Thursday, January 29, 2009


CNMI residents connecting on Facebook

This screenshot shows the Facebook account of Gov. Benigno R. Fitial. Besides being politicians, what does Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, Delegate Gregorio “Kilili” Sablan, President Barack Obama, and several lawmakers have in common?

They are all on Facebook and the number of people in the CNMI who are joining the largest online social networking Web site is growing by the day. From politicians to doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, clerks, students, parents and even the jobless now have a Facebook account.

Given Saipan's isolation, many individuals use Facebook to connect and chat with distant friends, relatives and classmates from elementary, high school or college.

“It's addicting,” said John Blanco, director of the Department of Commerce's Central Statistics Division.

He said in less than two weeks since he became a member, he already has 198 friends on Facebook.

“A college roommate I hadn't heard from for 15 years was on Facebook so I got to connect with him again,” he said.

Many post images of Saipan's tourist spots, photos of all the parties they attended, or links to current events or cute feature stories. Others also turn to Facebook and other social networking sites when news breaks to share stories and pictures.

Floor Leader Joseph Camacho said Facebook allows him to show a side of him that the public doesn't see, including the chance to post jokes and stories.

He, however, maintains his public website,, where the public can view proposed legislation, committee reports and voting records, among other things.

Camacho and Rep. Tina Sablan are among two members of the CNMI House of Representatives that maintain a Facebook account, along with top officials including Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, acting Attorney General Gregory Baka, Health Secretary Joseph Kevin Villagomez, Board of Education vice chair Herman Guerrero and Labor Deputy Secretary Cinta M. Kaipat.

“Since Facebook is a personal forum, I can show my personality outside of my official public role. For example, I like jokes, Sci-Fi shows and old music videos so I post these things. Those who know me for a long time know that I am a joker and love telling stories. With Facebook, I can express that side of me that the public does not always see,” Camacho said.

Others use it to tell their friends and relatives, “I am happy” or they are “looking forward to a long weekend” or “is going to Forbidden Island today” or “Now engaged.”

Many use Facebook to post upcoming events or as a marketing tool. One user, for example, said in her Facebook status yesterday, “recruiting Teams for the 2009 Marianas March against Cancer.”

Frank Tudela of the Marianas Visitors Authority uses Facebook on a daily basis “to post upcoming events” related to MVA, as well as to keep in touch with family members. He said he spends hours on Facebook, and thinks he “will never leave” the social network.

“It has also helped me with annual events and get more friends,” he said.

Tudela prefers Facebook over MySpace, while Camacho said Facebook is easy to use. “You do not have to be a computer expert,” he added.

Just like the other users, Tudela thinks Facebook is now the “in” thing on Saipan. His cousins, best friends, and close friends are members, too.

Kae Atalig, 21, said this is one site where “people with no jobs and people with lots of responsibilities in government” meet. She has 135 Facebook friends and counting.

“It's a way to connect with my long lost relatives and friends,” said Atalig, whose favorite Facebook “activity” is tagging people in photos and posting shoutouts.

President Barack Obama and his supporters used Facebook for his grassroots presidential campaign. Many on Saipan are “fans” of Obama on Facebook.

Facebook started as a social network exclusively for Harvard students. It was launched on Feb. 4, 2004, by Mark Zuckerberg and later became one of the biggest online phenomena. Facebook's growth in the fall of 2007 was staggering. Over 1 million new users signed up every week, 200,000 daily, totaling over 150 million active users.

Its competitors include MySpace, Bebo, Friendster, LinkedIn, Tagged, Hi5, Piczo and Open Social.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Witnessing History in the Making

I've thoroughly enjoyed reading Angelo's posts of his adventures in DC during the inauguration festivities. For those of us who couldn't be in DC for the momentus occasion, we had to settle for the television and living vicariously through Angelo.

I tried to get some shut eye so I would be bright eyed and bushy tailed for that 3 a.m. inauguration, but it was a challenge. I got caught up in all the hoopla leading up to the actual oath taking. I woke brother Gus up around 2:30 a.m. and reminded him not to sleep through history.

Just watching the millions of people freezing to be a part of that memorable day in time was awe inspiring. Much has been said about Justice Roberts' flubbing of the oath, but that doesn't make the occasion any less magical. Not to me.

I tried to stay up for the parade, but I fell asleep and woke up before the parade ended. I watched President Obama and the First Lady walking in the parade and I couldn't help thinking -- OY! I hope she's wearing comfortable shoes! I fell back to sleep. It was worth it.

Inauguration of President Barack Obama!