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AVARUA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News/PINA Nius Online) - Miss Samoa's chaperone, Moliei Vaai, summed up the views of participants preparing for the Miss South Pacific contest in Rarotonga this weekend: This is no holiday. But it's a great experience. And Rarotonga is nice.

Miss Samoa, Anita Jamieson, added that she would like to make the most of the opportunities presented through the pageant to learn as much as she can about the different islands and also to promote her country.

Miss Fiji's chaperone, Joe Gray, said the pageant is a real eye opener for him and he feels that the pageant is something that needs to be promoted back in Fiji.

Among the criteria set by the Miss South Pacific Pageant Association, contestants are encouraged to know about both their own culture and that of their neighbors.

Miss Fiji, Shital Ram, said she believes the pageant is a good opportunity to enhance her public relations and public speaking skills.

"I also get to learn more about the different cultures in the Pacific," she said.

Miss Tuvalu, Lilyanne Homasi, said she feels the burden of being the first from her country to join the pageant. But she is very thankful to God who has given her courage to be able to participate.

She would also like to make some friends and to learn the various cultures of the Pacific, and to be a good ambassador for her country.

Miss Hawaii, Mahealani Kamau, said her personal aim is to gain confidence and " poise" during the pageant.

Her chaperone and mother Mitzi Kamau said she was very proud of her daughter. "She is independent and strong, and I am enjoying myself," she said.

Having designed every garment she is wearing for the pageant, Miss Tonga, Phillis Tohi, hopes to be recognized by the fashion industry.

Miss Tonga's chaperone, Joey Mataele, said: "It's a very exhausting job, but the Rarotongan hospitality and the organizers have made it enjoyable."

Miss Cook Islands, Donna Tuara, is proud and excited to be representing the Cook Islands as the host country.

"The pageant will hold special memories for me, this would never have been possible without the support I have," said Ms Tuara. "The girls are very friendly, easy-going and understanding."

The reigning Miss South Pacific, Miss Samoa Manamea Apelu, shared her experience of wearing the crown, and feels that Pacific Islands women are just as progressive as women from other regions.

"I am proud to be a Pacific island woman today," she said.

The official Miss South Pacific pageant float parade is due to get underway today after being postponed due to heavy rain which dogged Rarotonga for most of yesterday.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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