LAHAINA - The 175th birthday of the "Merrie Monarch," King Kalakaua, who spent the first four years of his life in Lahaina and was the first king of any nation to circle the globe, will be commemorated in an all-day celebration and luau on Nov. 12 at Waiola Church on Wainee Street.
This event, the Lahaina Royal Ho'ike 2011, will be staged by the Lahaina Royal Hawaiian Guard, the two-year-old ceremonial group with its own story to tell.
It was the "Merrie Monarch" who made Hawaii the most connected country in the world in the 19th century and who we can forever be grateful to as the reviver of hula, banned years before by Queen Ka'ahumanu after her conversion to Christianity.
Royal Hawaiian Guard founder Paulo Faleafine with the Hawaiian flag. Photo by Sara Foley.
The king would have made today's globetrotting diplomats proud. On world-circling trips, he sailed to three continents and visited the president of the U.S., Queen Victoria of England, the Pope in Italy and the Viceroy of Egypt. He made stops in Spain, Portugal, the German states, China and Japan.
Maui's Hawaiian guard hasn't been off-island, but it, too, is making its mark.
Founder Paulo Faleafine is part Samoan and has no Hawaiian blood. Yet he formed the guard because "it was just a matter of being born in the islands. The history of the culture captivated me," he said. The guard unit was a way to learn the culture and bring it to others.
In Honolulu, Faleafine had been a member of the King's Guard, a crack champion drill team. Moving to Maui, Paulo began coaching ROTC at Baldwin High School and later was inspired to form a Maui-based guard patterned after those that protected the Hawaiian Kingdom, as well as the sumptuous Iolani Palace that the Merrie Monarch built.
The guard has formed an alliance with Waiola Church, one of Maui's most visible historic sites connected with the monarchy, to protect and provide upkeep for its graveyard, the island's first Christian cemetery that opened in 1823.
Decked out in black trousers symbolizing being grounded on the earth, bright white coats carrying a coat of arms and distinctive black helmets similar to what warriors once wore, the guard conducts a ceremonial Hawaiian flag raising at 9 a.m. each Sunday morning before church.
Ceremonial appearances of the guard over the last year include opening Mayor Alan Arakawa's 60th birthday party, a political rally for former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and the September business fest sponsored by the Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce.
The guard's dozen or so members age 18 to 52 take six weeks of drill training and are encouraged to study and learn the culture. Anyone with an interest in the culture can join.
What better way to connect with old Hawaii than protecting the tomb of Queen Keopuolani, Kamehameha the Great's first wife who birthed Kamehameha II and III: Ulumahaihei Hoapili, one of Kamehameha's most respected advisors who was charged with the honor scattering his bones after his death; Princess Nahi'ena'ena; a former King of Kauai who insisted upon being buried alongside the Queen Mother; and Rev. William Richards, Lahaina's first missionary?
For more information on the festival or joining the guard, visit www.royalhawaiianguard.com or call Faleafine at (808) 250-9196.
Columnist's Notebook: For fans of Voices of Maui, my new blog with daily commentary on things Maui and the world is here. Go to voicesofmaui.com.