Sunday, June 26, 2011

Emerging Leadership in Guam

Arab Spring on display to the world presented images of young minds creating a new world and a new way of being. In its' early beginning around 2005 there was a group of young, creative, committed, fierce and visionary like-minds who hold a great love for the island, culture and people of this place we call Guåhan, who came together to discuss the concerns raised regarding initial releases and leaks of the military buildup on the island. Moreover, the alarming presumptions and intoxicated euphoria locked any conversation or reference to the buildup into such deceivingly radiant terms. In this group were students, graduate students, healthcare professionals, musicians, poets, educators, community organizers, and artists. The San Diego conference was emotional and inspiring. Prior to this, many of us had no one to talk to about our concerns.

Ninety percent of the group has since returned home to take part in the discussions, provide the needed and relevant information, standing firm, challenging instruments of the state, protecting and defending home. This is the leadership we want for our island ~ ~ ~ ~

Pacific Daily News
June 25, 2011

Guam Needs Leadership on Buildup

Given last week's Sunday Forum topic, which focused on whether or not people should express their support of the military buildup, we eagerly await a future Sunday Forum that will ask the obvious next question as to whether or not people opposed to the buildup should speak out as well.

Last Sunday's topic coincided with the recent appearance of a new pro-buildup group Para Hita Todu, which is seeking to carve a place for itself in the buildup conversation.The tone of the topic made it seem as if the pro-buildup side of the debate, such as the leaders of Para Hita Todu, have been cowed into silence and become marginalized in the process. In addition to the lack of any semblance of objectivity, it is laughable to think that such captains of industry and influence, with their thousands of employees, millions of dollars and obvious power, who have dominated the discussion of the buildup since it was announced, have somehow been silenced and need to be given a special space to make their case.

For years, the people of Guam were fed a steady stream of fantasies and wishful thinking about the buildup. Before people even knew what it was, while it was just numbers in press releases, people made promises of billions of dollars, better futures and jobs for everyone, without any specifics. But those days are over and the people of Guam have come to a point where we don't crave promises or platitudes about the buildup, but want answers and solutions to either the problem it represents in and of itself, or the problems that will arise because of it.

This is the sign of a maturing community; one which does not want to be lied to, but wants to be informed and wants to be able to make their own decisions.

What Guam needs now is leadership on the buildup issue, and this is something that as of yet Para Hita Todu is not offering. Their recently released study showing 60 percent buildup support in the community is a perfect example of this. They refuse to address the valid concerns of our community. Instead they have polarized the issue, making it just about who does or does not support the buildup, and not about why our community is apprehensive in the first place.

Proponents of the buildup have long attempted to substitute support for the buildup with a judgment that the buildup is good for Guam. Polls conducted over the years have always showed various high levels of "support" for the buildup, but this bears no relation to whether or not it is a good thing for the island.

The EIS gave the people of Guam answers about what the buildup might bring and much of it was bad. Thus, if Para Hita Todu wishes to blow the kulo' of buildup awesomeness, it must be able to tackle the legitimate concerns that people have about everything from Pågat, traffic, public institution overcrowding, environmental damage, a higher cost of living, and the list goes on.

From what we have seen so far, they are unwilling or unable to do so and have rebuffed these concerns with whimsical remarks of such things "being taken care of." The concerns of the people of Guam were kept at bay with such language for years and it did us little good.

Now that the military has revealed its plans and we know the potential impact, it does us even less good to ignore them. We need to continue to take a serious look at the buildup plans and address the valid concerns our community raised during the draft EIS commenting period, many of which are still being avoided by those orchestrating the buildup.

Para Hita Todu's inability to make a solid argument for the buildup is not truly their fault, but most likely tied to the inherent fact that the buildup has always been a potential boon for some and a possible burden for most. There are those who may reap incredible rewards from the buildup. They are the ones who are already at the top of Guam's society and have the means to leverage their already abundant resources into possibly much more resources.

