Monday, August 20, 2007

Trekking to Lake Ngerdok

The road was so slippery and muddy and there was a slight drizzle yet this did not hamper the members of the group attending the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) quarterly meeting to venture deep into the heart of the conservation area in Melekeok State last Friday. The purpose: to plant trees at the area and to sneak a visit to the Ngerdok lake.
After planting three trees, PATA president Jonathan Salas led the group towards the lake. We trekked through the mud trails for some 30 minutes, crawling our way underneath trees and foliage and exerting extra effort to avoid slipping down before reaching the 60-foot deep lake which is the largest natural lake in Micronesia.
The lake is the only body of fresh water in Palau and is home to the endangered crocodile (ius), various flora and fauna and other species.
Edwin Polloi of the Melekeok Nature Reserve Conservation Area said Melekeok State applied for a grant from the United States Forestry a couple of years ago and was able to secure funds for the improvement of the lake and its surrounding areas. He said the boardwalks alone that pave only a small part of the lake’s pathway costs $35,000.
This work has been initiated by the Ngardok Reserve Board and is being jointly implemented by Melekeok State, Palau Forestry Section, Palau Conservation Society, the Bureau of Agriculture, and the United States Forest Service.
Polloi said that part of the plans for the lake are the construction of a nature trail and installation of a floating viewing platform on the lake.
Ngardok Lake area is 3.4 hectares and is situated in the largest water catchment area in Palau 4 kilometers northwest of Melekeok town on the eastern side of Babeldaob Island.
Ngardok Lake and surrounding areas has been proposed to be designated as a protected area and has remained in its pristine condition despite the threat of some hunting in the vicinity of the lake. The lake gets its fair share of visitors like students and other individuals for conservation and educational purposes.

Three days in the land of promise

The smooth flight and the seemingly-distant hum of the Asian Spirit’s engines lulled most of the 61 passengers to sleep at dawn on Friday last week. When the aircraft soared over the millions of multi-colored blinking lights of Davao City which resembled fireflies on a dark night, only a few who remained awake during the entire one-and-a half-hour’s ride were able to see the city in its night splendor.
The aircraft made a smooth touchdown and the group, mostly first timers, stepped on Davao soil. They were met by the glare of spotlights from the local television stations. Special ethnic dance numbers and snacks were also prepared by the Department of Tourism X11. It was a business-mixed-with-pleasure trip for the group. Several trade and business ties were renewed and agreements reached for an exchange of each city’s advantages, all targeted to benefit the residents of both places.
The delegates, led by Senators Allan Seid and Alfonso Diaz with various tour operators, businessmen and key people in the tourism industry had their fill of the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of various fruits and vegetables Davao City has to offer. The group went to Eden Nature Park and Resort located some 2,800 feet above sea level, the world-renowned Pearl Farm Island resort, the city’s various night spots, huge shopping malls offering just about everything you need, plush hotels to stay in, superb restaurants to satiate your appetites and other tourist attractions. The three-day stay was really not enough to see Davao City.
Here finally is a chance for Palauans and Palau residents to visit the Philippines minus the hassle of landing in Manila and going through a needle’s eye in the airport. A roundtrip Palau-Davao-Palau ticket via Asian Spirit costs only $260, very affordable at that and you will be spared the pains of waiting and grabbing for taxis where you will be charged exorbitantly if you don’t know how to deal with them and a lot more hassles before you can reach breath and relax at your hotel room. Beginning April 2, Asian Spirit flies to Davao from Koror and vice versa three times a week. Asian Spirit’s Palau-Davao flights leave Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays while the Davao-Palau flights leave Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Asian Spirit is the first Filipino carrier to open its international doors to the Palau-Davao-Manila route, using its newest advanced-technology aircraft, the 100-seater BAe 146 jet made by aviation giant, British Aerospace Systems. (Thanks to all the sponsors of the group for the wonderful accommodation and the sumptuous food during the three-day, two-night stay in Davao.)

Shooting paintballs

Pinggggg!I ducked my head and covered the camera lens with my hand as a paintball (the bullet used for the markers or paintgun) came shooting in my direction. I had on a camouflage vest and a protective face mask but unlike the others, I was armed only with a camera, not a paintgun. Seated on a stool at the referee’s box, adrenalin surged through my being as the two teams who were engaged in a hot combat tried to outdo each other in this latest sport. Paintball is a fun and exciting sport. It is played in over 40 countries by millions regardless of age, sex, status and profession can join and share in common a love for adventure and a strong competitive spirit. When the adrenaline starts pumping, you can't help but love the thrill of the game! Roland, the referee stands on a corner in the “battlefield” ready to blow his whistle for a time-out when the need arises.
Paintball is a combination of the most popular childhood games "tag" and "hide & seek," but is much more challenging. The number of players on each team can vary from one or two, five or seven or 10, depending on the size of the playing field.
For ten bucks, a player can rent an overall camouflage uniform, a vest, face mask, a marker and 50 rounds of paintballs. Another round of 100 paintballs is available for an additional of ten bucks. A paintball is a round, thin-skinned gelatin capsule with colored liquid inside it and comes in a rainbow of bright colors except red. “When a paintball tags a player, the gelatin skin splits open, and the liquid inside leaves a bright "paint" mark but the fill inside paintballs is a water-soluble and biodegradable mix that easily rinses off from the clothes and skin when washed,” Oberg said.
He added that they have set the speed of the markers to minimum speed for extra precaution. The international safety limit on the speed (measured in feet per second, "FPS") at which a paint gun shoots a paintball is 300 fps. Paintball is a very safe sport as long as safety rules are followed.
Lenny Oberg, manager of the Paintball and Mini-golf course located just beside Ngermelt Club in Medalii said that this sport is not only a pastime but also a tool in character-building. “Companies are finding it advantageous to hold meetings and gatherings playing paintball. Through this, players get a chance to learn about teamwork and develop leadership abilities while having fun. In addition, the game could teach employees to gain self-confidence,” Oberg said. When you feel the need to relax and unwind from the everyday routine, or when your company needs a recreational gathering, the Paintball and Mini-golf course is available from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays to Sundays. Additional sports also include a target shooting and mini-golf. Contact 488-8480 for details and inquiries.

