Cool island music and the smells of sweet and savory foods drifted pleasantly out of the Smith Memorial Student Union Ballroom on Nov. 19 for the 2nd annual Pacific Festival. The event was hosted by the Portland State Pacific Islanders Club and admission was free for all.
The festival, which was part of Native American Heritage Month, aimed to showcase Pacific Islander culture through dance, music, games and food.
Ira Lapitan, secretary for the Pacific Islanders Club, said the organization is largely composed of students of varying island heritages, including Tongan, Samoan, Hawaiian, Fijian, New Zealander and Tahitian, though the club is open to anyone.
“Pacific Islander is not just constituted by physically being of Pacific Island ethnicity, but also by being brought up in the culture and identifying as that culture,” Lapitan said.
Meetings for the club are held every Friday at the Native American Student Community Center.
Jarin Quibilan, a club member, said club activities vary. In the past they have included language workshops and lessons on how to brew kava, a drink with sedative qualities created from pepper roots of the same name.
“We host scholarship workshops, Hawaiian language workshops, holiday parties, stress relief workshops, Valentine’s fundraisers, Hawaiian food-making workshops, and much more,” Lapitan said. “Our members come from various backgrounds and do not include only islanders. We welcome all students to our club and strive to create a comfortable, fun place for students.”
Matt Sagayaga, a financial aid counselor working in Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, said anyone who is passionate about representing the Pacific Islands or wants to learn more are welcome to attend any of the club’s meetings.
“A typical meeting will consist of different subtopics concerning cultural awareness, student life balance and health, club bonding and camaraderie,” Sagayaga said. “We also take this time to recognize that PIC is a community outlet and a home away from home for students whose family live thousands of miles away.”
Sagayaga said the club’s influence expands outside of just PSU and into the local school system.
“Over the years PIC has been mentors to Portland area middle schools, provided outreach and support to Pacific Islanders students in the community high schools, performed dances from our cultural heritage with the community, and partnered with several nonprofit organizations supporting educational paths for Pacific Islanders in the greater Portland community.”
The next big event the club will host is the Spring Lu’au on May, 9, one of the larger events on campus. Sagayaga said the lu’au typically has between 400 and 500 attendees. The lu’au will feature traditional island fare in the form of vendors, food, music and dance.
Dancing was a fixture at the Pacific Festival and will be a highlight at the lu’au. Lapitan, who participated in the festival dance, said the club celebrates dances from a diverse array of cultural backgrounds.
“We do dances from all the Polynesian islands that we represent during Lu’au. The dances at Pacific Festival were Hawaiian dances, a more modern type of dance than the traditional Hawaiian dances. The modern type of Hawaiian dance is called Auana.”