The Ancient City of Nan Madol

Story and Photos by Darnell Phillip

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As a simple girl living in today’s world, I did not know what ‘SACRED’ meant until I visited an ancient city in Pohnpei called Nan Madol.

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A long time ago, when Pohnpei was still in its low point of technology, environmental degradation, government structure, and such, a big city was built, which is known to be today’s most historical site in Pohnpei.

Pohnpei is an island locating somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, meaning ‘Upon an Altar’ (Pohn: Upon; Pei: Altar). The meaning of ‘Pohnpei’ itself says or represents a lot about how spiritual the island is, and Nan Madol is one of the most unique places here. So unique that you will not believe something like this still exists. Stories of Nan Madol have been told from generation to generation, but those stories are regarded as just stories. Behind every story told, Nan Madol is and will always be mysterious.

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The place is as sacred as any other sacred place in the world. I am a native Pohnpeian but I am still full of curiosity — maybe as much as you are. I, myself, am also in fear of telling some of the stories I have heard because I am aware that the mystery behind the stories is yet to be kept in secret. Pohnpeians even tend to believe the myths and legends that are being passed down from the beginning. The real fact is, nobody really knows.

What this tongue would let out could even cause the death of this whole body.

Today the place is believed by many Pohnpeians to still have a mystical power. The place is bound to be respected by every visitor because again ‘it is a very sacred place’. Old spirits guard the whole place, so treasures are still unknown and the mystery remains.

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July 20th, 2016 marks my second visit to Nan Madol, yet everything was still mysteriously confusing to me. Questions like: ‘HOW? WHY? WHAT is this? WHAT is that?’ kept playing on my mind like a song stuck on repeat.

Feelings of excitement and anticipation of answers made me even think to the point where my curiosity led to some ‘Oh my GOSH’ reactions.

The place itself was so mystical and secretive; when I’m there, I can feel how truly sacred it is. The sound of its nature was unlikely to be heard anywhere in Kolonia, my hometown. To me, it sounded like a place unknown to the whole world. The site was historically built and was only occupied about 1000 years ago; I just could not stop thinking how our late ancestors lived each day in that place.

I think to myself, It must’ve been a much different lifestyle. I imagined what my ancestors did in every particular spot I passed through. I walked in every place, thinking and imagining that, long ago, someone has walked through this path. I just could not help but wonder the people moving and walking all over the place. It kind of made me want to be alive back then in those early centuries. Feelings of belonging to that place even occurred to me, especially when I think that it is ‘MY’ ancestors who lived there.

I wanted to call the place ‘HOME’ and it sure was an amazing feeling.

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