Saying it with flowers

A middle-aged Palauan lady sits at the reception area of one of a plush hotel in Koror one day, busily greeting guests when a delivery boy with a huge bouquet of flowers entered. The lady gazed wistfully at the flowers and went back to her work when she realized the boy was handing her the flowers. “For me???” she gasped, amazed beyond words. Nobody has given her flowers before. A great transformation took over the lady’s face when she realized that the flowers were really for her.
“Nobody can resist flowers”, says Sandra Sumang Pierantozzi, owner of Sun’s Flower shop located in the heart of Koror. The first few days of February every year are the busiest season for flower shops, she said. They have their hands full as orders come pouring in through the telephone or from walk-in customers for the celebration of Valentines Day.
Years before, flower shops get the most orders on Mother’s Day but times have changed and people are giving other gifts to their moms now. The orders for flowers boom on Valentines Day. Sandra said that to meet the deliveries, they hire extra people to do the work. Sandra has two florists who do the flower arrangements. She orders the flowers from the Philippines but you can send flowers to almost everywhere in the world to express your feelings because the shop is a member of the Florist Transword Delivery (FTD). Sandra has been in the business for the past 18 years but she the satisfaction she gets when she sees the faces of people light up upon receiving flowers is invaluable.
Roses still retains its post as the top seller for Valentines. You can send a single rose, a dozen or even a truckload of roses to your loved-ones. Sandra says it’s not always the money that counts in sending flowers but it’s the thought that somebody is thinking of you that matters.
Way down in Malakal is another flower shop which also gets tons of customers, the Bngal A Chen Flower Shop owned by Chen Masang. Chen. Chen has two florists who have the knack for coming up with fresh ideas for all occasions. ‘We have our hands full for the Valentines Day orders, it’s the most hectic time of the year because people often express their love and feelings through flowers,” Chen said.
“Flowers always inspire me. When I went to Europe some years back and saw all the wonderful flowers, I thought of putting up a flower shop here,” Chen said. She says she gets her flowers from Europe. To better serve her customers, Chen said the flower arrangements and bouquets are flexibly-priced to fit the pockets of the customers. Express your love on Valentines Day not only with flowers but also with chocolates, perfume, jewelry, wine, cards, balloons and stuffed toys. Call Sandra at 488-2954 or Chen at 488-2628..

Reviving a lost art

Pottery is a traditional skill practiced by Palauans in the early 1970s but has become a lost art. Potsherds (broken pieces of pottery) found all over Babeldaob and other parts of the island show that early Palauans utilized resources they found in the island to make pottery for their own use like jars, cooking pots, plates, lamps and other functional pottery used all over Palau. The women used to make pottery using the coiling method and open pit fire. Ethnographic records show that the raw clay of Palau is ideal for pottery making. Archaelogist Jolie Liston believes that 90 percent of Babeldaob is covered with potsherds
To revive an interest in this lost art which could be an avenue to uplift the economic status of the talented artists, the Belau National Museum in joint cooperation with the Olechotel Belau Fair 2006 organizing committee conducted a two-day Palau pottery exhibit which drew in a fair share of both local and foreign visitors at the Koror State assembly hall.The exhibit was highlighted by the pottery-making demonstration by Aui, a Maori potter taught Frieda Erungel, Palau’s talented potter how to use the coiling method in making pottery. Koror, Airai and Ngardmau States showcased local and exported pottery and vessels during the exhibit.
Committee organizing chairperson Meked Besebes said that a ceramic class was held for students at the Palau High School from 1970 to 1977 but this was stopped after the instructor, Sandy Vitarelli left the island for good. Vitarrelli used to teach pottery making using Palau clay and the students sold their work, receiving half of the proceeds for themselves. Besebes said there was a pottery factory in Kles, Ngersuul in Ngchesar state in the early 1970s owned by David Vitarelli and Eldebechel family but it closed down.BNM would like to extend thanks to Sandy Vitarelli, Margo Vitarelli, Frieda Erungel, Umai Basilius, Jolie Liston, Rita Olsudong, Rischel Haynie, BNM staff, SWEP and volunteers, Koror State Government, Airai State and Ngardmau State government for their invaluable contributions which made the exhibit possible, and to the School of the Pacific Island, Janns Foundation for funding assistance.

