From there, I'iga's life takes on a Rambo-like turn because when Saipan fell into Japanese hands, the Samoans hatched an escape plan. They carved out a paopao (canoe) and I'iga was chosen to paddle the 124 miles (200 km) from Saipan to Guam.
|The islands that I'iga navigated:|
124 miles (200 km)
Along the way, he was pursued by Japanese troops but he hid in the Aguijan Islands until he could continue his journey. Then I'iga crashed into Rota Island, quite literally, and suffered numerous injuries from his landing. He was nursed back to health by the locals, who also hid him from the Japanese authorities, and as soon as he could, I'iga set out again to complete his mission.
I'iga successfully reached Guam and it is rumoured that a German cartographer called the strait between Rota and Guam 'I'iga's Pass' or 'I'iga's Strait' because of the magnificent feat that our countryman achieved. But I haven't seen any evidence of this (yes, I can read German). The only sign that our people were anywhere near Saipan is a bridge called 'Samoa Bridge' which still exists today.
Back to I'iga - he reached Guam and picked up a job working for the US Navy. He brushed up on his English (he had been learning German while in exile) and eventually wound up in Hawai'i. I'iga returned to Samoa to serve in several high-ranking government positions, even contributing to the Constitutional Convention of 1954.
When the Samoan flag was raised on the first day of independence,1 January, 1962, I'iga Pisa was the only one of the exiled matai (chiefs) that attended, for he was the only one that had survived.
And what a survivor he was!
I can't imagine doing half of what this historical great has done, and only hope that one day someone writes the screenplay for I'iga's Spielberg-worthy life.
To celebrate the colourful adventures of this Independence hero, I offer I'iga's Icecream.
2 cans coconut milk
2/3 cup cocoa
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
tiny pinch of salt
Pour all the ingredients into a bowl and whisk together until the sugar has dissolved. Pour into an ice-cream machine or, if you don't have one (I don't), pour the mixture into a large ziplock bag and make the ice-cream Harold McGee's way. The result is a perfectly luscious, smooth, cool treat.
Serve with fruit salad.