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    Monday, October 14, 2019-2:10:22P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Tony Piailug is NMI’s first master navigator

THE first recorded Pwo ceremony on Saipan ended on Wednesday morning with Antonio “Tony” Piailug elevated to the rank of master navigator.

Piailug is the first CNMI resident to be bestowed with that title.

Tony Piailug

“By the authority vested in us as grandmaster navigators, we now bestow the title of master navigator upon Antonio Piailug,” grandmaster navigator Ali Haleyalur said during a completion ceremony at the Susupe canoe house.

Haleyalur placed a “rowpai,” a bracelet made of coconut leaf, on Piailug’s right wrist symbolizing his completion of the master navigator rituals, which were conducted from Saturday to Tuesday.

During the Pwo ceremony conducted by two grandmaster navigators, Haleyalur and Sesario Sewralur, Piailug was supposed to remain in the canoe house for four days while undergoing the ritual.

However, he and the other traditional navigators, including students from Guam, moved to the Office on Aging on Monday afternoon as Typhoon Hagibis approached Saipan.

The Office on Aging provided an area for them to continue their ritual.

Evelyn David, Office on Aging administrative officer, said the area where the Pwo ceremony was held was “off limits.”

Piailug has been a traditional sailor for 40 years now. His teachers were his late father, the famous grandmaster navigator Pius “Mau” Piailug, and his brother Sewralur. Tony Piailug said he started sailing with them since he was a young boy.

He said he never considered or called himself a navigator “because I had not gone through the Pwo ceremony yet.”

Now that he is a master navigator, he said he has a bigger responsibility, especially to his crew. “You have to make sure that you take care of your people and your boat while in the open water,” he added.

Tony Piailug is currently managing the Seafaring Tradition Program of the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs.

He said their current mission is to build a traditional Chamorro canoe that will sail in 2020 to Hawaii, the host of the Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture.