It’s early in the month of June, and families are already looking forward to celebrate Father’s Day. Like entering into the new millennium, my island Kingdom of Tonga has to beat the world in celebrating Father’s Day. In Tonga, Father’s Day is celebrated on the Sunday following Mother’s Day. This is a great treat for the family because they get to feast like royalty two Sundays in a row. To mark the significance of Mother’s Day, a father would roast a pig (a Tongan delicacy) for the family, and you guessed right on who would roast the pig for Father’s Day.

The Tongan translation for father is tamai. Unlike the traditional definition of a father, the term tamai not only refers to one’s biological male parent, but also to the father’s brothers, and his male cousins. If a child’s father neglects his fatherly duties, it is the responsibility of the father’s brothers and/or male cousins to step in and fulfill the father’s roles for the child. Therefore, a Tongan child can never say he or she is ta’e tamai, meaning without a father. Although I grew up in Tonga mostly without a male parent in my home, I never saw myself as a fatherless child.

My uncle Maile is my step-father’s cousin and the husband to my mother’s best friend. When I needed a daddy to help me with my homework, I would ask him. When I needed a daddy to talk to, I would call him. When I needed a daddy to listen, I would cry to him. He is my papa bear, my tamai ‘ofeina (beloved father), Maile Tu’ionetoa.



Uncle Maile and my little sister, Seini

My uncle Lolo is my biological father’s second cousin. When I didn’t want a fatherly lecture, yet needed it, he was always there to counsel me. When I wanted to get away with an outfit that might be considered culturally inappropriate, he would be right on time to inspect my attire. When I needed a father to dance with me, bless me, and claim me, he was always there for me to call upon as my tamai to’a (hunk of a father), Lolomana’ia Tu’ifua.


Uncle Lolo & I at my high school graduation 2004

Then there’s ‘Ehuti Lopelini Fine Tu’ifua Mo’unga. When my father’s brothers weren’t there, she was. When my father’s male cousins weren’t there, she was. When my other leaders and mentors weren’t there, she was. Even my brothers, when they weren’t there, she was, is, and will always be there for me. My die hard mother and tamai ki he ta’engata (father forever), mom.


My Fine-Tuifua-Mo’unga famili(family)

We all have tamai figures that have influenced our lives for the better. Whether you grew up in a home without a father physically present or with a father mentally absent, it doesn’t matter. You are never a fatherless child. As June 15th, 2014 approaches, remember the fathers, cousins, aunties, uncles, single mothers, and leaders that carried and continue to carry the mantle of being a tamai. Wish them all a “Happy Father’s Day”.

Fatai Tu’ifua


Author Bio

Fanga’afa Fataimoemanu Tu’ifua


  • Class of 2004 Valedictorian (Liahona High School, Tonga)
  • BYU-H senior English major. (Graduating in August, 2014)
    Presenter at the National Undergradute Literature Conference (NULC)
  • Presenter at the BYU-H Undegraduate Research Conference
  • Worked as Demo Guide (Samoa and Mission Complex) and Cultural Performer (Canoe Pageant and Night Show) between 2005-2007
  • Worked at Jamba Juice & First 5 San Bernardino (2008)
  • Worked as a substitute teacher at Liahona High School (2009)
  • Served as an LDS missionary at California Santa Rosa mission (2009-2011)
  • Worked as a college intern for The San Bernardino Unified School District (2011-2013)
  • Currently working as a youth counselor at the Bobby Benson Center in Kahuku and as a certified tutor at the BYU-H Reading/Writing Center.