Falalap, Ulithi is the main island in the Ulithi atoll chain. Falalap is also the name of the main island in the Woleai atoll chain but that doesn't seem to confuse anyone. The old Japanese WWII runway is still used by the missionary plane to fly passengers and supplies to and from Yap. Falalap, Ulithi is the most modernized island in the chain with electricity and cinder block houses. A large freezer building was being built while I was there to freeze fish for the Outer Island High School students, and, I heard they recently got internet.
I used Falalap mainly to land and wait for a small motorboat to arrive to take me to the outer islands in the chain, however, Falalap does have special events that warrant a visit. On March 2, the day after Yap celebrates Yap Day, Falalap celebrates Culture Day. I went to the first two annual Culture Day celebrations and I'm not sure if the event still continues today.
A second missionary plane was needed to fly me and perhaps ten other visitors to Falalap for the first Culture Day. For the second Culture Day I happened to be in the outer island Mogmog and then small motorboats brought me and some locals from Mogmog to the celebration.
Celebration was the best word to describe the event. There were numerous cultural dances that filled the morning. For lunch we had a feast fit for King Henry, no silverware. Besides the usual dishes of rice, taro, fish, and bananas, each guest had their own large coconut crab with some other meat that was most likely sea turtle. It took my second annual Culture Day feast to finally learn to always carry a pair of pliers with me just in case I had a coconut crab meal in the future. In the outer islands of Ulithi we had access to a rock to break open the shell. I looked under the table but I couldn't find a rock anywhere in the high school cafeteria. I gathered my coconut crab and the coconut crabs from other Westerners who also didn't remember to bring their pliers, and took them outside to give to my friends from Mogmog.
After lunch there were demonstrations of traditional activities. One was a fishing demonstration. A sailing canoe was carried to the high school courtyard and a man went through the fishing routine. This was extremely popular with the local onlookers. They laughed hysterically through the whole demonstration. I watched every move but didn't catch the funny parts.
The Outer Island High School graduation was another great Falalap event. This was the only high school in the area so the students came from all surrounding islands. Two or three U.S. Navy captains and the Yap governor flew in to participate every year.
The activities mirrored the Culture Day celebrations but included the graduation ceremony. The graduates all dressed in their traditional island dress, lava lava for the women and a thu for the men. They marched two by two, all the women first then all the men. They had beautiful flower leis around their necks and murmurs on their heads.
After the speeches the graduates lined up in a long row. All the people on Ulithi, which included many from other islands as well, walked past the graduates, shaking hands and giving their close relative graduates another lei. By the end, some graduates had so many leis that they looked like a big flower with two eyes in the middle.
Culture Day 1996
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