Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sampling Palau’s underwater wonders

Palau is a place teeming with abundant fish and marine life that you only have to wade in knee-length water and fish will be crawling all over your feet. Everyday hundreds of tourists flock here to sample the country’s numerous famed dive sites which made Palau one of the seven most beautiful dive spots in the world.
In fact, this is the only in this place that I have eaten various kinds of fish that I only see in aquariums and in menus of flashy seafood restaurants in the Philippines.
Last week, I sent a text message to Fish n’ Fins dive shop owner Tova Bornovsky if we could go with a group on a trip with a group of divers. She immediately agreed and so I found myself onboard a boat with Micmic Villaflor (of the other Palau newspaper) and seven divers from different countries.

An hour later, Malsol, the boat operator tied the anchor to a mooring bouy in the New Drop Off near Ngemelis Island (they are not allowed to drop it to protect the corrals).
“Are they going to dive here? It’s shallow!” I asked Malsol as I peered into the crystal clear water which looks like some four feet deep. Malsol’s answer was just a booming laugh.

I watched with envy as the divers donned on their complete gear flipped over into the water one by one, leaving me and Micmic with Malsol.
“Snorkel time”, Micmic announced. I slipped into a set of protective mask and snorkel and slowly descended through a side ladder, shuddering when I dipped my head and realized that the sea bed was way, way down below, some 15 feet deep. The current was swift and I held on to the ladder and the rope for life, even if I was wearing a life jacket. I know that if I let go, I would be in the Pacific Ocean in a few minutes.
However I forgot my fear as I marveled at the colorful garden of corrals and all kinds of fish imaginable swimming all around us. Micmic kicked me underwater and excitedly pointed to a huge napoleon fish which I estimated to be over 60 lbs. swimming directly below us. A few meters from where we were, the sea bed ended and a gaping, dark green hole of water which dipped down to more than a hundred meters deep.

We went to two more dive sites, the Big Drop Off where we snorkeled with damsel fishes all around us, giving us a feeling of being inside a huge aquarium, and Helmet Wreck where, even by listening to dive guide Ed Fuja during a briefing, would make a diver’s saliva drool. I just imagined the divers going into the deep exploring a sunken warship during the World War 11. Ed said there were still helmets and rifles and even an oil lamp in one of the small rooms.
An hour later the orange balloon popped out of the water, signaling that the divers will be resurfacing. The satisfied looks on their faces actually made me green with envy.
“I’ve been to several dive sites all over the world but it’s my first time to really see a wonderful wreck as this,” a Japanese diver gushed. The snorkeling experience (my second, actually) left me beat and dead-tired but satisfied. I’ve promised myself that I will not leave Palau without a diving experiencing. But first things first, I have yet to learn how to swim.
When in Palau, your stay will never be complete without sampling an underwater adventure.

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.)

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.

Shooting paintballs

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..

Sailing with the wind

For those who do not have the chance, guts or opportunity to go diving and experience Palau’s underwater wonders, one alternative the island has to offer not only for tourists but for locals as well is sailing.

Sailing is one thrilling experience where you let all your cares go and allow the wind rule your route, says Royal Belau Yacht Club (RBYC) secretary Rachel Walton, who has been sailing for the past 25 years.
Since most visitors travel to Palau for the best diving in the world, they miss much else that makes Palau unique.
Sailing through Palau’s calm waterways, protected lagoon and dense tropical forest between the famous Rock Islands can be quite an experience to really explore the island, without the fear for getting seasick.
Sam’s Tours offers free sailing lessons for interested participants, including the opportunity to sail to distant island paradises as actual lessons. Sam’s gives even those new to sailing ample opportunity to take the wheel and feel the joy of steering a fast boat and surge through warm tropical seas under a full press of canvas.

Despite the rough and windy weather, there was a good turnout of participants who joined the Youth Sailing Sampler arranged by the RBYC at Sam’s Tours in Malakal last Saturday. It was an opportunity for the young (and the not so young) to try their hand at sailing, assisted and coached by RBYC members who were on hand to help them enjoy and have fun in the water.

The young people got a chance to sail out in the three Hobie Cat sailing catamarans and the kayaks the club provided. Other kids just swam and snorkeled near the dingy.

Dermot Keane, Sam’s Tours manager and RBYC Port Captain earlier said that the club is holding at least a couple of events every month not only for members but for outsiders, too.
“RBYC offers activities that are designed not only for enjoyment but for environmental awareness, too,” Keane said. RCB

Rock Island café: A pizza-lover’s hangout

If it’s pizza, relaxation, conversation and satisfaction you’re looking for, the best place to go to, not only in Palau but in Micronesia as well is Rock Island Café, one building you could not miss which is located across the Palau High School gymnasium.

Here is a place where tourists from all parts of the world mingle with students and locals to satisfy gustatory demands with delicious pizza, swap stories over glasses of coffee, tea or beer, or simply pass time nibbling on finger foods and other services the restaurant offers.
“The tables here had been mute witnesses to so many victories, parties, celebrations, whether in sports or any other events that had been celebrated here,” a regular said.

Rock Island Café is aptly named by the owner High Chief Yutaka Gibbons after the famous Rock Islands where he spends most of his time when he’s not at his office, says Sinobo Merep, the company’s secretary/treasurer.

Stepping into the doorway of Rock Island Café is an experience customers relish, and they keep coming back, not only for the pizza, sandwiches, salads, and soup but for the casual dining atmosphere.

