Saturday, June 2, 2012

Independence day in Samoa

Admiring some "fili le pou"
June 1st was celebrated as the 50th anniversary of the independence of Samoa.  Samoa was actually granted their independence from New Zealand on January 1, 1962.  The celebration was moved to June 1st because it was felt that the weather would be better.  I've heard that the weather on January 1st was actually very good.  The islands of Samoa were claimed by the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States during the 19th century.  As a result of an agreement Tutuila and Mu'ua were given to the United States and Upolu and Savaii along with the smaller islands between Upolu and Savaii were given to Germany.  About the time of World War I New Zealand took control of Upolu and Savaii without any conflict and ruled what came to be known as Western Samoa until 1962.

Independence day celebration

The Samoans have been preparing for this celebration for quite sometime.  When we were walking around downtown last week we saw large groups cleaning up the roadways getting ready.  They put coconut leaves around all of the street posts and telephone poles and along many of the main roads.  It's called fili le pou. We got up at 5:30 to walk down to the opening ceremonies on Friday.  We are glad we walked because there was a real traffic jam going down to water front.  They held the opening ceremonies in front of the building where Parliament meets. We got there around 6:20 am and got a great spot right by the US Navy band.

Head of State reviews the Veterans
And we waited.  About every 10 minutes the drummers would put on there drums and we thought we would hear them play.  Instead they would announce a dignitary arriving and we were supposed to stand up for them.  The dignitaries included the governor of American Samoa and his special lady, the king and queen of Tonga, the prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand and their spouses, and finally  the head of state of Samoa. The Samoan Police band played the national anthem of each country as the dignitary arrived.  I'm not sure what the relationship of American Samoa to the United States is but they didn't play the Star Spangle Banner when the governor of American Samoa arrived. The head of state of Samoa reviewed the troops including the veterans that were standing fairly close by.  I got this great shot of the head of state walking passed the only 2 people I know who were standing on the field.  The gentleman in the gray suit is Elder Erekson, one of our senior missionaries serving as a public affairs specialist.  He served his mission as a young man in Samoa and served in the US Air Force for 6 years. Next to him in the dark suit, is Brother T'oa, a counselor in the Bishopric of the ward we attend.  He served in the US Navy for 20 years. Elders Hamula and Pearson are on the VIP stand somewhere but I couldn't see them.  They started a Thanksgiving service at 7:00 am which was lead by the President of the Methodist church in Samoa.  We listened for about 30 minutes and then decided we needed to walk home and go to work.
Hey had presentations all day long by different villages.  The ensembles from the Navy bands from the United States, Australia and New Zealand performed also.
Saturday morning we walked downtown again and saw the parade.  The Samoan Police Band along with the Navy bands from the United States and New Zealand all participated.  They do their parades a little different.  They closed off one side of the street for the parade and people could drive on the other side of the street. Some people would drive down the street so they could say "Talofa" to their friends that were in the parade going the opposite direction.  The most unique entry in the parade was the woman in the butterfly costume below. 

US Navy Band
There is a Navy frigate and destroyer in the harbor.  The destroyer is the USS Chafee.  I'm not sure which frigate is here. I couldn't get a good look at the hull number from where we were. 
I guess this is supposed to be a butterfly

Friday night we were hoping to see fireworks over the harbor. We drove down and found a good parking spot.  They were supposed to begin at 10:00 PM.  We waited until 10:30 and then decided to go home. They started around 11:00 pm.

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