On Mother's Day, speak peace, love to your families, says Masiofo Fa'amausili
Kind. Humble. Gracious.
As Samoa celebrates Mother's Day, those three words sum up the nature of the wife of the Head of State, the Masiofo Her Highness Fa'amausili Tofa Maposua Lilomaiava Leinafo Maria Tuimaleali’ifano.
But there is much more to the woman often seen sitting quietly beside her husband and the Head of State, His Highness Tuimaleali’ifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II.
Faamausili is prayerful, a woman of God, ordained for ministry and it’s evident in the way she speaks.
She is a mother of three grown children (two girls and one boy), beautiful, intelligent and holds several university degrees.
Two of her children live in New Zealand and one lives in Samoa to help them with chores.
The Masiofo is an avid gardener and plant enthusiast who is happily building her own “Garden of Eden” on the Vailele coast.
On a Thursday morning, Fa'amausili takes a break from overseeing a team of men and women working outside on their vast, bright and well-kept Vailele residence to sit down with the Samoa Observer for a Mother’s Day 2020 interview.
The vibrant colours of her puletasi and demeanour are well-complemented by the surrounding flora of her gardens – bougainvillea, hibiscus of red, pink and yellow and so many other pretty plants.
“I want this to be the Garden of Eden,” the Masiofo said with a hearty laugh. “I really don’t like to talk so much about myself. I’m just a bit shy because people will think I’m promoting myself.”
For the record, the Samoa Observer approached the Masiofo for an interview. Although she speaks English well, Fa'amausili chose to respond in Samoan.
She hails from Malie, where she holds the Faamausili title, Lauli'i where she is a Maposua and Saipipi Savai’i where she holds the Tofa title.
But she said there are “so many more” villages in her bloodline.
We ask her how her morning was spent before we arrived, Fa'amausili hadn’t eaten and it was after 10am.
“My husband and I wake up every morning at 5am and we pray for about three hours. This is what we do everyday…we read our Bible, pray and spend our time in worship usually for about three hours,” she said.
“Since the first COVID-19 state of emergency orders were issued, including one week of prayer and fasting, we have been fasting. We are still fasting and we end our fast each day at around 1 or 2 in the afternoon.”
The only time their daily fast doesn’t work out, is when visitors arrive with food. They receive a lot of visitors and they visit for different reasons.
“When prayer and worship is done, I come outside and tend to my plants and land to be sure it is clean so when people visit, it’s nice and pretty,” she said. “I tend to my garden and I show the boys who come here to maintain the land what to do. This morning I woke up and planted more plants and I potted some plants.”
The evening before, she began planting new hibiscus, crotons and other plants.
“I want this to be the ‘Garden of Eden’…I want to see a lot of colours…bright…it’s very peaceful for me,” she says, laughing softly.
“There are a lot of plants. I’ve lost count. I change them all the time. Like when I think they’ve been there too long…I dig them up and change them out. Just today, I woke up this morning and planted new plants. When you arrived, I was just in the back. I went to check on my newly planted bougainvillea.
"There are about 60 new seedlings that have sprouted. This makes me happy and I like to use the mornings to get my work done before the sun gets so hot.”
She tells us they are kept busy with visitors and two homes – their residence in Vailele and their home in Matanofo, Matautu, Falelatai.
“We often have to be in Falelatai because we have a lot of family in Falelatai. We also have plantations to check on, livestock, and plants and our Church. We don’t have a faifeau in Falelatai so we are taking care of the Church,” Fa'amausili added.
Later on Thursday, the Head of State and Faamausili were planning to travel to Falelatai to prepare for Sunday's Mother’s Day service.
“We are preparing for a Mother’s Day service that is unlike the usual. Normally, we prepare items but it will be low key. We’ll have our church service, we will call on mothers to lead our prayers and our Bible readings and then each mother will go home and celebrate Mother’s Day with her family,” she said.
“So that is something I am also busy with. We have to get shopping done to decorate the church. That’s another thing I find happiness in – decorating the church. When church began last week, I decorated the church and that is what I have begun preparing for. It is going to be special for Mother’s Day Sunday. We have a [Mother’s Day] sign and I need to purchase new fabrics.
"In the CCCS [EFKS] church, we are given a colour theme for each Sunday. So I need to find fabrics of those colours. I have to find flowers, everything. The colours for this Sunday are white and yellow. The mothers will assist me with the decorating.”
Faamausili began her schooling in Aoga Faifeau and attended through Year 6. She went to St. Mary’s Primary School in Savalalo and graduated from St. Mary’s College in Vaimoso.
She holds three degrees from Auckland University: a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Anthropology, a degree in Town planning and a Master’s degree in Social Anthropology. She started studying law but didn’t get to complete the programme.
Faamausili and the Head of State were among the first class of students and graduates of Malua’s Bible School for lay preachers. She holds a diploma and a certificate from Malua.
“The reason we were among the first is because our district in Aana introduced that so when it was passed we wanted to be among the first to encourage other people to train there too,” she said.
“When I went to school, I didn’t know at first what I wanted to study but when I found an area of interest, I studied it. I also wanted to study for a doctorate after I got my master’s but then I found town planning. I don’t think anyone from Samoa pursued that field so I took it. It was a four-year degree but because I already had two degrees, I was able to do it in two years.”
