Friday, March 7, 2008

Grotto Memorial for Ben Concepcion

Tomorrow at 3PM there will be an official unveiling of a memorial for Saipan's number one diving pioneer, the late Ben Concepcion. It will take place at the Grotto and the Governor himself will be there to address the crowd. There is some question as to if the Grotto itself is being renamed as reported in the variety here or whether it is only the memorial. We will find out for sure tomorrow.

I was not privileged to meet Ben myself but, from everyone I've talked to he was a real genuine good guy who had a passion for diving and teaching others. He is seen in these parts as the man who started the industry here and with his passing I think it is appropriate that he have a monument of some sort as a lasting legacy.

However, the question of renaming the Grotto needs a second look. As it stands now I'm quite sure that at least in Japan if you were to ask people if they knew where the Grotto was they very well may refer to Saipan quickly. It is a famous dive site in these parts and we should work to keep it that way, maximizing its exposure and the recognition factor both with images and in writings. Unfortunately, Capt. Vicente Manglona Concepcion Park will not only be difficult to remember and say, but it will be difficult to put on tourist maps and other collateral's that MVA and others will use to sell our destination. At a time when we need a focused message like never before this has the potential to confuse the issue especially if it is expected to be used in place of the already well known and photographed name.

On another note, it also sounds from the discussions with many including one of Ben's daughters that he would not necessarily be too happy with the state of the Grotto as it is now in comparison to when he first began to explore its marvelous caverns. I can only imagine and dream what it must have been like to jump in there so many years ago. Almost any long term diver here will recount how it's not what it used to be. Now, less fish, sea fans and hard corals, more beer cans and fishing line!

Lets hope the governor reminds people how important it is to protect this very special place for years to come. Lets also hope that DFW continues to take illegal fishing at the Grotto sanctuary seriously with all the perpetrators and continue to make arrests like the one this week. Even though I never met him I'm sure Ben would want it that way.


lil_hammerhead said...

Ben was a great guy. Always nice. Always wanted to "talk story".

Having said that, I do agree that renaming "the grotto" after him, might not be the wisest decision.

The memorial is great however. Ben did alot for diving and tourism out here.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

Ben, one of the most congenial and helpful guys I ever met, would have thought renaming the Grotto after him was ridulous. Which it would be.

He would have been very proud to know just how many people, however, believe the memorial tribute to him at the Grotto is very much the right thing to do.

Anonymous said...

Ben was my first instructor back in 1988. We'd go on dives every weekend. As a young man who had never seen an ocean before, I can attest he was a great teacher and made me an enthusiastic diver for life. He was great at keeping the cost reasonable so us less-fortunates can experience diving. He even threw in free lessons on tying a Kah-Not(knot) and how to use a Kah-Nife(knife). Way to go Ben, see you in the hereafter.

Anonymous said...

I knew Ben in the mid-1970s when I was a teenager living on Saipan with my family. He taught me and my brother to dive and we returned the favor by going with him to take Japanese tourists out into the lagoon, the grotto and other prime spots. Sorry to hear of his passing and agree that the memorial is appropriate, and that "The Grotto" should always be
"The Grotto."