Papa Jake Numanga receives a gift from Associate Tourism Minister Tingika Elikana during the Pacific Sustainable Tourism Leadership Summit finale at Tamarind Restaurant on Thursday evening. Picture: MANINE LYNCH (Cook Islands Tourism)/22110428
Cook Islands Tourism chief Karla Eggelton has shared heartfelt words with other Pacific leaders as a week of meetings has come to an end on Rarotonga.
Eggelton spoke candidly, taking the time to highlight
“an icon here in the Cook Islands”, as she closed the Pacific Sustainable
Tourism Leadership Summit in Rarotonga on Thursday.
“Finally, we come to one more important part of the
“Earlier our Minister (Associate Minister for Tourism
for the Cook Islands Tingika Elikana) highlighted our people being the heart of
our little paradise.
“At this juncture, I would like to acknowledge one
such individual, who is an icon here in the Cook Islands.
“Those of you who have visited our country before will
have been greeted by the gentle strums of his ukulele and his smooth, welcoming
“I am speaking of course, of no other than our Papa
Jake Numanga. Te Tane Toa Kamaatu o te Mato Manava Turoto o te Ipukarea; a man
who is specialised in his skill and wise in his craft as an artist, musician
Papa Jake began singing from an early age with his
late father, Tiakana Numanga, his mother, the late Mama Titi Numanga and his
uncle, the late Apenera Short, Eggelton said.
“He went on to win prestigious awards such as the
Queen Elizabeth Award for his talent in composing songs.
“This also included winning numerous talent quests
back in the early 50s.
“It was these events that sparked the monumental
journey for Papa Jake in his career as a musician.
“One such prime example was when he was personally
invited by the president of Nauru to follow a contingency of delegates led by
the late Papa Cookie Sadaraka to sing at a significant conference held in
Papa Jake sang in an era where the Cook Islands,
namely Rarotonga was just in its infancy stages of tourism, she said.
“Papa Jake sang at establishments such as the Maruaiai,
now known as the Paradise Inn, the former Trailways, now known as Club Raro and
the Rarotongan Resort at Brady’s Restaurant frequented by the elite due to its
fine dining nature, with Garth Young and our former prime minister Henry Puna.
“His voice has serenaded many prominent tourism
establishments and more recently the gateway into the Cook Islands, our Cook
Islands International Airport.”
Eggelton said Papa Jake started singing at the airport
in 1986 which was a “pivotal time for the Cook Islands because this is when the
Cook Islands took ownership of the airport which was formerly run by the NZ
Ministry of Transport”.
“It was in this year that we transitioned to the Cook
Islands Airport Authority as we now know it.
“Our aspirational Minister of Aviation as the time,
Robert Woonton wanted to differentiate our entry into the Cook Islands from the
rest of the Pacific Islands, which gave birth to the idea of Cook Islands
entertainment at the airport.
“Papa Jake was already known for his musical abilities,
and at the time worked as a fireman at the airport, so it was only natural for
him to take on the steward as entertainer for our Manuiri or guests arriving
into our shores.”
Eggelton said she was deeply honoured to announce that
Rarotonga was the first island in the Pacific who started a trend of airport
entertainment, “that we see transcend beyond our shores to our neighbouring
“Papa Jake has been entertaining our visitors for over
four decades, he’s served as the truest portrayal and personification of our
Kia Orana spirit.
“He truly embodies Kia Orana which is summed up by his
words, ‘I sing to make people happy’.
“By blessing people to live a long and fulfilling
life, his life has been to serve and that in itself has been fulfilling as he’s
made countless people happy.”
She then asked about 70 gathered guests to stand and
join her in honouring Papa Jake.