Renewing mind, body and spirit at the Mandara

She was a tiny woman dressed in kimono, walking barefooted in the shiny wooden floor and with a flower tucked above her hair. When she started to press my shoulders and upper back, I forgot her fragile build and gave in to the complete relaxation her small yet firm fingers are giving me. But what I experienced was just a sample of the five-minute back massage.
There’s a whole lot more of sensory experience waiting for clients at the Mandara Spa at the Palau Pacific Resort (PPR) which officially opens today to serve the hotel’s in house guests, locals and the general public.
Palau has almost everything to offer to anyone as a means of relaxation to ease the tension and daily pressures of life. You can have your pick from visiting historical sites, tourist attractions, island hopping or going for a dive under the sea but a visit to a spa is an unforgettable experience that leaves one completely feel renewed and refreshed.
Spa director Dharsana Matratanaya said that the word “spa” is taken from the term “Soul per aqua”, a kind of water treatment or healing by the water. “When a client comes to the spa, we make him or her feel as if they are entering another world. Starting with the tea ceremony which we offer at the reception area, clients can leave their cares behind and indulge in a totally exotic experience with us,” Dharsana said.
“The basic idea is to present the wonderful things of Palau to the people, and we always link into five star hotels, but we always adjust to the culture of any country we establish our spas in,” Dharsana added.
Elelia spa took its name after a local flower here, Dharsana said. He clarified that the Elelia spa is not a massage saloon but an establishment that offers water therapy, body and face treatment, Balinese Massage, Mandara massage, fancy footwork, pure nature facial, aromapure facial, spa sampler, nirvana, harmony, ultimate indulgence, manicure and pedicure, all of which is more inclined towards relaxation and beauty. For a start the spa has five villas named after flowers, floral treatment and aromatherapy baths, and has more than a hundred collections of small items that will appeal to all the senses of men which can result to lulling a client into a state if relaxed bliss. For more details feel free to call 488-2600.

Relaxing by the beach

When you feel that your world is getting tighter and smaller everyday, sitting cramped and staring at the four walls of your office surrounded with reams of paperwork to be done, a trip to Babeldaob Island is a perfect diversion.
If tourists from all over the world do everything to flock to Palau because of its world famous dive sites and natural wonders, there’s no reason for locals not to experience what the island has to offer.After hours of trekking in the heat of the sun visiting cultural and historical sites in Ngaraard sometime ago, we came to a long stretch of white-sand beach well known for unequalled privacy- the North Beach which is owned by Senator Johnny Reklai’s daughter Lola. The resort was opened in November, 2001.
The resort boasts of four cottages complete with amenities like open balcony, icebox, running water, shower, and air condition units, good for four occupants, open cottages for day or overnight use, a full service bar, and a restaurant offering meals ranging from $6-12, depending on the menu. The rates for private cottages are $132, while open cottages can be rented at $30 good for 10 persons. North Beach staff Joy Benhart said two of the best features of the resort are the sunrise and moonlight.“Seeing the sun rise over the beach and the full moon shining at night are experiences one can not forget,” she said.
Here is one romantic and comfortable place where you can sit on the white sand or swing from a hammock, listen to the chirping of birds on the tress or see the crabs race each other on the pristine shores, a perfect escape where you can forget everything and just relax. This is a place where the search for a private paradise ends. For more information, please call Joy at the North Beach Cottages in Choll. Ngaraard at telephone number 824-4444 or email

Preserving the past for the future

It has been said that the faintest ink is stronger than the sharpest memory. There’s truth to this because memories fail but the printed pages live on to preserve a country’s history, tradition, culture, legends and stories.
In between these bound collections of paper are volumes of precious history that will tell the world who and what Palau was in the past. Books may seem to us as lumps of lifeless paper, but poured into each page are timeless records of happenings and observations that will open new worlds for the future.
Books, postcards, guidebooks and other printed materials serve as the preservers of history that can be handed from one generation to the next. One day into the future, your seven-year old great grandchild will open a dog-eared volume of history book and will get first-hand information on how today’s generation lived.
Palau has its share of a wide variety of books. An example of a cookbook depicting local food is the Taste of the Rainbow’s End by Tova Harrel Bornovsky. Then there are books about public service like From the Grassroots by former president Kuniwo Nakamura, books about birds and bats, sea and marine life, and other forms of nature like the ones by Mandy Etpison, and other books about legends and stories, guides and maps that will quench the thirst for knowledge. There are also books of Palau depicting wonderful photographs that will lure tourists somewhere to come and take a look at the place. These books and other printed matters are valuable assets to the country. Take good care of these and help preserve the past for the future.

