Matahau Reunion Portland OR (Aug 9-11)
Hi All Had a chance to go with my family last weekend to join the Matahau people's Reunion in Portland, Oregon, last weekend. Jay's mom, Wendy, also came along with us on our road-trip. It took us less than 5 hours to drive straight to Portland, past Seattle, across the border from Canada.
This Reunion brought together a number of the Matahau people from around the States. I believe the first Reunion was held in Texas last year (July 2011). Star 'Ita was still alive at the time, and during that Reunion, he volunteered on behalf of all the Matahau people in Portland, Oregon, to host this year's Reunion. As you know, Star passed away later in September of last year, and was unable therefore to witness this year's Reunion in his home-city. He was, however, remembered and acknowledged many times during the celebration.
This year's Reunion ran for three days, and started on Thursday August 9. The Matahau people of the host city (most of the Kalamafonis live here!) were divided into three groups, one for each of the three days. Thursday's program and food were organised and prepared by Matalave and Maka's group; Friday belonged to Talanoa Falepapalangi's group; and Saturday was up to Luni Finau's group. Talanoa by the way is the USA Matahau President, while Luni (Sita's son) is the Portland Matahau President.
Jay was working Thursday, so we weren't able to drive out until Friday morning. We got to Portland around 2am, and checked into our hotel. Then after dinner, we joined the Reunion's dance that night. It was really fun to have both my wife and mom-in-law dance to the Tongan-style reggae tunes. Sadly, Sepa decided not to show off all the dancing moves he had learned over the last four years.
Anyway, the Reunion in many ways achieved its primary goal of bringing together the Matahau people from around the States. There were Matahau groups arriving particularly from Salt Lake City, Dallas/FortWorth, LA, and Frisco. 'Asaeli Tuiaki, the current Town Officer of Matahau, came all the way from Tonga as well. Mapa Si'i (Va'enuku) and his family were there. We estimated the number at the Friday dance to be around 300-400 people. On Saturday, which started with a big feast at 1pm, the number was at least 500 people. Of course, not all people there were from Matahau. On Saturday in particular, there were plenty of local Tongans who joined the celebration. But by my observation, half of all the participants were children and grand-children of Matahau people, the other half were equally those from Matahau and those married into the village. It was fun to see how everyone is connected. During the days' and nights' programs, various group and individual dance events and presentations were held. In particular, Maka and his family did a dance in memory of his brother Star, and the money raised - more than US$7000 was presented to the Matahau Town Officer, 'Asaeli Tuiaki, for the "Palau" Project (purchasing of a plough tractor for the Matahau people in Tonga). I had the opportunity to take my family out on Saturday morning to check how the guys roasted 40 (or more) pigs in total for the final feast! (When I can, I will post some photos here of Sepa enjoying this activity, plus others we took during the trip.)
Apart from the Reunion, my family had chance to check out the City and a few popular spots, stores, and events in the area. Jay and Wendy took the train to downtown Saturday morning then rejoined us for the Reunion afternoon feast. We stayed another night before leaving Portland midday Sunday. On our way, Uncle Loe's daughter, Teuila Jr, invited us over for a lunch-picnic at their place in Vancouver, Washington (just across the river from Portland) before we headed back to our place here in Canada. Pipiena's son-in-law Malakai ('Amelia's husband) came from Texas and stayed with them there. I heard that Grandpa Filimi was trying to come out there as well but unable to get a (standby) seat on any of the flights. It would have been great to have seen the old man there, and I'm sure he would have loved the occasion. And lastly, it was nice for my family to meet up with Puluno Jr and his kids. He was busy all days helping out with the organisations and preparations of the daily events and meals. I was also happy to see Tina and her girls, Lusi and Suliana, who by the way gracefully performed her kailao (with a group of volunteers) and a number of individual dances.
In all, the Matahau spirit was truly there, and celebrated in Matahau-style. I was really happy that my family and I were able to join the celebration and got to meet a lot of people from around the States who proudly treasure their Matahau roots. The next Reunion is set to be held in San Francisco, and it is now up to the Matahau people in that area to organise the time and program for that gathering. We're re-energising for yet another long road-trip this week to a place near the city of Calgary, Alberta, where we will be joined for a few days by a family-friend of ours from Edmonton. When we return, I will then start preparing for work for the upcoming school year, which starts September 4. Jay on the other hand continues working as usual at her clinic. Sepa goes into pre-school again this coming year. He will enter kindy when he turns 5 next year. 'Oku mau 'ofa lahi atu hono kotoa, mo e fakamonu'ia atu ai pe 'a e ngaahi ngaue, tauhi famili, mo e fuakavenga 'oku mou fai 'i he ngaahi tapa kotoa!