The Matakibau family reunites

Takavesi Lave and his family. Picture: JOVESA NAISUA

Takavesi Lave and his family. Picture: JOVESA NAISUA

IT was purely love, peace and comfort.

Those were the words 84-year-old Takavesi Lave used to describe his childhood days spent with his 10 siblings in the village of Makadru on the Island of Matuku in the Lau Group.

Mr Lave was part of the Matakibau family reunion that featured eight of the 11 children of Maikeli Matakibau and Aliti Cuatabua, celebrating the long Easter weekend together with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Mr Lave said this was the first time in so many years that all eight siblings gathered at one venue along with their families.

“After we left the island, we went our separate ways and started our own lives and lived separately, so it just brought back memories spent in the village when we were growing up and just imagine all 11 siblings together in the village back then,” Mr Lave said.

Mr Lave said growing up on the island was not easy, but life was so much simple and enjoyable and with 11 siblings, they were never bored.

He said what was more interesting was the fact that his father was the village chief and held the title of Tui Daku until he passed away in 1993.

His mother, known as Bui Cua to almost every Makadru villager, had passed on earlier in 1988. It was during his leadership that the villagers through sheer determination and courage managed to build the Delaiverata District School, a community hall, a church and each household was connected to piped water.

“It was during his time as the village chief that people worked tirelessly and anything that was planned for, finally became reality, because everyone listened to only one command,” Mr Lave said.

Mr Lave said whenever there were visitors to the village, whether it was a government delegation or family members or relatives visiting from the urban centres, his father would instruct the ladies and the men in the village that the meals for the visitors should be the best.

“The women knew that whenever there was a village function, he should not see any crabs or cassava on the table, the meals should be of dalo, pork or beef and any other delicacies, but not crabs or cassava,” Mr Lave said with a laugh.

Mr Lave recalled growing up in the village setting where everyone had the right to discipline their child, and attributed their strict upbringing to all the family members in the village.

He said out of the 11 siblings, there were only two sisters — Josifini Tadu and Kelera Baleiwai, and with nine brothers, it was hard to control them, but their parents ruled with an iron fist.

“Although there were 11 of us, we never were short of food, there was always leftover. My father made sure that everyone who came to our house including his own family always had more than enough to eat. At that time, life was so simple that when we see a man crossing the village green with a canned tin of fish, that is something only the rich could afford. Tinned meat and tea with milk were only for the rich families,” he jokingly said.

Mr Lave and his siblings attended Ratu Mocevakaca Memorial School which was about 30 minutes boat ride from their village and during that time, classes were only up to Class 5 which is Year 5 now.

“There were no boats, so we would walk about four miles every morning to get to school, just after two or three years after I started school, boarding at Ratu Mocevakaca started, so the children started boarding at that time,” he said.

“It was so much fun walking, some of us would walk a distance then go bath in the sea and then go back home saying we can’t go to school because our uniform was wet because it was raining in the woods.”

Describing his school days, Mr Lave said back when he was in school, children carried their books and pens without any bags, at one time when plastic bags were introduced; those were used as school bags.

“We were not exposed to the things that children nowadays have, we didn’t have bags or shoes, but life was so enjoyable then and we lived freely,” Mr Lave said.

“Just imagine cigarettes, BH 10 was only $0.70, but money was really hard to find, so you can know if BH 10 was $0.70 then even finding that $0.70 was really hard.”

Mr Lave said the reunion also brought home two of his siblings who migrated to New Zealand and to the United States.