Friday, November 30, 2012

Hawaii: Polynesian Cultural Center (08/19/09)

August 25, 2009

In the afternoon after our visit to Pearl Harbor, we joined a tour that went to the Polynesian Cultural Center, which is hailed as "a living, breathing exploration of the traditions and lifestyles of the Polynesian cultures".

The PCC is not in downtown Honolulu, but a small town on the North Shore of Oahu called Laie. It took almost two hours to reach by bus from our hotel in Waikiki. The place was established and run by the Mormons since 1963. To put it in the local context, it is like "Nayong Pilipino" but showcasing the seven main Polynesian cultures: Hawaii, Tonga, Samoa, Tahiti, Fiji, Aotearoa (New Zealand) and the Polynesian Triangle (exemplified by the Marquesas).

It was too bad that we reached this place past 3pm already. At 230pm, there was supposed to have been a cultural pageant on boats on the river. Our guide suggested for us to prioritize the Tonga and Samoa programs since we did not really have much time.

By 4pm though, my wife and I caught the I-Max film showing about the Coral Reefs. I feel this fantastic film should be required viewing for everyone on earth, especially those living in the Pacific Rim (including Filipinos). It is very educational in the most convincing way that we should all do our part to protect the reefs that surround our island countries. We had to catch the 4pm showing because the last 5 pm film show would be in Japanese.

After the film, we caught the boat ride to give us a quick overview of what the theme park had to offer since we were already short of time. We were able to go under the same arched coconut tree which Elvis Presley's boat also glided under in the movie "Blue Hawaii."

After the ride, we were able to catch the tailend of the Samoa program featuring a guy working a coconut, from husking to wringing the meat for milk. Then another guy showed his prowess in climbing those very tall coconut trees. We also witnessed their Samoan Flag Retreat ceremony.

For dinner, I was disappointed that our tour group's meal would not be a real luau with ceremonies. We only had a buffet of luau food at the Gateway Restaurant. We did get to taste the famous Kalua Pig here.

However, the main highlight of the tour to PCC is the fantastic cultural program they had for us at night after dinner. Their all-new show is entitled "Ha: Breath of Life." It tells about "the entrancing South Pacific odyssey of Mana, and the trials and training he endures to become a fire-knife wielding warrior. In the process he must prove his worthiness to wed the beautiful Lani and battle to protect his new family from marauding invaders."

The dancing and singing were both enchanting and energetic. The lead dancers playing Mana and Lani were magnificent dancers, and the ensemble work was likewise amazing in their precision and daring (especially with the fire sequences). This show alone was worth the admission. It is a must watch for those who want to imbibe the Polynesian spirit and joie de vivre.

The 7 Main Polynesian Cultures

A Mormon Chapel

From the I-Max film:  A Healthy Reef

From the I-Max film:  An Octopus in a Dead Reef

Fiji Temple

Fiji Chief Abode

Pretty Hula Dancer

Easter Island Heads

Mormons at the Gate

Samoan Show

Wring out the Coco Milk


Mana and Lani

Grand Finale

Hawaii: Pearl Harbor (08/19/09)

August 23, 2009

Aloha! Elaine and I spent our belated wedding anniversary celebration this year in Honolulu, Hawaii from August 18-22, 2009.

The first place of significant interest that went to was Pearl Harbor. We left our hotel in Waikiki at about 630 am. Despite that, when we got to the Memorial, we were already in the 9 am group. We spent the waiting time going around the Museum where they had very interesting displays, scale models and actual memorabilia from the war. We also browsed around the souvenir shop there. I was able to buy a reprint of the Honolulu newspaper dated December 7, 1941, among other things. We also got to meet and talk with some real WWII vets who survived the Pearl Harbor bombings. I was observing some American tourists who said they had family members in the war, and this place really meant a lot for them.

When it was our turn, we were first shown a short but emotional film about that fateful day from actual footage from American and Japanese archives. After that, we were led out to a small shuttle boat that would take us to where the wreckage of the USS Arizona lay from the day it was sunk to now. The atmosphere of the place was hauntingly sad. Seeing the sunken remains of the great battleship and recalling the human casualties that remain in their watery grave was a very eerie experience for all.

Alongside the Memorial was docked the USS Missouri where the Instrument of Surrender of Japan was signed (on Sept. 2, 1945), which ended World War II. It also holds the distinction of being the last battleship built by the United States. The USS Missouri was finally decommissioned in 1992.

This is a scale model of the I.M.S. Akagi, the flagship of the Japanese Imperial Strike Force during the attack on Pearl Harbor -- a very impressive aircraft carrier indeed.

Japanese Imperial Navy Type 91 torpedoes
Normally dropped from 100 meters, diving to nearly that depth before leveling off and running to the target. The relatively shallow 40-foot depth of Pearl Harbor necessitated modifications to the torpedo design and attack strategy. Outfitted with wooden, breakaway fins, and dropped from 10 meters above the water by 40 Nakajima Type 97 attack planes, the aerial torpedo proved devastatingly effective. This torpedo was found accidentally in the early 1990's by a dredging company in the channel off Ford Island.

A Purple Heart Medal

Pearl Harbor Overview

Launching Medal of USS Arizona

Talking to WWII Vets

Autographing a Book for Us

The Memorial Comes into View

The USS Missouri

A Watery Grave

The wall of names of those lost on December 7, 1941. 
The marble piece on the left set before the wall lists the names of survivors of the attack, but that have since passed and have had their remains placed underwater on the wreck of the USS Arizona. This so movingly and dramatically demonstrates the camaraderie and familial feelings between shipmates.