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Tribute to Pele


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POSTED: Thursday, April 16, 2009

HILO » Smoke wafted from Halemaumau Crater yesterday morning as kumu hula Sonny Ching and his Halau Na Mamo O Pu'uanahulu trekked up to the Kilauea lookout in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Like many groups that come here every year to participate in the Merrie Monarch Festival, the halau paid respects to the goddess Pele with chanting and, this year, a hula by Ching's Miss Aloha Hula contestant, Kaholo Kahikipi'ilani Panui.

Clouds moved in, blocking the sun, accompanied by a fine mist of rain, as each dancer removed his or her lei to fashion a ho'okupu that was then pushed over the crater's rim as an offering to Pele.

Ching then addressed his dancers, huddled together to keep warm.

He told them that whenever he and his halau come to the crater in preparation for Merrie Monarch, he looks for three ho'ailona or signs that should portend well for their performances. One was the misty rain, another a certain, unspecified cloud formation and the third was a koae kea, or white-tailed tropic bird, flying within the caldera.

“;It's rare to see all three together in one visit,”; Ching said later. “;It was spiritually uplifting. I knew then, regardless of what happens at the festival, that we were accepted, that everything was pono (right).”;

Ching needed that sense of affirmation, considering that just a month earlier he was notified by the festival that he inadvertently duplicated another halau's hula kahiko (ancient), submitted under another title.

So they began learning a new hula on March 4.

“;I give them credit for learning a lot in just a short time,”; he said.

Ching is also hoping his Miss Aloha Hula contestant will do well.

“;Interestingly enough, when I was researching her genealogy, I found out she is a descendant of King Kaumuali'i of Kauai, the only king who was not conquered by Kamehameha. So her mele will be in honor of him.”;

Just before Ching and his group arrived, kumu hula Kapua Dalire-Moe was at the crater with her Halau Ka Liko Pua O Kalaniakea.

“;It was great, really nice, to get up there and present our ho'okupu,”; she said. “;My eldest daughter, 14-year-old Kilio'ulani Lai, will be dancing with us for the first time at the festival. She's been dancing since she was 2, and it will make three generations of dancers — my mom, Aloha; myself and my daughter — who will continue our family hula legacy.”;