The 12th Festival of Pacific Arts kicked off yesterday with thousands of island residents, dignitaries and visiting nations in attendance at the opening ceremony in the Paseo Stadium.
More than 3,000 cultural practitioners from 25 countries have come to Guam over the past week to showcase their individual cultures during this year’s FestPac.
The opening ceremony began with the presentation of the Guam flag, via a parachute-descent to the cheers of a spirited audience. That was followed by the Presentation of Colors and the Bendision Chamoru led by Chamorro dance group Pa’a Taotao Tano.
The main event consisted of the parade of countries during which each of the visiting 25 delegations graced the main area with a brief performance of a cultural dance and song, most in native costume.
Throughout the night, remarks on the opening of FestPac were also given by Gov. Eddie Calvo in his key address, Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio, first lady Christine Calvo and Deputy-Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific (SPC) Audrey Aumua.
Culminating from over a year’s worth of island projects, Guam’s first impression left a lasting one for many visiting delegations.
“The setup is fantastic, it’s different and has its own unique sense of taste,” said Dennis Marita, the head of the Solomon Islands delegation.
Having hosted the last FestPac in 2012, Marita acknowledged that Guam and the Solomon Islands shared many of the same problems and solutions. “Every festival is different in its own way and I think Guam has come up with a festival that reflects Guam, the people and the culture here.”
The exchange of culture FestPac brings is the highlight of the two-week event, bringing thousands from around the Pacific to engage in a meaningful “once in a lifetime” celebration of centuries-old Pacific culture.
Merle Pukerua, a singing delegate from the Cook Islands, was more than excited to share what is so important to her people, citing her language as the most valuable part of her culture.
“Every morning when we wake up, the people hosting us at Agueda Johnston Middle School say ‘Hafa adai’ and we reply by saying “Kia orana” (Hello),” Pukerua said.
Other visiting delegations said the inaugural experience was life-changing. While Guam has had its part in gearing up to host the festival, visiting nations have also built up months of hard work and cultural practice to share.
“I’ve been talking about all the nations coming to visit Guam, but actually witnessing it and experiencing the culture, we’re about to look at traditions and languages in front of us. That has to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Tanea Heke, New Zealand delegation project manager.
Heke said her first experiences on Guam leading up to the opening ceremony have been nothing short of grand.
“This is a really deep experience, but I think it also really depends on the experience of the delegation. We’ve been here since Friday, and the entire time we’ve been overwhelmed by the hospitality, the generosity and the warmth. Not just of the weather, but of the people, who are truly engaged in the festival and for us, it’s just so wonderful,” Heke said.