The place is another variation if you just want to relax and unwind from the daily pressures of life. A tourist or a local can have many choices of activities in Palau from diving to snorkeling to other water sports or inland recreation but at Rock Island Café, one will enjoy Palau's best pizza, like cheese pizza, pizza with one or five or as many toppings as you would like to have, and combinations like the house special, beef eater, meat lovers, bacon cheeseburger, vegetarian, and Hawaiian delight.
Rock Island Café also serves a wide variety of choices of international cuisine for breakfast, lunch, dinner from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. only on Saturdays.

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.

OBF ’06: A display of rich cultural heritage

They were not afraid of the rain, both the participants and the visitors of the 6th Olechotel Belau Fair (OBF). When it fell, everybody ran for shelter but when the rain stopped, everybody continued on just like a deluge did not happen at all, an indication that nothing could hinder the people from enjoying the two-day event last Sunday and Monday.

Guests had a superb time visiting booths of participating states and private sectors, taking their fill of the rich culture and displays of each. Business was brisk as guests bought goodies and products as soon as they land at the display tables. Guests grabbed the chance to see, hear, smell and taste Palau's traditional to contemporary dances, music, and foods in what could be lumped as a “superb” celebration.

One of the unique features of this year’s OBF is the participation of neighboring islands which added more color to the festivities. Yap’s dancers in their colorful costumes and their weavers attracted a large number of people, while Guam’s booth offered unique services, like massage, a “cartoon-yourself” corner where a guest poses while an artist draws his or her caricature, breast enlargement services (this raised a lot of eyebrows) and an array of Guam’s traditional and contemporary products.

Palau Visitors Authority (PVA) Community & Support Services Manager Anna Hideo said that moving the OBF schedule to July proved to be perfect because it resulted into a great turnout of participants, even if the activities were held in different venues. This year’s theme is “Belau Oudiukes” (Palau’s Rich Cultural Heritage).

Among the highlights of the event were visual exhibition and presentation of performing arts participated in mostly by the younger generation. This included weaving, jewelry and body ornaments like the tattooing which resulted to children running around with differently-designed tattoos on their faces, flora competition, display and presentation of local medicinal plants, film viewing, Palauan pottery exhibition and literary art. There was also a presentation of performing arts like music solo contest, group singing contest, traditional chanting, story telling, food wrapping contest, traditional sports, men and women traditional dances.

PVA managing director Darin de Leon said the island can expect more participation for the OBF next year, even as far as Japan because plans are underway to make this event open not only for Micronesian Islands but in other places as well. All in all, it was the best OBF ever held, thanks to the joint effort of the Community and Cultural Affairs office and the PVA.

Off to the Big Island

With tourism as the backbone of the economy and with hundreds of tourists scouring the island everyday, locals may tend to take for granted the scenic attractions Palau has to offer.

Come with me on a day’s tour to Babeldaob, (the Big Island) with the Palau Visitors Authority (PVA) at the helm as they conduct a familiarization tour to a batch of tour operators and travel agents from Australia. The group was composed of Kristyn Ward and Fern Fraser from Dive Adventures, Cheryleigh Jacobs from Continental Airlines, Michael O’Leary from Travelscene, Bill Coleman, Lisa Edwards from Nautilus Scuba Centre Toowong Pty. Ltd., Michael Harris from Harris Park Holdings Pty. Ltd., Steve and Lee Grow from Aquatic Explorer and from Tweed Seasports.

The day started with a brief visit to the NECO Marine compound in Malakal, with guide Jessica then the group proceeded to the Etpison Museum, where they took photos and bought souvenirs of Palau. The long but scenic ride to Babeldaob proved interesting for the guests.
We had a brief stopover at the Capitol in Melekeok State before proceeding to northernmost tip of Ngarchelong, in Badrulchau where the famed stone faces and monoliths are located. Open cottages with tempting benches are available. Guests were treated to a soothing cool breeze and a superb view of the stone faces and monoliths down the valley. A short distance away, we can see the waves crashing on the shore endlessly.
To get to the monoliths, we had to go down more than a hundred crudely-built stairways and walk under the heat of the noonday sun (don’t think about the return trip yet). But the walk and the heat was worth it.

It felt awesome to be standing in the site of the ancient stone monoliths which are mysterious in origin. After a quick lunch under the shade of the open huts, we got back on the bus and proceeded to the island’s highest waterfalls in Ngardmau State. I hesitated to go down as I was warned that the trail was not easy, but I had to complete the trip. We had to go down steep slopes with the aid of thin wooden canes, pass through rivers and bubbling Jacuzzi-like lagoons, enticing us to take a dip.

Very soon, we heard the splashing and the huge waterfalls with its curtain of water cascading down met our eyes. The group, except me bathed in the cold water. It was time to go back and I realized the warning was wrong. The return trip was not hard. It was very hard. Going up the hill with the sun beating down your back and your sweat steaming down is not fun, but again, it was worth it.

Tired but happy, the group boarded the bus again, it was time to go back to Koror, and for the group to go back home the next day, this time to entice their countrymen to come and experience the wonders of Palau.

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.

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.

Palasia Hotel: Where your budget rules

If you think 88.88 is a radio frequency, you’re quite wrong because this astoundingly-low figure is the year-long Micronesian special room rate offered by Palasia Hotel to locals, not only for residents of Palau but also for residents of the neighboring islands like Guam, Saipan, Chuuk and Yap.

Janice Aguon, reservation manager of the Palasia Hotel said they came up with the special rate for a de luxe town view rooms with a free breakfast starting October 31, 2005 to November 1, 2006 to draw the locals to patronize the hotel but they have another set of rates for other clients, too.

