Article #1: The Story of Sia Tonga
Submitted by: Sister Kristine Saunders, Archives
Her presence is felt as soon as she walks into a room. She is a master storyteller who brings the spirit of aloha with her to share with everyone. At the same time, she has the ability to filter out the noise and focus on the one who may need a little light and love that only she can share. Meet Telesia Vale`aki`eteanga Afeaki Tonga or simply Auntie Sia, Senior Cultural Ambassador and MC Coordinator at the Polynesian Cultural Center.
Sia was born at Queens hospital in Honolulu. She was named Telesia, the Tongan and Samoan version of Teresa, after her maternal grandmother. When she was two months old, her grandmother followed a long-standing island tradition of hanai and took Sia to the mainland to live with her. Traditionally, a first-born child was hanai`d by a grandparent to be loved, nurtured and raised in an environment where they would be cared for emotionally and spiritually. Sia was raised knowing and loving her birth parents and when she was six years old, they had finished school at BYU-Provo and took Sia and her other siblings to live in Tonga to learn the language and family traditions.
Sia attended Tonga High School for Form 1-2 then transferred to Liahona High School for Form 3-5 and then went back to Tonga High School where she graduated Valedictorian. She loved netball, a sport similar to basketball that is played without bouncing the ball and with no backboard.. Her position was goal attack. For academics, she loved math and was a “mathlete”. In fact, she originally met her future husband at a math competition. Her children think it’s “nerdy” rather than romantic that their parents first met at a math competition.
After high school Sia went to Australia on a Tonga government scholarship from Crown Law to go to law school. She did a year of matriculation at University of Wollongong then was accepted to the Australian National University in Canberra. She enrolled in a five-year program with a declared double major planning to graduate with a bachelor in business (commerce) and a bachelor in law. After four years, Sia went to Salt Lake City, Utah to visit her grandmother and decided to stay, get married, and start a family. In 2002, Sia finished her schooling and graduated from BYU-Hawaii with a degree in business.
Sia has worked on and off at the Polynesian Cultural Center for many years. In 2004, she was hired as an on-call MC for the ProMo team. She was a part-time employee until 2007 when she was offered a full-time position as an MC. In 2008, the Polynesian Cultural Center experienced an economic downturn and lost many employees. In 2016, Logo Apelu invited Sia to return to the Center as MC Coordinator, then in 2021 she became a Senior Cultural Ambassador.
Sia was born in Hawaii and her roots are here in Laie where the PCC, the Temple and BYU-Hawaii connect. The Tongas were in fact sealed in the Laie temple just as her parents were 48 years ago. Her mom who is 81 years old was hanai`d to Patrick Dalton who was mission president, then temple president, and the first Biology professor at Church College of Hawaii. The Daltons had no kids of their own and offered to hanai one of the Tongan kids. Her mother’s parents thought that their daughter was given an opportunity to be loved and nurtured by another loving family. When the Daltons came back to Laie, Sia’s mom went to Kahuku high school. The women who were here when the center first opened where her mom’s hanai sisters. They saw firsthand the prophecies of President David O. McKay come to pass. As for Sia, she always dreamed of coming to BYU-Hawaii because of her mother’s stories. Sia always wanted to be a dancer but she came years later as a married student living in TVA and finally as a much-loved Mistress of Ceremonies.
Sia is a born performer and storyteller. When anchoring a performance as the MC she connects immediately with the audience. She projects the spirit of aloha and shares her remarkable ability to connect with people on many different levels. People recognize the special feeling of love and caring she projects. As a mom, Sia has a special feeling for families of college students who have brought their sons or daughters to BYU-Hawaii and left them on their own, many for the first time. Sia gives her contact information to the kids and the moms because she has eight kids of her own, 7 daughters and one son and can relate to the feelings and concern parents have for their children. Random audience members often ask if they can take a picture with Sia and she will give them her contact information if they ask. Through those contacts she has experienced some remarkable stories about the spirit felt while at the Center and an appreciation for the time spent there. Many people remark about the special love they felt. Sia believes she is sharing her testimony in a different way. The songs and dances of Polynesia performed at the PCC are in harmony with gospel principles and the queen’s story is a story of love and family. Many times, people come searching for a sense of family and experience something they didn’t expect to feel. Sia says, “I love my job because it never feels like work because I treat it as my mission – sharing the spirit of aloha is sharing the love of Christ.”
Article #2: Alii Luau Makes Best Luau List in Hawaii Magazine
Submitted by: Sister Kristine Saunders, Archives
The Polynesian Cultural Center’s Alii Luau is ranked number 2 among the top 5 luaus on Oahu according to Hawaii Magazine. Hale Aloha and Hale Ohana certainly provide an Alii Luau feast to remember. They feature live music and hula performances telling the story of the last Hawaiian monarch, Queen Liliuokalani.
While the Alii Luau is impressive, it is just one of the many things to do and experience at the Polynesian Cultural Center. When visiting the 42-acre Center, BYU-Hawaii students from many cultures and language traditions provide guide services. The students really set the Center apart with the professionalism and energy they bring to the luau and performances.
While not a traditional luau, the Gateway Buffet is a great place to go for a grand buffet featuring an impressive selection of foods with international appeal.
Guests are encouraged to come to the Center early to visit the marketplace and have lunch at one of the outstanding food trucks so there is plenty of time to visit the Island Villages before the luau and night show begin.
The Island Villages of Polynesia are authentic recreations of six villages that represent the islands of Polynesia. At the villages, guests are welcomed and treated to demonstrations and activities highlighting island cultures of the past.
While there is plenty to do and see at the Center, the premiere performance is the “HA: Breath of Life” show. This show is a theatre experience showcasing music, traditional ways of life, dancing, and the most exciting and spectacular fire walkers and fire knife performances in the world. The show tells the story of a young man called Mana as he grows and learns about love and life.
Congratulations to the other luaus featured in the Hawaii Magazine. Luau is one of the best ways to share culture and honor the legacy left by our ancestors.
Article #3: Polynesian Cultural Center 2022 Summer Updates
Submitted by: Quinney Suaava, Blog Coordinator
There are many great events happening at the Center this summer. First on the list is our 4th of July Celebration, extended hours and more! Read the full blog here!
Article #4: Safety Corner
Submitted by: Todd Nicholes, Safety Officer
Every employee/volunteer should be assigned online training when they start working at the Polynesian Cultural Center and periodic updates to the training should be completed as required.
Supervisors/Managers must get their employees enrolled in Vivid Training; at a minimum for all who work/serve here, there are five online training courses which include:
- Active Shooter
- Bloodborne Pathogens
- Fire Extinguisher Safety
- Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Prevention
- Violence in the Workplace
Many other workers/volunteers may also be required to complete online courses for Intro to Utility Cart Safety and Personal Protective Equipment.
To get registered in the required online courses Managers/Supervisors must provide
- Employee/Volunteer full name
- Employee ID number if applicable
- An active email address
This information must be provided to a Vivid Training Administrator In HR, Your department administrator, or Safety Officer.