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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Community in Wonderland: Shared info

This is from a link that was shared on Facebook. This is absolutely disgusting.  The military occupies 31.14% of Guam, an unincorporated territory.  The state that comes closest to us is California and the military only occupies 3.83% of the state.

Percent of Land Occupied by the U.S. Military on Guam is Much Higher than Elsewhere in the U.S. | Agriculture and Natural Resources Program

Percent of Land Occupied by the U.S. Military on Guam is Much Higher than Elsewhere in the U.S.

Everyone on Guam knows that the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) occupies about one-third of the island and DoD is demanding additional land in the Pagat area on which to build a new firing range.
After yesterday's public meeting on the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Guam military buildup, I was asked how the military footprint on Guam compares to that for other places, such as Hawaii. As you can see from the following table, the proportion of land occupied by the military on Guam is much higher than elsewhere in the U.S.
State or TerritoryTotal Area (sq. miles)Area Occupied by DoD (sq. miles)Proportion of Total Area Occupied by DoD
Northern Mariana Islands18424.5913.35%
Puerto Rico3,51541.351.18%
Rhode Island1,2144.720.39%
American Samoa770.170.22%
Data Sources

Community in Wonderland: Some appreciated help for Pagat

Law firm to review final EIS, protect Pagat area | | Pacific Daily News

Local and national historic preservation groups have retained the services of a mainland law firm to ensure the military follows the required environmental process if it creates a new firing range in the Pågat area of Mangilao.

The Guam Preservation Trust and the National Trust for Historic Preservation have retained the law firm of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP, according to a written statement from the Guam trust.
The military plans to build a firing range close to the Pågat area, which contains the remnants of an ancient Chamorro village and a cave filled with fresh water. The military has stated the area won't be damaged by gunfire and the public will not lose access to the cave completely.
The Guam Preservation Trust is a nonprofit Guam public corporation with the goal of preserving Guam's culture and historic sites. The National Trust, which was created by Congress, earlier this year placed Pågat village on its annual list of the nation's 11 most endangered places.
Joe Quinata, chief program officer for the Guam Preservation Trust, yesterday said the law firm, which is working for free, is very experienced in the National Environmental Policy Act process and will review the final environmental impact statement for the Guam buildup, which is scheduled to be made public later this week, although the military has said the plans for the firing range remain unchanged.
The federal environmental law requires the federal government to take into account the environmental impact of its proposed actions and to consider reasonable alternatives to those actions.
There will be legal action if necessary, Quinata said.
Quinata said the law firm's involvement is being announced, in part, to let the community know "there is still some hope" for preservation of the Pågat site.
More details about the law firm and its role are scheduled to be discussed during a press conference 11 a.m. today at the governor's complex at Adelup.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Community in Wonderland: More on the Pagat rally

According to the email I received from We Are Guahan, there was over 300 people at Pagat last Friday.  For  a usually complacent community that is a good turn out for a protest.  Considering it was a week day and it was also extremely hot, I wasn't expecting there to be that many people. I was a little worried that not enough people would show up.  Thankfully I was wrong.  This sends a great message to the visiting officials, our leaders, and the rest of our community.  I was really glad that I was able to attend.  This is history in the making and thankfully we had some documentary film makers at the event.

Speaking of film, here are some videos I found on You Tube.

We Are Guahan did a great job organizing the event.  They had volunteers shuttle people from the parking area at the Guam Raceway Park to the trail head through out the event.  They had ice cold water being handed out by volunteers.  They led chants that even I was yelling along to.  I don't usually raise my voice for any reason, but it felt good.  It released a lot of frustration in a healthy way.

And the police did a great job too. You'd think they would be intimidating during a protest, but they just made sure that everything was safe.  We were lining a road during a busy time and they made sue the motorists slowed down when approaching the area.  Someone actually sped through and was stopped by the cops.

As great as the community action event turned out to be, I'm sure there is more work to be done.  I think one of the most important things is awareness and commitment.  We need to make as many people as possible aware of what is happening on Guam. They need to know that the people of Guahan are still being treated like second class citizens by the U.S., a country that has become the world police.  Who will police them???  And we need to be committed to spreading awareness and not letting them push us around anymore.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Community in Wonderland: Biba Pagat!

