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.

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