“It is mean to hide ones possessions.”
I never play the ‘tourist’ when abroad. I’ve always managed to blend in with the locals; that’s one advantage of being multi-racial. You can be anybody. So far I’ve been successful. When I travel I always bring home unique mementos of my experiences. I’m so much in love with most things Polynesian that I married a wonderful woman from that part of our world. She and I have been married nearly 25 years. We have five children and two grandchildren; three girls four boys.
American Samoa’s total land mass is a mere 76 square miles. Pago-Pago is its’ capitol city. The main island of Tutuila covers roughly two thirds of the total territorial land mass and is home to 95% of its 65,000 plus residents. The five largest islands in the Samoan chain are Tutuila, Ta’o, Ofu, Olosega, Aunu’u and Nu’utele. The islands are volcanic and roughly resemble the Hawaiian Islands 2,300 miles northeast. Considered a center of American Polynesia not counting Hawaii, American Samoa is an archipelago though Rose and Swain Islands are coral reefs. The U.S. protectorate is a strategic oceanic midpoint for shipping, a growing tourist industry plus a vital link in international air services.
It’s believed that the first Samoans migrated from Asia by way of Indonesia. The culture and linguistic roots seem to verify this theory. The ancient Samoans traveled in ocean going canoes past Vanuatu, Fiji, and Tonga ending their oceanic odyssey near the village of Tula, Tutuila sometime around 600 BC. There was a window of 800 years before Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen ‘discovered’ them in 1722.
A rich blend of 89% Polynesian, 5% non-Samoans, 4% Tongan, and 2% Caucasian comprise the multi-ethnic mix of the archipelago. According to the 2010 census 14% of Samoans are of Filipino heritage, however they’re mighty quiet though beginning to make their voices heard.
How involved is the Filipino community in this United States territory? This past June at the American Samoan Filipino community’s 115th celebration of Philippine Independence Day main speaker Dr. Falema’o Phi lPili publically lauded the territory’s Filipino community. He praised them for their continued community service. The event was held in the gym at island capitol Pago Pago’s Tafuna High School.
Dr. Pili said his fellow Fil-Ams were privileged to be living in the United States. He further cited the local Fil-Am community was the territory’s fastest growing immigrant community numbering 2,000 strong according to the 2010 Census. Treasurer Pili upheld the integrity or Palabra De Honor of his fellow Fil-Ams. His speech focused on the Fil-Am community’s many and varied contributions to the island territory. He pleaded for group unity in all aspects of the Filipino experience.
The art of American Samoa is purely Polynesian. Reader if you ever get the chance do yourself a favor. Visit the ‘Polynesian Cultural Center’ in Honolulu, Hawaii (www.polynesianculturalcenter.com) either in person or on line. You’ll get a pretty good idea of the colorful art of Samoa.
American Samoa is chuck full of local/world class celebrities too numerous to mention in these pages; here’s a few of well known celebs. Inventor-scientist Bob Ainuu Afamasaga has written a number of books on science related topics. Some of his works include ‘Understanding Your DNA’ and ‘Mind.’ He’s a DNA specialist with an impressive number of articles and tomes to his credit. He has invented technology used to test for blood types.
Visual artist Shigeyuki Kihara was the first Samoan to host a one person art show at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Fellow artist sculptor Johnny Penisula MNZM is a native Samoan but lives in New Zealand.
Thirty Samoans play football in the NFL. The islands host a number of world class wrestlers. On the downside there’s the infamous record set by the American Samoan national soccer team. They set a world’s record for the most consecutive matches lost more than any team in international soccer. Up until very recently they had a 17 year losing streak. Their biggest beating was when Australia stomped them 31 zip! In 2009 by some miracle of fate the hapless American Samoan soccer team squeaked by Tonga 2-1 after being ranked the worst team on earth in international sport!
The South Sea Islands abound in fish, pigs, tropical fruits, exotic vegetables, unique restaurants and plenty of pretty birds. Their bars serve those fancy rum drinks with those tiny colored umbrellas sticking through cherries and pineapple slices. Totally Americanized your everyday Samoan bill a fare is no different from the mainland American diet; highly caloric, grease laden, served in humongous amounts, unhealthy but oh so tasty; in short…culinary garbage-junk foods. Some traditional dishes are still popular in touristy restaurants.
In American Samoa they prepare suckling pigs much the same way as they do back home; they roast it on spits over open fires. In Samoa the term lu’au refers to a native dish not the Hawaiian all-you-can-eat pig out fest. It consists of uncooked taro folded in banana leaves garnished with coconut cream and onions. This dish is placed in an umu or pit-oven and served with roasted pig-yummy!
There are many religions in American Samoa. Reverend John Williams of the London Missionary Society brought Christianity to Samoa. Within 40 years Samoa evolved from a minor mission post to a major terminus where native clerics were trained, ordained, then sent to evangelize other islands particularly Melanesia. 99% of America Samoans are Christians of varying denominations with Congregationalism dominant. Catholics, other Protestant denominations, Muslims, Baha’is, Hindus, Buddhists, and Jews following close behind. All religious groups are multi-ethnic and maintain tolerant attitudes towards each other. The United States government reports religious discrimination in America’s Samoa is near non-existent.
American Samoa like the rest of our country is governed by President Barak Obama. Lolo Letalu Matalasi Moliga is American Samoa’s governor. Former President of the Development Bank of Amerian Samoa from 2009 until 2012 Governor Moliga was born in Ta’u, Manu’a, American Samoa. His father Moliga Sa’ena Auauna Moliga was a high chief an island big man. He received his master’s degree in public administration from San Diego State University. Mr. Moliga is eminently qualified for his position as the islands governor; politically he’s a centrist.
There are many interesting travel facts you should know when planning your Samoan holiday. What you wear is very important in this deeply religious country. Women should dress modestly especially when touring rural areas. Swim suits are for pools not public parks. For tourists who want to ‘go native’ a simple lavalava will suffice.
The climate in American Samoa is typical of tropical islands; hot during day cool at night with month long rainy seasons. American Samoa is volcanic. If its’ any consolation to you Samoan volcanoes haven’t blown their craters since 1911.
Most of the islands are covered with tropical forests, woodlands and is home-sweet-home for exotic birds and other wildlife. American Samoa’s tourist industry is still under developed but growing. This may be a good thing if you enjoy roughing it. Strict zoning codes determine the height of tall buildings. The government want to insure that American Samoa remain rustic and unspoiled.!