12th Festival of Pacific Arts closes with emotion

by Tihu Lujan
Stripes Guam
The 12th Festival of Pacific Arts came to a close after two weeks of cultural exchange and celebration Saturday, June 4. With 25 participating delegations in attendance, Guam has been exposed to a variety of centuries-old and contemporary culture from all around the Pacific region.
While not as action-packed as the opening ceremony of two weeks ago, the closing ceremony was emotional and filled with hopeful goodbyes as the visiting nations paraded around the Paseo Stadium one last time before leaving Guam. Some nations, such as American Samoa, had to leave immediately after walking in the ceremony to catch their flights home. Kiribati and Nauru gave jubilant performances as they had missed the opportunity at the opening ceremony.
With fewer and shorter speeches, the ceremony flowed easily and gave visiting nations the spotlight they deserved as Guam residents cheered.
Bittersweet departures
Lisin Dongi, the liaison of the Taiwanese delegation, said she is glad to be returning home, but will keep fond memories of her time in Guam and the people she’s met.
“It was our delegation’s first time here in Guam so everything was new for us. We’ve seen a lot of different things that we don’t have back in Taiwan. We’ve learned a lot about the Chamorro culture and the cultures of all the countries here, it’s been a really nice time,” Dongi said.
Australian theater delegate Eliah Watego echoed bittersweet sentiments about leaving FestPac and Guam. Although he’s ready to go home, he will miss all of the good times and great people he’s come to know, he said.
“I’m happy and sad at the same time. We’re happy because once it’s over we get to see our families and our partners very soon, but sad because it’s just been a super awesome experience that we have to leave behind. We made a lot of friends in our time here,” Watego said.
Most nations expressed their utmost gratitude for Guam’s hospitality and thanked their hosts and other community members for their nice reception throughout their stay. For the visiting nations, the warm weather and the warmth of the people is what will be most memorable about Guam.
“We traveled a long way to be here, but Guam is worth it. Thank you to the people of Guam for your kindness and your hospitality, you made it feel like home,” said Manouche Lehartel, head of the French Polynesian delegation.
FestPac success
Monica Guzman, Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities chairwoman and FestPac Programming Committee chairwoman, said she is ready to rest after three and a half years of planning and two weeks of execution. The programming committee was responsible for the coordination of all FestPac events and delegation logistics.
Even with a few minor issues at the opening ceremony and the expected scheduling mishaps throughout the festival, Guzman said she believes the festival has been a success and attributes the accomplishment to the Guam community.
“Whenever there is any type of challenge, the community steps up, and that’s exactly what happened here. There have been so many volunteers and the whole entire community has come out to support the festival and the programming committee is just very grateful. I think that all of our visiting delegations have really felt Guam’s hospitality. You could feel the love everywhere,” she said.
The exchange and celebration of 27 Pacific island cultures culminating over the past two weeks has been tremendous, Guzman said. Guam residents and visiting delegates have been exposed to one-of-a-kind interactions and a once-in-a-lifetime experience as FestPac ended. The 13th Festival of Pacific Arts will be held in Hawaii in 2020.
“I just want to thank the entire island of Guam, the entire community. Everyone has stepped forward to see all of the delegations and there are many people who have been coming to Agana every single night. It’s been incredible to see that FestPac has been exposed to the island. It’s raised the cultural renaissance on Guam,” Guzman said.

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