PCC/BYUH alumnus returns with royal party

The royal entourage who accompanied the king and queen of Tonga’s attendance at the grand reopening of the Polynesian Cultural Center’s recently renovated Tongan Village, included a 1994 PCC and BYU–Hawaii alumnus who now serves the Friendly Islands kingdom in a ministerial or cabinet-level position:


The Hon. Semisi Sika, Tonga’s Minister of Infrasturcture and Tourism

His Majesty King Tupou VI appointed the Hon. Semisi Kioa Lafu Sika, 48, of Haveloto, Tongatapu, to the portfolio of Tonga’s Ministry of Infrastructure and Tourism, effective this past April 18, 2016. The appointment was based on a recommendation from Tonga’s Prime Minister, Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva. Prior to that time, Sika had been serving as the People’s Representative for the 2015-2018 parliamentary term for his district and filled several other key roles in the community.

 According to an internet search, Tonga’s government consists of a hereditary constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy with a unicameral legislative assembly comprised of 26 elected members: Nine of these are elected by and from among the country’s 33 hereditary nobles, and 17 on the basis of universal adult suffrage in a general election which must take place at intervals of no longer than four years. Tongan women received the right to vote in 1960.

After graduating from BYU–Hawaii in 1994 with a degree in business and travel management, Sika returned to the Friendly Islands and taught at the Latter-day Saint Liahona High School from 1995-07, then he operated his own travel agency until entering public service in 2010.

Following the Friday evening banquet, Sika said returning to the PCC “feels like coming home. This is where it all began for me. My first job at PCC was in 1990 as an ambassador tour guide.”

Sika said because of his PCC experience he changed his university major to tourism and travel. “Living here in Hawaii and the influence of the PCC changed me. My whole career in tourism started through the training I went through at BYU–Hawaii and at the Polynesian Cultural Center.”

He recalled that as a young BYUH/PCC student, he took part in the reception for the royal visit of the late King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV, father of the current king, who bestowed the chiefly title Mafi Fakapotu on the president of the Polynesian Cultural Center.

The minister pointed out that the Friendly Islands gain a significant amount of promotion from the Tongan presence in the PCC. “We also feel closer when their majesties and heads of states come to the Center,” Sika said. “This is considered more like a home for all the Polynesian islands. I’m also here as a representative of the prime minister for this special occasion of the reopening of the PCC’s Tongan Village. It’s a relationship that’s very critical in our economic growth, especially in tourism.”

“Tonga is being introduced to thousands of visitors on a daily basis,” Sika said. “I’m here to extend our gratitude and appreciation for what the Center has done in terms of our tourism.” He added that the Kingdom of Tonga is very proud of the Tongan Village at the PCC.

Story and images by Mike Foley


Mike Foley, who has worked off-and-on

at the Polynesian Cultural Center since

1968,  has been a full-time freelance

writer and digital media specialist since

2002, and had a long career in marketing

communications and PR before that. He

learned to speak fluent Samoan as a

Mormon missionary before moving to Laie

in 1967 — still does, and he has traveled

extensively over the years throughout

Polynesia and other Pacific islands. Foley

is mostly retired now, but continues to

contribute to various PCC and other media.