156th Emancipation Day of Tonga

Published June 3, 2018, 10:00 PM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Today, the Kingdom of Tonga celebrates Emancipation Day. It marks the day Tonga’s first Christian king, King Siaosi Tupuo I, officially abolished serfdom in Tonga on June 4, 1862. It was a turning point in Tongan history as commoners were freed from the virtual ownership of chiefs. The King declared the abolition of serfdom as part of his 1862 Code of Laws.

Emancipation Day is celebrated just after the conclusion of the annual three-day Ha’apai Festival. The Ha’apai Festival begins on Tonga’s outer islands and ends on Lifuka Island on June 4. Both the festival and Emancipation Day are marked with feasts and dancing.3

Tonga is a Polynesian kingdom composed of over 170 South Pacific islands, many of which remain uninhabited, and most are lined with white beaches and coral reefs and covered with tropical rainforest. Its main island, Tongatapu, is protected by lagoons and limestone cliffs. It is where the capital of Nuku’alofa, the largest city and economic hub of the country, is located. Tongatapu is endowed with beautiful beaches. It also boasts of the Ha’amonga ‘a Maui, a monumental 13th century coral gate made from three huge stone slabs, reputedly aligned to the sun at solstice. Among its popular tourist attractions are the Ha’atafu Beach, which is popular for surfing and snorkeling; the Mapu ‘a Vaea blowholes, with water shooting into the air from natural rock formations; and the Humpback whale-watching boat trips run to the island of ‘Eua.

The Philippines and the Kingdom of Tonga have enjoyed warm and friendly relations. During Philippine Ambassador Jesus S. Domingo’s presentation of his Letter of Credence to King Tupou VI, the latter assured the Philippine ambassador of the Tongan government’s openness and support to the well-loved Filipino community in Tonga. As active participants in the Pacific Islands Forum, the Philippines and Tonga are natural partners in collectively pursuing cooperation in global sustainable development, marine resources management, and climate change. The Philippine embassy in New Zealand has concurrent jurisdiction over the Kingdom of Tonga while Tonga has a consulate office in Makati City, Metro Manila.

We greet the People and Government of Tonga, led by King Tupou VI and Prime Minister Samiuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva, on the occasion of its 156th anniversary of Emancipation Day.