In the cool breeze of an early beautiful morning of June 26, 2002, hundreds of family members, relatives and friends of the group members greeted and welcomed them to the Friendly Islands of Tonga at the Fuamotu International Airport. Somewhat tired yet excited, they boarded the Tupou Colleges school bus and started the 25 minute journey to the capital city of Nuku’alofa.


Both Hawaii and the Mainland teams enjoyed the hospitality and the great service provided for them. The new three story facility had all the comfort and space needed by our large group. Our host was very helpful and accommodating which added to the whole experience. Some of the players were surprised at the cleanliness and modern surroundings of our temporary home.


The purpose of the trip was to return to the roots and to experience part of what our parents and grandparents went through before they moved out of Tonga. The loud bell of the Methodist church and the authentic sound of the lali from the Siasi Tonga on early Sunday morning woke EVERYBODY up. Strict Sabbath day observance was an eye opener for some of them. The group was fortunate to have attended the same Sunday service as the King. Members of the group were able to travel to the outer islands and spent time with their family in Vavau, Haapai and Eua. One member said “I spoke a lot more Tongan during these 2 weeks here than ever before”. The group visited Tupou College,
Tonga College and Liahona High School and were amazed at the school colors and their school uniforms. They were touched with the students’ positive attitude toward learning regardless of their limited resources. All of the group members appreciated what they had back
home. The group witnessed the school rivalry between Tonga High and St. John (Apifoou) as they played rugby at Teufaiva park. The cheers between the two schools were amazing.


The aroma of the fluffy scrambled eggs with New Zealand sausages never
smelled so good, the taste of fresh baked bread with a slice of New Zealand
creamy butter and the warm taste of a sweet cup of mailo marked the beginning of the “big day”. A team meeting and final prep talk was held before the 2 teams boarded 2 tour busses for the long 5 minute ride to Teufaiva park.

The stadium was packed with about 8,000 people, both young and old, as we felt their excitement and curiosity as they witnessed the first Kingdom Bowl and American football ever to be played at Teufaiva park. The game was broadcast live to the entire Kingdom by the A3Z radio station. The big size of the Mainland team lead by the All American, Haloti Ngata of Salt Lake City, Utah did not stop the fast and skillful players of the Hawaii team lead by the All State Quarterback Inoke Funaki of Kahuku High school. The Hawaii team dominated the game in both passing and running and their defense was in the house, stopping the Mainland team to a final score of 27 to 0 for Hawaii. Mr. Loni Sikahema was the game’s commentator as he explained the play-by-play to the spectators seated in the grand stands.


Team members were special guests of Heilala Week and attended all the festivities as such. They attended the block party with much surprise at the attendance. The preparation and coordination of the event held on Taufa’ahau road between Mala’e Pangai and the Dateline hotel were impressive. Various stations of food booths and live entertainment were also great as the Heilala Week started.

The Miss Heilala competition was the main event but was spread out for the entire week. The team members were fortunate to be there and to be part of this national festival. Some of the boys got to meet the contestants and even took pictures with them. The talent show and Tau’olunga competition was held at the Queen Salote Memorial Hall where people came from all over the kingdom to watch.


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