After months of fundraising and preparations, the CNMI delegation for the upcoming IX Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture will finally taste the fruits of their hard labor, with several leaving for host country Palau this afternoon.
According to the delegation, the first batch will depart the Saipan International Airport today on board Continental Micronesia Flight 944K. Another batch will leave tomorrow while the remainder of the delegation will embark on their trip on Monday and Wednesday next week. Three members, who are part of the Fest’s film crew, left earlier in the week to begin preparation for filming the entire festival, as well as putting together a documentary on the CNMI delegation.
A special Mass was held for the delegation yesterday evening at the Kristo Rai Church.
According to Council for Arts and Culture executive director Robert Hunter, a total of 183 delegates would represent the CNMI at the prestigious festival, which occurs once every four years.
The delegation consists of traditional craft makers, tattoo artists, contemporary artists, band performers, cultural dancers, traditional medicine, and craft and contemporary artists who will share with other Pacific countries the cultures and customs of the people in the CNMI.
The six cultural dance crews include local groups Uraali, Wellipal, Inatuas, Isa Dancers, and the Talabwog men and women stick dancers.
The Uraali group consists of 30 dancers and is led by Melvin and Millie Faisao; the Wellipal group consists of 47 dancers and is led by Lui and Esther Tilipao; the Inatuas is led by Frances Sablan and consists of 18 dancers; the Talabwog stick dancers are led by Joseph Ruak and Dina Kaliga and consist of 16 men and 20 women; while the Isa dancers consist of 11 dancers led by Estanislao Villagomez.
In his address to the delegation during a practice session on Thursday, Gov. Juan N. Babauta stressed the importance of the roles each delegate would play in being ambassadors for the CNMI.
“What you do over there reflects the CNMI,” he said. “Be the best among all the artist that are going to be there and continue to make the CNMI a proud place to live in.”
Babauta commended the delegation and its head, Department of Community and Cultural Affairs Secretary Juan L. Babauta, for the efforts in preparing for the event.
“I want to congratulate the head of the delegation and all the sub-leaders, groups and organizations for your effort in organizing this trip to Palau. We look forward to an outstanding performance in Palau,” he said.
The Festival kicks off on July 22 and would run through to July 31. It is expected to play host to about 3,000 delegates and 10,000 visitors.
Also taking part in the Festival are delegates from Guam, the Marshall Islands, American Samoa, Yap, Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, Palau, Pohnpei, Chuuk, and Hawaii, to name a few.
“This is not only the largest arts and cultural festival in the Pacific, but it is also the largest gathering in all of the Pacific. It’s huge, and it’s a great opportunity to us to take part in,” Hunter said.
For months, the delegation worked hard to raise funds needed for the trip by hosting luncheons and selling items at the Flame Tree Festival and Thursday Street Market. The group got a huge break when it was given funds by the government.
Hunter said the funds cover just the airfare cost, with food, lodging, and transportation covered by the host country, as required.