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Ngerduais from bay

Ngerduais Island from the bay.

“Medechiibelau has a lot of stories. He was famous for being clever and fast. He was a clever god, he was well known for being clever. He became the number one chief in Airai Village. He is still our number one chief, but because he does not have a human form, the man who sits here, Ngirkiklang, is his representative to claim his share from the food. But we still refer to him as our god, our chief. And our number four chief, Rechuld, is the friend of Medechiibelau.”

Here is their story, told by the chiefs of Airai Village:



“While Medechiibelau was visiting or staying at the Belualaruchel, he kept hearing a sound of the conch shell. You can blow through a conch shell and it makes a loud noise. He kept hearing that every day, so he came to the village and met with the chief Rechuld.

"This man today bears that title, the Rechuld, the four ranking member of the council of chiefs in Airai, called the Ngarairrai. But at that time, his name was Ngirkosolik. And Medechiibelau inquired of him, ‘where is the sound of that horn coming from? Who is responsible for that?'"



Conch blowing

"An elder (rubak) blowing a conch shell horn (debusech) used to announce war, the passing away of titled men or to summon the community to the house of chiefs for important meetings. The debusech was also used to warn the community of danger or possible siege (benged)." Belau National Museum photo; caption from "History of Palau."



The hill of Belualaruchel is located up beside the Airai Elementary School today.


“So he came to ask Ngirkosolik, ‘who makes that noise, that sound, the sound of the horn?’ And Ngirkosolik told Medechiibelau that it is the horn to signal the meal time—three times a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner—the mealtime for a person by the name of Semdiu, who lived on Ngerduais island.

"Ngerduais is near the reef, across from the Airai lagoon, where the boats are moored today."


“After he learned of the story of Semdiu and the horn, he went up to the land of Belualaruchel where the gods are staying. And he told the gods to go down to the dock below Airai Village, and he told the gods to attempt to throw rocks to that island. And he said, ‘he who can throw a stone to the island will become the owner of the island, acquire ownership of the island.’ It is like a contest among the gods.

"But on the way down from Belualaruchel, from the hillside, he caught a small bird called chesisebangiau (cardinal honey-eater), like a red robin. You can hear them making noise outside. It is a small-size bird with a red color, red-chested and kind of black wings. It is called chesisebangiau. So he caught one on the way down from the Belualaruchel down to here."


Cardinal Honey-eater (chesisebangiau). Illustration by Takesi Suzuki, in Engbring (1988).



Ngerduais Long view

Ngerduais is a ways across the bay from Airai Village.


"All the gods went to the area down by the pier known as Tab, to the site know as Ngeremenglong. There is a house there now. When they went there, then each one attempted to throw a stone to Ngerduais island, but everybody failed since the stones only fell into the lagoon. That’s because the island is of course way out by the reef. "



“After each of the gods failed to throw a stone to the island, it became Medechiibelau’s turn. On the way down he put the cardinal honey-eater inside his mouth, pretending that he was chewing betel nut, but basically keeping the bird alive. Then when his turn came, he took the robin from his mouth, kind of secretly so nobody could really realize it, and then he threw that bird, and it started flapping it wings.

"When he threw the cardinal honey-eater, it began to flap its wings and he would say to his friends the gods, ‘well that is my betel nut, it is opening.’ Because when you chew betel nut, sometimes it can open like a husk opens up. So he was telling his friends ‘that is my betel nut, it is opening now'."



Betelnut wad

A chewed wad of betel nut. Palauans chew betel nut. green, husk and all.


Trees atop the ridge at Ngerduais.


"And the bird flew all the way to the top of a type of pine tree, ngas, that was standing on top of the ridge. And he perched on the bough of that tree. If go to the island of Ngerduais today, that ngas is still standing at the very top of the limestone ridge. So Medechiibelau claimed the island to be his."



Tie beam in the Bairairrai, depicting the story of Semdiu.


