Tropical heat, hospitality, and the heat of “donne sali” (hot pepper) were the highlights of the
13th Tinian Hot Pepper Festival on Feb. 18-19, 2017.
Storm clouds earlier in the week made way for beautiful, blue skies at Tachogña Beach, Tinian,
where sunshine danced across the Philippine Sea as islanders performed on a nearby stage. Live entertainment over the weekend ranged from the homegrown reggae band Uprooted opening the festival, to young people showcasing indigenous Chamorro dance, to T-shirt-clad teenagers rendering modern moves.
In booths decorated with coconut fronds and hot peppers, vendors offered a mouthwatering assortment of international cuisine laced with the island’s famous pepper, such as the Chamorro “tamales gisu” (cornmeal dish) and “coco papaya” (pickled papaya), samosa, and chocolate brownies.
The festival was organized by the Marianas Visitors Authority and supported by the Tinian Mayor’s Office and 16th Tinian Municipal Council, who provided meals for entertainers, manpower, and other support. During the opening ceremony, Tinian Mayor Joey Patrick San Nicolas welcomed Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and his family to the event, boasting of the casualness of the occasion that dignitaries were attending in short pants. San Nicolas also presented a plaque of appreciation to MVA board member Juan Barcinas and other representatives of the MVA for their support of tourism on Tinian over the last 40-plus years.
“This was my first ever Pika Festival, and it was as exciting and tasty as I imagined,” said MVA managing director Christopher A. Concepcion, who joined the festivities on Sunday. “I had the honor of judging the ‘estafao pika’ (spicy meat dish) contest and it was pretty hot. Tinian is famous for their ‘donne sali’ and I am a big fan, so it was tons of fun.”
Numerous competitions were held. In a field of seasoned locals and brave visitors, Jay Jess San Nicholas downed his bowl of “donne sali”-laced soba to displace last year’s champion. In the women’s heat on Sunday, Valerie Naputi emerged this year’s top winner. The participants were all rewarded with cooling ice cream after their feat. JC Café also hosted a burger eating contest and winners of both the hot pepper and burger eating contests received cell phones from IT&E.
JC Café finished first in the dragon boat race, joined by Guerrero Team and T Roots in the competition. Under the pine trees between the circle of booths and the crystal clear ocean, Adahe’ bested all other teams to win the beach volleyball contest. Adult and children’s sack races, as well as a children’s “umang” (hermit crab) race, were also held.
“This year’s festival was another success, thanks to the partnership of the Tinian Mayor’s Office, the Tinian Municipal Council, and the people of Tinian,” said MVA Community Projects manager Martin Duenas. “This year we were able to provide a shuttle between the airport, seaport, and festival grounds, which made it even more convenient for visitors. We thank everyone who supported the event, and we look forward to next year.”
Additional sponsors and supporters were Bridge Capital Inc. and MARPAC.
The Tinian Hot Pepper Festival is held each Presidents Day weekend in February.
The 65K Pika Bike Race was cancelled, due to inclement weather that forced the cancellation of Friday’s ferry that bikers had booked to travel on. Ferry refunds are available by visiting the MVA office or calling 664-3200/01. (MVA)