Stories and Images by Zachary Edward
The beauty of the Nan Madol Ruins, lies in its mystery.
As a child, I wanted to learn more about my native roots. Curiosity filled my mind and made me eager to listen to every story, legend, and myth known. I believed in most of them until Miller Benjamin, a Pohnpeian historian, stated that “most stories were not true”. Superstition has it that if anyone who knew the truth about Nan Madol and shared it would fall very ill and eventually die. I’ve realized that this traditional belief has haunted honorable men who actually know more about Nan Madol.
Although the facts of Nan Madol’s origins have been lost over time, as the lies used to confuse both the natives and foreigners intertwine with the truth, we can still find beauty within these mysteries.
As I entered its walkway, I felt the cool breeze unceasingly coming through the trees that have started to grow on the megalithic structures. A variety of plants grew everywhere except the path leading to the site. It took me about ten minutes from the parking area to reach the enormous structure that runs a kilometer and a half long and half a kilometer wide surrounding the structure called Nan Douwas. Half-way there I saw an eel desperately trying to breathe in the shallow water. This reminded me that even though the truth of this historical site has been diluted, there is still some truth living within the myths and legends.
Countless stops to admire even the smallest details and listen to stories from a local resident made me thirst more for knowledge. After centuries of wear, the basalt rocks used to build Nan Madol still stand strong to this very day.
“These walls show how strong traditional beliefs were among each municipality”, stated Miller Benjamin. Surprisingly, a prophecy was made for each municipality and today they have been fulfilled. Two of the four corners that surrounds Nan Douwas have trembled and it resembles the loss of culture and strong tradition for two municipalities.
Saudeleurs (or kings) began to become greedy over time — to the point where even a louse picked from the head was not to be killed by commoners, without permission. The islanders grew weary and tired of the unreasonable dictators of their island. Nevertheless, they continued to show respect to their leaders because it was a declaration they all abided by, willingly. The level of respect that our ancestors held for the Saudeleurs was, astonishingly, a common virtue in the past — a virtue that is rarely for humanity today and lost for humanity tomorrow.
I am proud to come from a heritage that highly values respect.
Exploring “the Venice of the pacific” made me feel proud as an islander. Learning about my roots is a very important civic responsibility because it is how I claim my heritage and how I can identify as a true islander. Respect is not some abstraction in our culture; it is a virtue that binds our people together in unity.