FOCUS on SPIRIT & HEALTH: Hipa Seto, American Samoa's eternal hero

Photo Credit: 
Faletuiga Photo/Tina Mata'afa-Elise
The family of Hipa Seto at Kakaako Park, September 2011.

[Hipa Seto was already in Hawaii at the Kapiolani Children's Medical Center receiving treatments for osteosarcoma, cancer of the bones, when I wrote about him for the Samoa News in May 2010, where it was published on the front page.

In September 2010, my children and I moved to Hawaii.

With his family gathered around him at their Makakilo home, Hipa died in June a few days after Father's Day 2011.

Hipa's mom says a month before he left, Hipa designed the t-shirts that many participants of the TEAM SETO Walk for Hipa wore Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011 at Kakaako Park. It was a "Reach the Day" event that drew cancer survivors and their families, many of Hipa's relatives, friends, church members, businesses and advocates for children's cancer research. Reach the Day "marks the tenth annual mobilization of the children's cancer community in Washington, DC to stress the need for federal funding for children's cancer research," states curesearch.org. Events took place across the US during September for Children's Cancer Awareness Month.

Hipa's mom says he always put others before him, smiled through his pain and kept the faith to the end. This is the first news story I wrote out of Hawai'i. Let Hipa Seto's legacy be an inspiration to us all.]

Vaimagalo Seto doesn't want anyone to forget her son Hipa Folau Milton Seto and with a story like his, no one should.

"I had been putting it off because I still cry so much," Vaimagalo told Faletuiga. "Hipa registered his team and worked on his shirts during the last month before he left."

On Saturday, Sept. 24, during the TEAM SETO Walk for Hipa, more than 100 people donned his design - a white t-shirt, three little red, gold and green birds perched on the words "Team Seto" on the front, "don't worry ‘bout a thing" written underneath.

"Even on our way over here I was crying," Vaimagalo said at Kakaako.

Hipa's mom worked for ANZ Amerika Samoa Bank and his dad Kelemete for Computer World in American Samoa. When Hipa was diagnosed with cancer in March 2010 at LBJ Tropical Medical Center, his parents decided to leave their jobs and stable life behind to find help for their son in Hawaii. They ventured into the "unknown" as Vai says.

It was a move thousands of Samoans before them have made. The first Samoans were recorded (according to records of the Hawaii State Public Library) living in Laie in 1925. They were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Samoans in Hawaii numbered 33 in 1925 and according to the U.S. Census, in 2000, there were 28,000 Samoans or part-Samoans living in Hawaii.

Like the Samoans who made the journey before them, the Setos had no idea where they were going to live and how they were going to survive, but took the risks for Hipa's sake. It was very challenging to say the least but they managed to find help for Hipa and now that he rests in Laie, the Seto family has decided to stay in Hawaii.

"We always want to make sure Hipa's hopes are never forgotten. We are working on opening a Non-Profit Organization called Hipa's Hope," said Vaimagalo. "Because Hipa loved Samoa so dearly and he wanted so much to return home, the foundation would aid children from American Samoa with life threatening illnesses who come to Hawaii for treatment ."

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