As I go through my daily routine, I cannot help but share in the excitement as the day of Coronation quickly approaches. Villages buzz enthusiastically and homes are beautified for visitors to the Kingdom. There is a communal sense of responsibility amongst the local Tongans as they prepare their homes and families to look their best, reflecting the respect and honor they hold to the King and country. I talk to my neighbors and family here in Tonga and wonder if visitors to Tonga share mutual custodial feelings over our monarch.
Tonga lingers at the edge of a pool of optimism and good faith as July the 4th draws closer. I liken the feeling of anticipation to those awaiting a storm, but in this case, it’s a welcomed storm of joy and exhilaration. As more family and friends arrive from overseas, one can always bet our conversations will end with the topic of His Late Majesty. The unity and joy this time brings in celebrating the crowning of a new King is unparalleled but we are reminded, not too long ago, of the celebration of the first Coronation within the generation of King George the V’s.
I was with my Mother the other day as she mended an old “tekiteki” (traditional Tongan headdress) of ours for my youngest sister, Moheofo, and I asked if the preparations for this Coronation were much like that of her Father’s Coronation. She paused, looked at me, and as she stared off into the abyss of the empty room, she began to recall all that she’d witnessed at the time of King Tupou IV’s coronation.
She described colossal mountains of yams towering above those presenting their village and clan gifts for the King. I gasped in amazement as she explained how a village from Ha’apai presented schools of fish, still alive, and jumping to His Majesty in gigantic kumetes called Sene. My mother’s vivid description of our people inducting the late King onto the throne illustrates the imperial nature of our nation. We carry the memory of our grandfather, King Tupou IV, and our uncle, King George V, with us every day whilst we prepare to honour our current monarch, King Tupou VI.
As final provisions for the Coronation are delegated throughout the nation, we invite the people of the Kingdom to celebrate through an assortment of week-long festivities. All the while, at the center of the entire upsurge, is a small place of peace; the centre of my universe, my daughter, Fahina. Seeing her makes me realize the changes I’ve gone through to become the person I am today. I look at the men and women in my family, and the legacy they have left, and wonder what I’ll leave for Fahina if I am no longer alive to see the next coronation. I want her to see what I see–my mother, as well as others around me, making things happen.
For this Coronation, the first event we prepared was the presentation of gifts, or “Hala,” from my father’s clan to the King. My father is the leader of the seafaring, or navigator clan, called the Fokololo ‘O e Hau which consists of my father, Tuita, the Noble Fulivai, the Chief ‘Akau’ola, and the Noble Fakatulolo. Before we knew it, the day had come for the Fokololo ‘O e Hau to take their Hala to the King’s Palace. We inhaled the excitement as all members of the clan, their representatives, and kainga gathered outside the Palace gates. We took gifts of Fish, yams, and traditional mats and tapa topped off with the ceremonial gift of a giant live pig and colossal stalks of the sacred Kava plant. As we sat on the Palace grounds, my mother made sure every precaution was taken to maintain the “tapu” of our procession and presentation of gifts.
Facing the King and his talking Chiefs were the men of the Fokololo ‘o e Hau. The women sat on the sides of the men and across the field, atop a little mound of tapa and mats, sat my nephew, Master Simon. My nephew is the current heir to both his grandfather, the Noble Tu’ivakano, and our father, the Noble Tuita’s, titles. My heart went out to this little boy who sat there so obediently, unaware of how important he is and the role he would soon fill for our family and our nation. It was then something occurred to me: the social responsibilities and the honorable duties members of my familial generation carry out will soon be shouldered by Fahina and her cousins in order to perpetuate tradition.
It’s one thing to imagine the heavy responsibilities carried by the youth to maintain our culture for the future. It’s quite another to see your children, who continue your family’s legacy, discover the true spirit of Tongan culture.
My family’s legacy, coupled with the future of my country, is a perfect example of what the Coronation brings out of us all. It is the spirit of genuinely giving everything you have without hesitation and out of genuine elation, which is an innate Tongan trait. Every Tongan around the world is being challenged in some way and, in the end, if one’s heart is genuinely full of joy during this occasion, the best will be brought out. This robust Tongan trait of giving is what I was brought up understanding and I will pass this on to my daughter.
In a few short days, the world will witness the marriage between King and country. The peoples of Tonga, both domestic and abroad, will share in this intimate moment as our nation inches forward into a new chapter of wealth and prosperity. This is the spirit the Coronation brings to those of us who are open to it; with a good and giving heart, all things are possible and the traditions we perform today will prosper in future Coronations to come.
Article Written By: Hon. Frederica Filipe