At Palasia, Janice said flexibility and service are the magic words to cater to the needs and pamper the whims of the guests.
“Here we do not set rates for special occasions like birthdays, conferences, parties and other gatherings but we ask our customers how much is their budget and we will tailor our services to fit it,” Janice said.

Palasia Hotel Palau which is located in the central business district of the State of Koror offers 165 rooms and suites with balconies that offers guest spectacular views of the Rock Islands and the Bay. Amenities include air-conditioning, Cable Television, in-room safe deposit box, refrigerators, and more. The hotel also has conference rooms, free basement parking, swimming pool, wet and dry sauna, health fitness center, laundry and valet services. Also in the hotel are the duty free Galeria, Lotus Beauty Parlor, Massage Service, Local Tour Desk and Alii Internet and gift shop.

The hotel has two restaurants, Ming’s at the second floor which can be available for group dinners, conferences, and other gatherings at a pre-arranged booking while Desomel restaurant at the ground floor is for walk-in customers. It opens from 6 am to 11 pm. A visit to Palasia Hotel couldn’t be complete without sampling any of the more than 30 kinds of mouth-watering dim sum at Desomel resto but ahh…that’s another article coming up to tempt your palates. For inquiries/reservations, call Palasia at 488-8888.
Palasia hotel is just one of the establishments in Palau that offers locals and tourists a chance to make their stay in the country memorable at wallet-friendly rates.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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

Renewing mind, body and spirit at the Mandara Spa

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.

From root crop to delicacy

With display stalls in the grocery stores and shops bursting with imported food items, developing the island’s natural resources is quite a feat, but it is doable and it pays.

Let’s focus on Palau’s main root crop, the taro, whether the gathering is a birthday party, first bath ceremony, house party, funeral, simple gathering or any other events. Taro is also present in bento or lunchboxes. Although a higher percentage of the younger generation show a preference to eat rice during mealtimes, a majority of the Palauans still opt to eat taro.

With taro cultivation as one of many traditions that remain strong in Palau today, the supply is abundant. It takes only a creative and enterprising talent to come up with ways to add to its appeal.
From serving the simply-cooked, ready to eat taro, enterprising individuals came up with a hundred and one temptingly-delicious ways to serve taro.
Events held in the island also showcase taro and the other root crops, and these products are slowly claiming their place in the markets and gaining regular clientele not only among the locals but the foreigners, too.
Food research technologist Dr. Lydia Marero of the Palau Community College- Cooperative Research Extension (PCC-CRE) focused in developing local food products from Palau’s root crops and other products, including the taro.
In an earlier interview, Marero said that Palau has about 70 varieties of taro. She and her department came up with various ways to serve taro recipes like steamed cake mix, taro rice, taro delicacy, hash browns, fries, grated taro, muffins, brownies, hotcakes, tama, pie, tama mix, taro grits, flour, noodles, cubes, ochab, bread, salad, cookies, chowder, patties and a lot of variations.

Marero is holding seminars and trainings on the processing of these products to the women from different States. For more information about these programs, you may contact the PCC-CRE office at 488-2746/4983.

Fruit Bat soup: Palau’s famed delicacy

For a non-adventurous eater, it takes real guts and a strong determination to taste one of the local delicacies Palau is known for, the fruit bat soup but this delicacy had been steadily gaining popularity abroad that for some tourists, one has not won the
“Been-There- Done-That” label in Palau until you've dined on fruit bat soup.

“We usually get orders for fruit bat soup from the Chinese but it is the Chamorros from Saipan and Guam who considers it a local treat and really eats the fruit bat soup with gusto,” Luz Jorge of the Penthouse Hotel said.

She said they also get a orders from a few Europians who would like to satisfy their curiosity about this famous delicacy.

I watched in fascination as Penthouse chef Norbert Amadar took the frozen bats from the freezer, washed then with cold water, sprinkled salt and quartered onions on top of them and proceeded to put them in a skillet for boiling.
“It takes about 35 minutes for the bats to be ready. Depending on how the customer likes it prepared. It can be just be served as a soup, or with coconut milk,” Amadar said.

The bats, also known as Flying Foxes, are a traditional food in some Pacific islands like Saipan, Rota, Tinian, and Guam but in Palau, it is considered a delicacy.

Recently, a Korean television crew came to feature the fruit bat soup for their show. The guests were made to eat the soup without knowing what it is at first and got varied shocked reactions (ewwww!!!) when the whole dish was presented to them later.

A serving of fruit bat consists of a They put the whole damn fruit bat in it - fur, wing membranes, feet and little pink tongue sticking out through sharp tiny teeth.
The soup, which consists of one “grinning” fruit bat boiled, fur and all, is served on a platter. It is then ripped apart by hand and eaten. The fur is not swallowed, as this would be disgusting. Instead, the fur is chewed until the nice musky taste has been sucked out of it, and then the tasteless fur is spit out.
Aside from Penthouse, other restaurants like Carp Restaurant also serve fruit bat soup from $15 to $18 a serving.

Fruit bat soup is rumored to enhance sexual virility, but that is one thing I don’t intend to find out.

Hidden treasures in the shelves

"Life happened because I turned the pages" .
With the advent of the internet and modern technology, you might say that books are already outdated and should only be confined to the museums but a visit to the public library may let you think otherwise.

Venture through the shelves and get lost in the wonders of the world of literature, with a vast selection of reading materials from the six sections containing treasures that can drown you with its wealth of knowledge. The books are classified into the Reference Books, Fiction, non-fiction, Micro-Pacific, the Circulation and the Children’s section, which is a whole separate world of its own with small tables and chairs to make the kids comfortable. In this section children can loose themselves into the worlds of fairytales and fables and famous children’s books. Books from the Reference Section like dictionaries, encyclopedia sets and the like can’t be taken out of the library.

