Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Celebrated Pasifika broadcaster and MC passes away

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Gladys Hartson | Senior Journalist

Outspoken and talented, broadcaster Yolande Ah Chong left an indelible impression on many.

Keeping hundreds engaged, entertained and informed during an awards ceremony, conference, dinner or whatever the occasion demands, takes a Master of Ceremonies (MC) with special talents. 

And Tofilau Yolande Ah Chong had it all. 

But on Wednesday night, Tofilau passed away in Auckland after a long battle with cancer.

Her family taking to facebook to express their sorrow.

“Her passing leaves a void in our hearts that can never be filled…. Tofilau was not just a mother, aunty, and sister to us; she was a guiding light, a source of strength, and a cherished soul whose impact will forever be felt.”

Tofilau featured on an episode of Tagata Pasifika to discuss the cost of living. Photo: John Pulu/Facebook

From across the globe, people have paid tribute to Tofilau not only for her ability to take people into thunderous laughter but to use her platform to be a voice, a staunch unapologetic advocate, to address issues that continue to impact the wider Pasifika community. 

Tofilau who hails from the villages of Lufilufi, Malie, Iva and Vaiusu in Samoa, was not only skilled in the art of the MC but was also a natural as a Radio host for Niu Fm and Radio 531pi.  

Former Niu FM Programme Director, JaeD Victor remembers Tofilau’s journey into broadcasting.

“I was looking for someone to host our Sunday morning Gospel Show. When I initially asked Yolande if she would host, she immediately jumped at the opportunity,” he says.

“Her first Sunday morning gospel show sounded like she had an angel sitting on her shoulder guiding her along the way. Yolande was soft-spoken, articulate and engaging. She was very much in character. After the show, she was back to her loud self with her never-ending laughter, she was Yolande Ah Chong. One of a kind.” 

JaeD says it was the beginning of a long, successful career for Tofilau as a radio host, high profile MC, TV personality, talented artist and special friend. 

Tofilau also lent her talents as a reporter for Tagata Pasifika and provided social and community commentary. Adding to this, she was also part of the hit online comedy series on Fresh TV, Fresh Housewives of South Auckland.

Photo: Taualeo’o Stephen Stehlin/Facebook

Her hilarious one liners and sharp wit would set the tone for any occasion. Colleague and co-MC for the Pacific Music Awards John Pulu says it was an honour to work alongside Tofilau. 

“She was an outstanding host, smart and extremely funny. I will miss her!”

Former colleague at Radio 531pi and co-director of Matavai Pacific Cultural Arts in Sydney Australia, Maryjane Mckibbin-Schwenke shares her memories of Tofilau. 

“There was never a dull moment with you around. Thank you for the laughs and coming to the rescue one year to host our end of year showcase in Sydney for Matavai, you made our event all the more special. Thank you will never be enough. You will be sorely missed.”

Tofilau also played a role during the Covid-19 pandemic and was part of the Prepare Pacific team who would provide regular podcasts for the Pacific community.

In 2020, as part of an online tribute to indigenous women, author Manako Tamou listed  women who inspired her. From high profile judges, advocates, actors, business women, Tofilau was among them. Manaki remembers the stirring comments Tofilau made at the PMAs in 2017 urging people to make their vote count! 

Reverend Mua Stricksen Pua, Chairperson of the Pacific Music Awards held a special connection with Tofilau through music and radio. 

“For her MC duties, Tofilau lovingly reminded our Pacific musicians tonight it’s about mum, dad, nana, papa, aiga, whanau, our Pacific nations.”

For over a decade Rev Pua was part of the 531pi breakfast show with Tofilau and would provide the Friday ‘week in review’ as well as prayer segment.

“She would remind me, Rev, uplift our people with hope and love. She loved our people and they loved her,” he says.

Tofilau is survived by her beloved children, Fa’amatuainu Vaughn, Khalya and Xavier, Fa’amatuainu Mailei, Maddie and  grandson Iosefo. 

Ia manuia lau malaga Tofilau. 

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