President Hinckley later said: “The marvelous thing is that this place is unique in all the world. We don’t have anyplace else what we have in Laie, where we have the beautiful temple, which is the crown jewel of this complex, and this magnificent school (BYU-Hawaii) and this wonderful facility, the Polynesian Cultural Center, dedicated to the preservation of the native arts and crafts of the peoples of the Pacific. I repeat, it’s unique in all the world. This is the only place in the world where we have this kind of triad.”
Memories and blessings
Hunkin started out as a PCC tour guide in the early 1990s. She served an LDS mission and returned to work there until she graduated in 1998.
“It was such a learning experience,” she said.
Like Hunkin, many others have worked at the PCC while gaining an education at BYU-Hawaii. William Tenney started as a dancer before moving up to assistant stage manager in the mid- to late 1980s. After serving an LDS mission, he became a group manager and director. It’s also how he met his wife, Mechelle, who was also a dancer.
“She was from New Zealand and I was from Samoa,” Tenney said. “We traveled to China and South Korea. Those are some of my great memories. It was a great experience.”
Tenney said the lessons he learned while working at the center have remained with him.
“The PCC has taught me to love, appreciate and respect the other cultures of the Pacific,” he said. “It’s also strengthened my knowledge that we are all sons and daughters of God, and we should have brotherly love.”
Another alum, Sina Suesue, was a front gate greeter and later a dancer in the 1980s. She appreciated the pre-performance devotionals and spiritual atmosphere and will never forget the night they danced for President Spencer W. Kimball, president of the LDS Church at that time.
“It was always the best show. The supervisors would tell us, 'The prophet is here; put on your best,'” she said. “It was different. There was a spiritual feeling there as much as it was entertainment. He later thanked us and said, ‘What a beautiful sight you are.’”
Suesue said work at the PCC was never actually work.
“For those of us who were there, we were all close friends. When we have reunions, it’s great to remember the memories and good feelings. The friendships are everlasting,” she said. “I’m looking forward to sitting down and having an all-nighter to reminisce on the good times.”
Long before becoming chief operating officer at the PCC, Logo Apelu was a dishwasher at the center in the 1970s.
“I was excited to have my first job. It was very rewarding,” Apelu said. “I learned so much from that job, especially hard work and organizational skills.”
From that first job Apelu climbed the ladder up to vice president of operations before he was named the chief officer last spring.
He is excited to celebrate the golden anniversary because the PCC has impacted so many lives.
“The center has blessed the lives of a lot of students all over the world, especially from the Pacific, to prepare themselves mentally, physically and spiritually to become leaders. The center has assisted all of us to financially gain our education. To be part of the celebration is amazing.”
When the celebration begins, Hunkin hopes the whole church will appreciate it, not just the alumni.
“It’s a great time for alumni. It’s a time to be together and celebrate our experiences in helping to build the kingdom,” she said. “But it’s also for the whole church to celebrate. The missionary work that goes on in that little town is amazing. The spirit at the PCC is a symbol that the Lord knows his children and he has his own strategies for doing missionary work. I hope that perspective is also celebrated. It will be a great occasion.”
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