From Father Tom Splain of Pacific Regional Seminary in Suva after his first visit to Rotuma (27 June 1999)
My trip to Rotuma was splendid! The Saturday I flew over had spectacular cloud formations. I was on the left side of the plane and saw the whole island as we approached from the southeast. Father Leone Low is the new parish priest. He was at the airport to greet me, and as it turned out, was a student of mine when I taught here at PRS briefly in 1990. On Sunday, I said the main mass in Sumi. On Monday, Father Leone gave me a tour of the island.... We also dropped by the high school and I ran into Manu Vilsoni at morning tea. We were both pleasantly surprised! On Wednesday morning, I did a little workshop for catechists and basically repeated the material in the evening for teachers. (They left the generator on an extra hour and a half that evening!) On Thursday, I had dinner with Elizabeth Inia. The chief of the village, Irao, was there and I thoroughly enjoyed talking with him.
Friday was spectacular. It was the last day of the school term and all three grammar schools and the high school converged on Sumi for a sports day! I was absolutely amazed at the organization and smooth execution of everything. The children lined up on time and ran their little hearts out without fanfare. Over 300 children went through the events of the day like a finely oiled Swiss watch. I couldn't believe I was on a Pacific island! The day before, it rained quite heavily. We were concerned about it raining on Friday. The day itself was fine for the sports events, but at the closing ceremony the heavens really opened up. But no problem! The children just sat there on the grass in the downpour while speeches were made and awards presented. Rain does not spoil days on Rotuma!
We had a lovely visit in Tilburg, The Netherlands, with Ad and Lucia Linkels, who recorded songs and sounds on Rotuma in 1996 during the 150th anniversary celebration of the Catholic Church and produced the CD " Tautoga, and other songs and dances of Rotuma ." Ad and Lucia are involved in teaching Polynesian music and dance to schoolchildren and other groups in The Netherlands.
We accompanied Lucia to a senior citizens' centre, where she instructed participants in various folk dances, including a tiap forau she learned in Savlei. So here we were in the heart of Europe doing a tiap forau (she asked us to help show how it is performed). It was both fun and exciting to know that Rotuman culture is appreciated so far from home.
From Victor Atalifo in Rotuma (7 June 1999)
On 31 May the youths celebrated Ratu Sukuna Day at Ahau together with the Rotuman Women's Club. The woman had a display of fine mats, fans and hats, not forgetting the lovely baked cakes, pies & scones. Sports included rugby and volleyball. I believe everyone enjoyed the program.
The Youth Council of Rotuma humbly asks for assistance from kainaga abroad to donate a typewriter to the youth's office at Ahau and two office desks for the youth co-ordinator and youth worker.
From Sanimeli Maraf in Rotuma (4 June 1999)
The hospital solar plant opened yesterday. The ceremony for the Japanese Aid Project, 1998-1999, was hosted by the Rotuma Hospital Board of Visitors.
(1) Mak Hai
Next Wednesday, 9th June, a kato'aga will be held at Malhaha High School for the army soldiers thanking them for the good work they've been doing for the high school. They will be returning soon by Fiji naval ship. Entertainment will be provided by the high school children who will perform a tautoga, as will Juju district.
On Saturday the 12th arrives the Methodist President, Rev Tomasi Kanailagi to confirm Rev Jione Langi to be Superintendent of the Rotuma Division. Malhaha will perform a mamasa and on Sunday the confirmation service will be held in Noa'tau. Rev Kanailagi will stay at Mairo with Rev Langi for a week.
It was a simple and dignified ceremony, the installation of Mr Fesaitu Managreve as Gagaj Kona', on Thursday, the 29th of April, 1999.
The titled Gagaja of Itu'ti'u were there: from Tuakoi, Gagaj Tiusek, Gagaj Ferei, and Gagaj Marasia; from Hapmak, Gagaj Vaenuk; from the neighbouring district of Itu'muta, where he currently resides, Gagaj Veu; and from Savlei, and performing the installation, the faufisi, Gagaj Irav. The chief of Itu'ti'u, Gagaj Kaotarfon, was ill and was unable to attend.
Also present were most of the residents of Savlei and the other villages of Hapmafau. Present also were some of the relatives of Gagaj Kona' living in the other districts of Rotuma, many the descendants of Kona' Kaotarfon: There was Tomoniko, Iane, and Gagaj Uafta from Faguta; from Malhaha, Tifanue, his sister Ata, and Ravai Hanfiro.
This is by way of preamble to the installation and its implications for the people of Hapmafau and for Gagaj Kona'.
The weather turned out fine, and there was much kava flowing in the morning of the ceremony. It was the most potent of the yaqona varieties, the kao kele, from the farm of Tomoniko in Faguta, and it was the brew of choice for two days here. The banter was irreverent and covered a wide range of topics, from Clinton must have a very efficient mouthpiece ('on osos heta lelei pau) to elude capture by the Senate, to a suitable bride for Gagaj Kona'.
On either side sat cousins Kamea and Iane, and their observations on current events and the local scene were succinct, and their comments on what was good form on an occasion of merriment to the clan, I took in keenly. I was reminded of how good a raconteur Iane is, for I had met him at old Sauriroa's home when I was a student. But I noticed that I did all the dancing, and even gave a maiden speech, while they were full of compliments and encouragement.
Some whispered that it was okay to tip the server. I refrained. It was as well I didn't, for later when I went to the late Gagaj Markav's and Jioj's home, the lady introduced me as her youngest daughter. Jioj was in fairly good health with good mental clarity. She had difficulty getting up unaided. Osteoporosis is prevalent in the islands among the aged. I promised to look into the wonders of alternative medicine for a suitable nutritional aid in healing.
The ceremony was impressive in its simplicity. The seat was made of several mats, among these were a 'eap agrue and apei ma 'on faue. Fesaitu makes a physically imposing Gagaj Kona', and is of a very kind and forgiving nature, and my heart skipped a beat as I observed these traits, as they reminded me of his cousin and my brother, the late Gagaj Tomanav.
With words of blessing, the faufisi ceremonially anointed Fesaitu Managreve with coconut oil, and he was pronounced Gagaj Kona'. The mafua then gave a fakpeje (an impromptu poem for the occasion) and conducted the ceremonial kava presentation. Each gagaja drank in turn, served by one of several young women. I took my turn in congratulating Gagaj Kona' as my chief.
He succeeds his father as Gagaj Kona', and in it we see a fulfillment of the vision of his grandmother, Raurikue, to move the family to Su'ura, and her paternal home, and away from Hahi'a. Alalum ae Gagaj Kona'!