Community honors Aunty Adelaide Sylva at 100th birthday celebration
LAHAINA – Aunty Adelaide (Addie) Kaiwi Kuamu Sylva celebrated her 100th birthday under the Banyan Tree in Lahaina on Oct. 26 in style.
Family and friends gathered together from near and far to join the festivities of the 100 percent Hawaiian kupuna born in Olowalu on Oct. 28, 1914.
Opening ceremonies were offered by cultural protocol specialists Sam Ka’ai and Makalapua Kanuha. Kanuha also served as event emcee.
Grammy Award-winning recording artists George Kahumoku Jr. and Richard Ho’opi’i provided the slack key and leo ki’eki’e (falsetto) entertainment, respectively.
Kahumoku described the occasion.
“Aunty Addie’s birthday was a blessed day of aloha, sharing, celebration and fellowship. In the olden days, we would call this rite of passage ‘Pa’a Aina’ or at one ‘Pa’a with the Land.’ This ‘Pa’a Aina’ or ‘Pa’ina Celebration’ lived up to its name and meaning. Her birthday was like going to church under the Banyan Tree.
“We celebrate our kupuna, as they are closest to our spiritual ancestors and to God, who will be joining our spiritual ancestors soon. Aunty Addie and our kupuna carry the wisdom, blueprint, alanui or pathway and DNA of our Hawaiian culture. We owe them the highest respect and regard,” a reverent Kahumoku added.
Na Kupuna O Maui hosted the commemoration. Spokesperson Aunty Patty Nishiyama recognized County Councilman Mike White, the general manager at Kaanapali Beach Hotel.
“He donated the mea’ai (food),” she said. “We are very grateful.”
“The senior citizens of Lahaina danced in her honor, and Tommy and Noe Akima sang the happy birthday song,” she commented.
“The mayor (Alan Arakawa) and his West Maui executive assistant, Zeke Kalua, were also on hand to present her with a proclamation of honor from the County of Maui,” she added.
Perhaps the most telling testimony, however, was offered by e-mail from Kahu Hailama Farden, vice principal of Kamehameha Schools Kapalama, and it was read under the tree on Oct. 26.
Farden, a member of the renowned Lahaina Farden family, is also related to the hulu kupuna; Sylva is his aunt.
“Aunty Addie was named after Adelaide Fernandez, sister of E.K Fernandez,” Kahu Farden said.
“Aunty Addie,” Farden continued, “was raised (in the true Hawaiian fashion of hanai) to her mother’s parents in Lahaina on the same piece of property on which she lived since she was a young girl.”
She married Frank Ho’oululahui Sylva on March 20, 1937. They had three children, seven grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren.
He passed away in 2007 at 96 years old after 70 years of marriage.
“Aunty’s first language was Hawaiian,” Farden advised.
She is the oldest known poi maker in Hawaii and the last known native speaker of the Hawaiian language from Olowalu, Farden added.
He described one of her unique talents.
“Her significant accomplishment is her preservation of her Hawaiian style of food preparation. Aunty Addie is well-known for her expertise in poi making (beginning from boiling the taro corm to the final product of serving the poi).
“Aunty has given lectures over the past ten years in Honolulu, Kona and Maui on various Hawaiian food preparations. The significant difference of Aunty’s food preparation, compared to that of modern-day Hawaiian food shops, is Aunty’s excellence in preparing the less common Hawaiian foods.
“Not too many actually pound taro in the way her grandfather taught them some 90 years ago,” Farden explained. “Aunty specializes in poi made not only of taro, but of ‘ulu (breadfruit – a common medium for poi in Lahaina in the early days) and has even made poi from pumpkin.”
Farden presented a resolution for adoption at the 55th annual convention of the Hawaiian Civic Clubs, coincidentally slated on her birthday (Oct. 28).
The “whereas-es” are noteworthy and impressive.
“Aunty Addie joined the Lahaina Hawaiian Civic Club nearly 55 years ago and is currently the longest serving member of the Maui Council of Hawaiian Civic Clubs.”
She is also a life member of Kuini Pi’olani Hawaiian Civic Club and the ‘Ahahui ‘Olelo Hawai’i.
In 2009, the centenarian was honored by the Maui Council of Hawaiian Civic Clubs with its Kupa Maka’ainana Award, and she received the highest honor of the ‘Aha Hipu’u (Union of the Four Hawaiian Royal Societies), the Kalana Ali’i Award, in July.
Further, the proclamation concluded, “BE IT RESOLVED that the members of the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs, at its 55th convention congratulates Aunty Adelaide Kaiwi (Kuamu) Sylva on her 100th birthday and recognizes her as being a keeper of traditions and for her lifetime of knowledge and experience as a Hawaiian Cultural resource.”