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.