The library also boasts of a collection of various magazines and newspapers. The “shoes and sandals off” policy and the carpeted floor eliminates unnecessary noise to give readers the silence and privacy they need.
I felt the old pang of being a bookworm creep into my system once again as I hungrily browsed through the shelves, itching to take home some books and bury myself in them without thinking of deadlines or work. Before my interview was over, I became the latest library card holder and came home with three books.
Librarian Bedebii Sadang said that to avail of the library services, students and adults are required to pay a very minimal fee to get a lifetime membership card. This card, Sadang says, entitles a member to borrow up to five books at a time for two weeks. Sadang said that presently, there are 1,713 library card holders and this is a mix of students and people from the community. The library, which was opened to the public in its new building in 2002 also offers computer access to its members.

It is located beside the Ministry of Education office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays to Fridays. Stop by and spend a few minutes to read. Its rewards will last for a lifetime!

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

Instant meals at your fingertips

They come in transparent-covered packs and tantalizingly arranged to attract the attention of hungry customers. Available in almost all grocery stores in the island, these are the instant meals or snacks enterprising businessmen came up with to meet the daily demand for food.

Whether you are too busy to cook your own food or you were out when the culinary skills were distributed, you need to eat whether it’s a full scale meal or just snacks.

These instant meals vary from the local products like taro, tapioca, tama (a solid ball of deep fried flour which is very filling), fried or broiled fish and other local foods to a taste of an international mix of instant meals. There’s the sushi roll and the egg roll, each a complete meal, sandwiches and burgers. Then there are Filipino delicacies like steamed puto (rice cake), fresh or fried lumpia,
When hunger pangs start to send signals and you didn’t bring food with you, these instant meals are the answer.
In addition, there is the ever present bento or lunch boxes which comes in different sizes and menus. Bentos usually come complete with rice, salad, three or more kinds of viand, dessert and fruit. Packing a bento is the most convenient way of serving food for large gatherings.
Tour operators serve bento to their customers on their dive trips of land tours. Bentos are commonly served in conferences and other large gatherings, custom parties like first bath, house parties, funeral and other events. Serving bento saves the food servers time, effort and energy required when they serve buffet meals, and spare the guests the agony of falling in line to get to the buffet table.

Wherever they are served or sold, these packs of instant meals have become a convenient part of the way of life in the island.

Inter-action under the sea

If you’ve always dreamed of diving into the deep blue sea and interacting with the marine life but you still haven’t got the chance to do so, a visit to the Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) can offer you the rare experience of an adventure under the sea without getting yourself wet.

The Palau Aquarium at the PICRC is the best place to experience the wonders of Palau's unique marine world without even getting your feet wet. The Palau Aquarium was opened in January 1, 2000 but it was formally launched on January 18, 2000. Kambes Kesolei, Chief Aquarist of the PICRC said the aquarium was established to stimulate interest, increase knowledge and promote stewardship of Palau’s coral reefs and the world's ocean environment through innovative exhibits, education and awareness programs, and scientific research. He said it also shows the inter-relationship of the habitats in the ocean.

He said this also gives visitors a first hand look into the world of the diverse coral reef ecosystem. There are over a hundred different species of fish in the aquariums. He added that keeping corrals alive inside aquariums is no small task because it requires extra care, skill and knowledge

PICRC is the only aquarium who has 18 exhibitions and among these are the exhibits on Palau Islands, the legend of Chuab, mangroves, sea grass bed, inner reef, reef crest, marine lake, camouflage, creatures of the deep, cave creatures, symbiosis, the outer reef, coral biology, video on Palau, coral cultivation, crocodiles,

Kesolei said the Aquarium is getting at least 34 percent of the market share of the total number of tourists visiting Palau. He said the peak was during 2004 when the number of tourists and visitors was at its highest.
“For last year, the number of visitors has declined but this is based on the decline of the tourist arrivals in the country, too,” Kesolei said. One’s visit to Palau won’t be complete without visiting the Palau Aquarium. It’s a whole new world full of revelations and discoveries.
Entrance fee for the aquarium is $7 for tourists and $5 for local residents. There are also group discounts and special rates for students on a fieldtrip.

Kiss from a dolphin

I had mixed emotions of fear and excitement the minute the dolphin’s cold mouth landed on my cheek-and stayed there for about a full minute. It was the first time I saw real live dolphins outside the television screen and got a kiss from one, too. We were at the Dolphins Pacific Bay, one of the rare places in the world where people could experience close encounter and interaction with the dolphins, lessons you will not get in the classrooms. Eight dolphins occupy the lagoons and only two of them are males, Echo and J. The females are Surech, Rubak, Ariel, Ekei, Layla, and Roxanne. Ramirez said each dolphin can be identified by its own distinctive features.

We watched in fascination as the dolphins dived, executed perfect somersaults, flipped over, waved their tails tumbled and did as the trainers ordered them to do.
“Training the dolphins takes at least two months and you have to get them into activity everyday,” Arturo Ramirez Jr., our Mexican tour guide said. He added that using the reward system helps, which means they will reward a dolphin with fish or ice cubes if they follow the instructions and do something right.

Because dolphins tend to eat leaves that fall into the lagoon and eventually get sick from it, the trainers taught the dolphins to retrieve leaves and give it to them, and the dolphins get rewards for doing so.
It is also a puzzle that dolphins live in salt water yet they drink fresh water. Every couple of days or so, dolphins are given water through a funnel and a hose and they sure drink a lot, says Ramirez.

