Inspirational story of how one man beat cancer highlights how his diagnosis brought him closer to God

On Saturday, March 30, more than 1,400 guests gathered in the Felix Event Center to witness the Pacific Islander Organization’s (PIO) 32nd annual Lū’au, one of the largest turnouts in the organization’s history.

A record of 160 students volunteered to showcase traditional island dances in a set-list composed of 17 uniquely inspiring pieces.

Each year the Lū’au is centered around a specific theme about island culture which is then incorporated into different cultural dances. However, the purpose of the event lies deeper than this; it is a means of praising God for giving PIO members the the ability to dance and a platform to share their culture with others.

This year’s theme was centered around PIO’s Lū’au coordinator, Bailey Hagino, and her family’s struggle through her father’s diagnosis and recovery from pancreatic cancer in December 2017.  

The story was narrated from Hagino’s point of view with brief intermissions of commentary between dances. Each dance represented an aspect of Hagino’s journey throughout the diagnosis and recovery period, offering the audience insight to the emotions she experienced.

At the core of the story was Hagino’s evolving relationship with God. It was hard to believe that God would allow her family to go through such hardship, but Hagino now realizes God was watching over her and her family the entire time. He used this experience to allow them to grow closer to God and those around them.

“I hope that a lot of you took inspiration from this story,” Hagino said. “Just know that when you’re going through dark times and challenges, God is there and He is present. He is working in your life and the people around you. That’s where my family has found their home and I hope that this encourages you to find your home in God as well.”

The Lū’au also incorporated aspects of the creation story into the dances as a way to showcase island culture.

“At the end when [Hagino’s father] gets cured, we talk about how God created light at the very beginning of everything and how that was the purpose for everything that came after that,” said Lalea Miller. “The light really made way for the rest of the world to be created. So we correlated that with how if her dad didn’t get cancer then her family wouldn’t have such a strong relationship with God like they do now. Or they wouldn’t be able to support other families in the way that they do.”

Support and encouragement runs deep in Pacific Islander culture and is at the heart of PIO. The Lū’au gave both native and non-native Pacific Islanders the opportunity to perform in the show, enabling them to honor and represent the organization’s and culture’s traditions.

“Coming from someone who is from Hawai’i and has grown up dancing, it is really honoring to see people embrace the culture and do it in a really excellent way,” said freshman public relations major Maya Richert. “[The students] are taking so much time out of their semester to learn these dances and to perfect them, and it’s just so beautiful to see them embrace something that isn’t theirs and do it with such excellence.”

In typical Lū’au fashion, the powerful performance offered spectators an authentic look into what Islander life and culture is all about.

“What you see tonight is more than just a dance. It is the story-telling of who we are as a people of Polynesia,” said Shon Kihewa, a Lū’au host. “In Polynesia we put things together and we do it as a dance. One thing about it is we do it as a people; it’s never about the individual.”