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Waisen shares Papua New Guinea culture, language, food and agriculture

On right, Phil Waisen holds a yam, a major food crop in Papua New Guinea. On left and center are yam houses, where the crop is stored.

To celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Philip Waisen, UC Cooperative Extension vegetable crops advisor for Riverside and Imperial counties, presented a webinar about his homeland, Papua New Guinea, on May 31.

He shared some of the rich history, culture, language, food and agriculture of the country that encompasses the eastern half of New Guinea. 

Bilum, the woven bags, are made from paper mulberry that is dyed.

The South Pacific island has a population of 10 million people, including about 1,000 tribes that carry on their traditions, he said. Of the 800-plus languages spoken in Papua New Guinea, Waisen speaks three, including Tok Pisin, the main language.

He opened with the Kamano Kafe greeting “kehuo” to say “hello” to one person, “kehi'o” for two people and “kehiho” for three or more people.

Waisen likes to cook kani, or banana, over an open flame to soften the fruit before eating it.

A recording of the webinar is at

Posted on Friday, May 31, 2024 at 1:28 PM

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