Showing posts with label Saipan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Saipan. Show all posts

Friday, December 01, 2006

Northern Marianas: More fun under the Saipan sun

A trip to Saipan would never be complete if you do not set foot on Managaha Island, which most tourists consider as the most beautiful spot in Saipan. Surrounded by a pristine white sand beach and cobalt blue water, the view of the island and the surrounding ocean was nothing but stunning!

Before visiting the island, we boarded the Submarine Sirena owned by Pacific Subsea. As they say, you can dive into Saipan's beautiful aquamarine lagoon without ever getting your feet wet and explore the wonders of this spectacular tropical underwater paradise from the large viewing ports of the big yellow sub. Indeed, this was another way of exploring the world under the ocean, and in style since you were in an air-conditioned submarine!

It was funny that the color of the submarine was yellow and our group was thus singing, “We all live in a yellow submarine, yellow submarine, yellow submarine…” while going on board. Sirena is the only genuine U.S. Coast Guard approved submarine in the Northern Mariana Islands. Under the water, you'll see coral formations, colorful reef fish, sea turtles, and manta rays. We also got to view the sunken wreck of a Japanese warship from World War II.

After one round in the sub, we boarded a ferry which took us to the island. Excitement levels were high as we neared the island since the view of the water and the islands, and the nearby reefs was so picturesque and postcard perfect. No matter which side of the boat you were on, the panorama was stunning for all 360 degrees.

When we got on the island, we first proceeded to the Tasi Tours area to get our snorkeling gear. The water around the island was shallow and the nearby reefs provide some really great opportunities to meet the marine life. Before we got in the water, we too a short walk on the white sand beach in front of the activity area and took some photos.

It was then time to jump in the water to snorkel. The guys on the island gave us fish food so that we could meet the fish up close. We were swarmed by schools of colorful fish when we released the small pellets. But ooops! I found out it was illegal to feed the fish in CNMI. I wonder why they encourage tourists.

You’ll never go hungry on the island since there is a Managaha Lunch Buffet to keep your stomachs filled. In the afternoon, while waiting for our ferry back to Saipan, we got some lounge chairs and took a quick nap under the shade of coconut trees.

We had dinner at Café at the Park where world cuisine meets the Pacific. Their food is a fusion of world-class recipes made with local ingredients. Our meal consisted of hanger steak and blackened parrot fish fillet with potato crouguet and salsa. And the mango sorbet they served for dessert was simply divine! Again, they had WiFi Internet access. Hehe!

We had to rush to the 9 p.m. cocktail show at SandCastle Saipan at the Hyatt Regency. Indeed it was a great show! Hats off to illusionist David Womach and the rest of the cast. I was especially dumbfounded as I watched the Chinese acrobats bend their bodies in extraordinary shapes I never thought humans were capable of doing.

No doubt, there is so much more to see and do in this island paradise and the other islands of the Northern Marianas. But I am most certain that the five days spent in Saipan was five days utilized to the fullest. And I am looking forward to my next adventure in the Northern Marianas.

I'll be back in the Philippines tomorrow, and back to school and more work. Hehe! Check out my photos at

Photo credits: Karlo de Leon who took most of my photos, Jodi Madridejos and Cheche Lazaro.

Philippines featured
I was delighted to read in the in-flight magazine of Continental Airlines that Manila is one of eight cities featured in the article "The List: Eight great places for a laugh." Seattle tops that list.

The entry for Manila reads: "According to a 2005 global survey. Filipinos - with their care free que sera sera ("bahala na") attitude and lack of words for depression and boredom - are the happiest people in Asia. Shiny Jeepney taxis ride to scores of street parties throughout the city and outskirts for endless revelry, raucous dancing, and crazy costumes. Festivals center around water fights, a parade of enormous lanterns and suckling pigs sitting in chairs, houses dripping in fruits and veggies, water buffalo races, and the best-dressed tuna. Other attractions include the Banaue rice terraces and the unofficial pastime - karaoke."

