Friday, April 22, 2016



The year was 1948 and the war was over. Not only was the war over; the islands were coming back to a state of normalcy and people wanted to get on with their lives.

Prior to the war, civilians, both Chamorro and Carolinian, had been living on the northern islands such as Pagan, Alamagan and Agrigan. War conditions changed that and, right after the war, the islands were empty of people, the Japanese soldiers and civilians having been taken back to Japan. (Japanese holdouts on Anatahan would not surrender to the Americans until 1951!)

In 1947, a small group of Chamorros on Saipan started to organize to petition the government to allow them to move to Alamagan. It is more than likely that at least some of the people in this group had prior experiences living on Alamagan before the war.

Their goal was to farm for a living. Even in the 1800s, the northern islands were wanted by some entrepreneurs for copra farming. But the Chamorros in 1947 did not have those great ambitions. They just wanted to farm for their livelihood, fish and enjoy the peace and quiet of this remote island.

If they hoped to make some cash by selling produce, that was completely dependent on the arrival of the government ship that, in those days, made two trips a year to make sure the people in the northern islands were safe and sound. So, there were no pretensions of getting rich by moving to Alamagan.

In January of 1948, a government ship transported 26 Chamorros from Saipan to Alamagan, with supplies. The leader of the Chamorro community was Jose S. Sablan, who was very much appreciated by the government authorities in Saipan. He was called the "spark plug" who would help the small community achieve success on Alamagan.

The island had enough fresh water in old Japanese cisterns to support those small numbers of settlers. There was a great deal of work to be done; repairing houses and copra sheds left behind, building new dwellings and elementary infrastructure. But the land and sea would amply supply the needs of the new community.

The settlers were :

1. ALDAN, Antonio T.
2. ALDAN, Jose C.
3. ALDAN, Leon A.
4. ALDAN, Lucio C.
5. BERMUDES, Francisco
6. BLAS, Joaquin S.
7. BLAS, Juan S.
8. BLAS, Pedro S.
9. BORJA, Felix de
10. CABRERA, Nicolas T.
11. CASTRO, Santiago V.
12. CRUZ, Joaquin
13. CRUZ, Mariano de la
14. MATAGOLAI, Ignacio
15. MATAGOLAI, Joaquin S.
16. MATAGOLAI, Manuel C.
17. MATAGOLAI, Vicente
18. MENDIOLA, Vicente C.
19. PABLO, Jose T.
20. PANGELINAN, Antonio
21. PANGELINAN, Antonio M.
23. SABLAN, Antonio S.
24. SABLAN, Benigno
25. SABLAN, Jose S.
26. TAITANO, Joaquin R.

As you can see - all males. Their wives and children would be transported to Alamagan a few months later.

The community would be divided into two settlements. One of them would be called Songsong ("village") on the southeast side of the island. The other settlement, Pattico ("my part"), on the southwest. Other sources call this second village Partida or Pattida ("share").

Unfortunately, the Chamorro community on Alamagan did not thrive. By the 1960s, there were less than a dozen homes still on the island. There was an evacuation in 1998 due to volcanic activity; another evacuation in 2009 due to a direct hit by typhoon.

Whenever possible, a handful of men from Saipan always manage to get back to Alamagan (as they often do at other northern islands temporarily abandoned).

Source : Civil Administrator Report, January 20, 1948

Alamagan is more or less dead center in the chain of islands called the Marianas


  1. Hi Påle',

    Yet another fascinating account of Alamågan. Growing up, I learned so little about the Northern Islands. Thank you for sharing.

    I was wondering... Is it possible for you to email me or for me to email you? I have a question regarding the names of all our islands. Let me know.

    Si Yu'us Ma'åse,
    Si Akin

  2. Ah yes; I remember the years when I was a priest assigned to Saipan (1963-1966) with Fr Arnold Bendowski and Fr Sylvan Sullivan (3 of us caring for the whole island). I was assigned to San Antonio and San Jose in Oleai where I got together with Tun Carlos Torres and Dionisio Torres to replace the 60+ capacity quonset hut chapel, and build a concrete church there - literally block by block - with the "happy labor" of the mostly Carolinian community. I also was Chaplain to the hospital and to the Mercederian Sisters who resided at Maturana Hills, and taught at Mt Carmel School in Charanka, where I taught English, religion, music and yes frail me also coached baseball and basketball. (I even lost a tooth from a hard foul from Fermin Sakisat!) I also helped out Fr Sylvan whose parishes were San Vicente, San Roke and Tanapag.

    We made periodic "field trips" once or twice a year on the then "Four Winds" small ship, to minister to the spiritual, material, health and civic needs and supplies to brave residents at Anatahan, Sariguan, Guaguan, Alamagan, and Pagan (beautiful black sands). A priest, a doctor (Dr Kaipat most of the time), a civic leader and select volunteers composed the "motley crew". Most of the islands had no docking facilities, and we had to disembark by jumping at the right time from ship to rocky landing spots as the ship swayed. Field trips lasted 2-4 weeks.

    There was a short landing strip at Pagan. I remember making a short trip there with my pilot friend and guardian angel Emmet Kaye. He had to apply the brakes on landing as quickly as the wheels hit ground or he'd go right into the cliffs a few hundred feet away, and lift the wheels and become airborne in takeoff, or the plane would hit water! It was an adventure I'de never forget. But I was young, and vibrant then!

    Si Yuus maase, Pale Eric for reliving my past during my CNMI (TTPI then) assignment. I love the simple living, and the simple (down to earth, that is) people.

  3. I remember Father San Augustinwhen he was in Saipan.