Friday, February 4, 2022
For as long as I can remember, Tinian has been known as the hot pepper island where the hottest donne’ Sali grows. Donne’ means “hot pepper", and Sali refers to a local blackbird that feeds on the tiny hot peppers. Off-island visitors who have tried Tinian’s donne’ Sali would come back for more or request it from Tinian residents and businesses. As a result, Tinian has been known as the donne’ island, making the Tinian Hot Pepper Festival, or Pika Fest, our biggest annual celebration. Pika Fest will take place on February 19-20 at the Fiesta Grounds in San Jose.
It’s fitting that Pika Fest pays homage to the very small but potent donne’ Sali, which is indigenous to Tinian. Stories passed down from generations state that the hot pepper is hotter than others because the Sali bird eats and expels the seeds that grow the pepper plants.
For those who have not experienced Pika Fest in person, we invite you to join us this year for an unforgettable weekend. The festival features a wide variety of international and local cuisine enhanced by donne’ Sali. We host many fun competitions, such as the kadun pika cooking challenge, Cha-Cha dancing, burger eating, tug-of-war, crab (umang) race, canoe race, sack race, the Pika bike race, a fishing derby, and the crowd’s favorite, the hot pepper eating contest. The Marianas’ best entertainers will perform all weekend long. Local artisans will be showcasing their arts and crafts, and food vendors will be selling all sorts of spicy and sweet treats.
Though much has changed in the past two years, I look forward to welcoming back off-island guests. It brings me great joy to see them enjoying everything Tinian has to offer so they can spread the word about our warm Tinian hospitality. Let’s work together this year to make our villages and schools safer for our children. I also look forward to the boost in our local economy.
Each year, Pika Fest serves as the kickoff event for Marianas Visitors Authority’s signature events, which motivates us to improve each year. We work hard to ensure our decorations are beautifully displayed, our vendor booths are in good shape, and our guests feel welcome and comfortable during the festivities. We also add new activities each year to keep Pika Fest exciting for all.
We are working closely with the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers (GCEA) to do our part in transforming the Marianas into a world-class destination. My staff has been working diligently to revamp and enhance some of our most visited tourist sites, maintain our public parks and facilities, and add amenities to existing sites. There's a lot to be done, but we know this will benefit our people.
Our first project was to improve one of the famous beaches on the island, Taga Beach. It is one of the most photographed sites on the island, and we decided to build a sign that would stand out and improve the beach-side photo experience.
We are excited about working with the Council to further strengthen Tinian’s role in the Marianas Multi-Island Destination experience through Public Private Partnership (PPP) program. We held our first PPP project with GCEA at the Housing Basketball Court last summer, and it was a huge success. Community members and leaders worked together to revitalize the court, and the children were able to enjoy the improved court immediately afterward.
The Tinian Elementary School Youth Advisory Panel was the first school to join the Marianas Village Pride (MVP) campaign and committed to adopting the sidewalks across from the campus. They will paint and maintain the sidewalks to make them safer for students. It is exciting to see these young kids taking ownership of our community. I highly encourage more schools to participate in the upcoming Bus Stop Decorating contest and adopt medians and sidewalks around their schools.
The positive COVID-19 cases may have delayed our MVP projects, but we are ready to move forward to make more improvements throughout the island. After the two devastating typhoons, our schools are still trying to recover. We still need to clear debris, fix broken buildings, and take care of other maintenance issues. The MVP Campaign is the first step to inspiring change in attitude and empowering each other to make our islands better places to live now and for future generations to come.
For more information, visit the GCEA at cnmieconomy.com, on Facebook and Instagram (@cnmigov.economy), or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Hon. Mayor Edwin Aldan
Hon. Mayor Edwin Aldan is the 14th Mayor for the island of Tinian and Aguiguan. He has served the Marianas for several years as a police officer, a congressman, and a member of the Tinian Municipal Council. As the Mayor of Tinian, he is committed to leading the mission to foster safety, cleanliness, and equal opportunity for all residents.