Variations | What B.B. said

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IN 1976, the NMI was still one of the six districts of the Trust Territory government which was administered by the U.S. But the Northern Marianas’ Covenant with the U.S. had already been enacted into law by the federal government, and the NMI’s transition to Commonwealth status was already in motion. 

Saipan was the TT government’s capital, and many of its offices were located here. Many residents of the other TT islands also worked on Saipan which they considered their second home. Among them was the late great journalist Bonifacio “B.B.” Basilius of Palau.

In his MV weekly column, “What They Say,” published 44 years ago, B.B. noted the “imminent termination of the USDA Food Program for the Marianas” which, he added, should be the occasion for the local school system to institute a curriculum that will teach youngsters about food raising and distribution.”

B.B. then recounted the following “conversation” he had with one of the sons of his Saipan neighbor:

“What is your favorite food?” B.B. asked the boy.

“Ice cream,” the boy replied.

“Do you know where ice cream came from?”

“Of course, dummy. They come from the stores.”

“But where do the stores get their ice cream in the first place?”

“How should I know. I don’t work at Joeten….” 

“All right. Besides ice cream, what else is your favorite food?”

The boy thought for a while and then he said, “I can’t decide between fried chicken and hamburger.”

“Do you know where fried chicken came from?”

“Well, many places sell the stuff. But my favorite is the Kentucky fried chicken.”

“Do you have chickens at your house?”

“No, but my Aunt Maria has lots of them. But they’re not good for eating.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Mr. B.B., you don’t know many things do you? Everybody knows that a chicken is different from a fried chicken. My aunt’s chickens have feathers…. But fried chicken is wrapped in nice clean paper and it smells good.”

B.B. also asked the boy about rice. “Where do they come from?”

The boy replied, “My mother pick up ours from the government.”

“Did you know that farmers in other countries work hard to grow the rice that we eat on Saipan?" 

“Those people must be very poor. Everybody knows that people who work on the farm are poor people. Here we’re different. My mother goes to the government every month for our rice.”

In another op-ed, B.B. told his readers that after his column on religion and preachers was published the week before, he had a dream that he was being interviewed in hell by Lucifer for a public relations job.

“Before I relate the interview,” B.B. wrote, tongue firmly in check for sure, “let me first describe what [hell] looked like. Contrary to popular belief, there were no huge bonfires…. There were no screaming and gnashing of teeth. The place had a striking resemblance to our Chalan Kanoa [then known as Saipan’s capital]. There was a street that ran through the center of the town and, like Chalan Kanoa, there were potholes and dead dogs on the sidewalks. Stores and business offices lined both sides of the street and dilapidated homes were set in the back, hidden by uncut grass and bushes.”

Lucifer’s office, B.B. added, looked like any other business office. “He had a pretty receptionist with cute pointed horns. His assistant had gleaming fangs that did much to improve his smile.” But Lucifer “did not have horns and fangs because, as he put it, ‘I take them off when I go on a business trip or when I interview a potential employee.’ ”

Lucifer then offered B.B. a job.

“Sire,” B.B. replied, “I appreciate your kindness, but I don’t know if I want to live and work here.” B.B. said he didn’t know “anybody here, and I’m not sure my family will like it here.” B.B. said he wanted to be with his relatives and friends.

“Your friends,” Lucifer said, “at least the majority of them, will be here soon. Wouldn’t you like to be around to welcome them when they arrive?”

“I don’t know,” B.B. said.

Lucifer was persistent. He told our columnist that there was a vacancy in a government office. B.B.’s job was to “corrupt” a certain Trust Territory public servant.

“Good,” B.B. said, “I’ll take that one.”

“You want to corrupt [an honest] government official?”

“No, I want to find out who he is.”

“He’s a janitor.”



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