“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.