Post 48 — What Happens in Manu’a, Stays in Manu’a (Part 2)

Manu'aIn the history of the Samoan islands, there is an origin story that claims Manu’a is the founding place of all Polynesian culture and its’ peoples.

“There are various Tui Manu’a descent lines, many of which bear little resemblance to each other. It is common belief, however, as part of Samoan myths and legends, that the first Tui Manu’a (sovereign ruler) was a direct descendant of the Samoan supreme god, Tagaloa. In Samoan lore, the islands of Manu’a (Ofu, Olosega, and Ta’u) are always the first lands to be created or drawn from the sea; consequently the Tui Manu’a is the first human ruler mentioned. This “senior” ranking of the Tui Manu’a title continues to be esteemed and acknowledged by Samoans despite the fact that the title itself is no longer occupied.”*

This theory does not always sit well with the natives of other Polynesian islands. To a Tongan, this fanciful fable is wishful thinking, and the whole Tui Maunu’a question should be settled in a bar fight involving broken beer bottles.

“The Manu’an tradition is that all Samoan life started in the village of Fitiuta and that all Samoans originated there. They have a spot on the eastern edge of the village where the suns rays first strike Samoa before it moves westward, where the coral reef is supposed to always be yellow from the sun. I was supposed to go there at sunrise the next day, but who can get up without an alarm clock after going without sleep the previous night? I missed it. Also, my stomach just wasn’t up to handling Samoan dishes of raw fish, greasy pisupo (fatty New Zealand corned beef) and raw taro, but the few cans of Spam and Vienna sausages I brought along proved very helpful. The Samoan couple who hosted me were quite disappointed that I wasn’t up to taking advantage of their hospitality.

The Manuans are very proud people, and Fitiuta is by far the cleanest and most beautiful Polynesian village I’ve ever seen. The islands are extremely fertile and they ship their surplus copra and bananas to their relatives in Tutuila. The village has a nine room cement school which the people constructed themselves and paid for with no help from the government. All the cement and lumber and steel had to be brought in by ship, carried ashore by longboat, and then hauled about a mile inland to the village. This included all the desks, which were simply thrown overboard and then swum into shore.”

Larry (June, 1965)

The teachers toured the schools during the day and observed the activities in the classrooms. Their final night on the island, they were honored with a traditional fiafia. Asked to contribute some type of entertainment to the party, two of the lady teachers pooled all their knowledge of the history of America dance and ended up teaching the entire group how to do the Hokey Pokey. Putting their right foot in and their right foot out elicited a huge response from the crowd, and the women then stripped down to their bathing suits and were oiled all over until they both had a glossy sheen. Lava lavas were wrapped around their waists and woven leaf bracelets, anklets and headdresses were crowned. The teachers were then told that they were being made Honorary Village Virgins, and the evening progressed with more dancing and great hilarity. Hopefully the PTA never found out about this evening.

“The trip back was much more pleasant since I was able to get a bunk in a cabin on the Manua’a Tele, the other half of the Samoan Navy. Siamau, a Samoan teacher from the studio, was so seasick going over that he decided to return early. We stopped at Olesega to pick him up, but his longboat capsized in the surf and he had to swim ashore and take another boat out. He was wet, cold and sick all the way home.”

Living surrounded by water did not guarantee that the natives would all be good sailors. The swells were high and the decks slippery on the return trip, and among the passengers was a group of Manu’an high school students on a field trip to Pago Pago. One young Samoan lady seemed to be trading her lovely bronze skin tone for a replacement shade of green. But before the girl could embarrass herself by losing her lunch all over the deck, one of her traveling companions whipped off his lava lava and shoved it at the girl, who promptly barfed into the fabric in a ladylike fashion. Bad weather or not, chivalry was alive and well in the land where all of Polynesia began.


*(Wikipedia entry)

One Comment to “Post 48 — What Happens in Manu’a, Stays in Manu’a (Part 2)”

  1. Welcome back Chris! Love the new post and your determination to finish the damn thing. Now if you’ll excuse me I really should launder that lava-lava.

    Liked by 1 person

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