, it was still a labor-intensive effort which most of the times left my entire body dusty, sweaty and sore. Most of the soreness was in my shoulders, arms and hands from handling the materials. In the end though, the results I was getting was all worth it!I made the replicas a bigger than actual sling stones so that they could be used as decorative pieces. Here is one I fashioned right next to the sling stone I modeled the shape after (9.3cm:4.7cm). I found that one in Pau Pau Beach and I describe the shape as biconical with a flat side.

The stones that I have been using are coral limestones that I found to be full of character either in shape or color. I got the original stone from Wing Beach and lucked out that it is a chalcedony. The calcite and aragonite from sea creatures like coral and shells were buried, compressed and heated under the earth to be fused and turned into microscopic quartz crystals. When I was grinding it the cream, orange and brick colors of the rock was apparent, and when I finally polished it, the true beauty of the colors and patterns came out.

A special bonus was also revealed in the stone! A spiral pattern of a long ago marine snail that was amalgamated in the rock matrix revealed itself! You can clearly see the shell’s whorl on the face of the polished stone. What a beautiful fossil! It immediately reminded me of the koru.

I found this beautiful koru in Pohnpei going up to Sokhe's Rock.

The koru is the unfurled fern frond that is often used in Māori art as a symbol of creation. The spiraling shape suggests the idea of continuous movement, and its inner coil hint to a return to the point of origin.

The koru thus symbolizes the way which life changes and also stays the same. It therefore also symbolizes new life, growth, strength, purity, peace, tranquility and spirituality along with a strong sense of regrowth or new beginnings.
The koru is also often associated with nurturing, frequently used to represent the strength and purity of a loving relationship within a family.
It is only the second month of the year. It is almost the third. There have been a lot of changes surrounding my life especially what I felt were permanent fixtures in my job. I'll be honest and say that I do not deal with change very well (esp. when it comes to my circle of people). The koru reminds me to be flexible and accepting of change. If there is no change in life then life itself ceases and desists. Life goes on.
Ti napu.

The Beachcomber

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Silvery Pipturus & the Motherly Butterfly

I have to talk to the guys who do lawn at the office. A Silver Pipturus (Pipturus argenteus) shot up fairly quickly in the middle of the ginger plant. It was almost 4 feet tall when the guys came, saw it as a weed, and macheted the hell out of it. I am sure it’ll grow again but let the fellas know before the chop it down again.

It’s true the Silver Pipturus or Amahayan in Chamorro (Ghasooso in Carolinian) don’t seem like it could be used as a decorative tree for your landscaping projects. I’ve developed a special appreciation for it though ever since learning that it was a traditionally useful plant.

Amahayan is a common shrub like tree. It can grow up to 5m (16ft) along the beach in limestone forests and disturbed areas. Their branches are reddish brown and the leaves are a fuzzy, light green above and silvery in the bottom (hence their name).

I found a Hypolimnas anomala butterfly in this tree up at Navy Hill. I remember reading that this butterfly is unique in that she sticks around after laying its eggs and guards them until the caterpillars hatch. The motherly butterfly stays with her offspring until she dies!

Yikes! Cool! A few moments later, I found out where she had laid her eggs and the caterpillars hatched.

The bark can provide a brown dye and the sap was once used to bring the heads of boils out for drainage. The bark fibers of the Amahayan was once used by the ancients for cordage and fishing nets that were said to be of better quality than coconut fiber. I pulled some strips of bark off the discarded branches to see if I could twist them into cordage. Making natural cord well takes some practice. The bark was hard to manipulate because it was very slimy. I am going to guess that you must need to boil the bark and then dry before it can be woven into a proper cord.

You can make a simple cord using the finger-twisting method by marking the middle of the bark strip (A). Twist one end away from you (B) while twisting the other towards you (c) until a loop forms in the middle (A) that you marked. The cord forms as both ends tend to naturally twists together (D) but to make a tight cord, you will have to guide it manually.

You just twist more strips of bark to make a longer cord. It may be difficult to make at first and your fingers do get tired, but practice makes perfect. It is a useful skill to have if you need to live in the boonies for some time.

I’d like to make enough cord one day and make a hook out of a tree oyster shell to replicate an ancient Chamorro fishing hook and line. Or maybe make an entire fishing net. Man, I wish I had more time.

Ti napu.

The Beachcomber

Monday, February 15, 2010

Harry's Back: I Hope He Kicks Ass

Our beloved Harry Blalock is back blogging. I hope he is back for good because I think he generates a lot of traffic in his blog for people wanting to get more information about Saipan. A lot of people checking him out are divers and tourists, so he does his part in promoting our islands to the world. I tell you, it is a lot better than my nervous attempt in inviting Darryl Hannah and her sister to dive Saipan after seeing them in Palau!

Check out his latest entry called, Still Alive and Kicking which in a way is his "news of my death has been greatly exaggerated" entry back into the blogosphere. He also talks about diving the Grotto. I'll have to share with you on a later post about my experience there with Harry. He was so professional, careful and knowledgeable.

