Ha’apai governor Dr Mohenoa Puloka has referred to a well-known lakalaka dance composition as the Ha’apai national anthem.
Dr Puloka made the reference recently when he was speaking at the Ha’apai Educational Day to conclude the celebration of King Tupou VI’s 59th birthday.
It appears this was the first time this had been made public in front of the king.
The composition was composed by late Fe’iloakitau Kaho and it was widely known as Lofia.
The song was adored by the people of Ha’apai, one of the kingdom’s main outer islands. They sang and danced it wherever they were as a show of identity.
Tonga’s official national anthem is ‘E ‘Otua Māfimafi.
Dr Puloka was asked to clarify why he called the song the Ha’apai national anthem.
He said the lakalaka composition and its choreography were mostly performed by Lord Tuita’s kāinga from Tongoleleka.
He said the song was composed to depict how the Ha’apaians longed to see the late King Taufa’āhau, who they regarded as King of Ha’apai after he relocated from Ha’apai to Tongatapu to stay at the Nuku’alofa royal palace.
The relocation was made after the royal proclamation in 1845 that King Taufa’āhau would become king of all Tonga.
The song began by addressing Lofia, who is believed to be a Ha’apai deity, letting him know the Ha’apaians would leave to find the Sacred Pandanus (“Foi Fā Tapu”) a poetical reference to Taufa’āhau.
It said it did not matter if they swam, went by boat or swam free style, they would still go as long as they could arrive in Tongatapu to send the message to the king.
The message was, according to the lyrics, that a historical casuarina tree in Ha’apai known as Tu’uakitau was complaining that he had made himself at home at Toa Ko Ma’afu, another casuarina tree at the royal palace in Nuku’alofa.
According to the composition the Ha’apaians asked the king (“fo’i Kukuvalu”) to not forget them.
They also reminded the king that Tonga’s new constitution, which brought all Tonga under his rule, was declared in Ha’apai after years of war and fight among Taufa’āhau and the Tu’i Tonga warriors.
Dr Puloka also referred to certain events which were attributed to Taufa’ahau during his rule.
He said that in 1831 Taufa’āhau was baptised in his Pulela’a residence in Pangai, Ha’apai by missionary Sione Tōmasi and Taufa’āhau became the first Tongan Christian king in 1845.
In 1834 there was a Pentecostal experience in Utui, Vava’u during a sermon after Taufa’ahau accepted Christianity.
Also there was the offering of Tonga to God in 1839, the Emancipation Edict freeing all commoners from bondage to the chiefs in 1862, the establishment of the Tupou College in 1866 and the promulgation of the Constitution in 1875.
Dr Puloka also referred to the cross which mysteriously appeared on the ground to the east of the Free Wesleyan church in Ha’apai in October 1975, 100 years after Tonga’s constitution was promulgated.