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Exclusive Interview: Celebrating Pacific Islander Heritage Month With Hon. Frederica Filipe

Entertainment 06 May 2014   »   by TheWhatItDo


TWID: What kind of work do you do and what motivates in your (job, career,work)?

Hon. Frederica Filipe: I work at the Tongan Prime Minister’s Office. I’ve been employed by the Government of Tonga for almost four years now as Tonga’s Regional Coordinator. I suppose some of the boundaries I’ve had to overcome were people’s perceptions of me and my ability to do the work given to me. Most people didn’t or don’t think I’m capable of doing work to a specific standard because of my family background. This has driven me to try to change the way they think of me in every area in my life, both professionally and personally, when I get the chance. It can become tiring!

TWID: What are some of the challenges, stereotypes, or barriers that you feel you’ve had to overcome in your line of work?

Hon. Frederica Filipe: So another obstacle I’ve had to overcome is giving up. I’ve felt like giving up on many things because of incidents that have happened with people in my life but luckily I always had loved ones who would step in and give me the energy to pick myself up and continue with what I needed to do. They are the people that inspire me.

TWID: Who inspires you?

Hon. Frederica Filipe: My loved ones who are always there for me: the strong women in my family, government, and in society, who don’t know how in awe I am of them. These women are experts in the Tongan culture and language and when I observe the way they conduct themselves when faced with adversity, I’m amazed! When I think I have it bad, I just put myself in their shoes and suddenly I’m telling myself, “Yeah stop whining, Freddie.”

TWID: How do you feel your work contributes to your community? What would you like to do in the near future for your community?

Hon. Frederica Filipe: My work is basically communicating with overseas organizations who provide capacity building workshops, funding, and meetings for individuals in government and the private sector. If there’s a program or meeting I hear about, I contact whoever it might apply to and liaise between them and the people hosting the meeting. I’m also the person to go to if you want to conduct research in Tonga. So that’s how I feel I help the Tongan community; by putting them in touch with opportunities that might help them take the next step forward in their professional career. I enjoy my job! When I don’t hear back from the people I contact here, it’s a little bit disappointing but it’s incredibly rewarding when I do. So in the near future I see myself doing the same things I do now but hopefully more.

TWID: Your culture is a big part of who you are. What is a quote or theme you’ve learned from your heritage that you live by and have implemented in your life?

Hon. Frederica Filipe: There are hundreds of themes from my heritage that I live by. Something new (good and bad) always pops up so I have to adjust my traditional theme for life as things happen. I’ve been thinking of my grandparents often and wonder what they’d think of the choices I’ve made. When I drive passed their graves I remember something they said or did and I try to conduct the way I handle incidents the way they may have liked. An appropriate quote for me at this time could be a Tongan Proverb that says “Hoko pe fau moe fau”; it comes from how when women weave mats they use the same plant fiber throughout the entire mat to continue and finish weaving the mat. Tongans use this proverb when referring to a person who continues the good work left by the predecessors. I’m not saying I’m nearly as good as my grandparents but I’m trying. My grandfather, the late King Tupou IV, was a fair and just ruler with unlimited patience, who loved his people even when they didn’t think he did. My other Grandfather, the late Baron Tuita, was a very stern man who was incredibly strong with very little patience for just about everyone except us grandchildren. He would never hesitate to put people in check. Both Grandfathers were blessed with wives who complimented them in every way and were their true life partners. My grandmother, the Queen Mother Halaevalu Mata’aho, is in my eyes, one of the most devout Christians I know. She’s the embodiment of love and kindness; a real role model for all people. My late grandmother (and namesake), the late Baroness Fatafehi Lapaha had limitless knowledge of traditional treasures and of all the family trees of many of the prominent families in Tonga at the time. She was just as strong and as fearless as her husband, the Baron Tuita, but conducted herself like a true Tongan lady. I hold them all in such high esteem that I would never dare think myself equal to them, however, I do try to be a strong and good person who can continue the weaving of their legacy and heritage.

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