See the Light

Waikiki Magazine - - ILOVE WAIKIKI -

For­mer Sec­re­tary of State and First Lady and U.S. Se­na­tor Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton likely wasn’t the first celebrity in Waikiki to be bowled over by the re­gion’s iconic torch light­ing cer­e­mony.

A video of a half-clothed Hil­ton Hawai­ian Vil­lage torch­bearer named Ch­ester Centino whizzing past the heav­ily pro­tected Clin­ton at the 2011 Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion quickly went viral. To date, the video of Clin­ton laugh­ing in delight as her first glimpse of Centino bright­en­ing her po­lit­i­cal ap­pear­ance has drawn nearly one mil­lion views.

While Clin­ton was caught off-guard by the young torch lighter per­form­ing his nightly du­ties, the cer­e­mony ac­tu­ally has deep his­toric roots in Waikiki, which was in­hab­ited by an­cient set­tlers around 600 A.D. and even­tu­ally be­came the home and play­ground of Hawai­ian Roy­alty and other celebri­ties like fa­mous surfer and Olympic swim­mer Duke Ka­hanamoku.

While the bright­est lights in Waikiki today come from the mega ho­tels that line the cres­cent beach, there was a time, ac­tu­ally not that long ago, when torch light cast the widest glow. Today’s sun­set torch light­ing cer­e­monies, which can be found at the Kuhio Beach Hula Mound and var­i­ous re­tail cen­ters and ho­tels up and down the strip, re­cap­ture the magic of Waikiki’s early days and the ro­mance of a sim­pler time made all the more beau­ti­ful by the am­bi­ent flare.

“The torch light­ing is re­ally im­por­tant to us be­cause of its cul­tural and tra­di­tional his­tory. In the old days, it was used to light the way and paths be­tween the houses when they would walk be­tween the vil­lages and dis­tricts,” says Jerry Gib­son, area vice pres­i­dent of Hil­ton Hawaii. “Today, we do it as a con­tin­u­a­tion of what the an­ces­tors used to do.”

Hil­ton is so com­mit­ted to shin­ing a light on this his­toric con­nec­tion to old Waikiki that over the past three decades it has ex­panded the num­ber of torches that it lights to 150, which sur­round the en­tire re­sort, which is bordered by Kalia Road, Paoa Place, Duke Ka­hanamoku La­goon and Ka­hanamoku Street. Gib­son says the re­sort also re­cently added 17 fire bowls, which will il­lu­mi­nate its main Rain­bow Drive thor­ough­fare.

“Come dusk, it’s go­ing to be even more dramatic here,” Gib­son says. “We think this will re­ally in­grain a sense of place, which is re­ally im­por­tant to us. We want to do the right thing for the cul­ture and the peo­ple.”

While most of the ho­tel and re­tail torch light­ing cer­e­monies are eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble to the pub­lic, the Kuhio Beach

Photo: cour­tesy hil­ton hawai­ian vil­lage

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