Sunday, June 07, 2015

Saonao yan Eyak

It is now less than a year til Guam hosts FESTPAC or the largest cultural festival in the Pacific. I am involved in FESTPAC in a number of forms and there are some ways that we are clearly ready and on course and others where ai adai it seems like it'll take a miracle for us to make it on time.  Para i taotao ni' muna'la'la'la' yan chumochonnek mo'na i kuttura-ta (gi meggai na manera) este na dinana' i mas takhilo', i mas sagradu na tiempo. Kada kuatro na sakkan mandadana' i taotaogues i Pasifiku gi unu na isla, ya manafa'nu'i yan manapatte i kutturan-niha. Un sen dangkolu na onra este na para ta kombida taotao ginen kana trenta diferentes na isla siha magi para i tano'-ta. 

For those of you who would like to receive regular updates about FESTPAC, its planning and organizing go on Facebook and LIKE the official FESTPAC page. Here is the link:

Or, each Friday the Pacific Daily News is featuring a different column under the banner of "Saonao yan Eyak" which covers a different aspect of the organizing taking place and also hopes to help prepare the people for what it is like to host a FESTPAC. Here below is the most recent column courtesy of Louie Gombar, a member of the literary arts group Ginen i Hila' i Maga'taotao Siha.


Welcome Visitors With Their Languages
by Louie Gombar
Pacific Daily News

A few weeks ago I was wandering through the streets of Saigon, Vietnam, with a group of rowdy but happy friends from Guam. They were members of the annual Vietnam Veterans Tour usually coordinated by David and Jane Sasai of Yona. The group was rather small this year, numbering only 22 souls, but they were an energized bunch, always laughing, always ready to respond with spirited comments.

The streets of Saigon are crammed with 9 million motor bikes and to avoid being hit you learn to dance between them in movements that resemble a combination of the cha-cha, tango and jitterbug all rolled into one. These street calisthenics are extremely hard on the ligaments of the feet and will eventually force you to rest. That is exactly what we did, by walking into a small restaurant called Lani's Mogambo.

As we entered, the owner excitedly turned around and blared at us. "Hafa adai, people from Guam. Hafa adai!" Lani even taught her waitresses to ask if we needed fina'denne' for our meals. As it turned out, Lani was one of the famous Vietnamese boat people who escaped after the fall of Vietnam. She survived that harrowing experience and ended up safely on Guam, where she started a successful restaurant. She returned home when it was safe and happily established the Mogambo in downtown Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh City. Lani had friends at the airport who informed her of our arrival.
Hearing "hafa adai" and "fina'denne'" so many thousands of miles away from home made us euphoric. We grow up to associate words or symbols with certain thought patterns. Familiar words trigger emotions in our minds. Mogambo in Saigon suddenly became a refuge where everything was safe, if only for a short while.

When the 12th FESTPAC begins in May of 2016, we magically become the custodians of Pacific languages and traditions. Delegation members will be exchanging cultural information in different languages. They will attempt to communicate in strange dialects while trading T-shirts and bartering island trinkets.

The Fijians, of which there are several in Guam, will always greet you with "bula," which is their equivalent of "hafa adai." Thank you in Fijian is "vinaka." These two simple words will make Fijian heads turn in gratitude.

Our Palauan brothers and sisters say hello with the familiar "alii." It's an easy word to remember. So is "sulang," which means thank you. Use them. The Palauans will love you for it.

Tongan words, on the other hand, require a little bit more ambition, but they are not impossible. To say hello in Tonga is "maylo e lelei." Thank you is "may lo aupito."

The indigenous Chinese, our Austronesian relatives from Taiwan, will probably have their booth bouncing loudly with the sound of ethnic instruments which they usually play. To them thank you is "to-sia." If you feel like learning the reply, it is "biankheh-khi" and, of course, hello is "lee-ho."
Several hundred miles to the east is the Chuuk Lagoon. Haunted by decades of a sluggish economy, the Chuukese people have been migrating to Guam in search of better living conditions. They have become part of our lives. It is only proper we understand each other.

"Ranannim" is the word Chuukese use to greet each other. It is a friendly word that will open many doors. A word that cannot be overused is "kinisou," which means thank you. To make it more expressive one might say "kinisou chapur" which denotes extreme gratitude.

Locals always appreciate it when you attempt a few words in their language and New Guinea is no exception. Papuans have 850 dialects to put up with, but the most widely spoken language is creole-based Toc Pisin. It is almost preposterous. Their word for hello is "hai." They ask for your name by saying "Wanam nem belong yu?" You say goodbye with a straight forward "lookim you behin." Last of all, you say thank you with a gentle "tenkyu tumas."

There are many more and you can learn them as the need arises. However, if all is lost and you can't remember a single foreign word, then resort to the time-honored symbol of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, the Victory Symphony. Emblazon your day with the two-finger "V," the universal symbol for peace.

Louie Gombar is a retired music teacher and chairman of the Oratory Subcommittee under Literary Arts for the 12th Festival of Pacific Arts in Guam.

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