In light of the Easter holiday there is one story shared that has resonated with me and has, interestingly enough, been applicable to past experiences and recent developments taking place within our Kingdom. If you aren’t familiar with this famous Easter story, the event takes place during the Parade of Palms when our Lord Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey or in the older days, what some would refer to as an ass, or ‘asi in Tongan. The streets to Jerusalem were filled with people praising the arrival of our Lord, they placed palm leaves on the road so that the donkey wouldn’t have to step on the road. The folklore twist in this story is that the ass was oblivious as to who was on his back and assumed that he was the reason for the people’s praise.
My writing has served as a window into my life and the lives of some of my family; you have all shared in my grief over loss as well as jubilation during happy and momentous occasions. In retrospect I have provided perspective as is my responsibility as a traditional leader and a fellow Tongan.
When His Late Majesty King George V passed away, I knew how media and journalists would attempt to present their coverage as fact and this inspired me to provide perspective; how he was not only a monarch but also a son, a father, a brother and uncle. I showed the inner truths of our family. Perspective and opportunity is what I’ve seen leaders of the democratic movement provide and I am grateful for this as well. But when is there a limit to the perspective provided and how can our people, and the diaspora, identify the limits to the information that is delivered to them? This responsibility lies with our leaders and local media. For some time, I studied media and journalism and count many journalists as friends. As Tongans, it is within our grasp to present unbiased information whilst still practicing the 4 golden pillars of our community. My life has been riddled with events and encounters adults would usually try to protect a child from but this has provided me with the necessary tools, strength, and foresight I want to share with, and teach, my people or those closest to me, at the very least without any agenda, so that we do not lose sight of the values that we as Tongans are proud of.
In a recent speech by our Hon. Prime Minister, he encouraged those present (which included myself) to break away from habits and beliefs which hinder our capacity to grow and succeed. I liken this message to teachings my family raised me with and also to share advice from my late grandparents, His Late majesty King Tupou IV and Her Late Majesty Queen Mata’aho who said, “ ‘oku pau ke mou ngaue’i ‘a e ‘ofa ‘a e kakai” or “you have to earn the people’s love.” I had to break away from what most traditionalists understood as what is appropriate so as to perform my duties and, most importantly, so I can connect with my Tongan people. In my eyes, one of the first to do this was His Late Majesty King George V, who withstood criticism from a few information outlets, both locally and abroad, when he took the necessary steps towards making Tonga a democratic nation. It is unfortunate that it takes a while for certain information outlets to break away from this tradition of sharing misinformation to a public who deserve to be better informed.
This brings me back to my earlier question, how can we identify information that is limited or unimpaired? Other than having to rely on other traditional people or means of information, social media has also become a quick click to accessing an ocean of information and perspective. Social media can be a monster for some but considering the changeable pattern of some traditional information outlets, can one be blamed for turning to the devil they know best? Before I began my Princess Diaries entries, I was not considered a valuable contributor to current news; however, after I released, not only my first Princess Diaries, but also my diary entry for our late grandmother’s passing which generated much attention, my entry featured in one well-known local media outlet, the Taimi ‘o Tonga. Sadly, and puzzlingly, they did not request permission from the publisher of my diaries nor did they reference them. Since then, I’ve kept in mind to take any distribution of information with a grain of salt and I have continued to share life experiences and our traditions how I can to encourage pride and to earn the people’s love. With all of this in mind, I return to our Easter story which inspires a question each time I come across a situation or news, “who is the Lord and who is the ass?”
Article By: Hon. @FreddieFilipe