PCC celebrates 27th annual Moanikeala Hula Festival

Hula dancers from Japan

The Kamaluwehiokapalai halau hula from Japan

Story and photos by Mike Foley
[First published in the Polynesian Cultural Center blog, February 2017]

As it has for the past several years, the Polynesian Cultural Center hosted its annual Moanikeala Hula Festival on February 4, 2017, in a perfect setting — under the monkeypod tree in the Hawaiian Village. [Read more…]

Keith: Author and educator urges servant leadership

[Story and photo by Mike Foley: Originally published in the BYU–Hawaii electronic “newsroom” on March 27, 2007]

Dr. Kent KeithDr. Kent M. Keith [pictured at left], who in 1968 wrote a series of “paradoxical commandments” as a teenage undergraduate at Harvard that have since spread across the globe and formed the basis for several current best-selling books, urged BYU-Hawaii students in the Honors forum on March 27 to follow a service model of leadership to find more personal meaning in life.

Keith — who grew up in Honolulu, became a Rhodes Scholar and more recently served as president of Chaminade University of Honolulu (a Catholic school; he’s a Protestant) — told the students, “I’m here to encourage you, because I think as you look out into the world now-days it’s easy to be discouraged. There are good things going on everywhere, but it’s so hard sometimes when you think of war, starvation, disease, genocide, the threat of nuclear destruction… There’s a lot of suffering going on. There’s no end of natural disasters.”

[Read more…]

PCC Hawaiian expert shares culture, hula insights

[Story and photos by Mike Foley: Originally published in the BYU–Hawaii electronic “newsroom” on 27 February 2009]

Cy BridgesCy M. Bridges [pictured at right], Theater Director for the Polynesian Cultural Center and a noted Hawaiian cultural expert, shared his love, passion and expertise on historical and genealogical aspects of modern hula with Brigham Young University Hawaii students during the February 25, 2009, Honors Program colloquium in McKay 101.

“The hula was really our hard drive — our textbook,” said Bridges, who in addition to his work at the PCC is an entertainer, musician, genealogist, kumu hula or master, and periodic judge for the well-known Merrie Monarch Hula Festival in Hilo. “Everything was committed to memory, because there was no written language; so we chanted, sang and danced about our lives.”

[Read more…]

National principal titles goes to Maori educator

[Reprinted from the September 2013 issue of IMUA Polenisia,
the Polynesian Cultural Center newsletter: Story and Maori photo by Mike Foley] 

Sheena-AlaiasaSome people at the Latter-day Saint Church-affiliated Polynesian Cultural Center only know her as Sheena, a part-time Maori musician, but to 600-plus students as well as the 52 faculty members she oversees every week-day, she’s Mrs. Alaiasa [pictured at right], Principal of Samuel Wilder King Intermediate School in Kaneohe, Oahu.

In fact, she’s so good at her full-time position that the Hawaii Association of Secondary School Administrators recently named her State Middle School Principal of the Year, based on her excellence in professional growth, collaborative leadership, advancements in curriculum, instruction and assessment, and personalization of learning.

With that honor, she went on to become the first person from Hawaii to be nominated as a national middle school principal of the year finalist; and subsequently won the title in Washington, D.C.

[Read more…]

Original Maori artisan refreshes PCC carvings

Maori_carvings11-30-13 [Published in the December 2013 issue of IMUA Polenisia
the Polynesian Cultural Center newsletter:
Story and photos by Mike Foley]

Before sunrise on November 30, in accordance with New Zealand Maori custom, carvers, service missionaries, island representatives, other Maori from the community and special guests waited at the Maori Village gate for a special kawanga ceremony to mark the reopening of the PCC’s Maori Village following an extensive renovation and replacing many of the original carvings.

More than 150 people participated in the ceremony that included Seamus Fitzgerald, PCC Director of Cultural Islands and Maori Village manager, and his team inviting the guests onto the marae with chants, followed by the entire group slowly inspecting the newly renovated features and carvings in a procession.

[Read more…]

Reflections of ‘We Are Samoa’

For the past 20 years the Polynesian Cultural Center has put on an annual “We Are Samoa” traditional arts and skills festival for high school students across Oahu. Here are some of my selected images from the May 11, 2013, festival:

Three principles for success in starting a business

[Story and photo by Mike Foley: Originally published online in the BYU-Hawaii Newsroom, August 2008]

An entrepreneurship professor at the BYU Marriott School of Management told BYU-Hawaii business students they don’t necessarily need a lot of experience, exceptional training or even much money to start a successful business.

Gary Williams [pictured at right], a successful entrepreneur in Utah before joining the BYU business school faculty three years ago, shared three principles on Sept. 23 with the BYU-Hawaii students that could help them “evolve into entrepreneurs.”

Number one: “Don’t kill yourself trying to change the world.”

“Some of the best companies out there didn’t change the world,” said Williams, who encouraged budding BYU-Hawaii entrepreneurs to “search for the not so elusive angle, or new twists on something that already exists.”

[Read more…]

Owners preserve Kualoa Ranch heritage through diversification

[Story and Morgan photo by Mike Foley, originally published online in the BYU-Hawaii Newsroom, November 13, 2003]

John Morgan, Kualoa RanchThe descendants of the first doctor to move to the Sandwich Islands still own the family ranch at Kualoa and have significantly diversified its resources over the past 15 years to preserve the unique heritage and scenic beauty of the property.

