ALL roads lead to Mt. Tapochao as the Roman Catholic community makes the annual hike to observe the Holy Friday, and curious observers tag along with their friends and families.
The ground at the foot of the cross is level, which signifies that it does not matter what race, nationality, age, gender or religion you come from, you are free to join the devotees in their yearly ritual.
Every year for six years I went up as an observer of all the interesting events that takes place at the top during this time of the year, but I’ve gone up there several other times when it was not the Holy Week.
Mt. Tapochao is the only spot on Saipan that offers a full 360 degree view of the whole island from atop.
It always feels exhilarating to stand at the highest peak in the island and I never get tired of breathing in the cool mountain air and enjoying the free panoramic view.
But Mt. Tapochao does not only represent a religious significance for the people. What made it more significant is the role it played during the bloody World War 11 battle.
An old marker at the top of the mountain reminds all climbers how the spot once had given both the Japanese and the Americans a powerful military advantage of having the ability to observe all the troop movements all over the island.
The marker narrates that Japanese spotters positioned themselves on the spot where the marker stands to direct cannon fire to the advancing American forces, and it took 10 days of brutal uphill fighting for the American Marines to hammer their way from in invasion beaches in Chalan Kanoa before they finally captured Mt. Tapochao on June 25, 1944.
Standing at the top of the mountain is like taking a trip over 60 years back and envisioning the bloody battle that took place, but words and pictures would never be enough to make you experience the real thing unless you have been there.