By ROSELYN ELLISON
RABAUL town in East New Britain once again came alive like Tavurvur Volcano with the 2019 Frangipani Festival last month.
The festival theme was Rabaul-Come Holiday.
The event started on Friday, Sept 13, with the people in Rabaul district commemorating Papua New Guinea’s 44 years of Independence.
The event went on for three days with more than 800 students from various elementary, primary, high and secondary schools in Rabaul district.
The students came in their school colours and the streets of Rabaul town were once again alight with the lovely students carrying flags representing all the provinces of Papua New Guinea.
With the drum master leading the way, the band led the march past from the Check Point to the Rabaul Yacht Club foreshore.
Other interesting events included the “2-Stone Kanu Race”. Both men and women participated in the 7km race around the Beehives and back to the crowd on the foreshore of the magnificent Simpsons Harbour.
The beach front was already filled with people early in the morning as they wanted to watch the canoe race.
Female competitors started the race and as they battled for the winner’s trophy, a beach party featuring unique Tolai traditional dancing also entertained the crowds.
Talvat community were the champions of the canoe race, winning in both male and female divisions.
After the canoe race, a special programme for schools started with a total of 30 schools in Rabaul district participating. The town was beautifully coloured with white, black, red and gold as independence fever crept in.
School children were all dressed in their colourful attires as they marched along with the beating of their drums to Rabaul Yacht Club foreshore where the flag raising and national anthem ceremony took place.
The school programme continued as student representatives from each school took part in the public speaking and rap text competition.
During the day students performed cultural dances as well as in contemporary entertainment, sports and fun games.
People flooded the streets just to witness one of the significiant annual events in the province, ENB Frangipani Festival.
It was also a celebration of Independence which included all schools in the district followed by the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the twin volcanic eruption in 1994.
The fire eaters from New Ireland were the highlight of the first day.
On Sept 14 the Matupit Island cultural group performed the kinavai ceremony.
People gathered between 3am and 4am on the Rabaul foreshore at the Montevideo Maru Memorial.
The actual kinavai kicked off at 4am with the two tumbuans from the Matupit Island performing cultural dances on the beach front.
The ceremony ended at 8am with people giving tabu (Tolai traditional money) to the two tumbuans as a sign of appreciation for being the part of the ceremony as wells as being involved in the Frangipani Festival.
At 10am the streets of Rabaul once again came alive with bright colours as the popular annual float parade made its ways through town.
More than 200 cars and trucks representing different business houses and institutions were decorated to showcase their business and to promote the event’s theme of Rabaul-Come Holiday.
The float presentation took place at Malaguna Technical Secondary School oval as all the business houses and institutions who participated in the float parade assembled to witness it.
While waiting for the announcement of the winning floats, local live bands from Rabaul area like the ever-popular Barike got on the stage and belted out some of their hits.
PNG Power Ltd won the best overall float award while the most entertaining float was from the ENB Development Corporation, the best corporate float was by Coconut Products Limited (CPL) and Rabaul Metal Industry (RMI) won the prize for the best group float.
Cash prizes were donated by Barlow Industries to the float winners.
Frangipani Festival chairlady Susan McGrade said Rabaul’s future was bright and the township was very much worth visiting.
McGrade said the Rabaul Historical Society who volunteered to manage the festival hoped to make Rabaul not only inviting to international visitors, but also to the PNG domestic market.
“We hope the Frangipani Festival will stir some imagination for the use of natural eco-decorations to give the public an amazing display of cultural creativity in the hope of encouraging more visitors to beautiful ENB,” said McGrade.
She said that the annual Frangipani Festival brought the communities of ENB together to enjoy the rich cultures of the region.
During the evening of Sept 14 a spectacular engini or famous Baining fire dance performance took place where dancers walked bare foot over live embers and enthralled the crowd.
Sunday, Sept 15 was the final of the three-day event with Holy Mass at the St Francis Xavier Cathedral to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Vulcan eruption.
The Mass service was in memory of all those who lost their lives 81 years ago in the 1937 Vulcan Eruption.
The 2019 ENB Frangipani Festival was only made a success due to the valued support and assistance from business houses, ENB administration and individuals.
