Tongans, along with the rest of our Polynesians, love to dance. It is in their blood and sometimes in their wallets. Let me explain!

I’ve learned in all my years working at the Polynesian Cultural Center that when you attend a Tongan celebration, festival, or party, you should always bring some dollar bills with you. It took me a couple of times to really get it. But it didn’t take too long to realize that I must save face and be sure to have $1 bills in my pocket before attending any Tongan function.  

It is usual for a girl to start the tau’olunga dance, and then parents, cousins, family members and friends join in on the stage to put dollar bills on her oiled skin. Some will tuck them in the dancer’s costume, or slap the bills on their back, arms or legs. Then some will throw a huge wad of dollar bills in the air as a way of honoring her. I love to see those dollars floating in the air, hear the music and see everyone dancing.

It makes the whole event such a festive celebration for all of those on the floor as well as those in their seats enjoying the whole thing.



If you are ever invited to a Tongan event, it would be best to bring some dollar bills.

When you rev up the courage to go up, just slap some dollar bills on the dancer’s oiled skin and start dancing with the others.

I promise that the audience will look upon you with respect as one who loves and honors the Tongan culture.

Fakapale is basically prize money, meant to be a gift to a dancer. As often is the case, the dance (tau’olunga) is performed by a dancer being honored for some event or milestone.



It could be a bride, a birthday girl, a graduate, or dancer representing a fundraising event.

Click on the following video link to view a Tau’olunga.  As you can see, it is a wonderful way to celebrate!


PCC blogger, Bobby Akoi.  Originally from Keaukaha on the Big Island of Hawai’I,  his path took an unexpected turn to the little town of La’ie as student at Church College of Hawai’i.  Never in his wildest dreams did he think he’d be working at the #1 paid tourist attraction in the State of Hawaii.   Today he is the Director of Protocol & Community Relations for the Polynesian Cultural Center.  He is married to Hiromi and has 4 children.