A Bachel A Diak El Rellii A Urerel A Kldait

By Santy Asanuma

As a young boy my father once told me this adage that I have not heard anyone uttered up to this day. I did not really appreciate nor fully understood the usefulness of such wisdom. Now that I am grown up today (1961-2010) and have been corrupted by life experiences or both I am turning back to look at this human observation in much different light. Now it all make sense to me why people have to “merukem” (break into smaller pieces in literal meaning) their stone money usually bachel to take care of their customary obligation.

If one has bigger stone money, why would he/she bother to look for a smaller piece to satisfy the recipient expectation? In this day and age of a cynical world more is usually taken as better. Little wonder it has become a common place to witness funerals for people with no chiefly status to easily slaughter three pigs or even more. And remuneration (ududir a rengalek ma techel otungel) for children and the wife after a man dies has broken all sense of appropriateness. Today funerals not only easily garner up to three stone monies or more but increasingly bachel stone monies are being used for such regular customary transaction. Bachel are the highest denomination of stone monies which are used to appease conflicts between clans or avert inter-village warfare or to consummate social affairs of the highest degree.

This trend is an indicative of a society whose form of engagement is deteriorating. As a cultural society, form (teletael ma blekerradel) is everything. A messenger who approached the abode (blai) at its east side or stood on the cheldeng or simply spoke abruptly might as well forget about the substance (belkul) of his message because people will be more preoccupied with the form in which the message was delivered.

In the last few days I have witnessed to my amazement a royal debacle (cheliseksikd) for conducting a reconciliatory ritual in such a casual manner that rendered the entire process appeared rather insincere or lacking affect in public eyes and on national Television. And the currency used was in USA 100 dollar bills. The question as a matter of standard, as it was imposed on the general public to witness a rare display of royal affair, is the amount of fine was set at $200 for transgression against Ebilreklai. But then the bar was raised higher with a supplemental $100 from outside of cultural domain to make the amount $300. Is this enough? Is this the process from now on? I have more questions now because I did not understand the form.

As a society, we should always be mindful of the fineries (mekekeriei e ng di klebekelel a tekoi) including form that have defined us culturally which equally had contributed to our strength and resiliency as unique people over the course of history. Only in this can we be confident to proclaim to the whole world our pride with assured sense of dignity. Big stone money cannot be used to do the work of small stone money. Being Palauan is to be keen on appropriateness.

After the above article was published in Ngarker Cholbechel column in Tia Belau on April 12, a reader wrote to the newspaper to the defend President Toribiong’s contribution, which is reprinted below.

Dear Editor:

The column entitled “Ngarker Olbechel” disrespectfully trivialized the traditional reconciliation ritual between two of Palau’s paramount chiefs Ibedul and Reklai.

The internal exchanges which took place to formalize and to seal the effort to appease and restore respect to Ebil Reklai need not be publicly discussed.

The offense against Ebil Reklai was committed by a person from Ngeskesuk Clan. The contribution by the President was made on behalf of the First lady to Ibedul because she is a strong member of Ngeskesuk Clan. The exchanges were made in the best interest of Palau custom involving  Ngeskesuk Clan, Idid Clan and Udes Clan.

Pursuit of social harmony is one of the most revered attributes of our tradition as Palauans.

Name withheld

Mr. Asanuma then responded to the readers comment, which is also reprinted below.

Charitable Rebuttal

As the name of the column suggests, I am incessantly interested to seek and promote social norms and strengths of long ago that are embedded (delalm) in our culture and traditions that have been subdued by modernity. I am enormously thrilled at the same time as this is the first time anybody cares to help me in this pursuit of the ideal Belau and its essence by writing to question my intent. I am humbled and indebted to your attention to keep me honest in my writing. Columnists including myself should be careful and responsible with a pen as it has been warned by poets and writers alike that a loose pen is deadly as a loaded gun.

My apologies to those who suffered immensely by my insensitivity for uttering my observation of what I saw on TV. My father once instructed me to be careful in what I say by saying…le tekoi a ko ra ulemachel e le tobed ra ngerem e ng dikea sebechel lemuut soisib ra ngerem. I am guilty of my observation as you so keenly pointed out. Maybe more guilty than all the viewers at home who saw the same program by expressing my ignorance and wonderment. In this instance, silence would have been proper choice for a true Palauan. My bad.

I realize that this discussion does not have the luxury of being assigned to the domain of academics nor democracy so the best way out is to take Rich Carlson, Phd chapter 12 on letting other people to be correct most of the time in his book titled “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff.”

If it is at all a comfort to you and those affected by this event, I am more agreeable with you than opposing your views on this cultural undertaking. Believe it or not, I have no intention for disrespecting Ibedul and Reklai nor our traditions for I take myself as a true defender of the Palauan spirit. Sulang.

Santy Asanuma



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