PALAUANS ON GUAM TO CELEBRATE INDEPENDENCE

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By Oyaol Ngirairikl

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Sept. 30) – Tomorrow there'll be a little bit of Palau at Paseo, Guam.

The Palauan Community Association is celebrating the Republic of Palau's 11th year of independence on Saturday, and leaders of the local Palauan community are inviting all Palauans to enjoy some fun and food.

Ted Iyechad, president of the Palauan Community Association, said the Independence Day celebration will be a good time for Palauans who have made their home on Guam to get together and celebrate their heritage and the progress the island nation has made since European whalers first landed on its shores.

Palau has a constitutional government in free association with the United States, formalized with an agreement called the Compact of Free Association. The western Pacific island and the world power entered into the compact on Oct. 1, 1994, marking Palau's independence.

Last November, Palauans around the world celebrated another huge step when Palauan voters approved dual citizenship. This year, Palau's government established and finalized the process that Palauans born as U.S. citizens would be allowed to gain Palauan citizenship.

That's something worth celebrating, Iyechad said.

"It's an historical event ... Palauans born outside of Palau are now able to gain dual citizenship for the first time," Iyechad said.

Iyechad said it's also important for Palauans on Guam to come together so they can learn what is happening in their homeland.

"We remain one of the smallest nations with a seat in the United Nations -- as a voting member. In the democratic world, Palauans have a voice. And joining together in community events like this will help keep the voice unified," Iyechad said.

For Shirley Olkeriil, 34, a Sinajana resident and first-generation Palauan-American, events like the annual Palauan Independence Day celebration are opportunities to get back to her roots.

"I like to talk to the elders and hear the stories of families and the past, and learn of all the familial connections," Olkeriil said.

The Sinajana mother said the celebrations also allow her to expose her son to Palauan culture while living on Guam.

Olkeriil added that she'd like to see an information booth at this Saturday's celebration on dual citizenship, which will allow her and her son to retain their U.S. citizenship and become Palauan citizens.

"Palauan citizenship is a birthright and it's something I want to share with my son," Olkeriil said.

Vic April, Palau consulate, said participants certainly will gain a lot from the celebration.

"There's going to be a food competition," April said. "It's supposed to be just a contest, but I think what's going to happen -- because people are getting all excited -- is people from different villages are making the dishes that are traditional to their islands."

Palauan students attending the University of Guam also are in charge of games.

"We wanted to be sure we had something for everyone," April said.

September 30, 2005

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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