by Senator Hope Alvarez Hope Cristobal -OPI(R)
Senator Rory J. Respicio, Chairman
Committee on Rules, Federal, Foreign & Micronesian Affairs, Human & Natural Resources, Election Reform and Capitol District
Mina’ Trentai Tres Na Liheslaturan Guahan
2015 (First) Regular Session
March 4, 2015
Reference: Bill No. 32-33 (COR)
Hafa adai, Senot Presidente Rory Respicio, Senator Tina Muna-Barnes yan Speaker Judith WonPat:
Thank you for this opportunity to present testimony on Bill 32-22(COR)—the demolition of the Gov. Manuel F.L. Guerrero Building in Hagatna also known as the Dept. of Administration Bldg. To those of us who frequented the building in the days of the Department of Education and the Department of Administration for one reason or another. For the record, my name is Hope Alvarez Cristobal. I am from Tamuning Village and I am here in opposition to Bill 32-33 (COR) that will destroy a Guam historic property.
Over the years, I have been concerned at the rate and the destruction of evidences of our existence and history as a people—one that is non-self-governing today and a people whose homeland is a territory of another country. We are a people who have yet to write our history as a people about what makes us distinct as a people in our homeland. To do this is to continue to place respect in the tangible evidence of our Chamorro identity and history. This bill proposed destruction of the historically significant Manuel F.L. Guererro Administration Building is a discriminate and reckless act that I feel is anti-Chamorro history and cultural heritage.
For many years, I worked to protect burial sites of our people; many of whom lived in the second largest Chamorro settlement in the 17th century, in Tumon, not far from where I live today. My experiences regarding the preservation of those burial sites usually began when there was a failure to inform the public through the DPW permitting process at that time. Eventually, the Guam Historic Preservation Review Board would make public announcement that (a burial site or) an important historic property is being considered by the Historic Review Board and public comment is invited. It was through this process that people like myself participated in articulating the purposes and procedures for their preservation.
My other experiences relate to the historic properties that were slated for destruction as collateral damage in the building of hotels at Mata’pang Beach, at Gokna where the Nikko Hotel now stands, at the former Fujita Hotel and at Tumhom proper where the Hyatt Hotel now stands. I learned about the desecrations and destruction through the publicly announced Meeting Agenda of the Board. This was how it was. This review process existed for public comment and input on impacts to these important historic properties. And if our concern seems to be ignored, it was essential to get the word out by informing and exposing to the media any anomalies that is preventing the preservation and respect to the historic burial grounds. If it appears that there may be collusion, we went to the Court and got an injunction to prevent the project from destroying the burial grounds of our ancestors. It is this kind of commitment to the preservation of our heritage that we espouse to even today – to insure that the evidence of our identity is respected and not destroyed.
Another experience was the historic Rosario House built in the 1800s, right here in the Hagatna Historic District. After discovering through our network of historic preservationist that the building is slotted for demolition, I filed a complaint to the SHPO at that time and the complaint procedurally placed the Rosario House in their Meeting Agenda for board discussion and public comment. I was able to study and visit the structure and presented to the board my opposition to its destruction and recommend its preservation because of its historic significance. In this way, I and others who were able to provide definite information about the structure, participated and were able to help in preserving it. The process worked and today the building finally will be restored by Government of Guam funds.
Yet another historic property issue was the proposal to MAIL out the over 300 human remains of our ancestors excavated at Gokna, in mailboxes—to be sent off-island for study. The Historic Review Board placed this issue in its Meeting Agenda and that was what alerted me that the Board with members with technical knowledge in the field of architecture, history, planning, archaeology and education was able to discuss and vote to deny the request to mail our ancestors remains after comments were allowed to be heard.
As an activist, a former University of Guam history professor, I am deeply concerned with the erasing of our Chamorro historic properties, the erasing of place names and the erasing of evidences of our history as a people of Guam. This is a colonial practice that needs to be abated. Our historic properties hold meaning to our people and it is through these meanings and connections that we construct the legitimacy to create and build community. We must cherish and preserve them for the memories and history that lift us up and for the edification of our people – with this caring attitude embodied already in our historic preservation laws – our yet to be written historic narrative will not be empty of substance associated with our heritage – in this case – the Governor Manuel F. L. Guererro Administration building.
Here we are, 15 years into the 21st century, and rather than studying its historicity, our people are faced with a Bill to demolish a property that has been named by law to honor Governor Manuel F.L. Guererro and has been listed in Guam’s inventory of historic properties but had not gone through the well-established process formally listing them after detailed studies of its eligibility to the Guam and National Register of Historic Places.
Why was this historic property never placed on the Guam Historic Preservation Review (GHPRB) Agenda for proper historic preservation review due to impending proposal to destroy it? Did the members of the Board not want to discuss this? Is it a foregone conclusion of theirs that no public comment is needed because the Chairman had already publicly and unilaterally stated his personal preference (for demolition) as to how this historic property will be impacted by the planned restoration of the Spanish Palasyo? Why are they treating this historic property differently? I believe that this individual may have prematurely made a decision undermining the historic review process, rather than allowing the Board members and SHPO staff to provide their expert opinions—the reason for their being selected to be on that Board in the first place and rather than, allowing public comment. And this is alarming because this action(proposed destruction without review) forces the public to ask the Department of Interior’s National Park Service Western Regional Office – whether the action violates federal guidelines in the treatment of historic properties – which may endanger the yearly Historic Preservation Fund grant due to possible non-compliance.
