The 22nd of October, 2014 will go down in my diary as a very special day for both me and my husband, Johnny, and our families. Both families came together to perform an exchange of traditional Tongan tapa cloth and fine mats called Pae. Pae is traditionally done amongst and between chiefly ranked families. This exchange represents the respect both families have for each other and the love they feel for the newest addition to the family, our daughter, Latu’alaifotu’aika Fahina e paepae Tiantian Filipe.
This practice of exchanging traditional goods isn’t the first of its kind but is rarely seen these days. Each pile of precious mats and tapa cloth presented by each side symbolized an item that would have been used by the mother or newborn baby. For example: the Ngatu and mats presented were (in Tongan) called the baby’s bed or mat on which baby is bathed. Amongst the Koloa (Traditional Tongan Goods) exchanged were priceless fine mats which are rare and usually only found in Samoa; kept in families and passed down from generation to generation. Two of these fine mats were gifted from my side to Johnny’s family and called a Kie ‘Ufi tui (fine mat used to cover a mother’s knees after giving birth) and its Kie Hoa (a second fine mat to accompany the first).
Johnny’s family presented mine with a Kie Hapo (the fine mat used to catch and carry a newborn baby of chiefly rank after his or her birth). This day was also special because Johnny isn’t a noble’s son. However, my family still gave him and his family respect and Johnny’s family’s presentation was like that of someone who was a noble’s son. The mutual respect shown elevates our daughter’s prestige and humbles her at the same time. She isn’t a year old yet her character is reflected in the way her family act towards each other because Tongans believe a child’s development depends on her family background. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to show our love for our daughter and each other’s families.
Written By: Hon. Frederica Filipe