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From the highlands to the coast

Mere Naleba
Monday, December 04, 2017

RELOCATING can be a difficult decision to make but four generations of the original settlers of Namatakula Village cannot thank their forefathers enough for moving from the hinterland of Navosa to the coastal region of Nadroga where they now live and thrive.

According to village headman Etika Nakuruilagi, 61, the village's current location — which is on both sides of the Queens highway — is now home to the fourth generation of the original settlers of Namatakula.

He said their forefathers originally settled at a place called Nakoro which is located in the highlands of Navosa.

Mr Nakuruilagi said when Namatakula Village relocated to its current site, it became part of the Nadroga Province.

Currently, the village has a population of 500 and he said the move from the old village site to the new site became a blessing in design for the people of Namatakula.

"I really can't say what made my forefathers want to relocate to this place, but I think it was more to do with living by the sea that was when Christianity slowly started to infiltrate Fijian villages," Mr Nakuruilagi said.

"In the olden days, most villages were located in the highlands of the different provinces because of tribal wars, they only began to relocate to other places when Christianity arrived on our shores."

He said because the village was located by the main road, there had been developments within the village because of its accessibility.

"Our children and grandchildren are so lucky now compared with those back in the days. I still remember growing up here as a young lad, there was no road," he said.

Mr Nakuruilagi said in the past, the other villages along the Coral Coast were only accessible by foot or boats.

"Developments started to arrive in the 1970s and then the road was constructed, then everything started to fall in to place," he said.

Mr Nakuruilagi said because of Christianity, many Fijians received the Gospel wholeheartedly, and he attributes the success of every successful Namatakula villager to the unity between the three Christian denominations in the village.

He said back in the early days, some village elders had met and agreed that only three denominations be allowed to set up their churches in the village — the Methodist Church, Assemblies of God and Catholics.

"We work together so well, when we have a project or anything to do with the church we will have the leaders of the three churches sit down and spearhead the project," he said.

"Unlike some villages, churches cannot work together, but that's not the case for us here at Namatakula. In fact every two months we have a combined church service, and one denomination leads the service on that day."

He said some successful sons of Namatakula emerged after travelling abroad to play rugby in Australia. The first set of siblings to travel to Australia was Asaeli and Isimeli Batibasaga.

He said soon after the Batibasaga brothers left for Australia in the early 1970s, the Tuqiris followed.

Former Fijian Australian professional dual code rugby footballer Lote Tuqiri's father, Tukula Tuqiri, also moved to Australia when Lote was only 15 years old.

Some other Namatakula-born and bred sons also pursued a rugby career in Australia and these were the likes of Noa Nadruku, Luke Erenavula, Tevita Kuridrani, Nemani Nadolo and Chris Kuridrani.

"We believe that God is richly blessing us because there is so much unity in the village especially with three different churches here," Mr Nakuruilagi said. "For us rugby is just a daily program, it's just like another household chore."

He said all the boys who have made a name for themselves on the rugby field all started off playing touch rugby back at the village.

"It was normal for the boys in the village to gather at the Ratu Filise Memorial School ground every afternoon for touch rugby, like I said it was just a daily program," he said.

"I guess they just have good genes."

Mr Kuruilagi said the decision made by his forefathers to move from Nakoro to its current location was indeed a blessing in disguise as developments and assistance from corporate bodies continued to be received by the village

"Just last week the Commissioner Western's Office donated some training equipment for our gym which the Bank South Pacific had also helped in furnishing and painting what used to be our cooperative store," he said.

He said Flour Mills of Fiji also assisted and this has enabled the Ratu Filise rugby team to have new jerseys every year for local rugby competitions.

The FMF assistance also includes helping with the supply of pig feed for the pig farm belonging to the Namatakula Youth Club.

"All I can say is that we have been richly blessed and we are so fortunate and lucky," he said.

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