Friday, May 23, 2008

Polynesia (Alia) Canoe Pageant

The Polynesians explored and settled the Pacific using the double hulled canoe, the alia (ah-lee-ah). In honoring Polynesian culture, PCC incorporated the alia in their fantastic Canoe Pageant. After the Tongan Village, my brother hustled us over to the shady side of the lagoon with a perfect view. He told me that I was in for a real treat, and I had no idea just how fantastic this Canoe Pageant was going to be.

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One of our friends had brought her two visiting aunts on our PCC outing. Naturally, my brother and I gave up our front row shady, lagoon side seats so the elderly aunts could better enjoy the show. Besides, I wanted to stand up and get a better view of the action.

The band came out, warming up the crowd with some music.

I heard a familiar noise in the skies, and took pictures of a Chinook flying over head.

And after the chopper passed overhead, the music became romantic, and the love boat started the Canoe Pageant. In a traditional outrigger canoe, this young couple opened the show.

With notions of romance and an escape to the exotic, what better way to enjoy paradise with your loved one than a wonderful canoe ride? See the nice Asian man stroking? He's doing all the work while his partner just enjoys the ride.

Then the band started a chant, the mele complete with the drumming of ipus, which announced the arrival of our host islands, Hawaii, the Spirit of Polynesia!

This is the land of volcanoes, where the goddess Pele stirs up the fires of Kilauea,

land of the snow capped mountains, Mauna Kea, taller than Mt Everest when measured from the ocean floor, home to the beautiful goddess Poliahu,

birthplace of the legendary Duke Kahanamoku, father of modern surfing who spread the sport to Australia, the mainland, and the world over,

land that gave birth to Nicole Kidman and the Divine Bette Midler, home of t.v. treasures, Magnum P.I., Hawaii Five-O, and Lost, the exotic location of Jurassic Park and From Here to Eternity.

This is Havai'i! The story of these islands is told by the hula of the dancers on the canoe. With hips swaying, arms waving, and another Asian rowing, the Hawaiian canoe traverses and turns in the lagoon.

And after giving a grand performance, the dancers waved Aloha to us as we cheered and clapped.

And as the Hawaiians paddled away, the music became softer. From the far right end of the lagoon, we hear the sounds of clapping and soft, joyful singing. Then they came unto the scene, with big smiles and bright red clothing, the Tongans sailed into view! This is the Grace of Polynesia!

Impressed with their welcome during first contact, Captain Cook gave these islands their nickname, The Friendly Islands!

The only Polynesian people to have maintained their independence from foreign invaders, the Tongans danced their ma'ulu'ulu (mah-ooh-loo-ooh-loo) with enthusiastic and infectious joy.

As the canoe turned in the lagoon, the lovely tehine (girls) performed the most graceful dance in Polynesia, the Tongan taualuga (tah-ooh-ah-loong-ah).

And after entertaining us with their songs and dances, the people of the last true kingdom danced and paddled away to end of the lagoon as we waved them good bye.

Then we hear the loud, fast drum beats that hailed the glorious sight that entered the lagoon! The Passion of Polynesia, Tahiti!

These are the loins of Polynesia!

The hips that inspired a mutiny!

These are the rump shakers that seduced sailors and set imagination and passion aflame! These are the dancers that frightened the London Missionary Society missionaries into banning this dance, the original forbidden dance! And when the French Catholics moved in, those uptight missionaries were booted back to Britain, and Tahiti has undergone a cultural revival that brought back their dances.

Oh, hell, if I saw these honeys coming at me, I'd've burned down the ship and chucked my hymn book!

This is the exotic land that drew Paul Gauguin and Marlon Brando, home of New York City's Godzilla and rare, precious black pearls,

and beautiful vahine (girls)!

And as the lovely tamure dancers gyrated and shook their way across the lagoon, we waved and cheered as we found ourselves mesmerized (and excited) by their sensuous movements.

And as the drum beats fade and the tamure dancers paddle away, we hear a haunting, melodic voice ringing out across the waters. The voice was soon joined by others in an eerie song that spoke of mystery and magic, and then from the far left end of the lagoon, comes the Strength of Polynesia, Aotearoa!

They came with their haunting singings and chants, playing the game of tititorea (tee-tee-toh-reh-ah), designed in ancient times to develop and strengthen the warriors hand and eye coordination and improve the reflexes.

This is the land of the jade tiki, the Kiwi, and Middle Earth!

Land of the war dance, the Haka! Home of the most famous rugby team ever, the New Zealand All Blacks!

I luv a lady who can work those poi balls good!

This is the birthplace and homeland of legends like Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to conquer the dangerous peak of Mt Everest,

and Xena, Warrior Princess!!!

Never showing fear and bold to the end, these dancers exhibited the very fearsome nature that made them great warriors!

When the warriors faded from view, we heard a loud, extended yell, a war cry?! No, it was a sound of unbridled joy and freedom! They came stomping and singing and dancing and rocking! Fast and furious and wild, this is the Heart of Polynesia, Samoa!

