May 28, 2009 celebrated the opening day of Parliament, a blend of British pomp and ceremony with Tongan traditions. Status and rank were highly evident and but there was much laughter and humor too. Ambassadors were there in all their finery, including Japan, China, New Zealand, and Australia. Judges in their wigs and long robes walked in a stately manner into the building. There were cannon salutes prior to the arrival of the Princess and last of all King George Tupou V. Neither acknowledged the crowds of people, however. This tiny South Pacific nation is the last kingdom of the Polynesians to have a monarchy.
Boom dah dee rat-a-tat-tat echoed throughout the Liahona campus where we live! Ten hours a day of drums and brass practicing, practicing, practicing for weeks to prepare for opening ceremonies of Parliament Day in Tonga. Sectionals practiced under the breadfruit tree, on the streets, the grass, or in the band room with open doors and windows. Then, the entire student body of over 1000 students and teachers marched behind the band around the square preparing for the parade. Our friends, Semiti and Sera Leqakowailutu, march along with the students. Sera is an English teacher here, and Semiti is a retired teacher working in the temple. This is their last year at Liahona before returning to their home in New Zealand. We're blessed to have them as friends. There were banners, pompom girls, twirlers with batons made from white enamel curtain rods, flag twirlers, and all the students marching in sets of boys and girls. Havelu girls practice with plastic pipes and sticks: Ahopame, a teacher at Havelu Middle School, instructs students on their marching technique:It all paid off when LDS schools of Liahona High and Middle Schools, Havelu Middle School, and Pakilau Middle School with over 1800 students and teachers displayed the joy of music and dancing for the big parade in downtown Nuku’alofa. We were so proud of the kids in our schools as they followed the Liahona Band along the parade route. Numerous Nuku'alofa police were wearing their ceremonial uniforms" The Parliament Building was festively decorated in fresh greenery and flowers:Inside the Parliament Building: (King's chair hadn't arrived.) Pacific Area Authority Seventy Sione Fineangnofo visits with Elder and Sister Hawley. He is there to represent the LDS Church. Scouts will prepare to stand at attention when the parade begins: Nuku'alofa Navy and other military lead the parade: Japanese ambassador stands at attention while his country's national anthem is played: New Zealand Ambassador smiles warm greetings: A judge enters the building: Students and bands from across the island parade through the streets past the Parliament Building and the palace: The princess enters quickly: After donning his crown, so does King George Tupou V: The Prime Minister of Tonga enjoys the parade: We were all standing directly across the street from where the nobles were seated in front of the Parliament Building when I was surprised to see Mele Funaki seated there under the canopy. She beckoned me to come and sit next to her. I turned to look for Elder Hawley but he had gone to sit on the steps of the gazebo for a minute--we had been standing for several hours. I felt hesitant at first but couldn’t resist such an invitation. After letting the Sings know, I crossed the street to join her. Mele is a bright and wonderful English teacher at Pakilau. Until then, I hadn’t realized that her husband is the Minister of Tourism for Tonga, Fineasi Funaki. Needless to say, I enjoyed my time there. (Mele is seated next to the empty chair where I sat during part of the parade.) Teachers join students in the parade:Vika Kaufusi is the Liahona Middle School principal and what a delight she is! So many of the schools were led by laughing and dancing “cheerleaders”--teachers and parents. Often spectators would join in as they came by. Vika and Makelita Satini (librarian) are magical when they dance and they exhibit such joy and beauty. My cheekbones ached from smiling and laughing so much. Elder Hawley and I are blessed to serve the Lord here with such a beautiful people.Liahona drummers displayed fantastic skills as they tossed drumsticks back and forth and played each others drums without missing a beat. With such talent they wowed the crowd.