Fa’a Samoa

“Fa’a Samoa” sometimes can be confusing because it is made up of two distinct and vital elements that are tightly intertwined, where you can easily go back and forth, between these two elements, without realizing it. One is called your Samoan(ness) and the other is the Samoan Culture. What sometimes add to the confusion, is the fact that it is an oral culture which you can only learned and live it by;  seeing, hearing, doing, and feeling it.

Our Samoan(ness) comes from THREE CORE VALUES. These values will make and define us as Samoans, no matter how much Samoan blood we possess or where we were born or raised. It makes no difference whether our skin is fair, tan, or dark because our Samoan(ness) comes from within. It is more of an emotional and spiritual experience rather than a physical one.

First and foremost of the CORE VALUES is; LOVE and COMPASSION (‘a’e le alofa, e le oe ose Samoa’ or if we can’t feel or find love in our hearts, we cannot be a Samoan). Second and just as important is; SERVICE (‘le ala i le pule o le tautua’ or the way to the top, leadership, or anything good in our life is through Serving/Service). Third is; RESPECT (‘e iloa le Samoa i lana fa’aaloalo or Samoa/Samoans are known by our respect or respectful ways toward our parents, families, matais, spouses, the environment, etc.,)

So FIRSTLY, we must LOVE our parents, family (including our extended families, which include almost everyone LOL), village, spouses, and culture. We must also have COMPASSION for our neighbors and strangers. There is a tradition called, ‘fa’aafe’ (as just one example), because of our traditional homes or fales are open, we see everyone walking by and those sitting inside their fales will call out to anyone passing by to come and rest in the shade from the hot sun or rain and have something to eat. Most of times they will have nothing or very little for themselves, but it is out of Compassion and Respect that we are happy and compel to offer our hospitality.

SECONDLY, Samoans believe that you cannot really love someone and feel that deep concern for their welfare unless you have SERVED or SERVING them. Everything else will be just lip service. Who better to practice this on, then our parents, family, village, spouses, and culture.

And then THIRDLY is RESPECTING our parents, family, village, culture, and environment. We cannot properly and truly serve or love someone or anything unless we have developed a deep respect toward them.

As it should be obvious by now, the basic unit of the Fa’a Samoa/ Samoan Way is the Family with our Parents being the Foundation.

We live these THREE CORE VALUES, we will be a Samoan and feel it deeply in our souls, because being a Samoan is an emotional state that is felt within every fiber of our being. We will see young people pounding their chests and proudly proclaiming their being Samoans, while sometimes they can’t verbalize or articulate why they feel so strongly about it. It is because they are living and practicing these THREE CORE VALUES!!!  They feel it deep within themselves.

This is why we can also be a Samoan without speaking the language, while speaking and knowing our language, will only increase our understanding and enhance our love and appreciation for the Fa’a Samoa, our Samoan(ness) and our way of life (Culture).

It is a three-legged pillar that support, feed off each other, and strengthen all of them equally. No one will need to tell us who we are, because everyone will see and feel our Samoan(ness) through and through. They will most likely say, ‘ole tama ai lea, tua tamali’i ona uiga’ or whose child is this, he/she acts like Royalty because if we are Samoan, we are Royalty (they truly believe this LOL). On the other hand, Samoans have very little patience with people who lack substance and morals. This is clearly demonstrated by their saying, ‘E fia Tamali’i fua le Tufanua, ae iloa i ona fua’, meaning low life scums may want to be Royalty (Samoan), but their Acitons (lack of values) will bear them out as bad Pretenders.

Samoa literally means our ‘Sacred Center’. “Sa” means sacred and “Moa” is your center or that part of our anatomy around the sternum, which protects and houses our heart. Samoans believe, if we live and be true to these THREE CORE VALUES along with the support of our families, we will have the faith, fearlessness, and tenacity to face and overcome any and all challenges.

This has already been manifested in the field of sports, where we have excel to the highest level in world competition, despite having a population that’s less than .00008% of the world population of over 7 billion. Samoa and her people hold a unique place in the world.  Like the Israelites, the Lord has looked upon her people favorably.  They are recognized as the great navigators who conquered the Pacific Ocean.  

They have risen to the top of the world in sports, entertainment, politics, and education. Despite Samoa’s remoteness and their minuscule population compared to the many major metropolitans around the world, they managed to rise to the top. 

TheyDeWayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Hollywood & WWE Superstar

The ‘Rock’ topped all of Hollywood, again, being the highest paid actor, making close to $90 million in the year 2019.  

Eric Fono’imoana, Beach Volleyball.Sam Hill, Water PoloGreg Louganis, Springboard DiveSamantha Hill

Several are Olympic Gold Medalists, while a couple are NFL are Hall of Fame members.

Junior Seau, NFL Hall of FameTroy Polamalu, NFL Hall of Fame

Still others have been and are still mayors.  

Mayor Muliufi “Mufi” Francis Hannemann, Honolulu, Hawai’i.Mayor Elizzabeth Malae Kautz, Burnsville, Minnesota

US Representative Tulsi Gabbard, a daughter of American Samoa was a bona fide presidential candidate, for a National Democratic Party, in the 2020’s US Presidential race. She was born in Leloaloa Village, America Samoa

To be on same stage and be mentioned in the same breath with US political heavy weights is no small feat and borders on the unbelievable.  Many believed she was the most sensible candidate.  No doubt, with a stronger financial support, she would have done much better and gone much further.