Known as the happy people, the great author Robert Louis Stevenson, writer of Treasure Island and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, was so moved by their generosity and happiness that he lived and died in Samoa, buried atop Mt Vaea.

In the late 1800s, German businessman George Weber decided to import Chinese laborers, because the Samoans just wanted to have a good time!

And these party people live up to their reputation!

Not only are these people fired up, they are also the innovators of the fire knife dance! Not just a regular twirl fire baton, but an actual deadly weapon set on fire and used in a dance! And it is a beautiful dance that evolved from a deadly weapon of ancient warfare! I'll share those fire knife dance pictures in the next post!

These dancers kept up that incredible energy and enthusiasm as their canoe, the only one rowed by another dancer, made turns in the lagoon.

No Asians rowing this boat! And being a people who enjoy making others laugh, the guy steering the boat fell into the water after their fast and furious siva (see-vah) dancing!

The dancers paddled away the same way they entered, with loud screams and cheers that signaled their joy and fun as we waved at them.

Then the band started playing soft but fast beat melody, totally putting us at ease and setting us up for one hell of a shock when we hear a loud, angry yell that signaled the surprise arrival of the Rage of Polynesia, Fiji!

And these ferocious warriors came out swinging!

These are the cannibals of Polynesia! The wild and vicious warriors whose fearsome reputation is well earned! And yet, out of their savage rage comes the most beautiful music and alluring, enchanting dances!

Once they've had their fill of missionaries, the Fijians became a British colony and remained under British rule for almost 100 years. And like neighboring Western Samoa, the impact remains long after independence was won by both countries. Lasting British influence include driving on the wrong side of the road (not the right), the car steering wheel on the right (wrong) side of the car, and the misspelling of words like "colour" or "kilometre" or "tyre".

Though they've stopped feasting on their enemies (such a shame, really; imagine how fun Survivor Fiji would've been if the contestants had to eat one another!), they've still managed to hold on to other parts of their beautiful culture.

After entertaining us with their songs and dances and acrobatic swings of their mighty weapons, the Fijians moved further out the lagoon as we clapped and cheered for their performance.

And finally, as the Fijians paddled out of sight, a lone conch shell is trumpeted. The band announces the arrival of our host, the Royal Hawaiian Court, and we witness the respect given to the customs of old, the memory of those who once walked this sacred earth.

As the solemn canoe of the Royal Court passes from view, it is the end of the amazing Canoe Pageant.

And some of our villagers return to wave us a farewell...

Those funny and happy Samoans,

Those talented and skilled Maoris

And finally, those fierce and exotic Fijians.

An amazing show, pictures cannot capture the feeling and excitement of being there live! If you ever get the chance to visit PCC, go! And take lots of pictures, some spare batteries, and just have fun! It's amazing how beautiful and wonderful other cultures (and their people) are!


  1. "It's amazing how beautiful and wonderful other cultures (and their people) are!"

    We hear that all the time about Canadians.

  2. MJ, I've always thought so, too about Canadians, but then I've noticed for every Kristen Kruek, there's a Celine Dion; for every Crown Royal, there's a spruce beer; for every poutine, there's a cod tongue...well, the jelly part is gross no matter how long it's been deep friend!

  3. Amazing post, me man. You provided so much info and pix that now I don't have to go myself!

    You obviously had a great time. And if I ever do make it down there, I'll be sure to take this in.

    I like the yellow group, if I was pickin'. And for the record, of course, the Brits and others would insist that WE NORTH AMERICANS drive on the wrong side of the road.

    And up here, colour is colour, not the Americanized color (humour, not humor, etc.) At least in my book.

    Take it easy.

  4. Oh look!

    It's another wonderful Canuck!

  5. WW, those Tahitian girls were awesome! It's true Canadians do spell some words like the Brits, but I snicker every time I see the word Homo Milk.

    MJ, I know! Only the beautiful visit this blog ;)

  6. What stunning photos! I am officially jealous.

  7. All Canucks are least MJ and I.

    I don't drink Homo milk, just for the record. I drink 2%. So I'm a 2% homo guy, I guess.

    (MJ, be quiet!!!)

  8. Another brilliant and insightful post, Eros. I think the Tongans were my favourites. Well, one particular Tongan...

    Anyway, it looks like you'll have to go to Canada on your next holiday - See if you can get MJ dancing on a raft!

  9. WW is so far removed from Homo that he's skim.

    I don't do my raft dance for just anyone, you know.

  10. WW, when I drink milk, I go for the 2% also!

    IDV, I know! That Tongan girl with the mini fro got my attention! ;) Did you want me to take a picture of MJ as dances on a raft going over Niagara Falls?

    MJ, would you do your dance for a gallon of homo milk?

  11. Snooze, I got lucky with the fotos! I just stumbled on the continuous shot mode on my camera, just aimed and pressed and hoped for the best!

    Those guys and gals are even better in person!

  12. Great culture and people. Facinating pictures...definately would love to witness one.

    Been to Fiji...people are extremely nice and welcoming...great culture..

  13. Anon, it was a fun experience. I've met some really nice Fijians, too. One day, I'd like to see Fiji! That's awesome you got to go there!