Mlas Ra Oruklel (Diminishing Your Options)

By Santy Asanuma

Arrange marriage in the past is not so primitive after all in light of high prevalence of schizophrenia today in Palau due to the fact that young generations are more inclined to marriage among blood lines where kissing-cousins-culture has become more acceptable. I think this is more primitive.

In other cultures arrange marriage was to keep the blood within the family. But in Palauan practice, it was done to avoid cross breeding of blood relatives or incestuous (amei-yu) relationships. My father advised me to look for my wife in Ngerchelong for practical purposes because it was unlikely that I meet someone in my blood line. The advice was good and I am very happy with Rebecca for last 25 years.

He said to me that he who married within his own clan would be “ng di ngii el mlas ra oruklel” (a figure of speech which implies that he is taking away from himself). A simple and practical explanation is resources like food and support like money come from the clan. So ideally two unrelated individuals in a marriage would have two separate clans to depend on for help may it be food or money for their customary obligations. By marrying within the clan, you are narrowing your field to just one clan.

My father should have lived longer not only to witness that my youngest son is a wholesome pedigree free from physical and mental defects but a studious and an achiever in school. Besides I directly benefited from his advice not knowing that twenty years down the road I would stand to gain votes from Ngerchelong and Ngeraard for my first senatorial bid.

I never fully realized the wisdom of this Palauan proverb only after the fact and never felt more indebted to my father’s care and guidance. I am sure that he would be smiling at me if he were still around and probably would say that I told you so. One thing that I did not really think about is that my father was much older in age and had gone through a lot in this life to know what is likely a better choice.

I suppose this advice is more profound than just being limited to marriage. This had proved useful for the health of my children, good for my customary obligations, and politically beneficial for me.

As we are going through global economic crisis and uncertainty looms more than ever in the minds of most people in our small and fragile island nation, I take it that this is not the time to attack our culture regardless of issues involved. If we cause our culture to stumble in some ways, we are actually mlasm ra oruklel.

A government without our cultural traditions is like the above incestuous marriage that is lacking of full support from the community and may be plagued with sickly defects that cannot be remedied by money and modernization alone. A society that is divided against itself will definitely fall. Mlas ra oruklel is dangerous and had been forewarned by our ancestors so it is best not to ignore this advice.

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