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before, and he leaves to go fight the battle. Manono watches, and early on, she sees her husband fall, shot in the leg. She runs down wailing. “`Auwē, make ke kāne, `auwē.” Then Kekua is shot in the head. He’s killed. When Grandma told it to us, every time, I started to cry. So Manono covers her husband’s face with his cape, picks up his spear and goes into the battle. And she keeps chanting, “Ko aloha la ea, Ko aloha la ea.” Keep your love, keep your love. No matter what obstacles come to Hawai`i, keep your love. Boy, that’s pretty powerful. But it was real. In those days when the chief fell, the warriors pretty much ran away, but Manono had courageously come down from her hāli‘i pūnana, picked up her lover’s spear and carried forward into battle. When the warriors saw her do that, they regained strength, and so she led the rest of them into battle. Princess Manono evoked the oli that became a major philosophical tenant in our family. It was “mālama ko aloha”—keep your love. Manono’s chant said to keep your love for the old ways of Hawaiian religion and culture. While chanting “mālama ko aloha,” she was killed by a musket ball and perished. The battle was lost and the surviving warriors were placed in a stockade. All night they chanted “mālama ko aloha,” and Kalanimoku, leader of the Monarchy troops, felt bad. After all, these were his countrymen too, and some of them his own family. After they kept up this “mālama ko aloha,” all night, the next day, he released them from the stockade to return to their families.
— THE REFRAIN
t was the time of great upheaval in Hawaiian culture. The scene is 1819, the year of the death of Kamehameha I, a tumultuous time, and Liholiho becomes Kamehameha II. He is pushed by his mother Ka’ahumanu to favor the abolition of the kapu system, discarding the old religious ways. The conservative Hawaiians led by High Chief Kekuaokalani and his wife, Princess Manono, have left Kamehameha’s royal court in Kailua and returned to the south end of Kona, near Keauhou. In the chant, Manono asks her husband if she can take part in the fray, and he says no. He will fix a hāli`i for her, a nest made of uluhe fern. She can rest there and watch the progress of the battle, he says. But Manono wants to get in the fray. Kekuaokalani’s army, with only their hand-hewn spears and clubs, against Liholiho’s forces with cannon and musket. `Auwē. They were no match. The Kamehameha lineage was very intelligent and they understood the potential of English weapons. Our ancestors didn’t have those Western things. It was Hawaiian against Hawaiian though. The Hawaiians did it themselves. This was before the missionaries arrived in 1820. So Kekua makes the hāli‘i, a place for Manono to view the battle from above the lava flats. They’re lovers, they make love that night
Auntie Nona Beamer told the story of an ancient chant to her ancestor, Princess Manono, “E Manono lā `ea,” which is archived by the Hula Preservation Society. Together with her son Keola’s rendering of these historic events, here is a tale of the ancient battle, a version probably very different from what we read in the revisionist history books.
Aunty Nona Beamer, with her ipu heke.
That lesson, or that philosophical thought, “keep your love,” is the philosophical inheritance that I received from my ancestors, and that means that within each of us, there’s a beautiful bowl of light, the inner compass of aloha. If we can keep it alive, then this gives us resilience in life. Aloha becomes more than a Lekeleke Burial Grounds, at the word, it becomes a way of south end of Ali’i Drive, is a hillside being in the world. carved with the rock terraces, tears I just wish I had the guts and gumption that she had, and glory of ancient Hawai’i. Slanting toward a field of lava leading to picking up that spear and going into battle. That was the sea, this was the site of the fierce, culture-shifting Battle of Kuamo’o, the last battle, 1819, the “the day the Hawaiian gods died” in battle of Kuamo`o. That’s why this chant and this hula the travel books. is so important. Not just as a family message, but it’s the belief that that’s the way the world should live, in love. It still brings a lump in my throat.
Published on Sep 1, 2011