Funny but most festivals alluded to are in the outskirts of Manila like the Giant Lantern Festival of San Fernando, Pampanga; Parada ng mga Lechon of Balayan, Batangas; Pahiyas Festival of Lucban, Quezon; Carabao Festival of Pulilan, Bulacan; and the Tuna Festival of General Santos City way down south.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Northern Marianas: Fun, fun and more fun in the Marianas

It was water activities for me today. In the morning, we went fishing. The Marianas Visitors Authority had arranged for us to join a fishing trip offered to tourists. As always, there were Filipinos in the crew of the fishing boat. The fishing rods and bait are provided on board.

We arrived at the port in time for the 9 a.m. departure of the boat. The trip to the fishing area near Managaha Island was about thirty minutes. The water was so blue and so clear, you could see the white sand at the bottom. As soon as we anchored, the captain of the boat gave us a signal when we could drop our lines. We had approximately an hour before the captain would ring the bell again for us to stop fishing.

This was one way to relax and enjoy the blue waters off the island of Saipan. The only thing I wasn't happy about was the fact that it was a bit short since I enjoyed the great ocean views as well as the warm breeze that hit the boat.

We were back at the port shortly before 11 a.m. where the MVA vehicle passed by for us. We then joined the Probe Team crew while they were interviewing another successful Filipino businessman in Saipan. Aside from a hardware store and small department store, he also owned the only Jollibee Store on the island. Yes folks, Jollibee is already in the Marianas! And we dropped by to check out the products. It was weird seeing your favorite Chicken Joy and Regular Yum quoted in US dollars.

Lunch was at Tony Roma’s. This time, I made sure I didn't eat too much so I ordered salad. Our plan for the afternoon was more activities in the water courtesy of the Saipan Grand Hotel. But we first joined the Probe crew at the Saipan World Resort to watch a taping of an upcoming Koreanovela. Check out the previous entry for more details.

Since the hotels are beside each other, we simply walked back to our hotel via the beach, for our appointment with the jetskis. It was so much fun! After a few minutes on the jetskis, we went snorkelling to check out the remains of some tanks near the hotel beach.

Dinner was at D’Elegance Café, another Filipino restaurant which insisted that they invite us for dinner. After that, it was a short walk to the shopping areas such as DFS, Urban Outlet and Paseo de Marianas.

Every Thursday, the Paseo de Marianas is very much alive because of a Chamorro cultural show and night market. I hope we have cultural shows like these in our tiangge areas such as Greenhills, Market! Market! or Tiendesitas since it is an added attraction for tourists and locals alike.

I really felt I was in the Philippines while I was walking around since you could hear Filipino being spoken all over the place! Plus, most of the stalls at the night market were owned by Filipinos and you could see so much Filipino food such as dinuguan, bopis, arroz caldo, laing and even grilled delights such as barbeque, tenga ng baboy, adidas, etc. I was also surprised to see tupig being roasted there too! It turns out, it is known locally as apigigi and might have been brought there long ago by immigrants from Pangasinan.

But what made Saipan different from the Philippines was that it was much cleaner. For some reason, Filipinos when abroad, follow the law. I wonder why we can't do it here, especially the littering part since if everyone puts his garbage in the right place, we won't have have problems such as unsightly piles of garbage. Oh well!

Check out my photos at

Northern Marianas: Koreanovelas are shot in Saipan!

I had another fun day in Saipan today. We went fishing in the morning and jetskiing in the afternoon. But right after lunch, we watched a taping of an upcoming Koreanovela entitled "Nice Woman, Bad Woman" at the Saipan World Resort. And we also got to take photos with the stars who included Lee Jae-Ryong, Sung-Hyun Ah and Jun Jae-Yong.

It turns out there are a lot of Koreanovelas shot here in Saipan. So if you're a die hard fan of these Korean soaps and can't afford a trip to Korea, you can catch your favorite Korean stars here in Saipan. There are direct Continental Airline flights from Manila to Saipan so start planning your trips. Hehe! Just contact the Marianas Visitors Authority in Manila at (02) 8481512 for more information.