I find it also peculiar that the historic preservation process of nominating sites to the Guam and National Register of Historic Places is mysteriously being bypassed by this proposed legislation. This proposed legislation may be eliminating the normal historic preservation review of Guam’s historic property (and other historic properties)the Governor Manuel F.L. Guererro Building I have participated in past meetings. My dear colleagues, if I do not convince you to kill this bill. Do the right thing and honor our heritage by preserving this building otherwise you may have usurped the existing process for historic properties in Guam (critical technical review) and eliminates public review and scrutiny.
I want to reiterate again my concern about the manner by which this historic property is being handled by the Guam Historic Preservation Review Board. The Legislature in its infinite wisdom must not allow the selective application of only some attributes of the landscape as important and erase the structural representation of an important historical period—of our early political development because, this Legislature will then have to take responsibility for the deafening silences of what is not made significant or important in our development as a people; something yet to be written about the emergent experiences of a non-self-governing people that would otherwise be showcased and pronounced by preserving the Manuel F.L. Guerrero building.
Why would anyone want to diminish or erase this significant period in our history and its tangible reminder? Why?
This is a scenario that appears to reveal possible dishonesty.
If demolition is approved, GEDA and/governor’s office will now take over the project, who will manage the bldg proper/grounds of Plaza de Espana, it’s not in the bill?? What are you trying to hide with this Bill? That you are turning over the Palasyo to the Governor’s Office?...that’s what appears behind the words here?
This bill makes it look like there is collusion to destroy this historic structure at all cost. Please investigate if there is attempt to corrupt the historic preservation process. Here you have quick office spaces available, maybe even an exhibit facility, …looks funny to me. This bldg is historical; can be rehabilitated. Where is Guam’s real estate planner? We can even have Legislative Repository, a required place for a certified archival depository for the Legislative Branch, similar to congressional records of the U.S. Congress. Hafa? Think of the options and opportunities for alternative uses.
My dear senators, look around, open your eyes. You can see how little has remained over time from the ravages of colonial occupation of a once sovereign people, a war not of our doing, clearing and grading for urbanization that changed our physical landscape as well as our cultural landscape, the near total destruction of Hagatna, the desecrations and destruction of our ancestors’ sacred burial grounds. The question that we should be asking ourselves, What do we have left that can significantly contribute to our identity as an emerging people? Or, that could contribute to our national pride as a people? Or, that could enhance and enlighten the history of our people? Is the historicity of the Gov. Manuel F. L. Guerrero building and all the activities that make it significant historically, is it worth preserving? I say, YES! The building is not EMPTY nor is it dead space! Know your history! And preserve our historical sites and allow the keeping of our historical integrity. Do not be a part of erasing that history within and through the final plans that will only take up the significance of the Palasyo. Make a stand for a decolonized history, for a better future for our people through the depiction of our struggles as emergent people—a people yearning to restore our sovereignty.
Imagine a tour guide discussing the history of our people. That narrative will go something like, “And here is the building in which:
a) The first appointed Chamorro Governor’s Office was housed.
b) The first elected Chamorro Governor’s Office was located.
c) The first Political Status Commission was signed into law.
d) The post-war local civilian government was implemented.
e) The ideas of emerging from a colonial past were formulated…where the first Chamorro Land Trust Commission was signed into law.
f) In fact, the Guam Historic Preservation Act was signed in to law in that building in PL 12-126.
g) This is the place that Chamorros, after WWII, took positions as Governors, Lt. Governors, Directors, Surveyors, Accountants, Treasurers, Civil Service Managers, Budget Directors, Education Directors, Chief of Staffs, Secretaries, Public Servants – refuge and training ground to serve our people and learn the business of administering and governing ourselves.
And, these are just a listing of significant historic events.
I recall, at the time I became Ms. Guam Universe in 1967, 2 years before Governor Carlos Camacho’s term ended. Chilang Bamba, Tita Souder, Tina Perez, Margaret Jones (bless her soul, she is still here with us today), how these strong women of their time, made it a rule that, before anyone leaves off-island to represent our “country”, that, we pay our respects to Guam’s highest official so that he can impart his wisdom and blessings for the sake of our dignity as a people. I recall also at the time, how Governor Camacho requested that our group pay respects to the Air Force general, General Crumm—and, off we went to do just that. I was 21 years old and I thought I was in my prime; but, my dear senators, my prime, our prime, your prime comes when we, you, can respond in a way as to enhance and promote our people, our national pride and identity as a people whose history is worth saving, worth preserving for our progeny.
So, how can you adapt this old building to the needs of our modern lives?
a) Well, we can first think of how the government can save money in rentals. We have about 50,000 sq ft of office space that can be rental space that’ll probably give us millions of dollars in savings in the three years.(About $1.50 per square feet rental in Hagatna).
b) Why can’t this space be used for your Legislative Offices rather than rent? Its a win-win savings for the people of Guam/Legislature where millions of dollars have been spent for rental using the people’s tax dollars. That didn’t require any scientific computation to figure out. Maybe we should ask ourselves who could possibly monetarily benefit from the demolition of a 50,000 sq. ft. of office space—something that we now have, that we could use? Anyone that you know of?
Si Yu’os ma’ase’. Please preserve the Gov. Manuel F.L. Guerrero building.