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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, August 11, 2002

It's a banner year for Samoan Flag Day

Members of the Moanalua 2nd Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints perform at Samoan festivities that concluded yesterday.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

The high chief said it was the best one yet.

Yesterday was the culmination of the weeklong celebration of the day 102 years ago when American Samoa was created and the South Pacific islands of Tutuila and Aunu'u became part of the U.S. territory.

And this year's event was possibly the finest in the annual festival's 37 years, said High Chief Alo Sila Williams, serving his 24th year as president of the Council of Samoan Chiefs & Orators in Hawai'i, which sponsors Samoan Flag Day.

"From 1965 to this year, I know that this has been the best one," he said. "Not only is it the biggest, but the theme of the Flag Day is respect for all the Samoan churches and the roles of the churches and the ministers."

Williams said this year's cultural celebration at Ke'ehi Lagoon Park was a belated observance of a double anniversary:

  • April 17, 1900, when the U.S. flag was raised for the first time at Sogelua Hill, Fogotato, Samoa.
  • April 17, 1952, the day the first Samoan church in Hawai'i was dedicated at Moanalua.

As part of the church's 50th anniversary celebration, a stone plaque commemorating the 1952 dedication was on display at the Ke'ehi park.

Although April 17 is the date that is being commemorated, Samoan Flag Day in Hawai'i is always celebrated the second Saturday in August. The weeklong festivities begin on the first weekend in August so children can join in when school is usually not in session.

The second Saturday festivities include parades, speeches, races and cultural activities. Dozens of Samoan and American Samoan groups are represented.

For the most part, the mood was jovial yesterday — "we are a happy people" was a constant theme — as kids scampered about and the aroma of Samoan foods wafted through the air.

"If you don't understand what I'm saying, sit down," quipped Lag'ima'na Falaniko, who, as talking chief, also goes by the name Va'asiliifiti. Those were the only English words she spoke as she officiated over the Cultural Games entirely in the Samoan language.

After the basket-weaving and fire-making contests had concluded, she reflected modestly on her easy success in amusing the crowd with her banter. "You know, with this stuff you can make the words sound funny," she said. "It keeps everyone alert, makes them have a good time."

Falaniko, it turns out, could compete in these contests herself.

"Can I make fire?" she said. "Why not? I grew up on the farm in Samoa where we didn't have the match or the lighter."

Another of yesterday's highlights was a lively song-and-dance performance done by a large group from the Samoan-speaking Moanalua 2nd Ward Church.

Brother Savusa Fa'aluma, co-leader of the group, said the purpose of the performance was to express appreciation to everyone present, especially the elders, for allowing the singers and dancers to represent the Moanalua church on its 50th anniversary.

"My testimony for the church is to bring the blessing of talent," he said.

Stephen Silva, counselor for the church group, agreed that this year's Samoan Flag Day turnout may have been the largest ever.

"Samoans are a very close, family-oriented people," said Silva. "So, when they have an activity like this, people show up in droves."