Every hotel searches for a hook, for a way to capture customer interest and “wow” them. Some may have ghosts that can attract the curious. Others proudly pronounce the names of A-list celebrities that have slept in one of their rooms. What about history as its own merit? Can local history be a selling point for a single hotel and attract visitors?
If you stay at Pacific Islands Club on the island of Saipan, the answer is “yes.”
The resort is located at the southern end of Saipan, a critical, historical location with footprints left by the ancient Chamorro, the Spaniards, the Second World War, and even today. PIC features interesting stories that no other hotel on Saipan and maybe even the entire Mariana Islands can boast about. The hotel staff shares the stories not only with customers and friends. The stories live online on the hotel’s website, Facebook, and blogs. Searching for a historical touch while enjoying a holiday on Saipan? Just visit PIC ( www.picresorts-saipan.com ) and you will jump right into local history and check out how the hotel features Saipan’s history at its facility.
The first historical encounter at PIC occurs upon arrival. The resort displays a historical exhibition in the lobby, just behind the front desk. The exhibition features the story of the sunken ship, Nuestra Señora De La Concepcion. She sank in 1638 south of the hotel, and a large portion of her treasures still lie at the bottom of the sea. The four pictures in the glass-encased exhibition display the story of the ship, as well as the original artifacts! These treasures were obscured at the bottom of the sea for over 300 years prior to excavation. PIC is one of the closest hotels to the site and as such, the lobby is adorned with canopy sails and a copy of a sunken galleon sits amidst the expansive Waterpark.
Latte stones are one of the mysteries of the Mariana Islands. When the Spanish discovered the islands and the first expeditions of scientists landed here, these stone columns were already historical in nature and locals were sharing legends about the “people before us” who built them. Currently, archeologists have only hypothesized about whom, why, and how this heavy stone architecture was erected thousands of years ago. There is a latte stone at PIC’s Sports Field, just east of the beach. It was brought there in 2004 by the local community as a symbol of a particular event. What happened? During PIC’s initial development project in 1988 and its expansion of the Waterpark and addition of its third guest wing in 1997, the contractors recovered some important and rare prehistoric artifacts. Archeologists found that these artifacts belonged to the first inhabitants of Saipan who lived in the pre-latte period Chamorro village called Araiao.
In May 2004, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) celebrated Historical Preservation Month. As part of events that were organized at that time, the Division of Historic Preservation and the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs recognized PIC for its commitment and contribution to the preservation of local history. The hotel proudly displays to its customers this part of the local history with a monument in its garden.
Near the latte memorial, right in the heart of the Sports Field, one will see a big and interesting tree. It looks as though a dozen roots are hanging tied together straight down from the crown of the tree. This tree is an icon in itself, otherwise known as a banyan tree or a taotaomo’na tree. The tree poses as a saint for the local people, as they believe that spirits live in its crown. It is also believed that it protects the hotel from evil. So, PIC takes good care of this tree and its surroundings.
PIC’s beach is known also as Invasion Beach. The US Army assaulted Saipan on June 15, 1944 and San Antonio Beach became the arena for the first island battle between the USA and Japan. In front of PIC’s Seaside Grill restaurant, there is a small memorial. It was dedicated on Memorial Day, May 26, 1986, by members of the 4th Marine Division Association. US veterans placed the memorial at the hotel beach in memory of those fallen in the war and to memorialize this historical event. For those who are still alive today, travel agencies organize military tours to PIC a couple times a year.
PIC’s staff may even mention that one American movie also featured the battle of Saipan and the assault that occurred at PIC’s beach: “The Windtalkers” starring Nicolas Cage (2002). The movie featured a historical event where US Intelligence services were searching for a new encryption code that would be impossible to crack by the Japanese code breakers. An idea was born to use the ancient language of the Navajo. Several hundred Navajo were called to duty in the Marine Corps, and after special training, some of them were deployed to frontline areas in the Pacific to use their language instead of another secret code. They were called “Windtalkers” and their first battle was the assault of Saipan. If you stay at PIC, you may be lucky to meet with some of the veterans of that battle, of which some may be Navajo!
PIC has also been visited by many popular people and stars in politics, music, and arts from Asia and around the globe. However, the resort staff will share with you one particular story about a guest that chose Saipan from… outer space! In 1984, while the US Shuttle Challenger flew over the Mariana Islands, one of the crew members saw the archipelago shining in the ocean like pearl jewelry. Upon returning to Earth, that person – the pilot of Challenger, Jon McBride, visited Saipan, stayed at the former Surf Hotel (PIC) and planted a tree in the hotel garden. Unfortunately, the tree he planted, a Norfolk pine, was damaged by one of the typhoons and does not exist today, but the story behind remains alive.
Even PIC’s mascot, Siheky, was chosen with a purpose. Siheky is a caricature of the nearly extinct Micronesian Kingfisher. Siheky is a name derived from an old fable, which tells of a village woman who always talked loudly and made trouble. The taotaomo’na then turned her into the first “sihek!” PIC’s goal is to preserve and increase awareness for this species by creating a mascot that not only serves as an iconic symbol, but also creates familiarity with the near extinct bird. In 2009, German scientists called the Micronesian Kingfisher the Bird of the Year.
Do you have something to be proud of? Do you know the history of the land where your business is located? What treasures may you find that can become the next big sales hit? PIC Saipan has found them; now it’s your turn.