By Elpidio R. ESTIOKO
While others consider hula as a dance craze that is revolutionizing not only the state of Hawaii but all over major cities in the US, the Estioko siblings and their cousins believe it is a way of life! Hula is a dance developed in the Hawaiian Islands by original Polynesian settlers that proliferated in major cities in the country, especially in California.
May, 33; Rose (Tweety), 28; (now residing in Hawaii but is on summer break here in California), and Paul, 26; together with their cousin Jane (also a mix martial arts expert) and her daughter Mikayla, 18, are members of the Pleasant Hill/Santa Clara Halau (hula dance group) for seven years now. They religiously practice every week and join annual competitions with renewed enthusiasm every time they perform. And… days prior to every competition, they spend sleepless nights creatively and innovatively making their own costumes making sure they appropriately capture the meanings and symbolism of every dance they perform, whether it be hula kahiko (traditional hula) or hula ‘auana (contemporary or modern hula). They also spend much time in braiding the hair of every female member participating in the dance ensembles/competition. They do it with enthusiasm and deep devotion as if it’s part of their daily life.
Every year, they have their annual retreat (held during the weekend) conducted by their kumu (hula teacher) Marlo Caramat reflecting on hula’s meaning in life, its impact to society and reminiscing established norms and culture the early Polynesians who settled in Hawaii did and is doing. Caramat was trained to dance the hula by various renowned kumu experts in Hawaii many years back doing his early age before putting up his five halaus in the Bay Area (one of them is the Santa Clara group). He is a FilAm originally from Dagupan City and Calasiao, Pangasinan who grew up in Hawaii and moved to San Francisco.
Caramat schools teach hula kahiko comprising older chant-accompanied dances, and hula ‘auana, comprising newer song-accompanied dances. The school is a blend of old and new!
“It’s a family,” Caramat said. “With the group are my mother, my sister, my wife, and three children. I have dancers from Santa Clara Halau who are relatives – the Estiokos – Maryrose, Rose (Tweety), Paul, Jane, and Jane’s daughter Mikayla,” he uttered trying to illustrate his point.
For her part, May, the eldest of the Estioko siblings, said ‘It’s a way of life. We can apply all his teachings and information we get from Kumu Mario in our daily life. All movements in our dance numbers and costumes we make and use have meanings and reflections in our daily life,” she added. “We review all these and learn more during our annual retreat,” she concluded.
Weeks prior to a competition, they spend hours practicing their dance numbers and in between, spending time and effort making their own costumes. They really have to do it and they think it is part of their responsibility to do it. That’s how devoted and committed they are in the program making it part of their responsibility in life, among others.
In fact, they adhere and follow the three Ts in life, i.e. time, treasure, and talent in pursuing their obsession to embrace hula as a way of life. They started dancing the hula during their high school days and are now professionals, but they still religiously dance the hula since it is part of their life already. They always find time to dance, conduct fund raising activities, compete, make their costumes, braid, and keep abreast with the latest in modern hula despite their busy schedules as professionals and contributing members of society.
Last Friday (July 19) and Saturday (July 20), the group competed in the 3-day Sacramento Hula Fete held at the Holiday Inn Downtown Arena. Paul, 26, our youngest, competed in the hula kane (male) division on Friday on the solo hula ‘auana (contemporary hula) on Friday and the solo hula kahiko (traditonal hula) with mele (Na Wai Puna O Kamahi’o Kaho’olawe) on Saturday. He won 1st prize for the two categories. He is Santa Clara Halau’s best male dancer who represented the group during the competition. We and his dance group watched the competition to support him, which we have been doing ever since they joined the group seven years ago. They have solid support from us!
The 3-day hula festival was presented by the Makanaaloha Group and sponsored by Hawaiian Feathers.com and the Makanaaloha Group with part sponsorship by Holiday Inn Downtown Arena and the Maui Republic.
There will be another hula competition next month where my daughter May, will be competing this time with her solo performance. She is also a member of the Santa Clara Halau together with another sibling Rose (Tweety) who settled in Oahu last year, but she is here in California for her summer break. Other members of the group include Paul’s cousin Jane and her daughter Mikayla.
I remember, my wife Delia and I, have to drive them to attend hula practice and dance competitions during those days when they were still young to drive. Now, they have their own cars and drive themselves to attend practice and perform in designated places. We are happy we are part of their evolution and their growth to their way of life via the hula! I know it involved a lot of sacrifice, but we are happy doing it and its worth it!
Hula, indeed, is a way of life!