Post-marked Palau

Before the advent of the internet, letter senders rely mainly on the services of the post office. These letters and packages are sent on their way with postage stamps, those colorful pieces of designed adhesive paper which proves to be a way of preserving, protecting and promoting Palau’s culture.Before post offices provided paste or sponges on the counters, you can see customers licking before sticking the stamps on the envelopes.
Palau has its share of thousands of stamps which accumulated over the years. Images on the stamps on Palau depict a sampling of the wide variety of the island’s treasured collections, from birds to flags of the different States, history, environmental heroes, famous personalities, places or commemorative stamps. Postage stamps provide contemporary views of Palauan culture, artistic and historical heritage to the world.
Some postage stamps are designed based on events, like the 40th anniversary of the Peace Corps in Palau, the anniversary of the diplomatic relationships between Palau and the Republic of China (Taiwan), celebration of the Festival of Pacific Arts and others. Sometimes the stamps make up part of a greater picture. One example is the Japan-Palau Friendship Bridge stamp depicting a picture of the KB Bridge divided into 31 stamps priced at 34 cents each. Another is a sheet of stamps depict the history of sailing in Palau while yet another sheet shows a philatelic panorama of the wonders of the sea and reefs of the island. These are just a few samples of Palau’s eye-catching stamps that have made their way all over the world and into the books of collectors. Thousands of years later, future generations will look into these collections and see what Palau is.
Palau postmaster Ponciano Materne said the post office comes up with several new stamps each year.
The world's first stamp was the Penny Black issued with the profile of Queen Victoria printed on it in Great Britain by James Chalmers around 1834. The different countries of the world produce scores of different stamps each year estimating to a total of some 400,000 different types in existence as of 2000. Recently, the annual world output has averaged about 10,000 types each year.
Stamp collecting is a popular hobby worldwide, and stamps are often produced as collectibles. Want to start your own stamp collection now? A visit to the local post office during office hours is worth it.

Portrait of an artist

“A painting can be done in a few hours or a couple of days, PLUS about 20 years of experience”. This was according to Michael Glinski, the artist behind the fantastic paintings at the Belau Art Gallery at the ground floor of the Palau Royal Resort.
Browsing through the paintings at the gallery gives you a feeling of looking at real-life paintings. Michael’s paintings throbbed with a life of their own, giving you a feeling of being at the same spot depicted in the painting.
Michael said he started his artistic career as a very small boy, painting on the walls of their house. Instead of getting angry, his parents gave him all the support and encouraged him to pursue his interest.
Michael was born into a generation of artists in Warsaw, Polland as the youngest of a brood of three. He was introduced into the world of arts by his parents who are both architects.“At a very early age I learned to develop my own style and design,” Michael said. He sold his first painting at the age of 13 in the United States, and since then has made more than 500 paintings. He has traveled extensively all over the world and he gets his inspiration from nature and environment. He settled in Palau in 2003 at the Batuti Art Gallery and moved to his present location in July 2005.
Arm Michael with brushes, paints, canvas, time and inspiration and off he goes into his creative world, creating a painting depicting nature’s wonders in Palau.Michael has also extended his artistic ability into fashioning his own collection of jewelry.
Michael’s paintings are affordable. “It gives me great satisfaction to see my customers happy with my paintings so I make these affordable for them,” Michael said.Prints can be had as low as $15, limited editions from $75 and up, original water colors from $35 up and the most expensive painting in the gallery costs $10,500. His clientele ranges from tourists from Korea, Taiwan, China, Japan, United States and a sprinkling of tourists. Visit the Belau Art Gallery at the PRR from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Mondays to Saturdays and from 10 a.m. to 7 a.m. on Sundays. Please call 488-2000 ext. 207 for more information.

Palauan women’s money:A prestige earned

I was interviewing a business tycoon in one of the restaurants in Koror when a woman approached us, carrying a delicately-carved and shaped turtle shell ornament resembling a shallow dish which I later learned, is named toluk . The woman handed it to the politician, who in turn inspected it and gave her $120 for it. My curiosity about this Palauan tradition eventually led to this article.
Owning a toluk or other Palauan money for that matter, says Melson N. Miko, Historic Preservation Specialist of the Bureau of Arts and Culture, is a prestige in Palau that shows social status. He said it is something closely identified with Palauan identity and seen as a part of the very life of the people.
“A woman has to earn Palauan money and this is what makes it more valuable,” Miko said. He added that the Palauan money was paid to women for their family obligations and services. The Palauan money comes from turtle shells which were fashioned and carved into different shapes and sizes, but nobody can exactly say who made these and when. Several legends offer differing versions but nobody can say for sure. Some Palauan money are fashioned into beads, bracelets and necklaces.
Mico said although it may seem just any ordinary ornament in other parts of the world, it is very valuable in Palau.“When you attend traditional parties and if you put US dollars as contribution, it’s good because it’s what people need but if you put in Palauan money and US currency at the same time, it automatically elevates you up to a higher level than the other guests,” Mico said.These days, this money continues to be used in certain traditional marriage, funeral and first-child ceremonies. The value of Palauan money ranges from $50 up to even as high as $50,000, depending on the origin of the Palauan money or the clan where it belongs. Some women go to great lengths to buy Palauan money if they wanted to add to their collection. The existence of Palauan money however is being threatened by the emergence of counterfeit items and ornaments from Bali, Indonesia. It is very hard to distinguish the real Palauan money from the fake ones that people are having second thoughts about buying it nowadays. In the olden times, Palauan money are very rarely, if at all, given out during traditional gatherings because the owners hold on to it but now, they are multiplying in abundance, thus decreasing their value. With this, women’s groups are trying to think of ways to counter-attack this problem that is slowly killing the value of one of Palau’s cultural heritage.

