For the final activity of Staff Appreciation Week at my office, we had lunch at The Beach Bar at Gun Beach then took a tour of the Lina’la Cultural Park which is an actual ancient village where they portray life in ancient times. The Beach Bar was just a tourist thing. Have you ever had a haole fiesta plate? It’s alright but how could they call that a fiesta plate?
So walking into this tour, I was expecting it to look like what it looked like when I first saw it years ago: a trip into the past. Chamoru men wore their såtdes and gathered around the chinåhan (oven in the ground) cooking the meal for everyone present. Chamoru women walked around with their alåhas (jewelry) whose style is indigenous to the Marianas Islands. I loved feeling like I was in ancient times and for a few moments, I felt reconnected to our past and our ancestors…
My initial thoughts walking in were underfunded and not respected. There was trash on the ground, the land and plants weren’t taken care of, there were hardly any animals in the animal section, some speakers for the audio tour wouldn’t work, and there were only four guys working the entire park. Tåya famalao’an!!! How could this be a village if there was no life in it?
Other than that, the hosts were funny and although 3 out of 4 of them weren’t Chamoru, they didn’t mind being there and they could climb coconut trees like professionals. Although the huts were worn down due to weather, they were very beautiful and well made. I love the concept behind the entire park, and with a little more tender love, care, and funds, that village will be back to life in no time.
It was a great experience overall. I appreciated all the effort that was put into it and its purpose. However, I left feeling very… disheartened. Here I was, a young Chamoru woman with all my coworkers who are also Chamoru women, taking a tour of one of OUR own ancient villages, being taught about OUR old ways of life. I was so ashamed when the only Chamoru host looked at me asking if I spoke Chamoru, and I couldn’t… I looked around and didn’t know a lot of these things about my culture and didn’t practice a lot of things that were daily tasks to sustain life in tiempon ansiånu. I look at myself and our people and think what have we become…? We used to be so strong, self-sufficient, intelligent, technologically advanced… We used to be warriors, astronomers, sailors, and fishers… Who are we?
I still believe that our people are strong, but we are losing our ways. We are losing who we are by trying to be something that we aren’t.
We need to look to the past, reconnect, and find out who we are so we can stay who we are: i Man Chamoru.
Si Yu’us Ma’åse