Interaction with the dolphins starts with an educational lecture about the natural history of dolphins and getting acquainted with the eight dolphins from their photos. This is followed by a walk along the lagoons and finally getting into a wading platform where one is given the rare chance to touch a dolphin’s body, and get a handshake or a kiss from them. For the more daring, you can snorkel, swim, scuba dive or dive with the dolphins to get a really close encounter and see their world beneath the surface of the water.

Dolphins, Ramirez said, are sensitive creatures. “If you make unnecessary movements or actions they will get confused and this could affect them but they are very playful,” he said.
“The purpose of this dolphin facility is to teach people to study the special abilities of dolphins, to put them as teaching materials for environmental education,” says Ramirez. He said it is important for people, particularly the children to learn the importance of protecting the dolphins and saving them for the future generations.
The Dolphin facility costing $2.5 million was established in July 20, 2000. Ramirez said the dolphins were brought in from Japan in 2001 and were trained here.
The Dolphin Bay is one of the main tourist attractions of Palau (A visit to Palau won’t be complete without going there) and is becoming a destination not only for tourists but for locals, for children, elderly people and the handicapped. For more information, visit or email or call 680-488-8582.

Let’s go cycling

If you’ve noticed, bicycles are becoming a common sight in the streets of Palau nowadays. Not only adults are riding on bikes to get to and from work but children too for the sheer fun of it. In leiu of renting cars or motorcycles, tourists are now finding it more convenient to bike their way to get to know Palau. Kids in groups of three to six can be seen racing each other in the streets especially in the late afternoons, unmindful of the blaring of horns from other vehicles on the road. Some kids even ride two on a bike and sometimes do not pay attention to the dangers the other vehicles on the road pose for them. They just go around on their own sweet time.

Everyday, the traffic in Palau is getting heavier, what with almost everyone having a car of his own and sharing the roads and every car seems to be out on the road especially at 8 o’clock in the mornings and 5 o’clock in the afternoons. Biking is the best alternative in getting around the place. Every now and then, a biker can be seen weaving his way in and out of the traffic easily in the streets of Koror while drivers sit fuming and frustrated inside their cars in the heavy traffic.

Most of the places in Palau are “bike-able”, which means the roads are accessible by bicycles. You can bike all the way from Airai to Malakal or Meyuns, or for the more athletic types you can go as far as Babeldaob and back. Kids ride their bikes in groups most especially in the afternoons and on Sundays when there are no classes. They can often be seen near the Palau Pacific Resort, at the T-dock, in Iyebukel, Topside and in several parts of Koror.

Bicycling offers many benefits. It's efficient, economical, healthy, ecological and it's fashionable. You won’t have to exert effort to stretch your hard-earned dollars to pay for the escalating price of gasoline. This means that if more commuters bicycled, they would cut down on costs of fuel, parking spaces, car maintainance and everything that goes with it. You won’t add to the pollution, you get free exercise, you can provide your own speed, and you’ll be spared the pain and time of looking for place to park. In fact, the bicycle is the most pleasurable and simplest way to get healthier while saving our environment. Let’s go cycling!

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 was opened 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.

Beachside Bungalows

The bungalows are set in the ocean’s edge, right in the picturesque traditional fishing village in Melekeok, giving one a complete feeling of ‘getting-away-from-it-all’ and going back to the basics of sun, sand and sea. We arrived at the Palau Beach Bungalows at dusk, breathing in the salty tang of air from the sea and settled in for a relaxing weekend.

This ‘Palauan style’ site for relaxation, as aptly described by owner Palau Community College (PCC) president Patrick Tellei brings you the basics of traditional Palau, far away from traffic and roaring of vehicles, blaring television sets, crowds and your daily routine.

A respite at the Palau Beach Bungalows gives you a chance to do what you want- enjoy the view of the long stretch of green blue sea, surf the huge waves at the edge of the reef about half a mile away from the beach, stretch on the bed in your cottage while sniffing the fresh sea breeze, or be lulled to sleep by the sound of the rolling waves crashing on the breakwater. You can also swim and snorkel, fish for brilliant colored fishes, hike through verdant green jungle to see one of Palau’s meeting houses (bai), walk though the village along the water’s edge to find an ancient stone monolith. Time is never enough before you have to go back to “civilization” once again.

Patrick designed and built the bungalows on weekends or during his spare time until the bungalows were opened for business in July 2005. Patrick said he built the bungalows to help pay the electrical bills of the family, and to give interested family members a way to get their hands into the tourism business.
He also said that since the Capitol was moving to Melekeok, and boats going back & forth to Koror were dwindling, he wanted the place to be there for people working on the construction of the Capitol and for anyone who wants to get away and relax.

Four of the five bungalows have a private bath, a bedroom with an air-conditioner, and living room with a furnished kitchenette, complete with coffee maker, electric burner, toaster, refrigerator, cookware and kitchen utensils
The fifth bungalow has two studio units with an outside bath.
Guests can bring their own groceries, or for a chance to savor delicious Palauan specialties, meals can be ordered from Ubal Tellei’s family living nearby (with 12 hours advance notice).
And oh yes, the place has a signal in case you need to contact somebody via cellular phone.
The rate is only $40 plus 14% tax per night per bungalow ($46.30) but Virginia, Patrick’s wife said weekly and monthly discounts are available. Palau Beach Bungalows is about an hour’s drive away from Koror, passing scenic views and the new Capitol building. For more information, please call 680-587-2533 or email

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 ____ 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 we (Tangie, Jun R. of the other paper 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.

