In the case of my grandmother, Her Majesty the Queen Mother Halaevalu Mata’aho, her pedigree precedes her privilege. Hailing from an ancestral bloodline that set forth a South Pacific nation, it is essential to embrace the chronicled dynasty of her predecessors where power and love confluenced into one of the most beloved Royals in Tongan history. My grandmother’s parents were the late Hon. Tevita Manuopangai ‘Ahome’e and the late Hon. Heu’ifanga Veikune ‘Ahome’e. Although her father was a Tongan chief and title holder, it was my grandmother’s mother, Heu’ifanga’s family line through her mother Vahoi, that elevated my grandmother above many of the other chiefly and noble families in Tonga.
Tongan traditional structure allows one to gain social rank through their mother’s side but not on their father’s side. My great-grandfather ‘Ahome’e’s grandmother was half Tongan and half palangi or English (Blake). Being a descendant of anything other than Tongan, to any degree, made one a foreigner in the eyes of Tongan societal hierarchy. My grandmother did not have any relatives from her father’s family who could claim higher rank than her because of their foreign ancestry. Had anyone contested my grandmother’s status, they had her mother Heu’ifanga to answer to.
There is a time bookmarked in Tongan history where my great-grandmother’s monarchical astuteness was displayed. One of the late Queen Salote’s most precious Kie Hingoa is called the Siu Kaufusi; a kie that was half of a larger kie that had been cut in two with a lost history of the other half of this treasure. During one of the biggest occasions in the country, Queen Salote prepared the Siu Kaufusi for her second son, the Tu’ipelehake, to wear. It was in wide-eyed astonishment when our grandmother stepped out wearing the long lost half of the Siu Kaufusi Queen Salote possessed. Heu and her ancestors had passed down the other half of the Kie Hingoa and remained quiet in hopes they would one day display it in this exact way. Heu’s message was that; like the Kie Hingoa, Mata’aho was the missing piece of the royal puzzle.
I had never met my great-grandfather ‘Ahome’e but I imagine my grandmother takes after him. He was a gentle and kind man that complimented my great-grandmother’s resplendent and rigorous rule over her kin. He enrolled my grandmother into a Catholic school in Auckland, New Zealand called St. Mary’s College. She adopted the Catholic way of prayer and lived her life like one although she’d never converted to Catholicism. St. Mary’s College became her second home. On one occasion, my grandmother wrote to her father expressing her desire to join the convent and live her life with as a nun. Her father replied, in Tongan, that this was not a possibility and that she should return home to Tonga after her studies. My grandmother was the eldest of eight children and carried with her the honour of her family. As the eldest, her parents saved only the very best for her and I believe the principles she adopted from high school and awareness of her role in society caused her to carry out her duties obediently and with humility. My grandmother still maintains the calm and kind temperament she had in her youth and I remember her identifying the same characteristics in my younger sister Halaevalu Moheofo.
In my grandmother’s younger days, her elders were kind to each other; loved and cared for each other; and bestowed confidence in their lineage that no one felt the need to reaffirm who they were. This poise is something I recognize in my grandmother. Her knowledge of culture and family gives her the confidence to fulfill her duties assertively. My grandmother introduced modern concepts to the Tongan expectations of her duties as a young Queen. She championed causes such as the Tonga Red Cross and Vaiola Hospital and organized operas and receptions as fundraisers for her passions. I’ve inherited my grandmother’s confidence in embracing myself and utilizing my best opportunities to impart positive impacts on others; this is my honour and duty. My grandmother and ancestors will remain in my heart giving me the strength and direction I need to continue their legacy; one where my pedigree continues to be my greatest teacher.
Article By: Hon. Frederica Filipe