JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Samoan Head of State Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi walked down a red carpet yesterday during a visit to Keehi Lagoon. Tupua, along with his wife, Her Highness Masiofo Filifilia Imo, are visiting Honolulu on their return to Samoa from the Olympic Games in Beijing.
Isles welcome Samoan leader
A rare royal ritual is performed for the head of state, who speaks at UH today
Some 500 members of the Samoan community turned out yesterday afternoon to welcome Samoan Head of State Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi and witness the rare and sacred royal ava ceremony at Keehi Lagoon Park.
Tupua - or Tuiatua, as he is known by title - is on a three-day stopover on his way home from China, where he was a guest at the Beijing Olympics. He became leader of the Independent State of Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa, following the death of Malietoa Tanumafili II in May 2007.
He will speak at the University of Hawaii at Manoa today before returning home.
The greeting ceremony, which included the traditional "sua" and "ta alolo" presentations of food and gifts, was organized by Samoans United in Action Inc., a coalition of community and church groups, according to press secretary Vita Tanielu.
Lupe Scanlan took off from work and picked up her two girls an hour early from school in order to make the 3 p.m. ceremony.
"I wanted them to see the head of state and witness the true Samoan culture," Scanlan said. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. They've never been to Samoa, and you don't know what Samoa will be like when they're grown. I was born in Samoa but raised here, so it's a treat for me, too."
She said she was looking forward to the ava ceremony.
"It's a ritual rarely seen."
The lengthy ceremony involves offering a cup of ava - a drink known as kava in Hawaiian - to the head of state and the high chief.
In just one portion of the ritual, it took 10 trips by a servant back and forth from a bowl to fill the small cup of ava from which Tupua drank.
Meki Fruean, Scanlan's mother, said, "I was really excited. It's like seeing the president (of the U.S.)."
Fruean heard about the dignitary's arrival two weeks ago on a Samoan radio station and urged Scanlan to bring the kids, she said.