Not many people in Samoa reach the ripe old age of a hundred years.
Yet today at Saina in Upolu, centenarian Anaseini ‘Tupou’ Mafo’e, is celebrating her 100th birthday.
The matriarch of the family, Tupou, is joined by close to 200 relatives from all over the world, comprising her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren, for a weeklong celebration.
Tupou was born on 21 February 1918. She is the mother of 13 children, three of whom have passed away. Nine are present in Samoa for her big day.
Tupou was married to the late Mafo’e Tupu of Saina. Her eldest daughter is 82 and lives in New Zealand. The youngest of her 13 children is 60-year-old prominent Pastor, Apostle Viliamu Mafo’e, of the Worship Centre Church.
Born in Tonga, she was brought to Samoa at the age of five after her father, Hagafili Tupou, passed away.
“I cannot thank God enough for blessing me with 100 years to live on this earth,” she tells the Samoa Observer.
“I am happy that me the ‘masta’ is still alive,” she said laughing during the interview with the Samoa Observer at her residence in Saina.
“I am also thankful to have all my children and their children's present for my birthday,” said Tupou.
Despite her age, Tupou does not like it when her children try to help her get out of bed.
“I don’t like things being handed to me I want to get it on my own, because I can,” she said.
Tupou was excited to share the news of her new guest house located behind her residence.
“Have you seen my guest house? This is what I have always wanted and my children came through and built it for me, so I am one lucky mum.”
She also has a message for those who wish to reach the age of 100.
“Not everyone can reach 100 years old like me, because I am the masta and as a prayer warrior even at my age, I pray and pray for good health and for my many seeds.”
Tupou is ecstatic about staying at Taumeasina Island Resort for week as part of her birthday gift from her children.
“I cannot wait to go to the hotel, sleep on the nice comfortable big bed in the air conditioned room and eat all the food that is available there.”
Asked why Taumeasina, she said: “Because I can afford it,” she said laughing.
“You see at my age, all I need to do is ask, my children will always make sure I get what I want and luckily I’m at the age where I don’t really want much.”
Tupou was surrounded by some of her children during the interview and she turned to them and asked them “can you guys reach my age? I don’t think so.”
Losaline Mafo’e-De Bakker, who looks after Tupou, said her grandmother is feisty.
“So tomorrow (today) she turns 100 and she was counting the days up until today.
“She’s got a sharp memory and we are forever grateful for the abundant life that she has lived to see.
“Don’t let 100 years old fool you. My grandmother is sharp as a tack and when it’s just us, she always tells the most amazing stories.
“And I love it when she tells her stories because I want to share it with her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, as well as many generations to come.
“So this week is all about her.
“Inspiration comes in many ways. My grandmother has always inspired me. I am truly honoured and privileged to be the one to look after her, my sister and I.
“I left my family behind so I can come here to help her.
“I guess being a Samoan and taking care of our elders is in our blood and I know that is why we are the way we are.
“Grandma was grateful for every day and even though some days were better than others, she saw each one as a gift. Growing up, grandma never remarried and understood just how precious life was and how easily it could be taken away,” said Losaline.
She said the old lady is very bossy and refuses to take any medication.
“When she has a headache, or a stomach ache, she’ll endure the pain just because she refuses to take the medicine.”
Last year, Tupou told the Samoa Observer that she came to Samoa in 1922. And so their family stayed at Saoluafata.
“I don't recall why we left, but back then there were no cars, so when my mother was upset about something, she packed our bags and we walked all the way from Saoluafata to Saina.
“Along the way we were hungry, thirsty and tired, but we had no choice, mum was determined that we were not going back to Saoluafata.
“We reached Saina at night and the first thing we did with my sister and two brothers was ate all the food we could find,” she said giggling.
Tupou said this was where she met the love of her life, Mafo’e Tupu who was her neighbour.
She paused for a while and then said Mafo’e was a fisherman.
“Mafo’e was a loving and caring father who always put his family over everything. I miss him until this day,” she said.
Tupou shared that she’s never held a formal job.
“I’m a housewife; I tend to the daily chores, cook the food and look after my children. It’s really an easy daily routine and I loved every bit of it, being a mother and taking care of my children keeps me going.”
So what is the secret to Tupou’s longevity?
“I pray for my son who is a pastor, my children, grandchildren and all of my children, it’s all I do, pray and eat during the day.”
Last year’s Mother’s Day celebration, Tupou was given the honour of speaking on behalf of all the mothers at church.
“I’m going to say the masta is back and I will be back next year and the year after next,” she laughed clapping her hands.
Bossy and independent as ever, Tupou says while it takes a long time to walk to the bathroom, kitchen or to her bed, she does not need anyone’s help.
“I tell my children, I can do it, I will not be carried by anyone, I am able to do what I want, when I want on my own."
According to Losaline, the family has planned a week-long celebration to commemorate her grandmother’s birthday.