I'll blog in detail when I have the time. But for now, I need to get some rest. Hehe! So in the meantime, check out my photos at

OT: Please vote for the documentary of my brod RG Publico for BBC Best Documentary of the Year. The title is Sierra Leone: The End Of A Nightmare. Last day to vote is December 4. To vote, click here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Northern Marianas: Saipan and the Second World War

The Northern Mariana Islands were witnesses to the poignant events of the Second World War. From shipwrecks and rusted tanks off its shores to the sites of fierce battles and tragic episodes, the Marianas stand as a memorial to this sad chapter of world history. Among these sites is an airfield on the island of Tinian, where the B-29 Superfortress bomber Enola Gay set forth on its mission to drop the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Today, we visited several sites and memorials on the northern tip of Saipan. After breakfast at the hotel, the group first made its way to the Marianas Visitors Authority where we met with their managing director, Perry Tenorio. After the brief courtesy call, it was off to the Last Command Post in Banadero Cave, which is next to the Okinawa Peace Memorial, just below high cliffs. It was here that General Yoshitsugo Saito ordered his men to take seven lives for the emperor, then committed suicide. In front of the memorial are World War II relics including a light Japanese tank and several guns.

From the Last Command Post, we went to Suicide Cliff, an 800-foot cliff where hundreds of Japanese soldiers jumped to their deaths rather than surrender to the invading American forces. Simply looking down at the bottom of the rock face and imagining the drop was eerie.

The group then made its way to the Bird Island. Known as Islan Maigo Fahang or "island of sleeping seabirds" to the locals, it is a small stone islet in a secluded emerald bay that offered a stunning view to visitors.

We made a brief stopover at the Grotto, a deep limestone cavern which is connected to the ocean by several passages. It is a thrill for scuba divers who are out for adventure. The entrance also forms a natural pool that is also a popular swimming area. As locals say, it’s like swimming in the ocean sans the sunburn. It was quite tempting to take a dip, especially seeing the other tourists having so much fun. But we weren’t there to swim though and moved on to our next destination which was Banzai Cliff.

A breathtaking bluff overlooking the ocean, visitors to Banzai Cliff would be oblvious to its tragic past if not for the markers and memorials commemorating the sad event which took place there.

Japanese civilians, encouraged by Japanese troops who told them that they would be killed and raped by the Americans, committed suicide from this sea cliff. Women and children plunged to their deaths in plain sight of American soldiers who pleaded with them in Japanese not to jump.

Lunch was at a popular restaurant and café called Coffee Care. One thing I liked about the place was its picturesque view of the ocean and Managaha Island, a really great place to relax and unwind. It’s also a haven for web addicts like me, since there is free Wi-Fi Internet access.

For my meal, I ordered Blackened Chicken, which was pan-fried boneless chicken breast seasoned with cayenne pepper, Cajun seasoning, garlic and wine, served with fresh tomato salsa and linguine aglio olio. As we were waiting for our meals, they served us cream of broccoli soup while we played around with the crayons on the table, unleashing our creativity with the doodles we made. After that filling lunch, they brought us gargantuan servings of their mouth-watering desserts.

We then made our way to the south of the island, right beside the airport to visit the remains of the Bomb Storage Magazine. While the rest of the group was taking shots around, I was initiated by the staff of the Historical Preservation Office into the betel nut chewing culture of the islands. Known as nganga to us Filipinos, the betel nut, mixed with lime and pepper leaves is a potent source of euphoria for those who like chewing on it. After a minute or two, I felt a surge in my body temperature as my body released a sudden flash of sweat.

I was floating as we made our way back to the hotel. We just had a few minutes to freshen up and get dressed since we had to rush to the port for a dinner cruise on board the yacht Stars and Stripes.

We arrived just in time for the 5 p.m. departure. What a way to cap the day, watching the sunset on a cruise! On board, a Filipino performer rendered some songs in various languages since we had Koreans and Chinese on board. The guy really knew how to entertain and we had so much fun listening.

The food was great too! They had salads and chicken, beef and fish on the buffet table. While the bar served flowing drinks such as soda, juices and beer. Dancing followed dinner and it was obvious that all the passengers were having a blast!

We then made our way back to the Saipan Grand Hotel to get some rest for even more activities the next day.

Photo credits: Karlo de Leon who took most of my photos, Jodi Madridejos and Cheche Lazaro.

Northern Marianas: Chewing betel nut in Saipan

I've been quite busy here in Saipan so to keep you entertained, here are photos of me eating betel nut or nganga to us Filipinos. Yikes! I didn't realize chewing on it gives you a high!
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