May 29, 2009

Saipan TDL #32: Marianas March Against Cancer

Unfortunately, we forgot to bring our camera so I have no photos of the event, but here's the logo of the Commonwealth Cancer Association, which sponsored the March. The newspapers say that, despite our moribund economy, this was the biggest year for the March Against Cancer, in terms of funds raised!

This item was actually officially added to the list after the fact, but I thought of it almost as soon as I finished and published the blog. I just never got a chance to add it until after the event had already happened.

The Marianas March Against Cancer was one of those events I'd always thought about going to and often half-planned to attend, but never quite made it to. This past Friday, May 22, was our last chance to go and so we took it.

The MMAC, sponsored by the Commonwealth Cancer Association, if I understand it correctly, is similar to many other cancer research fundraisers. I know Guam has something similar called Relay for Life and I'm sure I've heard of similar events in the United States. The event serves to honor cancer survivors and victims, and to raise funds for cancer treatment and research programs. The March began at 6:00 P.M. and went on all night long, ending at 6 A.M. the following morning. The venue was the large field next to Hopwood Junior High School (about a half a mile down the road from our school). Throughout the night people walked or jogged aroudn the course layed out on the field relaying some kind of luminary device. Each sponsoring organization had their own luminary and team members keeping the relay going.

One of the organizations was the World Wide Marriage Enconter. Our local chapter of M.E. had team members in the relay and had a tent set up on the track's periphery (as did all the other sponsoring organizations, many of which were schools paired up with a local business). Several of our friends that are active with World Wide Marriage Encounter are cancer survivors so the March is close to heart of the "ME Community." Since Babs and I have been actively involved in Marriage Encounter for the past five years or so, thats where we spent most of our time.

Obviously with an eight month old in tow, we couldn't keep vigil all night long. We got there about 8:00 P.M. and left shortly after 9:30 P.M. (which was already quite late for Elijah). We didn't do much. . .just watched the presentations of the sponsoring teams which were going on when we arrived, and spent time talking with friends at the ME tent. Still, it was nice to be there and lend our moral support at least.

This is probably one of the last community events here in the Marianas that we'll participate in this year. We missed the Taste of the Marianas (which ends tonight), and while we'll probably go by the carnival this summer, that's an ongoing event that lasts every night through July. This is the last of the special times when it seems like everyone on our little island is gathered in one place. My friend LJ Castro, who seems to be the island's Official Emcee, is there keeping us entertained with his constant Chamorro--accented patter. You run into familiar faces--friends and former students--everywhere you turn. You sit in a plastic garden chair, soaking up the atmosphere, watching the island, young and old walk by. Island tunes and pop favorites pump from the sound system at the stage area between LJ's commentary. The night is warm, the stars are out, the scent of barbecue is in the air, and you feel at home, part of a friendly, caring community. I suppose it's the same in small towns across America, but this small town just happens be situated on a drop of volcanic rock in the Pacific encrusted in white sand and lush with tropical foliage.

Saipan has it's problems, without question. We continue to sink deeper into an economic abyss, and most of our leaders show little will or ability to make much of a difference. But on nights like this, I'm reminded that you'd have to look hard to find a better place to live than the Marianas. This is our home, and we will miss it always.


Mai said...

I agree.... I think Saipan will always be apart of my heart, my home. I still talk about Saipan in the present tense as if I'm still there, "In Saipan, we do this... we do that...." *Sigh* I miss it :(

The Beachcomber said...

I remember I got stuck at last year's MMAC while you all had the traditional Jewish dinner & the last bible study. Got stuck again this year, but I’ve got to show you the cool paintings that I did for our tent. The grass fire at Kannat Tabla hills was again visible from the march much like last year giving me quite a surreal flashback.