by Kat Lobendahn, VP/PR for PISO, KCC
“I have laid a stick that connects people together. Now it was up to you, your generation and the generations to come, to build upon that stick a bridge that will ensure the free sharing of information and teaching between the two peoples until the day we become united again as a single people, as we were once before; before men separated us with their imaginary political boundaries of today’s Polynesian and Micronesia.” Grand Master Navigator Dr Pius Mau Piailug
If ever a day resonated and conjured up in me the impetus words of the late Grand Master Navigator Papa Mau, it was today, 14 April, at the Micronesia Connects event at Kapi‘olani Community College (KCC), facilitated by the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Micronesia Connections Club (MC), under the leadership and guidance of Dr Lola Quan Bautista (CPIS) and her team of student officers, and hosted by KCC’s Pacific Islands Students Organization (PISO). Micronesia, Polynesia, and Melanesia were represented in a common effort to stand and unite with one another, as in the days of yore.
Upon the arrival of KCC Chancellor Dr Leon Richards, everyone gathered on the lawn on the makai side of the Manele building for the official opening of the day. And as if bursting through the sky like Kanaloa, the resounding voice of the ancients seemed to descend upon us with the welcoming oli chanted by Kumu Kawika Napoleon, reciprocated by the beckoning chant of Kumu Joe Yoshida at the entrance to Manele.
One of the things I was most impressed with was the Federated States of Micronesia national anthem introduced by MC President Paulino Balagot after his opening speech. Among the distinguished guest speakers were KCC Chancellor Dr Leon Richards; Dr Amy Agbayani, director of Student Equity Excellence and Diversity (SEED) at UHM; Kristie Souza Malterre, counselor at KCC; Ku‘ulei Arakaki, financial coordinator at UHM; and Mak Porotesano, director of student activities and leadership at Chaminade University. These VIP guest speakers sowed value into today’s venue with their time, presence, and expertise in their contributions to raising the bar and standards for Pacific Islands students. Dr Richards was very gracious and generous in extending an invitation for this event to be held at KCC annually. He also proposed looking into putting together an associate of arts degree program in Pacific Islands studies at KCC.
The second half of the day included lunch provided by KCC’s culinary students; fun and games were on the agenda for the rest of the day. The time to socialize was here, and everyone was ready for it. After lunch, everyone was given an opportunity to fill out a survey, and those who filled out the survey were given free t-shirts with the Micronesia Connects logo on the front and back. Nearly everyone changed into more sporty and casual attire, donning their new Micronesia Connects t-shirts to participate in the fun and games. I was happy to receive mine. Games consisted of tug-o-war, relay, coconut scraping, weaving, and Micronesia trivia. Teams were divided into colors of red, yellow, black, and green. Everyone was in a jovial mood and the camaraderie was truly a thing to behold; I watched in amazement as I saw several Pacific Islands doctoral academics really being present with the students, enjoying one another’s company, participating in the games, eating together, and just having a grand time, as well as just lounging under the shade of the surrounding trees.
I have come away from this event feeling a greater connection to my Micronesian cousins—knowing that we were on the cusp of an even greater movement to unite our people of the Moana. I saw Papa Mau’s vision come to be today; it is a vision I often think of and desire myself. I am grateful to Dr Lola Quan Bautista, who took on the challenge when asked by some of her students to form a club. I am certain that it was a daunting task putting a club together and working with many different personalities, let alone coming to a consensus to put on an event to bridge the gap between Pacific Islanders. My gratitude to Dr Quan Bautista and all the officers and members of the Micronesia Connections Club for taking the lead in gathering and connecting with your fellow Islanders.
Micronesia Connects organizers and participants (clockwise from top left) Kat Lobendahn (PISO), Mary Hattori (KCC), Theresa Tee Sagapolutele (PISO), Lola Quan Bautista (CPIS), and Tina Tauasosi-Posiulai (UHM Office of Multicultural Student Services).