On Friday 29th February 2008, the Kingdom of Tonga witnessed one of the rarest sights to behold when Hon. Poluleulingana and Hon. Phaedra 'Anaseini Tupouveihola 'Ikaleti Olo-'i-Fangatapu Fusitu'a led a traditional Hū Louifi procession consisting of members of the Royal family up the long path to His Majesty King Tupou V’s Villa on Mataki’eua. The Hū Louifi is an ancient tradition going back centuries. It literally translates as ‘to enter with bowed head, donning leaves of the chestnut tree’. The chestnut leaves are used for cooking the 'umu or underground earth oven. Cooking is historically a duty performed by people of low rank. The wearing of the chestnut leaves by people seeking forgiveness designates them to a lower level and is a sign of humility. In ancient times, it may also have symbolized self-sacrifice.
When a Hū Louifi presentation is performed, it is designed in a way that is absolutely humbling and even humiliating on the part of the “offending” party and signifies to the party offended, in this case the King, that they are showing their deepest remorse and wish to beg His forgiveness. To witness a traditional Hū Louifi ceremony is a rare event in Tonga. The last one was held during the reign of Her Majesty Queen Salote Tupou III.
Participants involved in this particular Hū Louifi also included HRH Princess Salote Mafile’o Pilolevu, HRH Princess Mele Siu’ilikutapu, HRH Princess Sinaitakala ‘Ofeina-‘ehe-Langi, Hon. Lupepau’u, Hon. Lupe’uluiva, Hon. Salote, Hon. Sione Ikamafana, Hon. ‘Etani Ha’amea, Hon. Sinaitakala, Noble Kalaniuvalu, Noble Fotofili, Hon. Fakaolameilangi and Hon. Sosefa ‘Alematea, all making the slow and solemn trek up the long driveway to the King;s Villa.
They were closely followed by members of the Ha'a Takalaua clan, (also known as the “faa’i hai” or the “four aces”, they are the noble titles Luani, Tungi, Fotofili, Fakafanua) and hundreds of residents from Tatakamotonga village, all seeking forgiveness from His Majesty for an incident that occurred in 2005 when Tungi's residence called Uoleva was burnt down in the village.
Once the procession reached His Majesty King George Tupou V, Hon. Poluleulingana bowed down in a sign of respect, moved toward His Majesty and made a traditional speech on behalf of the villagers formally seeking His Majesty’s forgiveness. In ancient times, people may have waited for hours in the sun before an answer was given. After this particular ceremony however, the villagers sung hymns and waited while the King's Matapule Motu'apuaka spoke with a Ha'a Tufunga from the village of Tatakamotonga called Totohoumafisi. A bountiful supply traditional gifts and materials were then also presented to His Majesty.