Palau:Through the Years

If you think museums are just gloomy buildings containing specimens from another lifetime waiting for tourists and visitors to come and take a look at the displays, think again. There’s more to museums than meets the eye and it goes true with the BNM.
Preserve. Conserve. Promote. These are the three keywords that make Belau National Museum (BNM) tick. In between the three, there is the maintenance work needed to see to it that the work of arts, culture and creative works will be preserved.
“Museums contribute hugely to the mental development of the country, it is the window or the mural of a country,” BNM director Tina Rehuher-Marugg told Island Times. The BNM, she said, is made up of dedicated people who specialize in various fields who collect specimens.
Marugg said that the BNM function is “to enhance the well being of the community and to preserve and maintain Palau’s heritage.”“When you go to any country, visiting a museum is the best way to learn about the people in that country, it’s where I learn,” Marugg said.
“We have come a long way compared to the early 1970’s, but we still have a long way to go,” Marugg, who worked as the BNM director on and off since the early 1970’s said. She added that she hopes for expansions in the museum to store and display the exhibits. She said that in the early 70’s the museum collections are housed in a small building but after the construction of the new museum building, things have changed for the better.
There are nine sections in the BNM and these are manned by their respective managers. These sections are the Administration, Ethnographic Objects/Art Collections, Media Collections, Research Library, Art Program, Ulekdubs Shop, Maintenance & Facility, Natural History and Museum Pedagogy.
The BNM provides a range of products and services, which include permanent, temporary, and traveling exhibits, an amphitheater, and a variety of community outreach programs. A traditional meeting hall, botanical garden, and war relics are additional exhibits that visiting guests of the BNM will experience.
BNM is celebrating its golden anniversary this year under the theme “A Cherechar a Lokelii” (Palau through the years). Part of its activities is the showcasing of a three-part display from pre-contact Palau to contact periods of Spain, Germany, Japan and the United States to Palau today.
BNM’s concept for its 50th anniversary is to educate the public about the role the Museum plays in the community. It also aims to acknowledge Palau’s historical ties with its former administering countries, establish new relationships and re-establish old ones.Among the remarkable contributions displayed at the BNM are the paintings by Charlie Gibbons in 1975, Hisakatsu Hijikata, Elizabeth Kramler, the Taiwanese aborigines, and others who played a vital role in Palau’s history.
The new museum building was formally opened on September 30, 2005 and has been catering to locals and international tourists since then. For more information, contact or

Palau tales and legends in photos

Tales and legends surrounding Palau adds to the enchantment and attraction of the island. Many of these legends, captured in impressive photographs by a Japanese photographer are showcased at the Palau Pacific Resort (PPR) until the end of this month.
More than 40 of the best works of Uruma Takezawa are being exhibited- dubbed as the “Rainbow 's End --Tales of islands where rainbow sinks.” The white-sand beach of the PPR was filled with footsteps from enthusiastic guests who graced the opening of the photo exhibit on March 9.Uruma’s photos depict the enchanting islands, pristine waters, underwater wonders, exquisite sunrises and sunsets, as well as the people and its culture.
Uruma said he started taking photographs as a hobby some years ago but he later turned to serious photography, capturing landscapes, nature, people and a variety of subjects in enchanting photographs with a wonderful, mysterious story. “The secret of capturing a really good photograph is to let your feelings rule over, and the rest will follow,” Uruma said. Visit the Pacific Room of PPR and allow Uruma’s photographs take you back in time with legends that will always be a part of the island, like “The origin of Palau”, “The lady who became stone”, “Turtles Time”, “The Bird of Light”, “The Story of Echo Fish”, “The Tree of Magic Bird”, and “The story of dawn”.
Uruma Takezawa was born in Japan in 1977. After graduating from the Doshisha University, he became a staff photographer of Marine Planning Co,.Ltd and established "URUMA Photo Office" in 2004. For more information, please visit PPR is sponsoring the photo exhibition, with the support of the Palau Visitors Authority and the Japan Airlines.

