Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Micronesian Island Fair

Back in October (and yes we know what month it is now) we attended the 25th Annual Micronesian Island Fair at Ypao (E-pow) Beach.  Delegations from the various islands in the Federated States of Micronesia, the other Mariana Islands, and various independent islands such as Palau came to perform local dances, share local food, and sell crafts.  Here are some of the highlights:

This is Ypao Beach Park (also known as Governor Joseph Flores Beach Park) where the festival was held. 
Ypao Beach is a beach on Tumon Bay, the big hotel and tourist area.

You can see some of the hotels around the bay.  The point on the far left is called Two Lovers' Point.
Two Lover's Point (or Puntan Dos Amantes) is named after what is basically a Chamorro Romeo and Juliet story.  Two young people were in forbidden love (the best kind of love) and ultimately threw themselves off of the cliff, their hair tied together, falling to their deaths.
Closer view.  You can see the observation deck at the top, which is a big draw for Japanese tourists.  We haven't visited yet, but when we do we will share pictures.  If you look closely, the cliff is supposed to resemble the faces of the two lovers.  The observation deck is on the top of the forehead of the first face; the second is profiled against the sky at the end.  Can you see them?
The local fish.  The top middle fish looks like something out of Disney. Even its name - A combtooth blenny - sounds cartoonish.
Ypao has been inhabited by Chamorros for approximately 3,000 years.  During the Chamorro-Spanish wars in the 1680s, the Spaniards burned the village and moved the Chamorros to Hagatna as part of a population centralization.  The next known mention in historical records of a village here is in 1819 when the French explorer Louis de Freycinet and his wife Rose Pinon wrote of the villagers' love of music.

In 1902, the Americans established a leper colony and built a hospital and cottages for almost two hundred Chamorros afflicted with leprosy and gangosa and for the insane.  When most of the inhabitants were transferred to the Philippines, the area was farmed to provide food for the hospital.  Later a penal farm was located here.

In 1942, during World War II, the Japanese built the nearby pillboxes and gun emplacements using Chamorros, Koreans, and Okinawans as forced labor.  After the 1944 American liberation of Guam, the military used Ypao as an aviation gas storage tank farm.  By the 1960s, Ypao was developed into a public park and named in honor of the first Chamorro to be appointed Governor of Guam, Joseph Flores.  The park is on the Guam and National Registers of Historic Places.
Each island delegation had its own tent to showcase that island's particular crafts, foods, and information about the island.  The delegations were from Guam, CNMI, Palau, Marshall Islands, Yap, Chuuk (Truuk), Kosrae, and Pohnpei (the last four being the Federated States of Micronesia).

The Hurao Academy, a school which works to keep the Chamorro language and traditional ways alive, had a large booth at the fair.  People from the academy held demonstrations on cooking, weaving with palm fronds, jewelry-making, and, seen here, coconut grating.  Grated coconut was used to make coconut candy.  The stools they are sitting on, which have a sharp end for grating, are called kamyu (pronounced kumzu).

Miss Guam 2012 was present for the festivities and used to kick-off the coconut relay race.
The coconut relay.  Two teams of ten lined up...
The shirtless long-haired guy in front is the MC.
You take the big coconut lying on the ground...
You pass it back, going between the legs the first time...
The recipient passes it over his/her head.
And so on, alternating between under and over, until it reaches the back.  The person at the back runs to the front and repeats until everyone has been at the front.
Once everyone has moved through the line, they had to take the coconut and run over to the husking station, where each participant had to husk and then grate a coconut.
They were husked by being impaled on a sharp spike.  Looks dangerous!
In the orange buckets are kamyus to grate the coconut.

The first team to finish wins!  We didn't stick around to see who won or what they won.
This inspired us to drink coconut water.
When we were done, we took the coconut back to the vendor, who cut it open and made coconut meat sashimi for us.  They slashed the coconut meat and added soy sauce and wasabi.  Yum!

In addition to this delicious treat, we tried for the first time boonie pepper jelly, which is a sweet and spicy jelly made and sold by a Navy wife.  Sadly, she has since left the island, leaving us with only two remaining jars.
A booth showing traditional boat-making techniques.
Proa.  The Chamorro "flying proas" were renowned in the Pacific by the Spanish, and others who encountered them, for their great speed in the water.
Our old friend, the coconut crab.  Here he is domesticated.

Nick thinks Godzilla fought one of these.
Size comparison.
Carabao rides!  This attraction is present at every festival and gathering.
The Guam Nurserymen's Association had lots of native plants for sale, including calamansi trees (lemon-like fruit) and donne bushes (boonie pepper plants).

The amphitheater held a variety of performances, such as singing and dancing, from all of the delegations.  All day, every day of the festival.
These women were from Palau.
They sang a song, which had verses in different languages.  
It also had hand motions to go along with the verses.  Everyone but us seemed to know the song.

A shot of the crowd, which got larger as the afternoon went on.
This woman was from Palau.  
Maybe from the Marshall Islands?

Pua Hinano of Te Kanahau Nui from Saipan.
We were committed to staying all day, not just because of the diverse array of exotic cultural entertainment, but also because we'd entered a raffle that gave us the opportunity to win, among other things, two round-trip tickets to anywhere in Asia.
It looks like Nick was photoshopped into the picture, or is possibly very tall all of a sudden.
They danced for a long time.
The Micronesian Unity Show, which included people from all of the delegations.  And fire.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), no one caught fire or was injured.  Though the stage did catch fire briefly.
More dancing!  We have no idea who they are.  This is probably another good reason to do the blog posts in a reasonable time after the event.

A band called Higher Ground was performing, and the skies opened up.  One fan decided to get onto the stage and have a solo dance party.
Alcohol may have influenced his decision.
Squeegeeing the stage between showers, while the band played on.
As it turned out, we DID win something.  It was some sort of off-roading adventure thing that we never got around to using.

Souvenirs from the fair: 

The Chuuk lovestick.  According to the legend, "In past years, an island man would carve his personal notches on the lovestick and let his would-be sweethearts feel it. At night, lovestick in hand, he would kneel beside the thatch wall opposite where a girl lay sleeping, poke the stick through the wall and entangle her long hair, hopefully awakening her without arousing her family. The silent language of the lovestick began when the girl put her fingers around the shaft's notches and identified the owner."  If she pulled it in, she was inviting him into her...hut, so to speak.  If she didn't want him, she would push it back out.  We bought one.
Necklaces made by local craftspeople.
Latte stone-shaped shell necklaces made by artisans at the Hurao Academy.  We got them for our moms and sisters.
We also uploaded a few videos, which hopefully turned out.

The Guam Visitors Bureau has decided to move the Guam Micronesian Island Fair from October to May, as May has better weather for fairs, so we will be lucky enough to attend the 26th Annual (or 25th and a Half) Micronesian Island Fair in just a few weeks.  If you're lucky, you might get an update from us on this (but most likely not).

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