Pride in Savai’i. Pride in Samoa. Pride in our cleanliness and ourselves.

Every good thing must end. And so today we say goodbye to the fun that has been the 28th Annual Teuila Festival, which was officially closed yesterday at the Malaefatu Park in Sogi by the Minister of Tourism, Sala Fata Pinati.

At this point, we join Minister Sala to acknowledge and congratulate every one involved in making the week-long festivities possible. 

They say time flies when you’re having such fun. From the action at the Malaefatu Park to all the related activities – sports, meetings and other activities throughout the country – it has been a blast.

Speaking of blasts, the biggest blast and the loudest noises are coming from the big island of Savai’i where the Miss Samoa Pageant finale is being held today. 

It follows a historical week for Savai’i where residents and villagers have gone out of their way to embrace the decision by Samoa Events Inc (S.E.I.), organisers of the Pageant, to move the pageant there. 

It was a bold decision in the first place, one many people had doubted, given the logistics. But if the success and enthusiasm shown by Savai’i this week is anything to judge by, the only question is why has it taken this long for the Pageant to finally be held there? 

Pictures tell a story and if those pictures from Savai’i are to be our guide, they obviously tell us that it’s about time the big island sees more of the action. 

The Miss Samoa Pageant this year is a good start. 

But why not just take all the Teuila Festival there? See for a festival that has been struggling for a new lease of life in the past years, this could be the best thing to happen to it. That’s because celebrations in Apia are a thing of the past. 

While it makes sense to hold them in town, why does it always have to be Apia? 

One year it could be in Salelologa Savaii? Another year could be in Asau and Falealupo? Why not take it to Manono and Apolima? 

And how about the Teuila Festival being hosted on the beautiful shores of Lalomanu and the south coast of Upolu? 

What is stopping us from doing that? 

There are really no limits to what can be done. 

While logistics will be a challenge, the buy in from the community is what we should be looking for. When you give people an opportunity to feel that they are special and part of something fantastic, you don’t have to fish hard to find passion, joy and their willingness to participate and embrace. 

That’s precisely what has happened in Savai’i this week.

All you have to do is watch how reigning Miss Samoa, Papalii Alexandra Iakopo, celebrated with her people from Savai’i during the Miss Samoa parade on Thursday to get an idea of how much it means to them. 

To see the face of Samoa dancing without shoes on the road, mixing with young and old people on the streets, interacting with fans, isn’t that what it is all about? Those moments are priceless.

What’s more, it’s a good reminder about who we are as a people. We are proud, we are Samoans and we are unique. We are not machines where we follow orders and be dictated to. No, we are happy people, we love being spontaneous, we enjoy and live life to the max, little or much. That’s who we are as a nation. Samoans at their finest.

Today, to everyone in Upolu, Manono, Apolima, Savai’i and all our Samoans who had returned for the Teuila Festival or one of the related activities including sports, give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it. 

Malo le lotonu’u, malo le finau. 

Samoa is a family, that’s what we have to remember. When it comes down to it, it’s about finding ourselves, roots and what makes us tick. We are unique in many, many ways. 

Last year, we talked about the importance of keeping Samoa beautiful and clean. We cannot stress that enough. When you observe the general comments from visitors to this country, one of the most common feedback is that Samoa is a lot cleaner than many of the places they have been to, including some of our more popular island neighbours. 

Over the years, the point that tourism is everybody’s business has been hammered home so often. But very little is said about our pride as Samoans in beautifying our surroundings. If you grew up in the village, you would know how important this is from an early age. The first chore for kids in the morning is what is referred to as “ta’alao le otaota”. Without fail, children would be asked to do this before they do anything else. 

In the villages, overgrown grass especially in front of a family’s house is an embarrassment so an effort is made to ensure it is trimmed and clean. 

Back in the days when most people were sleeping in an open fale, occupants are up as early as 5am to put away the mosquito nets and clean the house to avoid the embarrassment of people looking at an untidy fale when dawn breaks. 

It was a big no-no for a family to still have mosquito nets hanging when the day breaks. It might seem like a big deal to many people, but such is the pride we as Samoans take in keeping that image of cleanliness and neatness.

This is why it is hardly surprising that visitors to these shores have identified the cleanliness of Samoa as one of the most positive aspects of their visits. As a Samoan, who doesn’t feel mighty proud? Who does not feel inspired by such positive comments? 

The challenge is to maintain this attitude towards cleanliness of our surroundings and keep it going throughout the year. Have a wonderful weekend Samoa, God bless!

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