For the majority of Guam's people, however, the opportunities are mixed, to say the least. The EIS said as much, by indicating that the quality of life on Guam may take a significant hit and the responses to these cautions from the pro-buildup side always boil down to vague promises of more money to take care of everything.

Yet when asked what kinds of jobs will be offered, what wages people will receive, who will get the big buildup contracts, how the government will pay for the necessary infrastructure and public service upgrades, how our island's middle- and lower-class families will be able to afford the increasing cost of living because of the buildup, those saying the economy will simply improve have no concrete answers.

While we agree that all voices must be heard in every discussion of our future, these voices must be informed by facts and not false promises. The people of Guam should always consider whether or not groups that claim they represent all of us truly do.

With Para Hita Todu's emphasis on "supporting" the buildup rather than understanding it or analyzing it, they are leading the island away from making concrete plans for all our people, and instead are supporting the interests of the select few who will profit and will not be disproportionately affected by the buildup's negative impacts.

Maolekña na mafana'an siha "Para Siha Todu."

Michael Lujan Bevacqua, Ph.D., and Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero, M.F.A., both teach at the University of Guam.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Beyond Pagat

Beyond Pagat
Michael Lujan Bevacqua
June 15, 2011
The Marianas Variety

OVER the past year, I have lost track of how many times I have visited the Pågat area in northeastern Guam. I have taken my students on several trips there. I took reporters from NHK in Japan, the Washington Post in the U.S., and even a crew from Guam’s own PNC News there. Earlier this year, I took a group of newly elected and re-elected senators down there. I’ve lead groups there twice through the Heritage Hikes I’ve organized for We Are Guåhan and will be leading people once again later this month.

Even though I can count visiting Pågat at least 15 times in the past year and a half, I have not gotten tired of traveling there. Even as I walk on limestone trails, which I swear I could hike with my eyes closed, I still know that there is more to see and more for me to discover.
One reason for this is because while most people think of Pågat as the trail which leads from the Back Road to a cave and then to some stunning cliffs, Pågat in my mind extends further north and further south from that point. That trail itself is a great way to spend an afternoon, since you get to tour through different ecosystems and see artifacts along the trails. For those who are afraid of heights, there is a dark freshwater cave to swim in; and for those afraid of the dark, there is a well-lit cliff to jump off of to swim in the ocean below. But Pågat is still so much more than this.

Earlier this year, there was a debate in the media and in the minds of the military and Guam’s people as to what exactly constitutes Pågat.

Many felt it was just the sliver of land that I mentioned above and nothing more. If this was the case, then the proposed firing ranges the military plans to put on the bluff above Pågat could be more palatable, since the cave and cliff area so many know would fall on the edge, rather than the center of the surface danger zones, or the areas where there is a chance a stray bullet may land.

In response to this assertion, I and members of the group Halomtåno’ explored the area north of the assumed location of Pågat to see what we could find. Further north we found more latte and more lusong, and other artifacts such as pottery. As we moved further up the coast, we found pieces of shell tools such as higam or adze heads and even an acho achuman, a very ingenious device that ancient Chamorros used to train fish, making them easier to be caught later.

At the furthest northern point of Pågat is an area aptly called Pågat Point, which is, in my mind, the most beautiful section of all in Pågat. In the jungle cliffs we found small caves with pottery shards. And when you reach the ocean cliffs at Pågat Point, you find a lamasa, a natural table-like walkway at the water’s edge. The lamasa extends for what seems like a mile, and is for the most part safe and flat, although it can be dangerous, as its low level can make it easy for a rogue wave to appear and sweep you down into the deep blue sea.

This is something we learned firsthand; so if you ever visit this area, please be careful when the lamasa narrows. Despite the danger, the view there is breathtaking. From the jagged limestone cliffs you can face north and the cliffs of Yigo will look particularly majestic.

If you would like to learn more about Pågat and the artifacts or cultural significance I’m describing, by all means, join us on our Heritage Hike on June 25. We’ll be meeting at the Pågat trailhead on the Back Road to Anderson at 9 a.m.

For more information, head to