Another thing I miss about Harry is his Food For Thought on KZMI-FM. I've been a fan since I came from Guahan in 2002 mostly because I learned quickly what was going on in my new adoptive island. He stopped working at the station to explore where his new diving career may bring him so there was quickly a void that developed in the social commentaries that he shared with the public. And boy, do we need him now more than ever! It is only the second month of the year and politics have played out a long rap sheet of shenanigans that most of the citizenry are upset about. We feel discouraged, abandoned, silenced, and so on. Harry was an avenue for our voices to be heard, and our sentiments expressed. I am not the only one who feels this way, of course, so check out the comments on this page.

Harry, I am glad that you are back. Your fans (and the Commonwealth) needs you.

Ti napu.

The Beachcomber

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Moon Legends

(From Gira Con Me)
The moon has been remarkably beautiful lately. From the Blue Moon during New Years to this month’s crescent, I’ve been spending a lot of time just looking and admiring la luna. In Tagalog, we call the moon buwan which is very close to the Chamorro name of pulan. Here are a couple of stories about her that I like.

The Chamorro people believed that two mythical siblings Puntan and Fuuna created the world that we know. They lived before the world was created for many many years. When the benevolent Puntan was about to die, he instructed his sister Fuuna to create from his chest the earth, and his back, the sky. His eyebrows were made into rainbows. His eyes became the sun and the moon.

Endymion the shepherd,
As his flock he guarded,
She, the Moon, Selene,
Saw him, loved him, sought him,
Coming down from heaven
To the glade of Latmus,
Kissed him, lay beside him,
Blessed is his fortune,
Evermore he slumbers,
Tossing not nor turning,
Endymion the shepherd.
(from Mythology by Edith Hamilton)

Ah, to be loved for eternity! Ah, and to sleep!


There were two villages separated by a dark dried up bog in the Irish countryside. At night, the villagers were never afraid to visit their neighbors from the opposite village because of the moon’s warm light. The moon always lit the night, keeping at bay the dark and evil creatures from harming people. In fact, it used to visit the earth quite often.

One night, the moon got curious and went down the dried up bog. While it was distracted, the dark and evil creatures captured the moon and buried it in the middle of the bog. The creatures took over the night and villagers, afraid for their lives, could no longer voyage across the dark dried up bog. “What happened to the moon?” they asked each other.

One day, an old woman gathered the villagers. She told them that she knows where to find the moon. “Tonight, each of you will carry with you a small pebble and we will venture through the dark bog to free the moon!” That night, the old woman instructed the villagers to put the pebbles in their mouths as a reminder not to make any noise that may alert the dark and evil creatures of the bog of their presence.

When they got to a big mound of earth, the old woman suspected that the moon was buried there. She instructed the villagers to dig quickly but quietly. Little by little, they revealed the bright surface of the moon, until at last, it was free! The moon flew quickly towards the sky, away from the bog. The moon will never again venture too close to the earth and the villagers were never again scared to venture across the bog!


It is said that the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill had its origins in the Icelandic myth of brother and sister, Hjúki and Bil. Máni, the embodiment of the moon god, captured the siblings as they were fetching water from a well called Byrgir. Their story unfolds in the phases of the moon as it waxes and wanes, as Hjúki falls down and Bil tumbling after.

I am sure that you know other great stories about the moon. I hope you have a few moments this week to appreciate her beauty.

Ti napu.

The Beachcomber

Thursday, February 4, 2010

IWTFY: Count on a dandelion

When I'm with you
I'll make every second count
'Cause when I'm without you
I'll be counting every second.

I've always wanted to be a better writer. I am just not that good with creative writing nor composing poetry. There's just something about being able to put words together and play with the way they sound, and what they mean that I truly appreciate. I guess it is mostly because I can't seem to do it right, and my Creative Writing for Dummies hasn't done a lot to change the way I write.

That said, I started reading and appreciating I Wrote This For You which I learned about from one of Nella's links. There are some real good stuff there that you should check out. The tag and premise of the blog goes,

"I need you to understand. I wrote this for you. I wrote this for you and only you. Everyone else who reads it doesn't get it. They may think they get it, but they don't. This is the sign you've been looking for. You were meant to read these words."

I heard this old sappy love song that inspired the above verse. I got mixed reviews. Like I said, creative writing is not easy. It is difficult to not try feeling like The Sphinx from Mystery Men.

Some of his classic lines go like this:

"He who questions training, only trains himself at asking questions."

"When you doubt your powers, you give power to your doubt."

"When you care what is outside what is inside cares for you."

"We are number one. All others are number two or lower."

Classic! I need to watch that movies again. Soon.

Ti napu.

The Beachcomber

P.S. Oh, my sketch is of a mature dandelion flower down to its last seed. We don't have daffodils here but I like the idea of making a wish while you blow the seeds off. I wonder if we have something similar here in Micronesia? Ill have to share with you about Tabebuia rosea later.