If you’re like me, a title like “The Truth About [anything]” is a compelling one that makes you want to read more. I believe we all, on some level, yearn to know “the truth” about things. Especially if you’ve heard contrasting things about life on Saipan, wouldn’t it be nice, once and for all, to get to the truth of it all?
The truth is, however, there is no single truth about Saipan. In any attempt to uncover the truth about Saipan, what we find are subjective perspectives, opinions and observations determined by individual agendas. Some agendas are simple: (eg. “I had a bad experience on Saipan, so Ii want to make everyone as miserable as I am”). Some agendas are complex. (eg. “We will organize a federal takeover, reshape the island in our image, and make this an R&R [rest & relaxation] spot for the troops.”)
Even the news media, which is supposed to be impartial, has an agenda. People often joke that the media’s motto is “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story!” In other words, a “good” (i.e. salacious) story sells papers, magazines and advertising. So, let’s tell a story about Saipan that highlights the corruption. Yes, “truth” changes based on who is speaking and whether Saipan is a “Pacific paradise” or a “den of corruption” is all based on who you listen to and what their agenda is.
But all of that is fine, because once you know a person’s agenda, then everything they say and do makes sense in that context. And, if you know a person’s agenda, then you won’t be unduly misled by their claims to “truth.” With that said, I should tell you MY agenda.
From the day I escaped from New York and landed here, until now, my experience has generally been a positive one. I’ve enjoyed, and wish to preserve the cultural diversity, natural beauty, and uncomplicated lifestyle that I’ve come to love about living here. That’s my agenda.
Saipan is the capital island of the US Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)–a 14-island archipelago which also includes the islands of Tinian and Rota. It’s a less well-known territory of the United States, located in the Pacific Ocean about three hours flight from Japan.
The Japanese “discovered” Saipan a long time ago! It’s been a favorite vacation spot for decades. Thousands visit Saipan’s white sand beaches and enjoy Saipan’s water sports, world class diving, unique cultural mix and more!
US military personnel and their families know Saipan. Saipan was the battle ground for one of the most fiercely fought battles of World War II, and Tinian was the take-off point for the infamous Enola Gay flight to Hiroshima.
Contract workers from Asia and the Pacific, too, “discovered” Saipan. For many years, Saipan’s garment industry attracted thousands of workers in search of higher wages and opportunity.
Even Russians have “discovered” Saipan. The CNMI’s unique immigration policy allowed Russians to travel visa-free to get a taste of America and a tropical vacation from the cold Russian winters.
And, of course, the indigenous Chamorro and Carolinian populations of Micronesia know Saipan, and have been living here for thousands of years.
And quite recently, Saipan, situated atop the Marianas Trench–the deepest part of the world’s oceans– was the site of a grass roots conservation effort that resulted in the landmark designation of the Marianas Trench Marine Monument.
But, even so, Saipan is still America’s best kept secret!
The Truth About Saipan
So, with that, here is my truth about Saipan:
Saipan is overcoming a branding challenge.
In other words, what comes to mind when people think of “Saipan” isn’t always what those of us who actually live and work here think are its best assets. We’re emerging from the shadow of an era tainted by a controversial garment industry, and bad (accurate or not) press.
Like the rest of the world, there’s an economic transition taking place on Saipan. In addition, there are agendas for federalization, as well as immigration and labor reform, which make this an island on the verge.
However, even with these and other changes and challenges, there are a multitude of assets which make this a great place to visit, vacation, live, learn and love!
Great Weather: Saipan holds the Guinness World Record for most consistent temperature. The average difference between night and day is greater than the average difference between winter and summer. Those of us who actually live and work here on Saipan enjoy warm tropical weather year round.
Natural beauty: There is natural, pristine beauty here: beautiful sunrises, beaches, foliage, fruits, sunsets, rock formations, aquatic life and more!
Proximity to Marianas Trench (the deepest part of the world’s oceans): While no one actually goes diving that deep, our proximity to such a rich, bio-diverse, unexplored region of the world’s oceans has blessed us with underwater life that makes Saipan one of the best places for…
World class diving: World class shore diving, “Eagle Ray City,” and the Grotto are just some of the activities and locations Saipan divers rave about.
Discovery of ecological significance: Scientists and students of ecology can learn much about life on our planet from our coral reefs (estimated value comparable to Hawaii), and the pristine, biodiversity of our waters.
The U.S. government recently created the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument (an area of over 12,000 square nautical miles) in recognition of this significance.
Cultural diversity: Life on Saipan has been influenced by the Spanish, Germans, Japanese, and Americans! The presence of indigenous Chamorro and Carolinian people, immigrants, guest workers, tourists, investors and students from Asia, the Pacific, and America, make this a place of unprecedented cultural/ethnic potential.
Historical significance: Without wishing to glorify war and violence, it stands as fact that Saipan was a key battle site during World War II. It’s been said the Cold War started on Tinian, the island just 3 miles south of Saipan! That’s where the atomic bombs dropped on Japan were launched! Archeological significance:
Ancient artifacts of some of the planet’s earliest civilizations are found here.
Unsolved mysteries: The case could be made that there are stories waiting to be told about the Amelia Earhart mystery, sunken Spanish treasure ships, World War II disappearances, ancient civilizations in which Saipan figures prominently. What might you discover on your own?
And that’s just some of the truth about Saipan. Despite its challenges, many who come, stay. Many who leave miss it terribly. And many who travel the world over come back to enjoy a way of life they can’t find anywhere else.
Discover Saipan For Yourself!
But, ultimately, the only way to discover the truth about Saipan is to come see for yourself! But it would be wise to heed the moral of this story:
Once upon a time, a person moved into a new town and asked one of the town residents, “What are the people in this town like?”
“What were the people like in the town you just left?” the resident asked in return.
The new person answered, “They were unfriendly and nasty.”
And the town resident said, “I think you’ll find the people here are just about the same.”
Later, the same resident was approached by another new arrival, who asked the same question. Again, the resident asked, “What were the people like in the town you just left?”
The answer was “The people were warm and friendly.” And the resident answered, “I think you’ll find the people here are just about the same.”
Take heed, and I’ll see you when you get here!