• Uncle Tavo

About that name: Fale'aisi

Not sure how many people do visit this site but would like to explain for the record the name FALE'AISI which I used in my previous news about that Tongan hoe. You may hear the name being used now and then somewhat jokingly by the so-called first generation (your parents) but let me put it down here in writing while I still can remember, hopefully with some accuracy:



The name FALE'AISI (= ice-house) literally dropped out of nowhere and into our family sometime back in December 1994, to be exact. At that time, there were people in Matahau who tried to register (or better perhaps 'take over') certain pieces of land in the village (= 'api kolo) that have not been registered with the Ministry of Land (Potungaue Fonua), even though families are living on those pieces of land and have been living there for generations! That kind of attempt to take over an unregistered piece of land in the village by registering it in government as yours is a phenomenon known as "Tala'api".



In December 1994, one of the families in Matahau had to endure the pain of losing their 'api kolo via the same process (i.e. someone else had noted that the 'api kolo in question had not been registered and so he went to register it in government as his and then bought the noble's approval with a handsome monetary donation). Of course, everyone in Matahau was quite alarmed by this including your very own Grandma Fatai who was still very much around then. As a result, Lotiola Lahi and I were told to go without delay to the Ministry of Land in Nuku'alofa to check whether our own family's pieces of land (2 'api kolos and 2 'api 'utas) have been duly registered. On that day, we found out that our own pieces of land had been duly registered. But thankfully, we also made the startling discovery that Mele'ufi's 'api kolo has not been registered at all! Of course, I proudly informed Mele'ufi and she went with her eldest son (Tukueke) on the very next day to have it registered.



Of course, the big question is why on earth can't each family register their 'api kolo once and for all given the danger posed by people who are experts at "Tala'api"? I'm not sure. If I may proffer an opinion, it may have something to do with the Tongan land system whereby upon the death of the land's rightful owner, the "heir" (normally the widow or eldest son) would still need to again register the piece of land in government as his/hers before s/he can be the rightful owner. Back then, many families simply took for granted that the widow or eldest son became rightful owner upon dad's death without bothering to register it in government, providing an opening to others to do this very untongan thing called "Tala'api".



But let me come to the name FALE'AISI. While trying in December 1994 to ensure that all our family's 'api kolo had been properly registered, Lotiola Lahi and I also discovered that the 'api kolo of Grandma Fatai's parents (situated next to Mele'ufi's) had not been registered (at the time Uncle Kulu and his family were living on it). So, Grandma Fatai headed into Nuku'alofa to have it registered since the rightful heir (Sione Mahe) was living then in USA. At the Ministry of Land, she was told that they would need the birth certificate of the rightful heir (Sione Mahe). So, Grandma Fatai then headed to the office for birth certificates to get a copy of Sione Mahe's birth certificate. But there was one small problem - they could not find the name "Sione Mahe" in their records. So Grandma Fatai had to come home to Matahau empty-handed. I can still remember her not being amused or even blaming those at the office for not doing their job properly. She tried to contact Sione Mahe but even he could not understand why he wouldn't be on Tongan government records. But if you know anything about Grandma Fatai, you'd know that she wouldn't give up that easily because she could not live with the thought of someone else taking over her parents' 'api kolo through "Tala'api". She headed back into town for that birth certificate, this time she sought the help of someone else at the office who was "family" (probably some distant relative but not to her generation of course!) I don't know exactly now how she finally managed to get Sione Mahe's birth certificate but getting it she did and then she was able to have her parents' 'api kolo registered. But now to the gist of this long-winded story! The reason why it was hard work finding the name "Sione Mahe" among Tongan government records was simple. His name on government records is not "Sione Mahe" but "Sione FALE'AISI". Grandma Fatai was as puzzled as the rest of us then as to this brand new family name FALE'AISI. So there you have it, a bit of family history to remember next time you hear the name FALE'AISI.


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