On a sunny Saturday morning, I made my way to the Ulupo Heiau Historic Site in Kailua. Built by Menehune, the Ulupō Heiau is one of the first sacred māpeles, or agricultural place of refuge, on the Hawaiian islands. During the reign of high chief Kuali‘i, the temple is thought to have been reconstructed as a luakini, or war temple.
Upon arrival, the natural beauty of the place was evident; a lush jungle facing the vivid ocean waters. We began with a welcoming chant, called an Oli Kahea, before being organized into work-groups. Through introductions, it was quick to see that my work-group members were from all over the world; and yet, here we all are working to preserve this precious heiau together.
My work-group was in charge of removing the weeds from the sacred stones. Before working on these sacred grounds, which are normally “off limits” to visitors, we wove fresh leis from Ti leaves as an offering to the Hawaiian gods. Afterwards, we all enjoyed lunch together, where we socialized and exchanged contacts. Our day’s adventure of preservation ended with a bus ride home, overlooking scenic greenery.