Paddling through Ngchesar waters

If you’ve always thought of Babeldaob as one jungle, here’s a special treat for you. Ngchesar State has just launched its kayaking site, a picturesque water trail along the Ngerdorch River (called in Japanese as Shimizu river) that offers “post-card perfect scenery”.Ngchesar State governor Duane Hideo said that they tied up with Planet Blue and a group of 12 American tourists sampled the kayaking site early this year.
“Kayaking in the Ngerdorch River gives one an all-in-one package, you can lustily feast your eyes and your senses to the wonders of the mangrove, countless pure waterfalls, rainforests, traditional villages and remnants of the Japanese era,” Hideo said.
A whole day kayaking along the pristine rivers also offers a hundred and one attractions including going through nypa palm groves (toechel) and a curtain of hanging ferns, viewing WW11 artifacts, seeing Palau’s rare orchids and plants and the flycatcher, or enjoying your own private Jacuzzi as you take a dip in the bubbling cascades of the numerous waterfalls.
For a really local feel, the village women prepares the lunches in baskets. Discarding the use of plastics and styrofoam, the meals are served in leaves. Columba Augusto, president of Ngaratlok (tradisional women’s organization composed of 60 members in Ngchesar), said this project will boost the tourism potential of the state. She said that the proceeds of the lunches will go to whoever prepared the food but if all of them help, then they will decide whether to split the proceeds or to put it in the group’s account. “I am encouraging all the ladies’ groups in Palau to promote local food in all gatherings and events,” Augusto said. The prepared lunch is a mouth-watering basket of crab, oyster, fish, tapioca pudding, taro, potatoes, chicken, and local fruits-pineapple, banana, and papaya. For drinks, forget sodas and softdrinks. Refreshing coconut juice is served straight from its husk.
Instead of allowing a multi-million dollar facility to be put up in the area which can only benefit a chosen few, Hideo said the kayaking package will benefit the community.“A $10 fee will be collected by the State for each guest. The women gets $25 each for the lunches, and the tour guides will get $75/day,” Hideo said. He added that they will be using local produce for the meals readily available in the State.
Hideo added that the best part of this package is that locals will have a chance to interact with the guests and this will enhance an awareness within them of the paradise they are living in that they have always taken for granted.
Hideo said they will be coming up with materials like brochures, DVD’s and a website to better promote Ngchesar especially to the high-end market from Europe, Japan, Taiwan and other places. They will also be tapping the Palau Visitors Authority and the Belau Tourism Association to assist them market their product. Very soon, the Ngchesar kayaking package will be among the list of priority destinations in the island. For more information, please call Ngchesar State office at tel. number 488-2636 or Planet Blue Sea Kayak Tours at 488-1062.

Over a cup of coffee

They faithfully come everyday in groups ranging from eight to twenty people within a particular time in a specific restaurant and within a span of about one to two hours, dallying over cups of coffee or tea between cigarettes or the other way around.
Rain or shine, these groups of men (not to stress that they’re already in their 50’s) never miss a single day to gather in different restaurants in Koror where they talk about politics, economy, social issues, fishing, farming, health, latest issues and just about anything under the sun, including one topic which these groups all have in common- that is women. (!!!) But among these groups, nothing personal or family problems are being spilled out.
The regulars from the Furusato Restaurant group come in between 6:30 to 8:00 without fail every morning. “For the past ten years, even if there’s a typhoon, we always find a way to come. Before we gather at the old Furusato Building before it was transferred to its new location,” Tangy Anastacio said.
He added “So many of the bills which were forwarded to the OEK were made from the discussions from this table,” Anastacio added. He also said that when election time is nearing, the group increases in number but after the elections, the number dwindles and goes back to the regular group.
The Emmaimelei group comes in later, sometime from 8 to 10 o’clock in the morning. Sometimes they occupy a very long table but those who can not come in the morning comes in the afternoon session- around 4 o’clock. One thing about this group is they do not smoke or chew. They just have coffee or tea and the regular dosage of oatmeal. One politician (whose name he doesn’t want to be mentioned) even comes all the way from Ngarchelong every morning without fail, come sleet or hail.
“The length of time we spend everyday depends on the topic we are discussing,” one of them said. Another added that they are all (or almost all) retired and doesn’t know what to do with the time. Also, they said the bonding they get from the group “connects” them to the world of work they have left.
The Red Rooster “session” usually starts at ten in the morning and lasts from one to one hour and a half. They come and swap stories about long-ago adventures or recall memories of the past years.
Other groups also gather at other restaurants in Koror like the Penthouse, Ramen Express and other places. These guys look like ordinary “retired folks” but behind their coffees and laughter and story-swapping are years of extensive experiences. The regular morning rendezvous is a part of their daily existence.

Carving the Palauan culture and history

The constant noise produced from the eternal pounding and hammering from the second floor of this shop will make one think it’s a furniture shop but you’re wrong. It’s one establishment that produces storyboards, one of the unique features Palau has to offer the world.
Tebang’s woodcarving shop, located at the Topside Koror is one place where artists pour their heart and soul fashioning a scrap of wood into works of art that would later find their places in from all over the world. Inabo’s Woodcarving Shop has played a big role in preserving the culture and history of the Palauans.
Ling Inabo, owner of Tebang Woodcarving said he had been carving wood for as long as he can remember, even before he put up his shop way back in 1998.Inabo went to Houston, USA where he enrolled in Hotel and Restaurant course but the lure of carving wood was in his blood. “I have always loved to carve. I quit school and found satisfaction in what I always loved to do, ,” Inabo said.
He spends six days a week inside his shop polishing his talent to depict the Palauan way of life, the country’s culture and history and capture it on wood. On Sundays he and his staff rest from work to spend time for their families and other interests.
All of Inabo’s designs are unique from each other.“There’s no duplicate copy for each design because I fashion and design them as soon as the inspiration hits me,” Inabo said.
“Like any other artist who paints or does sculptures, I get my inspiration from my environment, like underwater inspiration and everyday life. I go fishing and diving and that’s how I am able to transfer the underwater scenes on wood,” he said.
Inabo said nothing can equal the satisfaction he gets from watching the subjects he carved in the pieces of scrap wood spring to life. The satisfaction doubles up when tourists or local customers buy the wood carving and brings it home with them.
Inabo said he draws the designs on the wood and let his four other staff carve the storyboard. He and his staff finish an average of 10 story boards a week and these are all displayed in his store under his shop.
Tebang’s products are sold locally and are only displayed in his store because they can hardly meet the demands for the storyboards but most of his customers are tourists. Ling however envisions an expansion for his business in the next five years.
“I would like to expand my shop, train up more people to carve wood and storyboards, have a bigger display store and come up with more wood products aside from storyboards,” Ling said. He is also keen on exporting his products to other countries as a means of showcasing Palau to the world.
Ling said he used to teach wood carving classes during his spare time at the PCC before, and in his shop. Tebang woodcarving shop is the only wood carving shop in town where anybody is free to come and take a look at the woodcarvers at work, take photos or just observe them.
Ling said he has a special collection that he gains satisfaction just by looking at them which he does not plan to sell.One of Ling’s masterpiece and the biggest storyboard he ever carved is placed inside the Bank of Hawaii. It extends from one wall to the other, depicting stories of the people in Palau long time ago. Clients can also place their orders for storyboards and if they want a specific design, Ling is just too happy to oblige.

