Celebrate the spice of life on Guam Sept. 11-13

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Celebrate the spice of life on Guam Sept. 11-13

by: Tetsuo Nakahara | .
Stripes Guam | .
published: September 10, 2015

If you haven’t tasted the local peppers, or “donne” (pronounced Doe-nee), then you haven’t tasted Guam.

Well, good news!

Now’s your chance like never before to pop peppers at the fifth annual Mangilao Donne Festival Sept. 11-13 next to Santa Teresita Church on Route 10.

Guamanians love donne and the village of Mangilao is the island’s pepper mecca. The village and the Mangilao Mayor’s Council are once again pulling out all the stops to celebrate all things donne. Expect wide range of unique local flavors and varieties of hot peppers as well as international dishes.

More than 60 local vendors were on hand at last year’s festival, and the event is expected to be just as hot this year. Booths bedecked with peppers and coconut leaves will be offering samples and/or selling pepper plants, homemade “finadene” – Guam’s signature spicy condiment without which no meal is complete –  “donne dinanche,” (hot pepper paste), “pika” hot-pepper jelly, barbecue, beverages, clothes, crafts and so much more. Remember to save room for some spicy desserts, too

“In Guam, every village has a different festival: Talafofo has a banana festival and Agana Heights has a coconut festival,” says Mangilao Mayor Nito Blas. “In Mangilao, most people are planting donne and it is very popular. You don’t have to be farmer to grow donne. They grow donne in their yards. So, that’s why I decided to celebrate a donne festival in Mangilao.

“And another thing is that when I became a mayor people – especially women – they think I am so hot,” he added with a laugh.

The festival program includes a Miss Donne contest, 5k fun run, a chili cook-off, a donne dinanche contest, a dessert contest, cultural dance performances, live music and more for all ages. It’s also an opportunity for local farmers – from pros to hobbyist – to show off and sell their best peppers and pepper products.

“Donne-sali is native to Guam, and that is usually what everyone wants to grow and eat here,” says Ray Perez, a Mangilao farmer. “They are very small so it’s hard to harvest. Donne-sali grows naturally. It’s growing wild in a jungle. When the birds eat it, they drop it in the jungle and it grows pretty wild.

“But if you want to cultivate it at home that would be the best way to do it,” he adds. In that case, the soil is the number one concern; (they need) partial shade and a lot sun, and also a big pot. If you do that it will take care itself.”

Mangilao Donne Festival is as much a celebration of local culture as it is cuisine.

“The donne is an appetizer that local culture says we must have on our table when eating – be it in finadene or just the hot pepper itself,” explains Blas. “There are many varieties and they are used in different dishes. For the locals, eating a meal without finadene is like eating a meal with a flat taste, they just have to have finadene, or just the donne, on their plate.”

To hear the mayor tell it, the Mangilao Donne Festival is the finadene of Guam festivals that makes every on-island experience compete. And everyone who’s ever spent any time here knows that it’s an essential flavor for a true taste of Guam.

“(The festival) is a must that one should participate in to experience the excitement of all the different varieties of donne plants and other displays, contest as well as entertainment,” says Blas. “You can buy whatever appeals to you, or just browse around. If you grow donne and have more than enough and want some extra cash, bring them to the Donne Festival and sell them.”

nakahara.tetsuo@stripes.com

Mangilao Donne Festival

When:  Sept. 11: 6 p.m. – 10 p.m., Sept. 12-13: 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Where: Village of Mangilao, next to Santa Teresita Church (Route 10).
For more information, call Mangilao Mayor’s Office at 671-734-2163.

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