Tuesday, December 27, 2016

sneak peek at Polynesian culture

Hawaii is geographically part of the Polynesia, a region in the central and the southern parts of the Pacific Ocean. These are some of the most remote islands in the planet and I had the opportunity to fly to some of these islands via United Airlines' Island Hopper route last year. I just stayed in the airports back then because we were just literally island hopping. 

This time around, I thought I might be able to see a bit more of the culture when my tour group made a lunch stop at the Polynesian Cultural Centre in Laie. There were potentially six villages we could visit to see the different cultural exhibits: Samoa, Fiji, Hawaii, Tonga, Tahiti, and Aotearoa. However, we were just passing by (from the Hukilau Marketplace to the barbecue lunch) so everything I had was just a sample of the cake called Polynesia.

One of the things I noticed was the hand sign demonstrated by the statue outside the centre... I understand that it is called shaka and it means "hang loose" (among surfers... and there are plenty in Hawaii) and "Aloha spirit" (the signature way people greet each other in Hawaii).

Peppered throughout the centre (and even in the Hukilau Marketplace) are statues that represent Polynesian deities or ancient ancestors. Though uniquely Polynesian, I somehow get reminded of the bul-ul, the male rice deity I've seen in Ifugao. Is it possible that there's similarity among the Filipino cultures and these Polynesian cultures?

Perhaps. I was in conversation with a former classmates many years ago about Polynesians possibly descending from aboriginal Taiwanese. I couldn't believe what I was hearing at the time, until I bumped into an article about it at the National Geographic.

I wish I had a bit more time to roam around the Polynesian Cultural Centre. It's supposed to be the most rapid way for me to take in some of the culture without actually flying to the different countries. However, I only had a limited time on Oahu, so I had to skip quite a few of the tours... including the interesting story about Laie, where Adventists settled and built schools for the locals.

As I was walking back to the bus after lunch, I noticed this statue; at first, I thought that he was holding a regular guitar. But it's a Hawaiian steel guitar... and this is a statue honouring Joseph Kekuku, the guy who invented the instrument. And he's holding it atypical from how others hold their guitars. A bit of reading led me to the "lap guitar", which means he played it the way the statue portrayed him.

A fascinating glance at Polynesian culture indeed. One day, I'll be back in Hawaii and I'd like to immerse myself a bit more into the culture... aside from the luaus and the food, of course.

I hope that this day in the future won't be as distant as the gap between my first trip out here and this one.