By Camille Kerr
Writing Specialist on the Woodbridge, Virginia Stake Public Affairs Council for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Aloha! The Polynesian culture is alive and well in the Woodbridge Stake. Saturday evening, April 30th, the Quantico Ward hosted a Luau complete with a roasted pig, Polynesian entertainment and a Samoan fire knife dance. This incredible Luau was thanks to members with Polynesian background from not only the Quantico Ward, but also the Woodbridge 1st ward and the Young Single Adult Branch.
Quantico Ward families with Polynesian background include the Travis family, the Brash family, and the Anakalea family. The Travis family was integral in the planning of the Luau, putting together decorations and cooking food. Brother Maui Travis is from Kaneohe, Hawai’i and his wife Patricia was born in Kahuku, raised in Hau’ula, Hawai’i, and is Filipina (Visayan-Ilocano).
The Brash family also helped, providing food and decorations and their daughter Sulieti performed the Tongan tau’olunga as part of the entertainment. Sister Tita Brash is from the island of Tonga, the only remaining monarchy in the South Pacific. She explained that Tonga became known as the friendly islands because of the warm greetings received by Captain James Cook back in 1773.
She said, “We are a very proud people. Not in the material riches of the world but in our heritage and culture. And I believe Sulieti lived up to that as she has been sick the last few days and still wanted to perform and share a part of her Tongan culture with her ward family. And it was her very first performance ever.”
Crowning the Luau feast was a whole roasted pig, along with authentic Polynesian dishes such as Chicken Long Rice, Huli Huli Chicken, Hawaiian Mac Salad, Banana Bread, & Ambrosia Salad, which were provided by Quantico Ward Relief Society members thanks to recipes from the Brash, Travis, and Anakalea families. Each of these families also cooked and shared food from their islands; the Brashes made Haupia, the Anakaleas made Pork Pimientos and Chantilly Cake, the Travis family made rice and the Brash & Faumuina families made Lupulu.
The highlight of the evening was the entertainment provided by the Polynesian Fusion Entertainment. Sister Lagi Faumuina of the Woodbridge 1st Ward, the director of the group, began the entertainment with a hula hoop contest for various groups: Primary girls, primary boys, Young Women, Young Men, Relief Society Sisters, Elders Quorum, and the Quantico Ward Bishopric along with Stake Presidency members President Clark Price and President David Oryang who arrived just in time for his part in the contest. A primary girl, Lauren Basham, beat them all with the longest hula hooping of all the groups. The most entertaining group was the Bishopric and Stake Presidency members.
Faumuina as director of Polynesian Fusion Entertainment introduced and participated in a myriad of dances native to the islands of Tonga, Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti, and Fiji. She said that she formed the group in 2015 with her friend Siela Ulugalu-Shirley, who is Samoan, from Manu’a in Am Samoa. Their goal is to, “try and keep our culture alive and blend other cultures to come together as one. Being that we are a long ways from home, we feel it is our duty and responsibility to teach our children where they come from and who they are.”
Faumuina was born and raised in Hawaii and grew up on the North Shore and experienced the life at the Polynesian Cultural Center. She said, “I’m from Oahu and pretty much spent most of my life around BYU-Hawaii because my grandfather and mother attended school there. Today, I still have family members that are employed with PCC. I come from a long line of dancers and entertainers so it’s really in my blood.”
Several of the dances were performed by Faumuina’s daughter and Ulugalu-Shirley’s daughters. Pictured below are the girls at the Luau from left to right: Myrah Ulugalu-Shirley (12), Leilani Faumuina-Carr (11), Natalia Ulugalu-Shirley (10), and Serenity Ulugalu-Shirley (8). Wearing native costumes to represent each dance, they performed dances from Tonga, Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti and Fiji.
The men of the group astounded the audience with their warrior dances: a solo dance by Faumuina’s son, Darrell Posten, and a group warrior dance with Darrell; Dwight Ulugalu-Shirley, who is Siela’s husband, the father of the 3 girls and from Jamaica; and Phetta Konelio, who attends the Young Single Adults branch in the Quantico Ward.
Phetta’s full name is Fetalaigalelei Pupu Konelio and he was born in Tahiti. He said that he is “of Samoan, Tongan, Hawaiian, Tahitian, and Bulgarian heritage.” Faumuina explained her connection with him. “I sent for him to come to Hawaii to have a better opportunity at life. Life adventures had us ending up in the East Coast.” He is a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and served as a missionary in Arizona, speaking fluent Spanish.
Sulieti Brash is new to the group and she is 8. Missing from the group on the night of the Luau were Faumuina’s 2 sons Joseph Poston (16) and Cory L. Faumuina-Carr (12) and her business partner Siela Ulugalu-Shirley.
The Polynesian Fusion Entertainment group has performed at birthdays, corporate events, and luau parties. They even performed at Montclair Day last year with another group. They are looking forward to being a part of the Around the World Cultural Food Festival at the Washington D.C. Mall in June and they have a performance this month at the Fiesta Asia.
Konelio opened the entertainment with the traditional blowing of the conch shell and concluded the evening outside the building with an amazing Samoan fire knife dance called “Siva afi”, tossing, twirling and dancing with fiery flames. The Quantico Ward members extend a huge thank you to all those who put together the Luau and provided the entertainment.