A near-constant drizzle last Saturday failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the participants and the crowd that trooped to the Paseo de Marianas in Garapan to enjoy the 4th Annual International Festival of Cultures.
For the first time, representatives of Africa on Saipan joined the festival that featured a parade, a cultural fashion show, live entertainment, ethnic food, and arts and crafts.
The festival was supposed to start Friday and be a three-day event, but the Marianas Visitors Authority cancelled the Friday opening due to bad weather. This year, MVA planned to hold the festival from Friday to Saturday. Past festivals took place every Saturday in September.
This year’s participants are from the Marianas, South Korea, Bangladesh, Federated States of Micronesia, Hawaii, Japan, Palau, the Marshall Islands, the Philippines, South Pacific-American Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, and Kenya.
The festival started with the parade, in which participants in ethnic attire walked from the Carolinian Affairs Office down to Paseo de Marianas at 5pm.
After the parade, participants walked the catwalk to display their cultural attire on the stage at the Paseo de Marianas.
Before the fashion show, Himawari Kenbu-kan kendo students, under their teacher Masanori Takahashi, demonstrated kendo martial arts. Itsuro Hosoda is the kendo master who has promoted kendo in the CNMI for over 10 years.
After the fashion show, there were cultural songs and dances performed by a cultural group from Marianas High School and participants from the American Samoa/Tonga, Fiji, Korea community, Africa, and Carolinian warriors.
MVA managing director Christopher A. Concepcion said that 11 cultural groups took part in the festival.
Rather than canceling the opening of the festival again Saturday because of rain, MVA decided to go ahead and continue the festival, Concepcion said.
As of press time last night, Sunday, the last day of the festival was still ongoing.
Despite the drizzle during the parade and fashion show last Saturday, many residents as well as tourists still watched the festival.
Concepcion said that seeing many tourists enjoying the different cultural attires and food and crafts made the event more festive. “We’re very, very happy with the turnout.”
Sophia Kuria, a teacher and a native of Kenya who arrived on Saipan from Florida three years ago, formed the Africa group on Saipan. Kuria said her Samoan friends invited her to represent Africa at the festival.
“Because I’m from Africa I want to be part of [the festival], I went around and collected everybody from the CNMI who have an African background. And here we are,” said Kuria.
She said it took her only a month to form the group, which she called African Rising, with the help of her Samoan friends.
“They did a good job,” she said, referring to their performance in the fashion show representing the countries of Kenya, Ghana, and Uganda.
Guma’ Simiyan Manaina-Ta founder Luis John Castro said in their group 21 children also participated. It was raining before the parade, but fortunately, “Mother Nature decided to hold off just a little bit so everything was pretty good.”
He said their group showcases the different facets of Mariana Islands history. “We do have the pre-Spanish arrival. There’s also the colonial period,” Castro said.
MVA community projects assistant Demalynn Pagarao said it was drizzling but nine cultural groups were eager to do the parade so they move on even with the rain.
“It was good. We were moving faster that we were supposed to because of the rain. People walked under the umbrellas on the side of the road,” said Pagarao as she thanked the Department of Public Safety for helping them with the traffic flow.