Ngermid dancers mesmerize Manila audience

For two nights in a row, the Ngermid dancers drew in a large crowd and mesmerized the audience as they offered a glimpse of Palauan’s traditional dancing last week.

The youngsters showed off their dancing prowess before foreign audience during the 14th Travel Tour Expo at the SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City in Manila, Philippines last February 9-10.

Dance coordinator Helen Sugiyama said the dancers had a grand time in Manila, literally breaking the stage twice in two nights as the enthusiastic foot stamping associated with the war dance they rendered built to a crescendo.

The dancers, whose age ranges from 10 to 20 years old, got a different whiff of experience so completely opposite from what they are accustomed to in Palau. The heavy traffic, noise, pollution and the hassle and bustle but they loved the experience. They also had a chance to go shopping and tasting a real city life.

The event was attended by representatives from Asian countries including China, Hong Kong, India, Macau, Malaysia, Marianas Islands, Sabah, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand together with Egypt, Guam, Israel and South Africa.
Asian Spirit Airlines sponsored the trip for the kids with a dual purpose of promoting the airlines and Palau as a prime tourist destination.
Sugiyama said that in June last year, the group danced for the Austro-nesian Cultural Festival in Taiwan. This is the second time they danced outside of Palau.
Sugiyama added that the Ngermid dancers existed decades before, with the mothers training their children to dance from generation to generation. Sugiyama said she is thankful to the parents for allowing the dancers to go on off-island trips to perform.
The girls’ group is composed of Coral Baiei, Terengiei Sommer Tangelbad, Sherry Johnson, Visia Ise, Maia Siang, Dirkedil Siang, Jasmine Watanabe, Vicenta Ngirmeriil, and Chelsea Ngirakesiil. The boy’s group is composed of Tyler Ngiraked Siang, Gaylord Godwin, O’leary Ise, Vincent Kulas, Gard Godwin, Ngirachelbaed Ease Oiterong,Tyller Otei and Excel Otei.

Close encounter with the sharks

Palau sharks once again hog the spotlight as researchers, shark scientists, researchers, film makers and shark supporters from around the world joined the Shark Week 2007 event last week, with the common purpose of learning and teaching the world to respect and protect the sharks.

Micronesia Shark Foundation founder Tova Harrel Bornovsky said this is the fifth year where the shark fanatics dived and entered into the world of the sharks armed with their cameras and videos and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge about the sharks. Everyday for five days they dived in different sites like Blue Corner, Peleliu Corner, Shark City, German Wall, New Drop Off, Short Drop Off, Saies Corner, and Ulong Channel. Bornovsky said movies and lectures were also conducted in the evenings to discuss goals, achievements and projects undertaken as well as the continued efforts of this worthwhile cause.

Famous guests for the Shark Week 2007 included Chris Boardman, a writer for Diver Magazine who has his own TV show in the United Kingdom. He is also a cycling Olympic gold medalist holding three world records.
Australian Rodney Fox miraculously escaped from the jaws of Carcharodon Carcharias, the Great White Shark in 1963 also joined the group. The attack, which left him with massive scars on his chest, back, and arm changed the course of his life forever. Fox spent the last 35 years observing, studying, and filming sharks. He is considered as the number one Ambassador for Sharks Protection and Conservation. He lead expeditions into the world of Sharks with his son Andrew, and show the importance why these magnificent creatures should be protected. Rodney was the first man in Australia to start fighting for Shark Protection Laws, and his hard work got results.

Also present was Dr Mark Meekan, a fish biologist whose research interests and works were published in the top ranked journal Science. This also landed him the top rated Catalyst (ABC TV) program in series for 2005, 50 radio, TV and newspaper interviews, internationally on Discovery Channel during the last 2 years.

Cockfighting craze hits Palau

You can easily spot the location judging on the number of cars parked near the road on Sundays. As soon as I arrived, an attendant came running and directed me to a vacant spot to squeeze in my car. I followed the direction of the shouts and cheers and came across an open cottage which was fenced and served as the fighting arena. People were oblivious to their surroundings as they concentrated on the center of the cottage.

I climbed up on a bench and stood mesmerized for a few minutes as two gamecocks engaged in a ritualized slow dance, each rooster circling nearer the other, neck feathers flaring. Suddenly, one rooster attacked and the other leapt in a defensive stance to meet the challenge. They exchange kicks in midair, going around and around the small arena.

Cockfighting, the centuries-old blood sport where two gamecocks are placed in an enclosure to fight, (for the primary purposes of gambling and entertainment) exists in Palau. Palauans and Filipinos and other nationalities can be seen trooping to the area in Ngerbeched every Sunday as a means of diversion from everyday routine.

A cockfight usually results in the death of one of the birds; sometimes death of both but this is not the case in Palau because the use of the razor-sharp steel blades (gaff) which is attached to the leg of the gamecocks which makes the fight even more deadly is not practiced. This means a fight between two roosters could last for as long as 30 minutes to one hour.

“If we use the gaff, then it won’t be long before there will be no more roosters because fights may last only for a few minutes,” one of the cockfight staff said. He emphasized that the activity is not mainly for gambling but just a leisurely pastime which is aimed to create social interaction between the Filipinos and other nationalities with the locals.
“In a place as small as Palau where there’s not much to do, this is just an entertaining diversion, unlike other countries where thousands of dollars exchange hands,” the staff said.

It’s expensive to maintain a gamecock. One can cost from $50 to $60 dollars each and you have to give a steady supply of its vitamins and and nutrient-enriched feed for fighting cocks. At the area, enterprising people put up tables and sold gamecock vitamins and supplements as well as food and drinks for the cockpit goers.