The next natural progression is to expand and excel in the business field on the world level where it has already been proven in other fields, that this is possible.  Our business success will complement the success now enjoyed by many sons and daughters of Samoa in other fields at the highest level, worldwide.

Of course, the Culture is another matter all-together because there are so many layers and depth that it is a never-ending learning experience. To witness the High Orators, weave their tapestry of mythology and metaphors in their speeches, which has been developed through years of practice and learning from their progenitors and peers, is a classic thing of beauty.

They freely quote from mostly two sources; which is the Bible and the proverbs, metaphors, and experiences from nature, handed down by history and their over 3,000-year-old culture. The ocean and the forest are the biggest setting for their analogies, as they relate different aspects and experiences of fishing and hunting to strongly make and emphasize their point.  Its sophistication and complexity is like a symphony and a chess match weaved as one, aesthetically displayed in their elegant performance through their eloquent oratory skills and artistry.

The basic and core tradition is called ‘fa’alavelave’ which brings the family together in everything from births to weddings to funeral to coronation of chiefly titles and everything in between and where the three CORE VALUES are practiced, learned, and lived out, in these necessary and very important traditions.

“Fa’alavelave(s)” is the vehicle that drives and keeps the Fa’a Samoa/ Samoan Way alive, perpetuating and maintaining its nobleness.

It is the time the matai (head of the family) brings his immediate family together to discuss what they will give to help a family member (immediate or extended) with their upcoming event or affair.  “Fa’alavelave(s) is also the platform that gives us the opportunity to live and practice our culture and Samoan(ness), much like religion enables us to recharge our spiritual batteries.

There are so many different physical protocols for Service /Serving during various ‘Fa’alavelave(s)’ from vying for the honor of giving a welcome or thank you speech (fa’atau) for the honored guests, to the sua(s)’ presentation, to the ‘ava ceremonies’, to dividing resources (sila toga) after a fa’alavelave, (to dividing a pig), as it is the most important animal for sua(s). Different parts of animals are given to different individual matai titles, etc. (an example is the ‘alaga’ or the thighs are given to the high orators).  These are few of the many protocols of the culture.

They are complex and pageantry in performance and nature. Again, they are only learned through hearing, seeing, doing, and experiencing it.

The oral situation of the culture is another fascinating aspect. It allows different and dominant personalities (in their lifetime) to interpret and bend the complex and the many different layers of the culture (grandma, as a prime example LOL) according to their discretion, but they cannot change the culture’s core posture or axis. “Samoa, ua uma ona tofi” which means the Fa’a Samoa and Samoan Ways are already set.

There are many other values in the culture, such as loyalty, obedience, forgiveness, sharing, etc., that mirrors a lot of the Christian values and maybe exceeding some. For example any crime, including major ones like rape, murder, etc. can be forgiven by a ceremony call ‘ifoga’.  The family committing the wrong will go to the home (outside in their yard) of the affected family before dawn sitting there, completely covered with the ‘ie toga’ or ‘fine mat’ waiting for the affected family to awake and give their verdict.  It is strictly by faith as they ask for mercy and forgiveness.  They are completely at the mercy of the family that has been wrong to forgive or their chance for revenge as they could easily kill them who are covered by the ‘ie toga’.  If forgiveness is the verdict they will usually be invited into the house or fale for a feast and the head of the household will tell his/her family that it is over and they have been forgiven.  A stronger bond will usually develop between the two families and sometime become like blood family.

These complex values and principles will be easier to be embraced, if the THREE CORE VALUES are lived and practiced in our daily lives. Samoa’s creeds has always been, “Samoa, e muamua le Atua” or Samoa, God is always First and Foremost and the other is, “E Fa’avae I le Atua, Samoa” or Samoa’s Foundation is GOD!!!

This is why Fa’a Samoa and Christ’s teachings are closely knitted, having the Fa’a Samoa, being the precursor to Christ’s Gospel. Like Christ’s baptism, one is by Water (Fa’a Samoa) or its physical aspect and the other is by Fire (Christ’s Gospel) or its spiritual aspect, where one cannot exist without the other. Again, the spiritual aspect is always higher than the physical aspects.  This is true of any law. Understanding and practicing this will keep our ‘sacred center’ focus and strong.

Living and practicing these Three Core Values, LOVE & COMPASSION; SERVICE; and RESPECT, and honoring the Samoan creeds, “Samoa, e muamua le Atua” and “E Fa’avae I le Atua, Samoa”, will make us, not only, become true Samoans but also be more Christ like in our lives and demeanor.

This also explains why where-ever and whenever we meet a fellow Samoan anywhere in the world, it is an occasion that is celebrated with great joy and jubilation like we’ve known each other all our lives, even if we just met for the first time.

‘Malo’ (hello), ‘Sole’ (men) or ‘Suga’ (women) are the only words need spoken, anywhere in the world, and you are family!  Ma le ava male migao e tatau ai.

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