“After he claimed ownership, he came to see his friend the fourth ranking chief, Ngirkosolik, and told him, ‘buddy, lets go to my island, please accompany me to my island so that I can find the conch shell, so that I can claim that to be mine'."



“He took his friend the chief Ngirkosolik to the pier down below. He said ‘lets go to see my island’ and Ngirkosolik, says ‘I cannot just walk over, because this is too deep of water, I will sink.’

"Medechiibelau says, ‘don’t worry; when I walk over the water, you have to put your feet in my foot prints,’ because this guy can walk over water. So Medechiibelau was walking ahead of Ngirkosolik who was walking on his footprints over the water."


Medechiibelau leads Ngirkosolik across the water.


Medechiibelau grabs the marlin. Painting in the Bairamelengel.


“They came to a small reef called Ngertua. It is like a reef, a coral area. And while there, a blue marlin with a long snout was bouncing over the waves toward them, so Medechiibelau grabbed the blue marlin by the snout.

"And he took the spike—you know the long, needle-like snout? He broke it, and took it as a weapon with which to kill Semdiu, who was the resident or the owner of the island which he now claims."


“Medechiibelau told Ngirkosolik, the fourth chief, to wait for him on that island, that is one of the small Rock Islands in the lagoon towards Ngerduais. He says ‘you stay here and wait for me.’ So there he is, perched on that kind of a cave. And then Medechiibelau walked to Ngerduais island to meet the villagers.

"But before he got there, he changed his appearance to look very unappealing, complete with ringworm infection."


Medechiibelau tells Ngirkosolik to wait on that little island.




Procession of men and women carrying food to the bai for a special occasion. Belau National Museum Photograph.


“When Medechiibelau arrived in the village he saw the women and other people preparing food. So he said, ‘why are you preparing food? I would like to join you in preparing food for Semdiu.’ Semdiu was like the king or the chief. And he says ‘I would like to volunteer my services to help you prepare the foods for Semdiu,’ and the people said ‘oh, you are not worthy of preparing food for Semdiu. You have ringworm on your body, and you are not worthy.’ See, the gods played these kind of games.

"So he said, ‘okay let that be, but let me just help you carry for the food, since there are more baskets of food than you can carry. I will just follow you and help you to the bai,’ where Semdiu was."



“So Medechiibelau followed the line of people who were bringing food to Semdiu. And when these people came to the entrance of the bai, he squeezed his way all the way to the front of the line.

"And when Semdiu came to receive his food, Medechiibelau stabbed him and cut his throat using the weapon that he got from the blue marlin. He then got into the bai and took the conch shell and blew the horn to announce that he is now the owner, the chief of the island, and then took all the food and started eating the food himself. He became the ruler of Ngerduais island."



From the left: women carrying food to the bai; the conch being blown; Semdiu being stabbed; Semdiu dying.


Medechiibelau frees Ngirkosolik from the rock and renames him Rechuld, "Mr. Rock."


“He went back to see his friend Ngirkosolik, who was waiting for him on that island. He said ‘buddy lets go.’ Ngirkosolik says ‘I can not walk because now I am tied to the ground.’ The rocks had all grown over him, like he had been petrified, made into a rock or something.

"So Medechiibelau pulled him, raised him and said, ‘I will now change your name.’ Because this chief Rechuld was previously known as Ngirkosolik. Medechiibelau says ‘okay, now I lift you, free you from the rock. I will now name you Rechuld’—which is because chuld is the rock—‘You are now Mr. Rock’."



"Now the house of the Ngirkosolik, the previous house site for this man, is behind his house, next to his land. Then he took his friend Rechuld to a different site called Ngerngas. And said ‘now Ngerngas will be your house site.’ So he moved Ngirkosolik to Ngerngas and his name was changed from Ngirkosolik to Rechuld. And Medechiibelau the god went to an area outside of Airai Village and established his home in the land known as Ngerkiklang."



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