Millions of tourists are familiar with the breathtaking backdrop of the “long ridge” or kualoa of the Koolau Mountains on the property and the uniquely shaped offshore islet popularly called Chinaman’s Hat. Many more millions around the world have seen the far reaches and vistas of the ranch in movies such as Jurassic Park, Godzilla and more recently, Wind Talkers.

“Kaaawa Valley is one of the most filmed places in Hawaii,” admitted John Morgan, president of Kualoa Ranch, which he described as a “magical place. It has a great history and legacy to it.”

[Read more…]

Te Aroha Nui Maori group returns to PCC

[Story and photos by Mike Foley, originally published in PCC’s Imua Polenesia newsletter, August 2005]

In the summer of 1963 the late Wendell B. Mendenhall, president of all LDS labor missionaries in the Pacific, asked 148 New Zealand Maori to help get the Polynesian Cultural Center ready for its opening on October 12th that year. The group, all volunteers who paid their own expenses, stayed for six weeks and not only put the finishing touches on the Center, but also dominated the PCC’s first night show with their lively action songs and beautiful harmony. They also put on concerts in California and Utah before returning home.

On Aug. 5, 2005, 48 surviving members returned to PCC for the first time as a group to participate in the Whakataetae festival. In accordance with Maori custom, PCC villagers and Maori community members welcomed them and the other Whakataetae visitors with chants, a wero challenge, speeches, songs and hongi [nose pressing] greetings.

Members of the Te Aroha Nui group and others enter the marae
at the Polynesian Cultural Center 

[Read more…]

‘Uncle John’ celebrates 25 years of China friendship

[Story and photos by Mike Foley, originally published in the PCC Imua Polenesia newsletter, June 2007]

John Muaina (fourth from left, back row), his wife Luella, Carolyn and Eric Shumway
and Napua
Baker (right, back row) meet with AEM alumni in Xi’an, China 

Polynesian Cultural Center Vice President of Human Resources John Muaina recently represented the PCC as he and his wife, Luella, toured China with BYU-Hawaii President Eric B. Shumway, his party and the university’s 62-voice Concert Choir for three weeks in May to celebrate the successful completion of 25 years of BYUH/PCC’s unique Asian Executive Management (AEM) internship training program.

[Read more…]

PCC Promo dancer reigns as ‘Miss South Pacific’

Tessie Toluta'u[Story and photo by Mike Foley, originally published in the PCC Imua Polenesia newsletter, January 2008]

PCC Promo Team dancer and Laie resident Tessie Toluta’u [pictured at right during the 2007 PCC Moanikeala Hula Festival] recently swept all categories to win the title of Miss South Pacific in Apia, Samoa. For her talent she performed Tongan tau’olunga and Tahitian dances.

[Read more…]

Please ‘courtesy flush’

After several hours of doing research at the BYU-Hawaii Archives in Laie this past week, I went to one of the men’s bathrooms, and was surprised to find that a previous patron in the only available stall had not bothered to flush. Ewww, he left his stinky mess behind . . . which, you may think somewhat strangely, has prompted me to blog on about toilets, near and far.

Please keep reading as I share some Asian-Pacific perspectives on one of the most natural but seldom discussed subjects in the world.

[Read more…]

‘South Pacific’ in the South Pacific

Mapusaga High School boysI was going through some personal family history stuff, and came across an old program I kept (for some reason) of the Mapusaga High School May 6-8, 1965 production of South Pacific. It was a pleasant reminder of some people I hadn’t thought about in years.

Mapusaga High — built by Latter-day Saint labor missionaries in Malaeimi, Tutuila, American Samoa — was in my very first area when I was a 19-year-old Mormon missionary in Samoa . . . and I still have many good memories of the faculty and students. In fact, I lived for a while in the American Samoa “mission home,” which was located on the grounds, and I was actually fortunate enough to be reassigned there briefly again in 1967. The school was only open from 1960 to ’74, at which time it became — and remains — the campus of the American Samoa Community College. I suspect, however, that all of us who were associated with it in any way will always think of it as Mapusaga High School. Go, Eagles!

Click on the link to read a PDF version of the original mimeographed South Pacific program. Check out the faculty who helped put it on on page 2, and who played what parts on page 4:


III. Things have changed: Way back when

My grandma, Johanna HandAs the third in a series on my blog about how things have changed a lot since I was a kid, I’m reminded of a prof years ago at the University of Hawaii who told us that our personal “stories” or historical heritage begins with the memories of the oldest people we’ve known. If that’s true, then for me that would essentially be my Grandma Johanna Hand [pictured at left], who was born in the Netherlands in 1874 and — mainly through her and my mom, because I was only a baby when he died — my Grandpa Hyrum Hand, who was born in England in 1866.

Because my Grandma Hand lived with us all the years I was growing up, and passed away at age 98 in 1972, I remember her very well. She pushes the envelope of memories and the spectrum of how things have changed for me back almost 150 years.

[Read more…]

II. Things have changed: The sound scene

I was listening to a long TV advertisement this past weekend that featured Pat Boone and Patti Page pushing songs from the 1950s — all quite familiar to people my age and older. It was kinda’ fun listening to the old hits, and it spurred me to write my second installment about how things have changed so dramatically in my lifetime, in this case with audio media.

[Read more…]