I'm so exhausted.  I had to work at 7 a.m. this morning and shortly after getting off I went with my parents to Pagat.  The sun was blazing, but it was the intensity of the situation that really set us on fire.  How did we allow it to get this far?  What kind of world are we living in where the beacon of democracy is about to take one of the nation's 11 most endangered historical sites and use it as a firing range?  This is so unthinkable, I can't even believe that we have to protest to protect Pagat.

Here is some media coverage on it:

I'm off to get some rest. I have to work at 7 again tomorrow.  Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to put down in words what I'm feeling and also more details and links about the community action that took place today.

Before I forget, thank you!  Thank you to everyone who made it out and thank you to those who couldn't, but still have Pagat in their hearts and thoughts.  And a big thank you to all the volunteers and the police officers.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Community in Wonderland: Liberate Pagat!

Today is the day we celebrate Guam's liberation from the Japanese.  As a child, my grandmother would have our mothers get all of us together.  We'd go to the parade and watch as all the amazing floats rolled by.  The floats are always really amazing. It was so much fun for us kids, but for my Grandma it was deeper than just candy, music, and floats.  When she was our age they weren't marching in parades.  The marching they did was different.  My grandma is gone now, but I still respect today as her day.  I see today more as a memorial day for those who lived through and those who lost their lives, during the occupation and ending it.

Instead of going to the parade or even watching it on t.v., I decided to stay home and make posters for the rally on Friday.  We will be lining route 15 to show the military officials and the CEQ that we care about Pagat.  And really, it isn't just the ancient village that is being affected.  There are families who will be asked to give up their land.  The Raceway Park, that has helped to keep our roads safe from illegal drag racing, will have to relocate.  How long will it take for them to rebuild?  There is also an endangered species of Butterflies, the Marianas 8 Spot Butterfly, that calls Pagat home.  And then there is the noise pollution and environmental problems that the firing range can cause.  Not to mention, the military already has 1/3 of the island.  What will be left for us when they're done?  Will they ever be done?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Community in Wonderland: climate change and the military build up

Last night Nella and I watched The Age of Stupid.  And it made me think that climate change is like the military build up on Guam.  Just because you think it is inevitable doesn't mean you shouldn't do what you can to make things better.  We should at least try to make our island, and the world, as pleasant as possible for future generations.  It's almost selfish not to try.

"Won't be asked to do my share when I'm gone ... Can't be singing louder than the guns when I'm gone ... Can't add my name into the fight while I'm gone ... Can't live proud enough to die when I'm gone - So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here"  -Phil Ochs

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Community in Wonderland: Update on the briefing

I'm using the Blog This! feature to share this article. 

