Help to revitalize San Francisco de Borja and San Isidro parishes in Rota

San Fransisco de Borja parish, in Songsong, Rota. Sunday, April 16, 2023

San Francisco de Borja parish in Rota is raising funds to repaint the church. At the entrance to the pews are two five-gallon water containers with a few dollar bills and coins in each from parishioners who have donated to the project. On the other side of the island, San Isidro church is being painted after the people of Rota raised about $20,000 to start the project. The parish still needs funds to complete the project, according to the head of the Rota legislative delegation, Sen. Donald Manglona. Mr. Manglona is a San Isidro parishioner.

Rota’s population, according to the 2020 census of the CNMI, is 1,893; but likely has dropped. Anecdotal evidence – from the testimony of government officials to the abandonment of a large fraction of homes there – shows a population in decline. Rotanese people have been leaving because of the severe economic depression there.

Unlike the days, when planes brought hundreds of Japanese tourists to the island at a time, private sector activity in Rota is scarce. The island is heavily reliant on government assistance and sustenance from farming, hunting, and fishing.

Rota is breathtakingly beautiful; likely, the most beautiful place on earth. I had not visited since 1992, when I was 12. But, after this recent trip, I’m going to make it a point to see the island more often.

The people are as beautiful as their homeland. Every person waves at you on the road, and greets everyone with the warmest ‘hafa adai’ of the islands. The food. The sunrise. The sunset. The cool breeze. Coconuts everywhere. Everywhere.

Songsong Overlook, Saturday, April 15, 2023

And at San Francisco de Borja parish the morning of April 16, 2023, the warmth of the parishioners and their pastor in their humble church reminded me of what it truly means to be a Christian, and a citizen of humanity. Saipan Sen. Celina Roberto Babauta, our friend Stephen Werner, and I walked into the open air church and were greeted by Rotanese of every age dressed in their Sunday best despite the heat that was tempered by a few working fans. Some of the windows are able to open, and from there, birds flew in to rest above the Sanctuary.

It reminded me of my childhood, when my whole family would go to Mass at St. Anthony Church before it was renovated. When there weren’t any air conditioners, and the windows were rows of open louvers. The pews were filled in those days.

The joy of the people, particularly the church parishioners, rivaled the economic poverty. Father Jayferson Baldelovar read the Johanine account of Doubting Thomas, and explained in his homily that the story was about forgiveness and love for one another, even when we feel wronged. Then the congregation prayed for the church, for political leaders, and for the plight of humanity; prayers sent up with sincere abandonment of life’s struggles despite the poverty.

The songs they sung in the vernacular at San Francisco de Borja… they were heavenly; and though I was raised to understand much of my people’s language, I had never heard these songs on Guam. Some of the words I didn’t recognize at all.

We have so many luxuries in our lives on Guam that I often take for granted. Even as a Catholic parishioner here, I am spoiled by the comfort of the air-conditioned churches with cushioned kneelers, and concrete roofs and walls that house electrical and plumbing systems that are maintained.

Sen. Celina Roberto Babauta made a donation into one of the water containers, where San Francisco de Borja parish is collecting funds for the repainting of the church. Sunday, April 16, 2023

After the Mass at San Francisco de Borja, Sen. Babauta turned to me while she was driving us to Puesto Restaurant (every single restaurant in the CNMI that I have been to – without fail – has had delicious food), and asked, “Can Kandit get the word out to help raise funds for the church?”

Say no more.

We got on the phone with Sen. Manglona, who was grateful for the idea and asked that we add San Isidro parish to the effort. The parishioners there are raising funds to fix up the social hall at the back of the church. Led by Fr. Nelson Plohimon, they will be celebrating their fiesta soon, on May 14, which also is Mother’s Day.

Then we got on the phone with Sens. Paul Manglona and Dennis Mendiola, both of whom were more than happy to be part of the effort.

There have been so many causes for fundraisers on our islands – many of which have benefitted from government funds ranging from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars a project to efforts that pale in comparison to this, and for organizations and populations whose needs and limitations are only a small fraction of that which the people of Rota face.

Rota didn’t even ask for this. I just happened to stumble upon those two five-gallon water containers cut at the top with sticker signs asking the parishioners for money to paint their church.

If you can find it in your heart to help the people of Rota, I am certain in saying, your reward is waiting for you in Heaven.

To make a donation, please contact any of the following offices, which can coordinate your donation:

Roman Catholic Diocese of Chalan Kanoa

PayPal: Click here to make the donation and note: “For San Francisco de Borja and San Isidro parishes”

Phone: (670) 234-3000


Office of Sen. Celina Roberto Babauta

Phone: (670) 664-8874

email: [email protected]


Office of Sen. Donald Manglona, Senate Vice President

Phone: (670) 664-8803

email: [email protected]


Office of Sen. Paul Manglona

Phone: (670) 664-8968

email: [email protected]


Office of Sen. Dennis Mendiola

Phone: (670) 664-8868

email: [email protected]

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