Journalism in Saipan: No wonder we’re so wildly informed

By Mabel Doge Luhan

A wise man once said, “Beverage is the soul of wit.” If that’s true, then the Marianas Variety must have consumed all the drinks!  Its satire game is top-notch. 

Just look at the recent article “Return of Hong Kong Air Lines to NMI an ‘exciting development,’ says MVA official,” from, appropriately enough, Friday the 13th!  It’s penned by Bryan Manabat, perhaps the CNMI’s most gifted satirist, who never fails at hilariously playing clueless to prove a point.

The brilliant intratextual play begins right in the headline and the lead paragraph! Is the name of the airline “Hong Kong Air Lines” as the headline has it, or “Hong Kong Airline” as per the very first paragraph? 

The zinger: it’s actually neither!  The airline’s name is Hong Kong Airlines! Badabang! This brilliant satirist actually got the name of the airline wrong twice already, and we’ve barely started reading his hilarious article!

Our man Manabat takes a direct shot at two-faced government officials, or maybe the indeterminacy of knowledge itself, when he first says flights will resume in November, and then in the next paragraph, “around” February! What a kneeslapper!

The article takes an absurdist turn when it says the airline’s flights were “under the visa waiver program.” You may be asking yourself how a flight can be under a visa waiver program, insofar as such programs apply to humans, not airplanes. The joke’s gone over your head, philistine. I bet you also don’t get Jon Fosse. 

Then the comedic genius Manabat hits us with the textual equivalent of two naked clowns running across the stage. 

First, it’s “The population of Hong Kong is approximately 7.4 million,” apropos of absolutely nothing.  He might as well have told us the average weight of a giraffe. Take that, newspapers still following traditional narrative forms. 

Then comes the second clown: “The HKA flights ‘are not chartered, so that is good,” Manabat half-quotes Concepcion as saying.  Newspapers of less sophisticated wit would explain this statement, or at least ask the source what it means. But our satirist says more with silence.  He lets the absurd statement just pass. 

The comedic crescendo however is when Concepcion says, deadpan but with tongue obviously in cheek, that it’s good that HKA is part of the Hainan group. Manabat plays along with the joke, acting as if he’s a completely clueless rube who doesn’t know that the Hainan group is a famous corporate failure that is deep in bankruptcy. He almost makes us suspend disbelief and think he’s actually a reporter who hasn’t bothered to at least read the Wikipedia entry about the subject of his article. 

Bravo on brilliantly executed satire, Marianas Variety and Bryan Manabat. You make us laugh more than you’ll ever know. 


Mabel Doge Luhan is a rootless cosmopolitan and a woman of loose morals. She resides in Kagman V, where she pursues her passions of crocheting, beatboxing, and falconry.


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