Briefings held on USMC's training/firing ranges -
Guam - With the release of the final environmental impact statement just around the corner, it seems there's still some confusion as to where the military plans to construct a firing range to accommodate the Marines' training. During a teleconference lawmakers as well as others in the community voiced their concerns, as they feel that they might not have a say when the military does decide just where that site might be.
There were two meetings held today for elected leaders and stakeholders to learn more about what went into deciding the preferred training ranges needed for the Marines. The first was held at one am this morning via teleconference; while the other was held just before lunch time via videoconference between the Joint Guam Program Office and the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
The event was facilitated by Guam Congressional Delegate Madeline Bordallo's office, but we were denied access.
Although we were turned away, KUAM News was able to sit-in on the teleconference held at 1am Tuesday this where senators gathered to listen to a presentation made an ocean away in the nation's capitol. The purpose of the teleconference was to allow the JGPO and the U.S. Marines Corps the opportunity to present to the CEQ how they went about selecting the proposed sites and preferred alternatives for the firing and training ranges needed for the relocation of Marines from Okinawa to Guam.
JGPO Executive Director David Bice said that the process in selecting property for a Marine firing range came under the direct guidance of the Department of Defense to maximize federal property on Guam, as well as consider the safety of those using the range along with the surrounding community. Bice says JGPO ruled out a number of proposed sites due to the size, including Navy Barrigada, Apra Heights, Drydock Island, Mt. Santa Rosa, Naval Hospital, and Potts Junction. Other areas ruled out due to incompatibility for surrounding areas include Andersen Air Force Base, Northwest Field, Andersen South, Tarague Beach, Orote Point, and Naval Magazine.
We Are Guahan representative Leevin Camacho was at briefing at the delegate's office this morning, and said, "One of the reasons why they got rid of the other options is because of anticipated public concern, we're all here and Pagat has been such a tough issue because the public is concerned." And Pagat was the biggest part of the discussion, as the military has deemed the preferred site a good location for Marine training.
Marine Corps Head of Range Development Tom Shear explained the types of ammunition the Corps will be using, which includes several training rounds that emit an orange powder in an effort to prevent any fire hazards. He adds that there will be no damage to the lusongs or lattes on the historic site if it is selected.
Lawmakers raised several concerns about the use of the Pagat land and questioned why Resolution 275 that states no action on Pagat be taken seems to have fallen on deaf ears.
"It's a dog and pony show for me," summarized speaker of the 30th Guam Legislature Judi Won Pat. "They gave us papers to follow through but no matter what we said if this was the preferred site, why don't they just come right out and say this is it, stop dragging us through all this and say it's notional, tell us and stop it right now and let's start talking then."
Said Shear in response, "If it wasn't made clear earlier we were trying to make it clear that the no action alternative or not using these training ranges is one of the options at the end of the day, when the decision has to be made in the record of decision that will follow the final environmental impact statement, so the consideration of not going to these training ranges is on the table. The object of this briefing was to describe what actions could be considered should the decision go forward with the relocation of Guam. So that's why we tried to emphasize throughout this briefing that these things were notional."
Vice-Speaker B.J. Cruz expressed disappointment about the lack of notice on the briefing, as he feels the military's notion of Pagat is misleading. Senator Frank Blas, Jr. also questioned what the military plans to do if the preferred site in Pagat does not work out. However, the feds reacted to most of the concerns by stating that nothing is official, and that most of the details will become clearer in the final EIS. The military also admits that the final EIS would explain why other areas like Tinian were not selected to host a firing range.
The feds also mentioned a range management plan that would keep the public informed of the training activity, as well as let the community know when they can visit the site. However, more concerns were raised by the a representative from Fuetsan Famala'oan's Lisa Cipollone, who asked National Historic Preservation Trust officials how they felt about Pagat being considered as it was recently designated as one of America's 11 most endangered historic sites.
In the meantime, participants like Department of Agriculture's Tino Aguon feels the briefing only led to more unanswered questions from the feds, saying, "I believe there are more questions that came out of this. And so we look forward to seeing future discussions and how this will impact."
Military Buildup Chair Senator Judi Guthertz also expressed frustration, stating that those providing the briefing deflected pointed questions about Pagat's range plans. Guthertz says she was not satisfied when she asked how the military plans to get the land, and Bice stated, "negotiate". Likewise, some felt that the two-hour briefing did not allow them enough time to have their concerns addressed, such as Senator Tina Muna Barnes, who feels the feds think that the people of Guam are, in her words, "third-class citizens".

1 a.m. in Wonderland: Uninvited

This morning I received an email about a meeting that will be taking place in D.C. discussing the dreaded Final E.I.S, regarding the military build up on Guam.  As I looked in to it more I realized that the initial media reports made it out to be a public meeting, that residents could join through a conference call at 1 a.m., but it now seems that it is only actually open to those invited .  They will be discussing why the location chosen as the preferred alternative for the firing range is so ideal.  The preferred location is our historical Pagat area which seems like the most unideal area for a firing range since it is an ancient village.  It's hard to imagine people, across so many miles, discussing how our ancestors' resting place is the perfect place for the military to use as a firing range.  It's hard not to close your eyes and see spirits waking to the deafening sounds of machine guns going off.  I wonder what our ancestors would say to the people at that gathering, if they were invited.

