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in Fiji, March-April 2012, Philippines
By Pat Visanti
On 7 October we had an anticipated celebration for Fiji Day at our formation house in Cubao. For me, celebrating Fiji Day away from home for the first time in my life was a touching and memorable experience.
We began with a Mass celebrated by Fr Arthur Ledger SJ, Fiji’s only Jesuit priest, who is the current director of the East Asia Pacific Institute at Ateneo de Manila. Then followed the Fijian kava ceremony. We also had a brief slide-show of the history of Fiji. The spiritual year students performed the meke, a traditional Fijian dance, and this was followed by the meal. The night was simply the Pacific at its best here in Manila, and there was more than enough for everyone who came to join us in our celebration.
When we sang a Fijian hymn, Sa kau cake mai oqo, at the offertory of the Mass, my memory drifted back home where people wake up early in the morning to prepare the lovo, an earth oven, for the traditional way of cooking. The aroma of cooked pork, chicken and palusami filled my mind. I could also picture families along the beach at Nasese enjoying the day with kava, Fiji’s number one tropical root drink.
As for us here in Manila, our small celebration was more than we could have asked for in commemorating this very important day with Fijian citizens back in Fiji and around the world. The preparations for the celebration went on from Monday to Friday, the actual day of the celebration involving a lot of cleaning and especially preparing the food. We are a team of seven in the spiritual house, four students, two formators, Frs Michael Mohally and Brendan Kelly, and Joy, our hard working cook. Each had a role to play.
We may be a thousand miles away from home but we are one in heart and spirit with our people in Fiji. This experience of celebrating Fiji Day in a foreign country has made me appreciate who I am and where I come from. I will always be proud of my identity and my culture. You can take a Fijian out of Fiji but you can never take Fiji out of him. No matter how far I travel, I’ll hold my head up high, because Fiji means the world to me. May God bless Fiji forever!