Ngou Kilulei (Snake Movement/Prostitution)

By Santy Asanuma —-

I hear it on radio only once in awhile in one of the songs by Lewis. It is neither good nor bad in meaning or implication. I have tried to ask some people what it really means and most of them do not exactly knows what and how the word came to be. As a young boy fishing at the “lemau” (deeper water in the shallow marine area near the mangroves), some of the older boys while holding their fishing line in one hand overhead and swinging it in circular motion for brief moment before throwing the baited hook on the line in the direction of the desired fishing spot. To make it more entertaining, the talented ones would be singing “kilulei kilulei” and swinging their lower bodies like belly dancers.

Come to think of it I remember some older folks dancing and would be singing “kilulei kilulei” while moving their bodies in a twirling and swinging motion, especially the midsection. I must admit that it invoked laughter and applauses from the on-looking audiences. Because it was so uncoordinated and unnatural bodily movement but was done artistically, it was quite amusing to watch. But it had to be done right because if not it would appear lewd and offensive to the point of being sexually suggestive. I also remember during my boyhood days when a “luleu” or “mardingaol” (types of sea snakes) was caught on a fishing line it would be twirling its entire body as an attempt to free itself. I suspect that “kilulei” lends its meaning to this snake bodily movement.

While this word “kilulei” is no longer heard much let alone being danced to nowadays, the irony of it is still very much with us in our society and how life is happening in Palau like “kilulei” not only in dances but all current realties affecting us. Foreigners who came to colonialize our island and stopped our cultural practice by women warriors using their bodily ways to subdue ensuing conflicts between villages. Or for purely economic gains such women in the art of “omengol” earned more than just and generous compensation to bring back to their village. It had a basic function in maintaining order in our economy and society. But today foreigners are here with their karaoke bars with tightly dressed women and secretive massage parlors that are beginning to cause social disorder (break finances for families or break up the couples apart).

It is a big problem! Not only locally but internationally. And it has a name human trafficking. These women, while they stand to disrupt the social order and familial units at the core, are actually considered as victims. During July 21 to 25, 2013, many lawyers (prosecutors) and other experts on this issue from USA were here to conduct a conference/workshop in Palau because Palau has been put on Tier 2. This is a very bad reputation and critical position for Palau to be in. One of the conference presenters made an observation on the karaoke bars and massage parlors lining up the streets of Koror as a sure sign of women being forced into prostitution (definitely not “omengol” by any definition).

Palau’s top law enforcement officer (AG) warned the Palauan participants that by same time next year Palau would be in Tier 3 at the rate we are going if we do not do anything to stop human trafficking! That means US, UN, and other international donors will stop giving any grants and aids to Palau. If you asked me the whole Palau is in “kilulei kilulei.”

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