THEY stared in awe as the President, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, took hold of a microphone and sang an English hymn to the villagers of Nabavatu in Dreketi on New Year's Day.
As he gave his rendition of Just a closer walk with thee, village women began to make their way up to hug, to kiss and to embrace him.
The President's visit to Nabavatu for Miliana Tinaniqica's 100th birthday celebration was unknown to the family and the villagers except for the Commissioner Northern Lieutenant Colonel Ilai Moceica.
A surprise indeed for some elderly folks who joking said such a visit could have caused them a heart attack.
Villagers continuously mumbled: "Isa, a Peresitedi levu ni ota ma'ani'u e sihovi heta u mai ni hua. Sa tuga a 'uraga yalo re ka tau veinanumi tina (The President of our nation paid us a visit today. What a humble and thoughtful gentleman)."
Overcoming their shock and surprise, the villagers then hastily put together a welcome ceremony for the head of State.
Ratu Epeli, as humble as he was, shared jokes and laughed with the villagers.
During entertainment time the women, without hesitation, humbly approached him for a taura tale ( dance) and he did not disappoint by rising to the occassion in typical fashion.
Village headman Esala Tawake said the president's visit was indeed a pleasant surprise.
"We are just so fortunate the visiting head of State took time out to come down to our village and greet us in person," Mr Tawake said.
"This is really incredible and it's the first time for a President of our country to visit us at our village. He is certainly a thoughtful and a humble man who has good leadership character."
Mr Tawake said Ratu Epeli was a leader who kept a low profile.
The President also visited the Vaturekuka Corrections Centre, Labasa Hospital, the Babasiga Ashram and the Timber & Company Limited at Dreketi. On Wednesday, he visited the people of Yadua Island in Bua whose village was badly affected by Tropical Cyclone Evan.