36th Annual Flame Tree Arts Festival: A success

GOVERNOR Ralph Torres said the recently concluded Flame Tree Arts Festival was a big success.

“It was 10 out of 10. The weather is good. The vendors are happy. There are lots of people coming here. This festival is very successful,” he added.

The governor on Sunday witnessed the welcoming ceremony for the sakman, a traditional Charmorro canoe which sailed from Guam.

“We have funding already to build our own canoe here. We are in the process of making it a reality,” Torres said.

Department of Community and Cultural Affairs Secretary Robert Hunter said now that the CNMI will start its own canoe program, “it will be a regular fixture of our cultural activities.”

The welcoming ceremony for the sakman was supposed to take place on Thursday, April 20, the first day of the festival, but the crew encountered some problems that slowed them down.

The sakman arrived on Saipan, Friday, at 2 p.m.

In an interview, master navigator Tony Pialug said they started sailing on Easter Sunday, April 16, but the wind and the currents were too strong, and their mast, which held the sail, broke three times.

DCCA, in cooperation with the National Association of Chamorro of the Mariana Islands, held the welcoming ceremony for the sakman at the Garapan Fishing Base on Sunday.

“Children need to see this to remind them of their culture,” according to Glenn Manglona, president of the National Association of Chamorro of the Mariana Islands.

In the reenactment, Simiyan Marianas students from Hopwood Middle School and Polksai Chamorro Club members from Marianas High School acted as the native people who welcomed the visiting sakman led by Ben Rosario who sailed from Guam on the Chamorro canoe.

“First there is the blowing of the kulu’ [conch shell] which should be sharp to warn the natives that there is a sakman coming in,” Manglona said as he explained the reenactment.

The warriors then assemble on the shoreline to blow the kulu’ again and the villagers come out with lances pointed at the sakman.

“When they come in they start chanting, ‘moon, sun and people from the sea’ in Charmorro, and they ask the visiting sakman about their purpose in coming to the island,” Manglona said.

The seafarers, for their part, offer their friendship by giving the islanders baskets of fish. The chief warrior welcomes the visitors and the island warriors then put their lances down.

The host island also gives the visitors gifts including bananas, taro and breadfruit. Dancing signals the beginning of the festivity.

Department of Community and Cultural Affairs Secretary Robert Hunter said he was moved by the reenactment.

“I come from a family of sailors and navigators from Micronesia, so every time I see this traditional canoe sailing I begin to tear up,” he said.

Four-day festival

The 36th annual Flame Tree Arts Festival featured performances by various groups as well 20 food vendors and 50 booths for artists.

Guma Kinalamten I Tao Tao Tano of Guam was one of the off-island groups that performed during the festival.

Maxine Bigler, the group’s founder, said it was her fourth time to participate in the Flame Tree Arts Festival.

“I was here three times to assist other groups. This is the first time I’ve brought my students here to perform,” she said, adding that her group consisted of 45 dancers and five musicians from Jose Rios Middle School.

“Our group promotes our Chamorro culture. We dance, sing, chant. We want to make sure that we can pass on this culture to the younger generation,” she said.

Her group performed on Friday and Saturday.

Bigler said the first segment of their performance was an interpretative dance that honored their ancestors. The second performance depicted the influence of Spanish culture while the last segment showed the fun side of the Chamorro people.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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