75-year-old goes back in time to 1962

Loluama Neli Tafili has never missed an Independence Day celebration since that momentous day in 1962, when the Southern Cross stars emblazoned against the red and blue flag was first hoisted to mark Samoa’s graduation as an independent nation.

Hailing from Asaga in Savai’i, she was 17 years of age on that day and was among hundreds of others who had gathered to witness the historical day.

Reminiscing on the journey that the country has taken over the last 58 years, Loluama told the Samoa Observer that she was overwhelmed with emotion and they all stood with pride, crying tears of joy for their new found freedom. 

"For the first time in our lives as Samoan, we finally had been granted our independence, our freedom to rule and our freedom to speak and I can never forget how everyone was so overwhelmed and deeply proud as our first Samoan flag was raised at Mulinu'u in 1962," she said. “Everyone had to just grab their children from their beds and just run off to Mulinu’u so they won’t miss the moment. We all stood with pride, tears of joy, as we won’t have to be ruled by other people anymore, so we will have our own freedom to ourselves.”

Loluama now resides in To'omatagi with her children and grandchildren.

The independence celebrations in 1962 included parades, traditional performances and then the historic flag raising ceremony to confirm the birth of a nation.

Even travelling to Upolu for the 1962 Independence Day celebration was a special occasion for Savai’i residents like Loluama, who said it was akin to Samoans travelling to New Zealand for the first time.

“It’s like you can feel what other people are feeling and you can understand that everyone shared the same feeling on that day,” she added.

But Samoa’s journey of nationhood was not a straight path, she recalls, as discrimination back then during the colonial administration was a major hurdle that Samoans had to overcome. 

“Up to this very day, I keep reminding myself of the struggles and pains our Samoan leaders have experienced and everything they sacrificed for our freedom,” she stated. “Before Independence Day, everything was challenging. Entering a school, buying a school uniform, getting successful in education and so much more which I cannot recall altogether.”

And with the Apia Courthouse currently being demolished, Loluama said celebrating Independence Day for her personally, is to acknowledge that such historical sites continue to be preserved to this very day.

“Watching these historical sites during Independence celebrations these days is a reminder at least for us elders of how it all started.”

Now 75-years-old, Loluama reminisced on what Independence Day meant for her and her schoolmates in college back in those days, and how everyone had to unite for the common good of the country. 

“It was like two parts of one country having reconciled after David and Goliath who led them die and everyone reconciled,” she said. “It was like each Samoans sharing some kind of bond which I do not have the right words for.”

Loluama appealed to the country to go back to the foundation years and how it all started for Samoa on Independence Day, as they were passionate back then about the day and celebrated all the freedoms that it came with.

“Even my children, I delightedly escorted them to the parades and everything they’re involved in regarding Independence and I might’ve been more happier than they were,” she added.

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