In some countries like the Philippines, cockfighting is very rampant from the biggest cockpit in the cities and towns to the smallest neighborhoods. This is a sport where the mixed participants come from high-ranking politicians down to the most ordinary citizen who can barely feed his family. Wives even get jealous with the gamecocks because these get more attention from their husbands.

Many countries ban cockfighting, but the lure of the gambling results in illegal bouts around the world, often in rural areas. Cockfighting is legal in the Philippines, Mexico and parts or all of five U.S. states - Arizona, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Matches also can be found in Ireland, Colombia, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica and Puerto Rico.

Coral Spawning: Love on the Rocks

It was an hour after the sun set. The lights were off and the night was dark, save from the beams of the flashlights the group brought. We were at the Palau International Corral Reef Center (PICRC) and we needed the darkness to witness one of nature’s wonders- the birth of new corrals.

After a briefing, the group composed of students from different schools and interested individuals split into groups and headed for the tanks and the aquariums where corrals were about to spawn.
Many of us may take the corrals under the sea for granted but let’s take a closer look at how they maintain and produce their numbers in the years to come.

Corals are animals, and like all other life forms, must reproduce, says PICRC Education Department head Carol Emaurois.
She said that on the night of spawning, the flower-like polyps start to expand and the sperm packets move up towards the surface of the water where bright red or pink eggs gather.
Emaurois said that the coral eggs and sperm intermingle at the surface of the water and if the combination is right, fertilization will take place.
Emaurois said that for two years, they dived and studied and learned more about coral spawning and how the corrals replenish their numbers. She said that their observations showed that spawning takes place usually six or seven days after a full moon.

“The approximate spawning periods in Palau are March, April, May, and September. Corrals from the other parts of Micronesia, Guam and Hawaii spawn on different months when it’s a lot warmer, ” Emaurois said.
We crowded around the transparent tank and marveled at the tiny specks of eggs and sperm slowly intermingling and forming a new life. Later, we left the PICRC armed with a new awareness that there’s more to learn about the corrals, and we were fortunate to witness one of the underwater wonders.

Daddy’s turn

It’s Daddy’s special day this time. “While mothers are said to the light of the family, fathers are recognized as the head of the family so if mothers get a special day, fathers deserve one, too”. Familiar complaint from fathers, and they are right.

June 18th was celebrated in different ways and places by Palauans and foreigners alike. Some fathers spent the day with their families in some of Palau’s favorite hangouts like the KB bridge, T-Dock, Long Island, Ice Box Park, and in hotels like the Palau Royal Resort (PRR), Palasia Hotel, Palau Pacific Resort and other restaurants.

At the PRR, daddies received VIP treatment as the hotel management pampered them with complimentary cookies, souvenir hankies, swimming pool passes, souvenir enlarged photo with the family and a lot of other surprises. This is quite a change because usually, it’s the mothers who get the flowers and chocolates and surprises from kids and their husbands.
Whether the couple or family spent father’s day in a plush restaurant or hotel, or at the seaside or even with a special meal at home, the focus is to really show that fathers are special and important!

The celebration of father’s day began almost a hundred years ago when Mrs. John B. Dodd, of Washington, first proposed the idea of a "father's day" in 1909. Mrs. Dodd wanted a special day to honor her father, William Smart. William Smart, a Civil War veteran, was widowed when his wife (Mrs. Dodd's mother) died in childbirth with their sixth child. Mr. Smart was left to raise the newborn and his other five children by himself on a rural farm in eastern Washington state. It was after Mrs. Dodd became an adult that she realized the strength and selflessness her father had shown in raising his children as a single parent.

The first Father's Day was observed on June 19, 1910 in Spokane Washington. At about the same time in various towns and cities across American other people were beginning to celebrate a "father's day." In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge supported the idea of a national Father's Day. Finally in 1966 President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the 3rd Sunday of June as Father's Day.
Father's Day has become a day to not only honor your father, but all men who act as a father figure. Stepfathers, uncles, grandfathers, and adult male friends are all honored on Father's Day.

To my Papa and all the fathers in the world, Happy Father's Day! This day is for you!

Deliciously made in Palau

In a showcase of more than a hundred variations, resourceful residents from Aimeliik and Ngatpang States displayed their expertise and creativity to come up with different by-products of the island’s local produce, initiated by the experts from the Taiwan Technical Mission (TTM) in Aimeliik last week.

Guests filled their plates with the various viands and desserts all made in Palau, targeted to make a hit with the tourists and merge agriculture and tourism (agro-tourism).
The goal is marketing Palau’s local products to tourists for
on-the-spot tasting or as “take home” goodies for families and loved-ones.

Locals and tourists can now taste dried noni and Roselle fruit, noni and banana vinegar, jams made from papaya, Roselle, football fruit, pumpkin and noni, and wine made from guava, papaya, football fruit, star fruit and taro.

The guests, composed of government officials and stakeholders of the tourism industry enjoyed a variety of dishes the island’s marine resources and local produce, a visible proof that there’s more to be done provided the locals use their creativity. From the simple tapioca came out various desserts like chips, sweetened and fried, with sweetened coconut milk, sweet balls and diokang kebab. For main dishes, tapioca was presented in a number of delicious ways- boiled, grinded with sweetened coconut milk, sweetened or steamed, sushi, suman, leaf soup, fried leaves, and a lot of other menus.
Agro-tourism is TTM’s project for 2005 to 2007. This is aimed to help more locals benefit from agriculture and boost tourism at the same time.
Soon, expect the island’s products to gain popularity with the tourists and turn out to be beneficial as the TTM demonstration farm will become a part of the package tours to the outlaying states of Babeldaob.

