The 2nd Chief Taga Day Festival last Oct. 1-6, 2019, attracted hundreds of festivalgoers from throughout the Marianas and beyond, a sign of the event’s growing appeal among residents and visitors.
Highlighted by several presentations on the history and legend of indigenous Chamorro chief Taga, “Gineptin Ha‘anen Taga’” (Chief Taga Day Festival) was held on the island of Tinian, recorded as the place where Taga last lived and was buried.
The festival had a soft opening with cultural presentations throughout the week. Cultural practitioner Frank Rabon presented on historic dance, Rufina Mendiola shared about the Marianas’ language immersion program and cultural preservation, historian Meleah Ramirez presented on the ancient Chamorro stone pillars called “latte,” and Dr. Michael Bevacqua also presented to students. In addition, a Chamorro sakman (sailing canoe) arrived from Saipan on Oct. 3 at the fiesta grounds. The festival official opening ceremony was held on Oct. 4, 2019.
“Chief Taga is an example of the kind of durability that courses through our veins as Chamorro people,” said Tinian Mayor Edwin Aldan in his welcoming remarks. “One advice I would like to instill in all of you is to never forget your roots and where you come from. Always remember who you are and how you started, because we are a rare ethnic group of people. There is only one place in the world where Chamorro people come from, and that is in the Marianas.”
The event is sponsored in part by the Marianas Visitors Authority.
“Taga represents not only a person, but a way of life that we are celebrating this week,” said MVA board member Warren Villagomez during the opening ceremony. “Today’s visitor is looking for more than sun and beach—although Tinian also offers the best of that. Today’s traveler is looking for authentic cultural local experiences, and this week’s festival offers just that.”
Cultural practitioners from throughout the Marianas supported the event: from Tinian, jewelry makers Banidosu-Matthew Cruz Masga and Peter Palacios, Jr., coconut frond weaver Jose M. San Nicolas, coconut oil maker Magdalena San Nicolas, talaya (throw net) fisherman Peter Palacios; from Saipan, Chamorro medicine group Inetnun Amot yan Kutturan Natibu; from Rota, apprentice wood carver Richard Songsong Manglona and sling stone practitioner Lino Rosario; and from Guam, master body ornamentation craftswoman Julie “Jill” Benavente, master blacksmith Francisco Cruz Lizama, master bone carver Greg Techaira Pangelinan, master shrimp trap maker Rosita Yoshia San Nicolas, assistant shrimp trap maker Joseph Kenneth Yoshida San Nicolas, master storyboard/Guam seal/clock carver Tanya Beth Smau Taitano, and master ifit carver Robert Philip Taitano, Jr.
Chamorro dance troupes from Tinian, Saipan, Rota, and Guam participated in the event. Live music was also provided by Big J and JJ Concepcion, Island Kai, Marvin Deleon Guerrero, and Mr. Ukulele. Culinary demonstrations of various Chamorro dishes were offered. Although inclement weather forced the cancellation of several games and competition, teenagers had the chance to demonstrate their proficiency in using a traditional sling and blowing of the shell. In the sling stone throwing competition, Quiana Manglona and Kyle Cruz topped the female and male divisions, respectively. In the “kulu’” (conch, Triton’s Trumpet, and turbo shells) blowing competition, Siena Lazaro placed first, followed by Quiana Manglona and Ethan Palacios, respectively. All the young winners are from Tinian. Awards for the best decorated booth went to Fresku (first place), I’guma Taga (second place), and Tropics (third place).
The closing ceremony was at the House of Taga at 6pm on Oct. 6, 2019, a day early due to inclement weather. (MVA)