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.

She says they have met children from Samoa who are here alone without their parents and living with relatives they barely know.
"And they have no idea about what is out there to help them," Vaimagalo said. "We want Hipa's Hope to help with transition, support and care. From immigration issues, to financial assistance, to housing to spiritual support."

Hipa's cancer involved his right distal femur and because of the tumor's location Hipa could not walk. He had to use a wheelchair or walker and could not climb stairs. The doctor required they find housing with a room on the ground floor or with an elevator. He was receiving intensive chemotherapy treatments every one to three weeks.

Families on Facebook also lent huge support to Hipa's cause, with prayers, posts and financial assistance. When his death was publicized via Facebook, mourners cried along with the Seto family, many condolences appearing on statuses and on the Seto pages.

"When we brought him home from the hospital, Dad and I decided that we would not tell him that he was dying," Vaimagalo recalled. "Hipa being the oldest worried a lot about everyone else even when he was so sick. We were told that he wouldn't make it to the next day."

He survived one whole month.

Hipa was a student at Manulele Tausala Elementary School and a devout member of the LDS Aua Ward in American Samoa. He attended Maili Kai Ward in Hawaii. He was the eldest of four children born to Kelemete and Vaimagalo of Tafuna in American Samoa.

"Hipa had many opportunities to travel and go to Disneyland or other places other kids his age might want to go to but he never said he wanted those things," his mom said. "All he wanted was to hang out with his family and get his priesthood."

The Maili Kai Ward Bishop helped and the following Sunday he was ordained with the Aaronic Priesthood.

"His last wish was to serve the sacrament. He did, two weeks before he went home," Vai said.

The next Sunday after, he served sacrament, holding his tray high as his Uncle Hipa pushed him around on the wheelchair.

"He held his tray up high. His Daddy blessed the sacrament and his brother passed sacrament beside him," said Vai. "There was not a dry eye in the whole chapel."

Hipa fought to keep a promise and stuck around another whole week for Father's Day.

Kelemete says Hipa was his right hand man, an obedient, good boy who loved looking after his siblings, helped with chores around the house and loved sports. He played basketball, soccer, football and volleyball before he got sick.

"He told his Dad that he will be there Father's Day. And he was," Vai said. "A few days after, he went home. He loved the gospel and loved his family. He was the reason my husband became a member [of the church] and now we work towards getting him and his siblings sealed to us. That was Hipa's mission. I am a proud mother because of his valiant example. I don't ever want anyone to forget my baby."

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(This story was previously published in the Samoa News.)

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