Alii!Hokule’a, Alinganu Maiso

The eager crowd of spectators craned their necks in anticipation as the patrol boat announced the arrival of the Hokule’a and the Alinganu Maiso, the much-awaited traditional boats from Hawaii and on its way to Japan.The backdrop of the Rock Islands provided the perfect setting as graceful swaying of the traditional dancers and spectacular firecrackers lighting up the sky. Sounds from the shell horn and the welcome chant signaled the welcoming warmth of Palau to the crew of the two boats.
As early as 8 o’clock in the morning, people started flocking towards the NECO Marine dock to await the historic arrival of the boats. Cars were jam packed in parking lots, people squeezed themselves to get a clear view of the boats and the crew near the dock of NECO Marine and the surrounding docks in Malakal as well, not minding the long wait. Traffic began to build up in the highway as cars stopped by to catch a glimpse of the boats which has been gaining popularity in media mileage through television shows, radio program and newspapers for the past months. The significance of this voyage is to emphasize that the ancestors used to travel on long voyages using canoes and traditional navigational tools like stars, moon and sea current. Records show that the voyage is to honor Mau Pialug, the greatest tradition voyager of Yap State who is now in his old age.
Palau government has plenty of activities lined up to keep the crew of the boats occupied, see a bit of the island and interact with the locals. Hokule’a and Alingano Maisu left Hawaii on January 11, stopping by other countries in Micronesia like Marshall Islands, FSM, Yap, and Palau before heading towards Japan, its final destination.
For more information on the Hokule’a 2007 voyage, please visit

Taro cultivation:A continuing island tradition

“We’re going taro-patch hopping at 9 a.m. Wear old clothes”. I got this text message from office mate Lizette last Saturday. I was looking forward to a trip to the other States but unluckily the weather did not cooperate. We had to postpone the trip for that afternoon, and with time constraints had to limit the trip into the nearby Airai State.
Despite the changing times where one can see more people, especially women engaged in white-collared jobs and are now working in offices, stores and other establishments, taro cultivation still is one of many traditions that remain strong in Palau today. Working in the taro patch spells hard work, Lizette says. “It’s like wallowing in the mud all day, you’re muddy and your clothes are muddy. It’s really dirty work and you have to work under the intense heat of the sun,” she adds. But in the past, the taro patch is the main form of agriculture and was the pride of every Palauan woman. If you don’t have a taro patch, you’re not considered a good wife or a good person to marry. Records show that "It’s hard work, it’s labor intensive, but it’s done with pride. It’s one of the criteria of being an independent woman in Palau. Still today.”
Taro is Palau’s main food and is served in all parties like birthdays, first bath ceremonies, house parties, simple gatherings and any other events. These are served in a variety of attractive presentations which appeals to the eye and appetite of the people. There’s the thinly sliced taro which serves as the main dish (in the absence of rice). Then there’s the mashed taro which is wrapped in plastic resembling a huge hotdog.Other foods are also cultivated in Palau such as sweet potato, tapioca, bananas and breadfruit being an important part of the diet.

SOJA rocks Palau

The eager crowd did not mind the hours of waiting, standing or sitting on the floor as local artists belted out lively renditions of Palauan songs. I squatted on the floor below the stage with others, unaware (until later) that the entire middle floor has turned into a huge dance floor, with everybody dancing and swaying in anticipation of the appearance of the night’s main performers- the Soldiers Of Jah Army (SOJA) reggae band.
The curtains opened and the shouts rose to a deafening crescendo when lead singers Jacob Hemphill (guitar) and Bob Jefferson (bass) trotted on stage for their opening number, to the accompaniment of Patrick O’Shea on keyboard, percussionist Ken Brownell, and drummer Ryan Berty.
The cheer of the crowd was deafening. Seats were abandoned as everyone stood up to join the jostling crowd and let go of all the cares as they lost themselves to the wonderful world of reggae.
For an island who rarely get the opportunity to see live concerts, the Ngarachamayong Cultural Center was literally jampacked with teenagers, kids and adults who stomped their feet, clapped and swayed to the beat of the drums as the band sent a message to the listeners through their songs.
SOJA’s music includes and embraces all walks of life - it has no prejudice – it is for everyone. The band is embarking on a journey around the world promoting their latest album “Get Wiser” and Palau is fortunate to be included among the stopovers.From Palau, SOJA has a series of shows scheduled in Guam, Saipan, California and other places. For more information, visit their website at
The two-night live concert was the first alcohol-free event by GenNOW and co-sponsored by the Palau Royal Resort, Oceania Television Network and Koror State Government youth division.