When the Auckland City Council needed a Pacific Islander town planner, Faamausili got the job and started the day after she received her town planning degree. She eventually became a senior level town planner.
“Then I returned to Samoa and worked for the Public Works. I believe I’m the first Samoan to receive a degree in town planning. When I came back to Samoa, it was a new concept. So I worked at Public Works as a senior town planner… I worked until I became C.E.O. for Land, Surveys and Environment. I was C.E.O. for about five-and-a-half-years,” she added.
The Masiofo adds she might incorporate some of town planning expertise in her gardens but it’s the bright colours and peace found there that bring her joy.
“It makes me happy. It’s very peaceful for me. I’m trying to set up a prayer garden. I want to have a prayer garden, the kind of garden that makes you feel like praying when you are there. So I’m still working on it…I may not be working as a professional anymore but I have my plants,” she says proudly, showing us where she wants to create the prayer garden."
Not everyone can say they have worked on a committee to review the Holy Bible but Faamausili can. Her husband was confirmed by the Government as Head of State while he was a minister. He is the first Head of State of Samoa to hold that title and the title of church minister at the same time.
“It’s such a big job…for example; I worked on a committee to review The Holy Bible, the one we use now. We worked on that for about 10 years. When it started there were seven or eight of us but at the end there were only three of us – me and two men,” Her Highness said.
“We did complete the review of the entire Holy Bible. That’s one of the jobs I have done. People also come to me for help with translating things pertaining to the Bible. I help them…it’s a big job we have as ministers. About four or five times a preacher has retired and then we have had to take care of our church. Just like now. Our reverend retired last year in September so we have been taking care of the church since.”
Unlike other leaders of the C.C.C.S. church, the Masiofo says they do not accept monetary donations or food from the church members.
“We say no. We do the job because we enjoy it. We enjoy overseeing Sunday school for the children and I am a Sunday school teacher myself. That is how I help. I also help my husband to prepare his sermons. It’s a job we enjoy because we are able to fellowship with the people in our village and we get to know all the people in our village. Now and then, we visit them,” she said.
“Sometimes we just visit a family without notice…we are close with the children…some nights we have prayer with them and we have some food for them. For the mothers, we are able to fellowship and I am able to help them, maybe with decorating the church. I also helped to set up preschool and it’s up and running well and only stopped when we had the State of Emergency…we enjoy our calling because we have relationships with the people.”
As Head of State, she says there are protocols that must be followed but in their calling as ministers, they are able to have close relationships with their church members, to “mingle and meet with them.”
“When the children see our car, the kids wave and say ‘malo Tui!’ or ‘tofa Tui!’ Even with me, they call out and say ‘malo Tui’,” she said with a laugh.
“We enjoy the job very much. It’s a peaceful job. My husband and I, we like and seek peace and harmony. I’ve learned a lot of things from my husband…he is a peaceful person…no matter what a person says about him…he keeps the peace so I am practicing what he does now.”
In their daily fasts, Faamausili says, they pray and fast for God’s protection and for peace and harmony in Samoa.
Mothers, she said, should strive to lead their husband’s in a peaceful manner.
“We should advise them to give them peace, to keep the peace but a mother shouldn’t add to it. If the father is angry, a mother shouldn’t add to it. The most important job of a mother is to instill peace and love,” said Faamausili.
On Sunday, the Masiofo will be at church with the Head of State as the leaders of the C.C.C.S. Matautu, Falelatai. There are some 400 to 500 members in the congregation.
“Mothers know times aren’t easy right now but there is a feeling of happiness and thankfulness that it [Mother’s Day] is still important. For the mother who has love in her heart, she doesn’t want to burden their children or family. The most important thing is that we have made it to this special day for mothers,” Her Highness said.
“A gift is not the most important thing. The most important thing is that we see that our children and husband are well (manuia) and there is love. Because there is no use for a gift if there is no love or peace. At church, it will be a service of thanks, thanksgiving to God that we have made it to this day. Mothers know, if the SOE restrictions were not in place everyone would be busy with dancing and items.
"Last year, fathers entertained the mothers and it was so funny. The fathers were dancing and singing and entertaining us…we were planning to do the same thing but no because there is distancing…as for a mother’s job, we cannot just sit and think we have escaped the pandemic so we can abandon prayer and fasting and our dependence on God for His help…money is low and jobs and other plans have been affected but the Lord has many different avenues of placing what we need in our hands”
On Samoa’s Mother’s Day public holiday, the Masiofo will be back in Vailele and is excited to begin work on building her grand vegetable garden.
“I’m going to plant vegetables beginning from the very front…whatever can be planted, I will plant…I have a pineapple patch there…but for our mothers: patience, peace and we should do whatever we can do – we can make vegetables gardens, weave mats and fine mats and we must watch our children and give our husband good advice so there is peace. A mother must instill love…like the Bible says: love is patient…and so many good things,” she said.
If the mother has patience then so does the father, she said.
“Right now, we should all pray together so God can hear us praying together asking Him to protect our country…there was an earthquake yesterday (on Wednesday) and [when that happens] people worry. May God bless all mothers and may they have a blessed Mother’s Day with their children and husbands,” Her Highness added.
“Mothers are not just important on Mother’s Day…mothers are important every day, every single day. We have a public holiday declared by the government. Praise God that we have a public holiday. I believe we are the only nation with a holiday just for mothers.”