When we went to Pagat, on January 1 this year, I was hoping for something.  I was hoping for hope.  I wanted the experience to erase my fears and I wanted to walk out of that jungle knowing it was safe and would always be there for me, when I needed my spirits lifted.  As I stood at the edge of the cliffs with the beautiful ocean ocean in front of me and that comforting jungle behind me I was just mad that anyone could even consider taking  that moment and making it loud and ugly.  And I felt so incredibly sad knowing that if it happens it will be our fault.  So off we went to the meetings armed with signs and my shirt with a picture of Pagat printed on it.

Now I'm just wondering if all that time spent reading that insane document and trying to write intelligent comments, all that time feeling intimidated and disheartened at those meetings was where I should have focused my energy?  After all, it seems like it was all just a formality for them.  Sometimes I think I should have ran in to Pagat and just woke my ancestors myself, to warn them about what is to come and to apologize for all I can't do or say.  I want some miracle ending straight out of a blockbuster hit, where all the living things on the land and in the ocean join us in saying "NO!, this stops here."  It sounds silly, but so does the idea of a man walking on water.

some links I've gathered for your further reading

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Community in Wonderland: Weaving Solidarity

A little while back myself and other members of the local community were contacted by a Graduate student in the Department of Anthropology and International Development at The George Washington University in Washington DC.  Hermon Farahi and his partner are trying to come out to document the Chamorro social movement against the military build up.

I recently received a message that I'd like to share with all of you, in case any one would like to help.

Friends and Family,

I would like to cordially invite you to join us in support of our newly initiated KICKSTARTER Project, entitled: "Weaving Solidarity: Indigenous Chamorro Movements & The US Military Buildup of Guam". Help us to conduct valuable social-anthropological RESEARCH, and to produce a DOCUMENTARY FILM, as well as PHOTOGRAPHS, depicting the issues facing the Indigenous people of Guam and The Northern Mariana Islands.


The Indigenous Chamorro people of Guam and The Mariana Islands are facing the impacts of the single largest military base expenditure in modern history, with an estimated budget of $16 Billion USD. The US already occupies a third of the island for Military purposes, and seek to further dispossess the local inhabitants off their land. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has deemed the buildup as “environmentally unsatisfactory”, attributing the worst possible rating to the proposed plans. All this is in the context of 500 years of continuous colonial occupation, which has not changed til this day.

We NEED your HELP to make our project a reality. Please Visit our Kickstarter Page to learn more and donate to both the cause and the project!

We're also offering some pretty cool rewards for your pledge/donation, so you'll get something back in addition to supporting an important cause and project! 

Si Yu’us Ma’ase!
Hermon Farahi & Jeannae Flores

Weaving Solidarity: Indigenous Chamorro Movements & The US Military Buildup of Guam from Hermon Farahi on Vimeo.

What is happening on the island right now is really interesting. Speaking out against the military is something very rarely done here. We've been raised to be appreciative of our liberation and not to question the intentions of the military. Those that did were looked down upon and ignored.  But now it's almost like our people are waking up. People are beginning to openly discuss our history and our future and how much we are willing to give up.  This is an important time.  This is history in the making and it should be documented, whether it goes our way or not. It'll be nice to be have proof that we did what we could to have a say, to finally have a voice on our island.

Life in Wonderland: lunch time

It always takes forever for Allan and I to decide what to have for lunch.  I'm incredibly indecisive and Allan gets tired of having to name places to eat.  Today it took a while, but it was definitely worth it.  We decided to go to Chamorro Village for lunch.

This is the vendor that we usually eat go to.  

I had the fiesta plate.  Pancit, red rice, ribs, bbq chicken, salad, shrimp patty, and beef kelaguen filled my tummy.  It's not the prettiest meal, but it is one of the tastiest!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Viewed in Wonderland: So very disappointed

When Allan and I found out that they were making a movie out of the cartoon Avatar we were so excited.  We used to see my nephew, Mikey, watching it at my parents house and one day I came home from work and Allan insisted I watch this cartoon with him.  We feel in love with it.  Allan and I have slightly obsessive personalities and when we get hooked, it's serious.