Museum Island Revisited

From the looks of it, Orange Beach in Peleliu is just one of those ordinary beaches with white sand stretching along the shore and attracting beach lovers but for Peleliu residents and those who are familiar with their history, the beach is a silent witness of one of the fiercest battles fought between the Americans and Japanese forces during the World War 11.
Peleliu World War 11 Museum director Tangie Hesus sat on a fallen log as he animatedly transported us to that fateful morning 62 years ago when the blood of thousands of American soldiers were shed on the beach, tinting the white shores till it was believed the water turned orange, hence the name Orange Beach came to be.A few meters from the beach is the 81st Wild Cat Memorial site but every grave was exhumed in 1947 and the bodies of the soldiers were claimed by their families.

A tour of the island would provide one a view of scattered relics and remnants of the Battle and the Japanese Occupation, depicted in buildings, tanks, planes, battle sites, shrines, monuments and man-made caves used by the Japanese troops during the battle. The World War 11 Museum is housed in an ancient block house built during the Japanese times. A musty smell greets a guest when he enters it, making the experience complete as he goes through alley after alley of war mementos. Japanese and American remnants like machine guns and cannons, broken shards of kitchen ware, water canteens, medicine bottles, helmets and all other reminders line up the walls, each telling their own sad stories about their long-lost owners.
Because of the rich history of the island, the United States Department of Interior designated the place as a National Historic Landmark in 1985.
It was dusk when Tangie, Jun Rodriguez of Palau Horizon and I returned and we were only able to visit the Peleliu WW11 museum, Japanese Shrine, US Marine Memorial at the Bloody Nose Ridge, 81st Wild Cat Memorial and the Orange Beach.

Peleliu island boasts of natural tropical forests and offers so much activities for guests, but it is the history and the deep secret of the island that lures thousands of not only Japanese and Americans but other nationalities as well to visit and see
“Every year, I get to guide a group of war veterans both Americans and Japanese in the island and its touching to see them cry as they reminisce the war they were part of 62 years ago,” Tangie said. He also added that families of slain soldiers visit the place to remember their loved ones who died in the battle.

Meet Mr. Croc

If you’ve seen crocodiles only in books and on television, a visit to the Crocodile Preservation just before reaching the KB Bridge from Koror will give you a chance to see anhonest to goodness, live crocodiles. Opened way back in 1990, this area started as a crocodile breeding center aimed to restore the lost population of crocodiles as a result of over-hunting.
Two crocodiles about 10 feet long were basking in the afternoon sun while the other two were nowhere to be found. Joshua Eberdong, Turtle, crocodile and dugong coordinator of the Bureau of Marine Resources clapped his hands several times. A few minutes later, there was the slightest movement in the water, very slight you could barely notice, then the crocodile’s nose surfaced.
Eberdong said there is only one species of crocodile in Palau- the salt water crocodile. Eberdong said he used to keep as many as 30 to 40 crocodiles in his pens before but after he learned that the space he had was too small, he began releasing the crocodiles until only four are left- two males and two females. The females lay an average of 28 to 45 eggs. The eggs take only 60 days before they are hatched and has about 45 percent survival rate.The crocodiles fed once a week on dressed chickens and can consume about ten chickens each on one feeding.To rebound the crocodile’s population which is near extinction, Eberdong said a few weeks after the eggs were hatched, he releases the baby crocodile back into the waters. They feed on other animals like chickens, rats, cats, wild pigs, birds, and mangrove crabs.
"Mangrove and swampy areas are where the crocodiles live,” says Joshua
Records show that the crocodile was respected and treated like a mysterious thing before but about 1965 a fisherman from Airai Village got taken by a crocodile. Then there was anger towards the crocodile, and that resulted to the move to eradicate crocodiles by the conservation officer for the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands that was based here. The incident was reported to have left quite a mark on people’s minds that the crocodiles were bad and we need to get rid of them.
“When you’re in places where crocodiles are known to be, you know the risks—you don’t swim but crocodiles only feed at night. They sleep most of the day,” Eberdong said.
There have been few incidents where someone was hurt by a crocodile but this has not changed people’s perceptions. Eberdong said the Crocodile Preservation is the only area in the country which breeds crocodiles to recover their dwindling population. Crocodiles are still viewed as threat to people as well as competition for mangrove crabs and reef fish. Eberdong said there are at least 700 to 1,000 crocodiles existing in Palau
The Crocodile Preservation is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays to Sundays. A $3 fee is collected from adult visitors and $2 for kids for the area’s maintenance and to meet the food supplies of the crocodiles. You may call 488-2004 for further details.