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Old 10-02-2005, 02:49 PM
***aCe*** ***aCe*** is offline
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Legend of the waves

Thirty-nine-years-old Jack Morara greeted me from atop the kitchen platform in his saksak thatched house at Barapu, the moment he heard I was looking for someone who knew about legends.

He beckoned me up the stairs and called for other men his own age who readily showed they were grateful to share with me what they knew from their ancestors.

Before we went into deep conversation he told me that there were no old men left and that they were going to tell a rather fragmented legend that been partially remembered.

“I was rolled along by a wave,” he began as he bit the end of his mustard.
“All these years I was living very close to the sea, and would say I never was afraid of it.

“I never knew one day three of my six children would disappear under the raging sea. At that time I was powerless. I tried my best to fight against the water but I couldn’t.”

Jack paused to grin at me and then continued with a funny expression on his face, as if trying to entertain me while at the same time hiding feelings of bereavement for his loved ones, the joy for being spared, distrust of the sea and the pride of having to tell a legend that made them who they were.

“Our great grandparents told us that we should always build big canoes to help us escape when the water behaves strangely. We never took it seriously because it was a legendary story.”

“Only after the tsunami did we realize how wise were those words of our ancestors.”

As he retold the forgotten legend, the other six men try to fit into the conversation piece of the story that Jack did not tell.

It started off with their migration from Indonesia more then three centuries ago, their resettlement along the Sandaun shores and finally at Warapu, on the sandbar fringing Sissano Lagoon.

“There wa once a dry land where the lagoon is. It was a land that we initially owned. However, the Sissano and Arop villages claimed to belonged to them.

“While we fought for ownership over the land, the sea just came in and took charge of it. Now we all fish from that lagoon, but it shouldn’t be called Sissano Lagoon. It’s our lagoon.”

Jack retold part of the story where black unknown man wheedled some of their ancestors’ magical powers and then demanded them to offer a child as a sacrifice for their living near the sea.

When I Jack for his relationship with the sea, he said: “I was born close to the sea. I long to get back there, but I can’t. When I go for a wash in the sea, I quickly duck underwater and that’s it.

“I still eat fish from the sea and I should confess that my feet aren’t used to this muddy type of soil. I like sand.

“The only moment I felt some sort of peace with the sea was when we celebrated the anniversary of the tsunami last year. Maybe some time in the future I can be able to go and live peacefully on my land (Warapu).”

More older men came to reaffirm his story but my time was up. I had to get back to Aitape before the sea got rough.

It was a long interesting story and I felt I ought to ask the other two villages to contribute their stories.

Paul Vavena, one of the older mem, accompanied me to the dinghy. On the way he told me that the other two villages, if I were to interview them, would say the lagoon with its surrounding belonged to them.

“It’s good that you came here first to hear who actually owns the lagoon,” he mused as I jumped into our boat and bade him goodbye.

That night as I slept in bed, I tried to find the underlying message of their long complicated legend, their unanswered queries of the sea, their unfinished business of land ownership and most importantly their relationship with the baffling sea.

No matter how hard I tried to think for a literal answer through the stillness of the night, the reverberant sound of the waves pounding upon the shore seemed to whisper to me in its rhythmic voice, a riddle. I had no right to ask why.

And though the night the waves recited the endless legend.
For the generations to come, the legend will continue on for the Warapu, Sissano, and Arop children. It will always echo on their beaches the history and future of their lives, reshaping their present relationship with the half-known, the half-unpredictable and the even generous – the sea.

As for the lagoon, it may geographically belong to the Warapu people, but not the sea with its creatures.

I believe all the seas have always been one sea and it was still the same sea I traveled on to Barupu and on which I traveled back to Madang, the same sea that wiped out three villages and shocked the whole world in July, 17 1998.

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