Elder Hawley and I have never experienced anything quite like the Liahona Alumni celebration held every 3 years in Tonga with hundreds of alumni from all over the world.And of course we love the Liahona Brass Band!When a musical program includes performers, it is traditional for Tongans to spontaneously join in the dancing right along with the performers, including this brother from Ogden who sings in the Tabernacle Choir! His daughter was one of our talented BYU-Hawaii interns. The Liahona HS band majorette is a delight. Many of the students are dressed to perform traditional Tongan dances. Anyone can join in to show their appreciation give them pa'anga (money) on their lavishly-oiled arms. Winnie bows to the queen after leaving the field. Inoke rewards the majorette as well. These lovely students wear dresses made from colorful leaves on the island: Giving is an tradition of the lower rank to the higher rank, and the Tongans give liberally and appreciatively. The celebration for the afternoon concluded with more gifts for the Queen Mother: several dozen homeade quilts and long lengths of beautiful tapa cloth (bark cloth pounded from the inner bark of the mulberry tree.) According to the booklet, Making Sense of Tonga, "Tonga is the king of tapa. People use tapa as gifts at weddings or funerals, as blankets, wedding clothes, dancing costumes, and to decorate their homes. Typically, Tongans are wrapped in tapa when they are buried. Tongans measure their wealth in their tapa and their mats. If you are Tongan, you can have a million dollars, but if you have no tapa and no mats, you are poor. " New Zealand performs for the Queen: A Maori warrior: Goodbye to the Queen Mother, Halaevalu Mata’aho. LIAHONA EDUCATION EXPO IN DOWNTOWN NUKU'ALOFA: Silu (PBO) and Ministry of Tourism, Fineasi Funaki, open the Liahona Alumni Expo:Sister Fehoako and Sister Hawley pose at the Old Tonga display wearing the woven hats with flowers she made. Her husband is the stake president who has re-established Old Tonga to preserve the Tongan heritage and traditions of the islands.Making a canoe:Beautifully woven and embroidered materials are fit for a queen:These cute home economics students model the dresses they sewed from Tapa Cloth. Red dirt is mixed with coconut oil for the color. And the black is done with charcoal. Impressive, right?Can't believe these are the same girls who wear pigtails and uniforms to school each day!
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Elder Hawley and I love our calling as ITEP couple missionaries (International Teacher Education Program) for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Tonga. It was a delight to be invited to the Liahona Alumni Celebration for 2009 where we could learn to appreciate the Tongan people and their culture:
Inoke Kupu, Liahona stake president and CES Country Director, welcomes the alumni and Her Majesty, Queen Mother of Tonga to the opening fireside of the Liahona Alumni Celebration 2009: Her Majesty the Queen Mother, Halaevalu Mata’aho, speaks to alumni: Moana Kupu, our stake president's wife enjoys the parade of alumni around the campus square: President Inoke Kupu is one very busy man!The flag raising ceremony on Liahona campus begins another day of celebration: 1000's attend the 9 days of festivities across the island. Our Bishop Vaitai and his wife Ola smile greetings. Ana, secretary at Havelu Middle School, and Bishop Vaitai are Liahona alumni.Elder and Sister Hawley with Sione Tafuna, Liahona High School's principal: Vika Kaufusi is a delightful Liahona Middle School principal: Our friends, Sera and Simiti Leqakowailutu, stand by the Fijian flag. Sera teaches English at Liahona HS and Semiti is a retired school teacher, a temple worker, and member of our bishopric. The Tongan flag ceremony begins in front of the high school:The Tafuna family displays wreaths in memory of their son who died with 5 others in a tragic car accident on graduation day 2008. Tongans wear black with woven mats as a sign of respect for those who have passed on (Bird of Paradise wreath) Spontaneous dancing is common when the band plays: Luncheon is Served--and this was only the beginning! After lengthy ceremonies on the Liahona front lawn, we were seated at the tables near the Queen Mother who was served queenly dishes. We were fed the best of Tonga---lobsters, huge shrimp with bulging eyes, fish, pig, lupulu, ufi—(large yams), cakes. President Nau's wife, Winnie, helps prepare the tables. We would have enjoyed spending more time with ward members including Elder and Sister Heimuli: Everyone awaits for the Queen Mother to arrive before luncheon is served. Sila, a cute gal who works at the Liahona bookstore fans away the flies: Here comes the queen. Let the feast begin: President Nau, a cousin to the king, sits by the queen.
A student welcomes the Queen Mother to Liahona: Here come the gifts for the queen mother. A large pig in a crate, with ufi (root vegetables) as a traditional gift to royalty:A Kava tree is presented to the Queen.