On behalf of the Rabaul Historical Society and Frangipani Committee members McGrade thanked the following sponsors for their financial and kind support:
Haus Mit, Pacific Industries, ENBDC Group of Companies, Rabaul District Administration, National Gaming Control Board, Digicle PNG, SP Brewery, Barlow Industries, Rabaul Metal Industry, Credit Corporation, Bank of South Pacific, PNG Ports Corporation, John J Seeto, Western Pacific Insurance, Trukai Industries, ENB Tourism Authority, Beehives Discovery Tours, Spirit of Kokopo, Rabaul Discovery & Eco Tours, Miss Frangipani ENB, Ithro Technologies, Rabaul Hotel, Moore printing, PNG stationary, Rabaul Yacht Club, Vanmak Shipping, Malaguna Secondary School, Soho , Rabaul Disaster Boat, Mathew Cohen, Kapai & Aumie Cholai, Rabaul Police Station, Rabaul Urban Local Level Government all Rabaul District schools and Gazelle MP Jelta Wong.
At the three day festival The National was privileged to meet up with one of the survivors of the 1937 Vulcan eruption.
Norma Dewick flew in from Manly in Sydney, Australia. She was four when the Vulcan erupted. She is now 87 years old.
When giving her brief life story to me she said she was born on Dec 7, 1932 in Manly, Sydney.
When asked how many times she has visited Rabaul, she said she visited three times on a cruise ship.
Dewick said last October she visited Rabaul again and stayed for a while as she was spending her holiday there.
“For this year I flew all the way from Australia to Port Moresby and to Rabaul because I wanted to witness the Frangipani Festival and also I wanted to be part of the silver anniversary (1994 -2019) and the important event is the commemoration of the 1937 Vulcan Eruption.”
Dewick further explained that she was accompanied by her son Ian Dewick to witness a most memorable local community festival.
She could not remember the exact date of the Vulcan eruption because she was very young at that time.
After the eruption Dewick and her family remained at Vunapope. Her family members included her father, mother and elder sister Jean who is three years older than her.
Dewick shared her memories saying Rabaul was like a home to her and when visiting the town again it was something most memorable to her.
She described Rabaul and East New Britain people generally as very peace-loving.
“Everywhere you go around Rabaul you will see beautiful smiles on the faces of individuals as you come across them.
“That is one very unique thing about East New Britain people.
“Our dad was a butcher and we lived at Toboi in Rabaul. We stayed in Rabaul for another five years after the eruption before moving to Australia,” Dewick recalled.
Before the 1994 twin volcano eruption, Rabaul was once described by people from around the country as the Pearl of the Pacific.
Rabaul is now the port city and gateway to ENB’s prosperity, hosting some 18 cruise ships a year and many hundreds of merchant ships bringing in imports and taking our valued exports such as balsa, copra, cocoa and palm oil to destinations around the world, making Rabaul the third largest port in PNG.
Rabaul has of the best deep water and protected harbours in the world and that was why a garrison of 1,400 troops from the 2nd/22 battalion in Victoria was sent to defend Australia’s and other nations’ interests when war came in 1942.
Here are a few highlights of the natural and colonial history of ENB:
- 1878 – Under sea eruption formed Hick’s Island
- After a 59-year interval Hick’s Island blew up an d formed Vulcan in 1937.
- 1910 – Rabaul became the capital of German New Guinea
- 1975 – Independence came to PNG
- 1994 -Twin eruption of Vulcan, Tavurvur and Balanakaia.
When German New Guinea’s second Governor Dr Albert Hahl bought 150 hectares of land in Rabaul using 750 German marks, he brought in some of the best skilled artisans and engineers to help him design and build a town that would become the envy of the Pacific.
Streets were formed around the main harbour in a perfect east to west and north to south town plan.
Following on from Germany’s loss in WW1, New Guinea was managed by Australia and more improvements were made and infrastructure built for the development of Rabaul.
It was one of the most sought-after postings by expatriates who enjoyed the beautiful beaches, clubs, cinemas, shops and local culture.
Rabaul really was the envy of the Pacific!