See my intro to the Tinian Health Center here.
I am staying at Tinian Dynasty — the casino and largest hotel on island. The casino portion used to be much bigger than it is currently and has always had the 200-some rooms that are currently being renovated. They used to be able to offer packages with free chips and meal vouchers just like in other deals in Vegas but not so much anymore after 9/11 and the tourism industry decreased. The hotel is renovating their rooms now from the late 90s when they were first opened.
The island of Tinian is actually not too much smaller than Saipan but significantly less populated. There are very few stores besides what one might consider corner stores and a handful of places to eat (hence I brought basically all my own food with me). The casino provides a huge boost for the economy and a source of jobs.
Here’s the view of the entrance from their huge drive-way.
And the main lobby…
Basically, it’s very large! I walked into the casino and actually it’s a bit nicer than I remember on my first trip this time with people manning the tables. The business is still not exactly super busy although they do say that for Baccarat or Hold Em tournaments, the hotel can be up to about 80% capacity. I actually didn’t even notice the large paintings until I posted this picture.. a little creepy. Anyway, I just took a quick saunter through the casino (where apparently phones are not allowed I guess for their video capabilities.. but oops, took my phone in and took a picture)
There is still novelty of staying in a hotel room and this was no exception. Honestly, it’s the idea that someone else makes my bed with clean linens that is really nice. (I, for some reason, dislike making my bed)
Complete with 90s-era television!
(View after sunset at night)
One of the first places I visited was the House of Taga – what I only assume is a common tourist site in Tinian. The area is marked by a sign with information about the historical landmark in multiple languages. I will paraphrase the story here about Taga interspersed with the pictures.
Taga was born to the ruler of Guam some 800 years ago and apparently he was a giant with super-human strength. He challenged his father to a fight when he was dissatisfied with his rule in Guam and lost, moving to Rota. In Rota, he fought with the ruler there and won and married a local Chamorrita woman and had a daughter. He apparently then moved to Tinian for unknown reasons and perhaps to impress his father, excavated these large stones to build his house.
Here are the large stones — the pillars are topped with hemispherical capstones and someone placed on top to serve as the foundation of the houses built on top.
(Here I am standing next to one of the stones for size comparison)
According to legend, the son of Taga was also very strong. His father gave him a coconut crab (called ‘ayuyu’ here) as a present and one day the son of Taga lost it under a young coconut tree. He asked his father to remove the young coconut tree but Taga refused, saying that the tree was just about to give fruit. The son of Taga was furious and ended up pushing over the tree and he created a big hole in the ground where fresh water came up.
(This is a bad picture of Taga Well)
Apparently when Taga saw this feat of strength, he smothered his son, fearful that he would overpower him. At the loss of her brother, his daughter ran away to the forest and died of weakness — and subsequently her mother died too of her grief. This is not just folklore because there is recorded evidence of the House of Taga and Taga. Apparently there was a galleon disabled by a typhoon (in 1638) that wrecked off Aguingan point (a southwestern point in Saipan) with some parts floating up towards the northwestern Chulu Beach of Tinian. Taga saw some men floating and rescued them and brought them to his house to recuperate.
He had a vision one night while they were recovering of a woman and her child that the Spaniards interpreted as the Virgin Mary. One of the survivors then baptized Taga with a Christian name. They went on to travel to Guam and back to the Philippines where the story was told.
The Spaniards visited the island again in 1695 from the Philippines in hopes of conquering the area. They went to Aguingan point and threw stones down at the Spaniards who were scaling the cliffs but the Spaniards guns overpowered them. Those Chamorro that were captured were brought to Guam for resettlement although legend has it that Taga survived by hiding in caves.
The House of Taga was recorded again in history in 1742 when a British Commodore was looking for refuge and spent two months in Tinian. One of the crew members drew pictures of all 12 stones still standing at that time. Tinian was visited again by the French in exploration voyages around the world in 1819 when pictures show only 7 pillars still standing.
Japanese archeologists visited the island in 1924 and by that time, only two of the stones were still standing. There were 17 other smaller latte stone structures on island at the time that were apparently bulldozed down in the resettlement of Tinian by the Japanese. During the US invasion of Tinian in 1944, one more of the remaining standing pillars was knocked down in the bombing and by 1950, it was overgrown by jungle. It has now been preserved as a site and legend has it that as long as one pillar remains standing, Taga still lives.
More to come from Tinian soon! Hope you learned as much as I did!