THE heat is on as daring contestants take their places and wait for the go signal to chew a hundred pieces of red hot peppers in one minute. At the go signal, the contestants start to chew the peppers one by one while judges keep count. The first three to finish their peppers are declared winners.
These tiny red and fiery peppers pack a mighty punch and you can see that in the faces of the contestants as they chew the peppers.
Last weekend, the organizers changed the format of the contest and instead of chewing the peppers directly, they were made to eat a cup of noodles laced with hot peppers.
For the past 11 years, the hot pepper eating contest has placed Tinian on the map and continued to entice more visitors from other countries to participate, and bring home bottles of Tinian’s hot peppers.
Held during the second weekend of February each year, Tinian’s annual Pika or Hot Pepper Festival has been celebrated in honor of the Doni Sali or Tinian’s wild peppers that grow abundantly in the jungles. Doni in Chamorro means pepper and Sali means bird. It is believed these birds eat wild peppers and disperses the seeds all over the island.
The hot pepper eating contest is just one of the highlights but there are other activities during the two-day festival like katdon pika cooking contest where contestants include pepper as one of the main ingredients in their dish; the umang or hermit crab race, dragon boat race, booth decorating competition and other parlor games that lure more people to the festivities.
Booths sell food and drinks as well as indigenous crafts and Tinian hot peppers. The next time you visit Tinian, try to make it in February when everything just gets hotter with the Pika Festival.