“FAIGAMEA ILE TAI” 2014 IS ALL ABOUT THE TEAMS, THE CAPTAINS, AND THE FAUTASI
Coors Light, the major sponsor for the 2014 American Samoa Flag Day Fautasi Race is pleased to present the 10 long boats that will compete on April 16. They are: Fua’o (Vatia), Paepae O Ulupo’o (Aua), Aeto (Pago Pago), Fealofani Samoa (Fagasa), Iseula (Fagatogo), Fetu Ole Afiafi (Faga’alu), Manulele Tausala I/II (Nu’uuli), Fa’asaulala (Vailoa), Matasaua (Manu’a).
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Today, Coors Light features the Matasaua from the Manu’a Islands.
Fu’ega says the Matasaua Is Ready For the Race
With just three weeks away from the April 16 Flag Day fautasi race, and there was still no word from the leaders of the District of Manu’a as to whether their Matasaua fautasi was going to enter the race, kapiteni, Fu’ega Moliga sprang into action and organized the auva’a.
“I was worried that the tu’uga va’a was just around the corner and we have not heard from the Fa’atui ma To’oto’o as to their decision about our sa, so the veterans of previous Matasaua campaigns and I got together and formed the committee. We called a meeting of the auva’a and started our training and preparations for next week’s race,” Fu’ega explains.
There are five counties that make up the district of Manu’a; Faleasao, Fitiuta, Ta’u, Ofu and Olosega. Every year, according to Fu’ega, each county takes a turn in running the operations of their fautasi. Faleasao and Fitiuta combine their efforts when it is their time to be in charge, and the same goes for the luanu’u, Ofu and Olosega. Ta’u acts alone.
Kapiteni Fu’ega represents the Ofu and Olosega counties but it is not clear at this time which county’s turn it is this year to take over the affairs of the Matasaua as the Manu’a leaders have not officially decided.
“The luagu’u has been in charge of the Matasaua campaign for quite some time. These days however, we go with one identity, that we are all from Manu’a. Our auva’a is made up of Manu’ans and those with ties to the Moku Sa. We are one when it comes to ku’uga va’a.”
Skipper Fu’ega admits there are no rowers from the islands included in his auva’a. “It is very hard for them to come to Tutuila to be part of our crew and leave their families and jobs behind for a long time. The lack of consistent transportation is another big problem for them.”
Fu’ega and his committee rely on Manu’a’s young population, most of whom were born in Tutuila to man their fautasi. But the skipper notes that many of them show no interest at all in joining the auva’a.
“It is always a difficult task every year for us to organize the auva’a as many young potential rowers leave American Samoa for the military, seek jobs in the United States or further their education off-island. Some just pay no attention to what we’re doing for Manu'a.”
The auva’a started their training at the Tafuna Veterans Stadium three weeks ago doing laps, short sprints and lots of walking around the track, at least for some, who Fu’ega describes as huge and overweight.
“We thanked the big guys for their efforts and let them go. We have enough young rowers that will represent Manu’a for the Fag Day race.”
Well, barely. There are 40 rowers who turn up for training and rowing practices. Thirty-eight of them will be in the final selection when captain Fu’ega and his committee make their pick leaving only two reserves. Last Friday evening, the skipper had to delay for quite sometime his rowing runs as there were not enough rowers to take his boat out.
The Matasaua is the longest fautasi that will race next week and one of the most expensive high tech boats ever constructed. It is 115ft. long and cost the people of American Samoa, over $300,000. And perhaps that is the problem — why it lacks victories in the tu’ufaga va’a.
The Manu’a fautasi was built in 2009 with government handout money (close to a million dollars) given by former governor Togiola Tulafono’s administration to stimulate the Manu’a district’s economy and improve the quality of life for its people.
Despite its gigantic size and expensive design, the Matasaua has been a disappointment for fans and supporters. Five years ago, Manu’a believed they had acquired a winner, a champion. They are still waiting and hoping for a miracle to happen.
“Has our expensive fautasi made our lives any better since it was gifted to us? The answer is no, no, no,” complains one Manu’a supporter. “If the Matasaua could be used to transport goods and take passengers to the islands, I’d say yes, yes, yes. We don’t have any cargo ship for Manu’a, yet the leaders decided to build a luxurious fautasi for their expensive game.”
One prominent Manu’a leader told this correspondent a while ago that he would sell the Matasaua for $200,000 at a moment’s notice to any village here or in Apia that was willing to spend that kind of money.
The Matasaua has a committee that oversees its daily business. One of those in the group is Rev. Alo Mamalu Filoiali’i, an Army Reserve chaplain who is stationed at Fort Shafter in Hawaii. Filoiali’i is a former Matasaua skipper and is helping out with the training and organizing of the auva’a. He is on leave from his pastoral duties with the Mortuary Affairs (a service within the United States Army Quartermaster Corps).
Rev. Filoiali’i says he is happy to be home again and get involved with the affairs of the Manu’a fautasi. Four years ago, he captained the second Matasaua boat that has since been sold to the Faga’alu village — and renamed the Fetu ole Afiafi. The chaplain will leave for Honolulu after Flag Day.
Other committee members are; Tagoa’i, Va’anakiu, Motusa, and Sasualei Moliga. They train the crew, prepare their meals, and police the curfew hours. They use Governor Lolo M. Moliga’s guest house in Ili’ili as their headquarters, and for sleeping arrangements.
Captain Fu’ega is a former DPS police officer and served as the warden of the Tafuna Correctional Facilities for many years. He retired from law enforcement and later won a seat in the House of Representatives as one of the faipule from the District of Manu’a.
His older brother, Lolo Letalu Matalasi Moliga, who is now governor of American Samoa, once occupied that seat for a long time. Fu’ega was recently hired by the Department of Public Works to oversee its projects and programs in the Manu’a district.
The Matasaua kapiteni says that he, like all other fautasi skippers wants to win next week’s faigamea ile tai. But he likes to take the championship in a fair and honest way. “The Matasaua is perhaps the only honest fautasi in tu’uga va’a. Every year we always obey the rules but it looks like honesty is not the best policy. Maybe the Matasaua should ulavale la’ikiki (a little bit mischievous) this year.”
Fu’ega would like to thank the leaders of the district of Manu’a, and church ministers, friends and families for their prayers and support. He says his auva’a is prepared to go out and fight for the honor of the people of Manu’a who live in Tutuila, the islands, and overseas.