Of course we later found out about the casting decisions and were put off on the movie, but after seeing the previews we decided to give it a shot.  And so we woke up early yesterday to make sure we could make it to the morning showing in 3D.  Wow!!!  We were so disappointed in the first 30 minutes that we had to leave.  Everything was going by fast and heavy with narration and the dialog seemed awkward.  It's one thing that they didn't really look like the characters in the cartoon, but their personalities were different too.  They even pronounced some of the characters' names differently.  It was so awkward I felt awkward watching it. It was really sad.  But you don't have to take my word for it.  I'm not super movie know it all.  I've been known to like some generally considered lame movies.  :P  Go watch it and let me know what you think!

I love my 3D glasses though!!  Instead of putting them in the box to be recycled Allan and I kept ours.

Allan used his as eye protection while he worked in our tiny yard, later that day.  :P

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Life in Wonderland: productive day off

I requested to have yesterday off from work.  Originally I wanted to attend the Guam Environmental Alliance's first event.  They spent yesterday painting murals on bus stops in the southern area of Guam.  Sounds like an awesome way to spend a Saturday to me, but Allan and all my friends either had to work that morning or were sick.  I hope to make it to the next event though.

Don't worry though!  I didn't waste a requested day off to lounge around in my pajamas and watch shows on Hulu.  My mom actually needed help cleaning her closets and gathering stuff for a yard sale that Guma Mami is having. The yard sale is actually a fundraiser for Guma Mami.  I had fun helping her decide what to keep, what to give to me, and what to donate for the yard sale.

 After I finished helping her I went back to my apartment and decided to do some major cleaning and purging. I ended up with a banker box, a large shopping bag, and 2 paper grocery bags filled with items for the yard sale.  It felt good to not only get rid of some clutter, but also know that these things would be going to people who need them, will help raise money for a good cause and also stay out of our landfill.

And after all that was done I spent the evening in my pajamas watching You Tube vids with Nel, in the comfort of my clean apartment.  I love it!

Oh and I also found the time to hang up some of Luke's paintings.

I love his robot series!  He also did a painting of a robot inspired by Viva, our not so little puppy. So cute.  I'm trying to get him to do one of our kitty, Merlot. I don't want her to feel left out.  :(

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Grow in Wonderland: With love from my tiny yard

My crown of thorns.  
I moved them outside because my friend told me that having thorny plants in your home is bad feng shui.  :P

My herb bowl and papaya tree.
Eventually I'd like to have more edible / fruit bearing plants.  I'd love to grow my own tomatoes and green beans. 

Friday, July 2, 2010

Life in Wonderland: One amazing woman's story of Freedom

A year or so ago, I found a book on my mother's bookshelf and decided to take it home to read. It didn't take too long for Stolen Lives to transport me to Morocco and I was so hooked on the book that it felt like I was becoming a family friend of the Oufkirs.  I was enraged to hear of their imprisonment and desperately waited for their liberation.

Malika Oufkir, the author, was locked away with her family in 1972.  And by locked away I'm not talking about being in prison with 3 square meals a day and medical attention when needed.  Imprisonment was a stark contrast to the beautiful life she led as the daughter of a general and companion to the princess. For two decades the Oufkirs were held as prisoners for a crime Malika's father was said to have committed.

A couple days ago I reconnected with Malika, when my mother lent me Freedom: The Story of My Second Life. This is the story of Malika rediscovering the world she was banished from. I haven't finished reading it, but I can say that there are parts that have made me laugh, like her encounters with the ATM machines and pushy women in the grocery store. But there are also serious parts of the reading that'll have you thinking for hours about certain aspects of our society.

"And yet, I cannot bring myself to accept the principle of credit. My education, my values, the long absence that cut me off from the ways of the world, all tend to make me reject this general eagerness to spend money that does not exist. I was a helpless prisoner for too long to willingly chain myself to the anxieties of a life on the installment plan. People who live in freedom are tempted by so many enticing things, their dreams are stocked with so many treasures, that they're ready to commit themselves for ten, twenty years, a sentence without appeal, just for a new car."
If you don't have the time or attention span to read Malika Oufkir's books, please consider googling her during a bored moment at school, work, or home. Her story is one that I feel should be shared. Not only does she make us aware of a tragedy that we might have a hard time believing, but she also reminds us that it is in us to rise from such tragedy and grow and nurture.