Nestled on Nimitz Hill is the Vicente A. Limtiaco Memorial Cemetery, a public cemetery also known as Tiguac. Any recent visitors to the site will have noticed substantial additions to the grounds: houselike structures that serve as mausoleums, but were not permitted.
Residents must get a permit to bury their loved one at the cemetery, according to Roque Alcantara, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation. One key provision they agree to is not to build any structure at the gravesite. Still, the director said he's heard some families have paid upward of $4,000 to a contractor for the buildings to have concrete foundations, windows and storm drains.
Alcantara, who told The Guam Daily Post he considers the structures to be "monuments" to those who died during the pandemic, said he is now faced with the tough decision to contact every family who illegally built these monuments, and ask them to tear them down.
That policy came from Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero's chief of staff, Jon Junior Calvo, who, according to a letter Alcantara wrote to Piti Mayor Jesse Alig, gave "instructions" to proceed with requesting the removals.
"I know that it will cause a burden on them, but they must learn to follow policies," Alcantara wrote. "As per DPR's burial policy, absolutely no structure is to be built above ground, other than a headmarker."
The DPR director said the notices will send a "clear signal" for future burials, adding that park rangers already have prevented several more structures from being built this past weekend.
Alig wrote Alcantara in late May to express concern for the safety of the neighborhoods adjacent to the cemetery, especially if the minibuildings sustain damage during storm conditions.
"It behooves (DPR) to regulate such structures as damaging winds and rain during inclement weather are potential hazards and may be life-threatening."
Alcantara said his department has yet to contact any violator, and is expecting it to be a difficult conversation.
"It's a burden to tell the families to take it down," he said. "I know they're struggling."
He's hoping residents with information about any contractor performing the illegal work, especially if they charged for the services, will be reported to the Department of Public Works.
"Those are not just the families that built that," Alcantara said, adding the structures look professionally constructed.
It will be up to Adelup to decide what happens to structures families refuse to take down, according to the DPR director. In the meantime, department employees have begun dismantling canopies, tents and other temporary structures at the cemetery.
Alcantara said he hopes to resolve the issues at the cemetery by the end of the month. The governor's office had not responded to questions submitted on the matter as of press time Thursday.