Developing Palau’s main root crops

Although a higher percentage of the younger generation in Palau show a preference to eat rice during mealtimes, most of the Palauans still opt for the country’s main root crops- taro, tapioca (cassava) and the sweet potato. These are always available in almost every event or gathering. With this in mind, the Palau Community College-Cooperative Research Extension (PCC-CRE) focused on experimenting with ways and means to increase production and sustainability, and to come up with creating more products from these root crops.

CRE researcher Dr. Aurora G. del Rosario said that in 1998, the Women’s conference focused on the different root crops. The participants brought different varieties of taro, tapioca, and sweet potatoes and these were propagated at the PCC-CRE-Research & Development center. From her studies, Del Rosario said there are 22 varieties of sweet potatoes in Palau, but only 17 of these are different from each other. The remaining five varieties are similar. There are also 70 varieties of taro, and 53 varieties of cassava. Del Rosario made studies to identify and classify each variety to find methods to increase their productivity.

Dr. Nelson M. Esguerra, another researcher takes care of the pest control and management program by coming up with methods to reduce the occurrence of pests that would destroy the root crops.
“The use of sprays and chemicals to fight pests is not practiced here so we resort to using good pests to control the spread of bad pests,” Esguerra said. The good insects, Esguerra said, are imported from the United States, Japan and other parts of the world, depending on the availablitly of certain insects.

Another department of the center is manned by Dr. Lydia Marero, the center’s Food Research Technologist. Part of Marero's job is to develop new local food products not only from the three root crops but also from the other products like coconut, banana and fish. Some of the products include ice cream, pasta, chowder, steamed cakes, pancakes, tama, salad, bread, brownies, pie, muffins, cookies, and dry mixes. Marero is holding seminars and trainings on the processing of these products to the women from different States. The CRE is also experimenting on formulating wine from these root crops under researcher Lyndon Masami.
Interim Vice President of the Thomas Taro said the programs implemented by the CRE are all in accordance with the National Master Plan of the president to deliver sustainable technology to the consumers and to increase production and self-sufficiency of food supply in the country.
For more information about these programs, please contact the PCC-CRE office at 488-2746/4983.

Discover Palau’s under water wonders this summer

Tourists from all over the world troop to Palau for its famous diving spots and spectacular sites for diving or snorkeling, yet a lot of locals don’t take the chance to explore the whole new wonderful world beneath the surface of the sea seriously.
If you’re one of these, it’s time to take some time off and get a feel of what tourists from all over the world came here for- Palau’s super-abundance and diversity of coral life renowned for having no parallel anywhere else on earth.

Palau has world-class dive spots but for the non-divers, snorkeling is the next choice. It provides one a chance to see an explosion of spectacular underwater wonders. When you don on a life vest, put on a protective face mask and dip your head below the surface of the water, WHEW! With the flick of a finger you’ll see a stunning world of brilliantly colored fish of all shapes and sizes as they swim amidst a spread of coral gardens.

Last Saturday I went with a group of divers to the dive sites in Ngemelis Island. When the boat tied its anchor to a floating bouy, I gazed at the crystal-clear bottom of the sea near the New Drop Off, which I estimated to be about seven feet deep and voiced out loud.
“Are they going to dive here? But it’s too shallow!” I commented to Malsol, the boat operator. Malsol’s laugh rumbled as he said that it’s not that shallow but I didn’t believe him because I can see right into the bottom. He proved me wrong. When I dipped my head underwater I saw that the bottom was way, way down some 15 feet below and a few meters away. It was a palace down there! It felt like swimming in an aquarium and have fish swim all over and around you!

For first timers, snorkeling over vertical walls that descend to depths of over a thousand feet like the Big Drop Off, still in Ngemelis Island, is an unforgettable experience. Palau has been blessed with so many wonderful sites that it would be a shame to live here and not to explore it.

It’s summer! Take time off and shrug the “we’re just here anyway and the sea won’t run away” attitude, and hurry on to discover the wonders underneath the sea. You won’t know what you’re missing until you’re there!
Fish n’ Fins offers diving courses for locals and kids this summer. Grab this chance now. You can also check other dive tour operators for access to these wonderful discoveries- right under the tip of our noses.

Dry-diving in Palau

Palau has already carved its own niche in the tourism industry for its spectacular attractions and world-class diving spots. Every day hundreds of tourists arrive to sample the island’s natural wonders- both in land and underwater. Not everyone though has the chance, the financial resources or the guts to go diving and get a feel of the underwater wonders.

At present, most of the visitors in the country are limited to scuba diving, sea kayaking and land-based tours but
with the recent launching of the Flying Fish Tours, I finally got the chance to get a real feel of the underwater world and yet staying dry about it.

Everybody on board the Kok 1 (there were less than 10 of us) waited with bated breath as the computer screen was set up and the camera was lowered into the water at the Neco Bay last Saturday. In a few minutes, we were looking into a wonderful array of corrals, colorful fish, and the whole underwater kingdom, a live video of what lies beneath the sea surface-while staying dry in our seats.

The tour took two hours, with owner retired Divisional Chief of Police Columbus Sakuma at the helm. Sakuma said the trip includes a guided tour of the Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC), Palau Aquarium, and Rock Islands eco-adventure. We also got the chance to see several wrecks of Japanese vessels which sank and had been there since World War 2.

To sum it up, it’s one of those never-to-be forgotten experiences that everyone in Palau should grab (if you still haven’t done so)-the chance to get to know Palau’s history and culture through the trip. For information, call 779-0293.