It's official. Marching is the new national hobby. If the strolling-down-main-street variety can pull off three big ones in one day, marching is well ahead of soccer, netball, volleyball and you can hold on to your marbles! Cricket is so passe and rugby didn't do itself any favours by limping home with a sorry looking record against Italy and France last week. The rest of the world are heading off to George, South Africa, for the next round of the Rugby 7s this weekend but our own sevens were at home on a royal Tongan George day-off and to be part of the lunch parade.
What other sport or pastimes in Tongan can you call on to bring the nation to a halt, cause a run on red and white fabric and introduce flag-making as the new cottage industry? It's been decades since His Majesty vaulted to a national record of just over 7 feet and here he is, leading the fray from the comfort of an airconditioned bus and not a polevault to be seen. And didn't Her Majesty do well... taking it to the tarmac like everyone else in the throng and in the heat as well, umbrella carrier in tow.
On today's Matangi Tonga pictures, it's obvious you could clothe a sizeable village on the Jesus banners alone and the screen printing presses would have had the J word printed thousands times over in all shapes and sizes. Speaking of sizes, there was a shortage of jandals - sizes 11 and over in Nuku'alofa just recently and more stock had to be rushed from Auckland over the last week or two. But obviously not everyone flip-flopped on the big day. March day in Nuku'alofa is Tongan society in micro and a few of the Friendly Isle's well-heeled grabbed their chance to steal the limelight and swooshed about in the latest Nike aircushions, which were flown in just for the day.
It was too much for some of our recently-leveraged public servants of the plus 60 percent variety to see the equivalent of a month's toil kicking dust along Taufa'ahau Road. If marching for freedom is good for a bit of one-upmanship, marching for Jesus is definitely better for the sole.
I grew up in Ha'apai and heard about the "marching mahoa'a", and we're not talking bags of flour here. But never thought I'd see the kaumeile corps and the kahokaho cadres four deep on the way to the palace. Yamming it up to royalty is such a Ha'apai tradition. I just hope they get to sell it for a good price before they leave for home.
Marching like this is new and it's certainly going to take hold because there are other spinoffs. On this week's efforts it also doubles as a political referendum, a street poll on the move if you like. And on the democratic principle of majority rules, the freedom fighters will have to be a distant third this time round, the yam-carrying fishermen from the smaller islands to the north can take silver. But let's face it, if you have the Tongan Police band and Jesus on your side, there's no competition really. And it can only happen in Tonga.
Auckland, New Zealand