The Tupa’i family of Nu’usuatia celebrated a milestone yesterday with the blessing of their $1.08million fale Samoa.
According to Ta’aloga Tupa’i Drabble, the project was completed in less than six months.
Ta’aloga, a successful business woman in American Samoa, grew up in Nu’usuatia; she left home, but has always wanted to return.
“Home is where the heart is and while I left our home at a very young age, I knew that I had to come back to honour my grandparents who raised me,” she said.
“My grandparents, Ana and Tupa’i Logovi’i, despite the fact that they have passed on in the 1960’s, this has always been in the back of my head and so deep down in my heart, I knew this was what I had to do.”
Ta’aloga and her husband, Tom Drabble, own Sadie’s by the Sea and Sadie’s by the Bay, the second largest hotel in American Samoa.
“The project was a combined effort between my cousins and I including, Leatuao Larry Tupa’i."
“The fale Samoa in which I grew up in was beautiful and it was an original fale Samoa and I wanted to mimic the traditional style into this new fale."
“So when my grandparents both passed away, the uncle at the time asked us to move out of the old fale and they tore down our house."
“This broke my heart, given the memories of my grandparents was taken down when they took the house down."
“So when I left the village, I made a vow to my grandparents (who are buried in the front), that wherever life takes me, I will return to build a house, it’s in traditional and original form of which our house was before it was ripped to parts; and hopefully restore the memories we have of my childhood with my grandpa and nana,” she said while fighting back tears.
“I got a call from my cousin Larry who sent $30,000 for the house and after negotiations; we opted to rebuild our family home as we can remember."
“It was not an easy project, a lot of work went into the selection of the right Tufuga, given the uniqueness of how our original fale was, and this was the most important part."
“I must admit that it was a very tiring process and time consuming, I was given three names, but when I met those Tufuga, I was not satisfied."
“I was looking at building a house that reflected our original family home, but modernized and upon consorting with them, it was a dead end."
“Then I called Tuatagaloa Joe Annandale who gave me the name of Fonoti Likisone Leilua and we met and the rest was history."
“The fale samoa alone was about $350,000 and another $350,000 grand was spent on the extension and the rest was for the Tufuga."
“At times I felt like giving up, but I had to hark back to why we are investing in this project and that is to honour the memories of our grandparents,” said Ta’aloga.
“Fonoti did an awesome job,” she said smiling.
The Tufuga commended Ta’aloga and her cousins that despite how complex and expensive the project was they pulled through.
“This is the fourth traditional Samoan project that I have worked on and this is the only project that no one has intervened which is somewhat a relief."
“Even the Head of State’s residence, people intervened and for that I am thankful to Ta’aloga and her family for agreeing to build the fale Samoa.”
He said this project was quite complex because Ta’aloga and her family wanted traditional Samoan fale and they had to use traditional Samoan effects such as the afa, the timber and the roofing.
“The fale is modernized, we had to use the nails to strengthen the ceiling and of course it’s covered with the afa.”
The foundation of the house was another intricate part of project, given that it’s quite high.
“This project usually would take up to 12 months given how difficult it is to build on the condition, but we did it,” he said.
Tom Drabble was proud of his wife.
“Our family invested so much time in this project and I am proud of the fact that “T” (Ta’aloga) has opted to come back. It is quite inspiring and should also indicate to the Samoan people who leave and succeed in life, to remember their roots and come back and do something for their families."
“This is very moving for 'T' to come back and help build something for her family."
“She is also setting a good example not only for our daughter, but also other people out there."
“This was all her idea and I couldn’t have been more proud.”
Paramount Chiefs of Safata and the Village Council of Nu’usuatia attended the ceremony.