COURTESY RALPH SAUFATA
The 145-year-old Piiloa Church sits in Honuaula, Maui.
Piiloa Church’s real age discovered
Ohana members of the Piiloa Church in Honuaula, Maui, thought they were celebrating 100 years of existence in July, but research shows the church actually is 145 years old.
According to Elsie Kihano, Oahu chapter president, the church is the legacy of the Kauaua family (or ohana), built on royal land deeded to the family in the village of Kanaio. It was originally named the Honuaula Church, made of pili grass in 1862. But it was relocated to a nearby hilltop, rebuilt and rededicated Piiloa Church in 1908 (not 1907 as previously thought), she said. The church board received the updated research last week.
The new church, which stands today, was built by hand of crushed coral and lime rocks, boiled in cast iron pots to make them white. Each stone was passed from member to member, who formed a "human chain" from the beach to the top of the hill, she said.
The name "Piiloa" means "long climb," according to church member Keith Haugen, a well-known Hawaiian singer. He wrote a new song called "Ke Mele No Piiloa," for the celebration, telling of the "long climb up to the church site from the ocean; and a long climb from the church to heaven," Haugen wrote by e-mail.
Although only about 45 ohana members, mostly from Maui, attended what was thought to be the 100th anniversary July 21, there are at least 3,500 relatives floating around, Kihano said. The last registry taken by the family in 1978 showed 5,000 relatives, she said. Her Oahu chapter alone has 1,000 to 1,500 members.
Repairs to the church done early this summer were financed by donations from the sixth- and seventh-generation members. Once under the administration of the Hawaiian Evangelical Association in Honolulu, Piiloa now falls under the United Church of Christ, which paid for the cost of renovation materials, Kihano said.