OVER 33 years ago, one of our front-page stories was the announcement that the CNMI’s U.S. Postal Service designation had changed. “Instead of being ‘CM’ for Commonwealth of the Marianas, we will now simply be known as ‘MP.’ What does that stand for?” MV asked. “It’s just a two-letter designation it doesn’t mean anything,” the local postmaster said. She said “the change was made by the postal service to help make the two-letter designation more uniform — especially internationally.” She said some nations or jurisdictions such as Cameroon might be known as CM or something close to it. “Sometimes I noticed our mail goes over there,” she added. During the Trust Territory days, the NMI’s postal designation was TT which was changed to CM when it became a Commonwealth.

MP, of course, could stand for Marianas Pacific. MA was already “taken” by Massachusetts, and MN was Minnesota. This issue should be a non-issue, you may say, but back then a long-time resident complained to USPS about the MP designation, saying that “during the initial occupation by the forces of the U.S. Navy [during World War II], the people who were prisoners here wore uniforms which had ‘MP’ emblazoned in red on the back of their blue shirt — to signify ‘Marianas Prisoner.’ This MP designation was criminal four decades ago, and its present use represents a demeaning socio-cultural error today.” The complainer said USPS should “inform the planet that MP is a designation for ‘Marianas People,’ or Marianas of the Pacific,” or ‘Mwar-Mwar People’ or ‘Marianas Pearl.’ ”

But this happened way before social media and online comments, and the planet continued to revolve around the sun blissfully unaware of our tropical postal hullabaloo.

In the mid-1990s there were two other, more or less, similar tempest-in-a-teacup moments on island: the expansion of American Memorial Park which eliminated a public road — a shortcut — which made many motorists unhappy;  and the construction of Gold’s Gym at its present location, resulting in a “protest action” of children who were brought to the site by their teacher who said the construction project on a vacant lot would “deprive” the kids of a park.

There was, of course, no lack of more serious news on island in 1988.

“Retirees owed millions; NMI not paying full share of contributions….” That was one of our banner stories in those days, but more significant, at least in my opinion, was MV’s announcement that it would publish twice a week starting on March 1, 1988. Newspapers back then were weekly publications. MV, founded in 1972, was the first to go online (1987), and the first to be published more than once a week. But wait! There’s more!

To make the newspaper “more accessible to the people in as many ways as possible,” MV installed an answering machine called the “Gripe Line” for people “who have tips, comments (good or bad) about the newspaper, and suggestions for news stories…[as well as] questions they would like asked of public officials.”

Like an online comment section before there was such a thing.

On Feb. 26, 1988, the 44-page MV reported that the acting governor had issued a “stern reminder…that government employees must come to work and leave on time.” In a memorandum, the acting governor said the government “annually loses thousands of dollars from non-productive employees who habitually arrive at work late and leave early.”

Yes. Crickets.

In the same issue, on the op-ed page, the editor said “the most gripes this week was about the rapidly deteriorating water supplies on the island.” He quoted one resident as saying, “we [used to have] about six hours water every day…. [Then] only an average of two hours…which dropped to one hour per day….” That was in Garapan.

In other news, “Store still trying to collect from Senate”: “A four-year-old Senate debt to [a] department store, unpaid despite a court order, may balloon to more than $100,000 [worth about $230,000 today] as a result of a new lawsuit filed by the store.”

Government vendors. Good day and good luck.

And what is an oldie MV edition without those blood-boiling stories about…littering?

“While other schools in the Commonwealth are adopting a beach as part of their National Energy Education Day (NEED) project, Koblerville Elementary School will be adopting a ‘dump’ if third-grade teacher [JKM] has anything to do about it.” The teacher “is sick of jogging past debris along the old Koblerville airstrip. ‘Four months ago my husband and I could jog down that road.’ She points to a litter-filled 100-yard-long spur linking the airstrip with a parallel road. ‘And now?’ The litter-clogged spur speaks for itself.”

Not to worry. The following year, the CNMI government enacted a “stronger” anti-littering law because “the quality of the environment is as important to the welfare of the people of the Commonwealth as its economy.” Personnel from seven government agencies were designated as “apprehending officers” who would enforce Public Law 6-37.

“Litter-bugs in the Commonwealth,” MV’s editor said, “may soon have to scatter and run like bugs in a T.V. commercial….” Just below the news item was a “Sores of Saipan” photo depicting a roadside strewn with “the usual beer cans, and pampers, not to mention the remains of a butchered pig or a cow….”

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Editor

Zaldy Dandan is the recipient of the Best Editorial Writer Award of the Society of Professional Journalists, and the CNMI Humanities Award for Outstanding Contributions to Journalism. His three books are available on amazon.com

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