Story and Images by P J Etnol
Ihieng Kaselehlie. In these modern days many people around the world are curious about the latest resolution that was introduced last week in the UNESCO general session to introduce the ancient city of Nan Madol to become one of the historical and sacred places, or World Heritage Sites. With this good news to the people of Pohnpei it is an honor for us to share our own stories — especially stories of who we are and what is our background to the world.
However some people around the world do not know where Micronesia is.
Micronesia is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and Pohnpei is one of the Micronesian islands. Somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean lies the ruins of the ancient city off the shore in the island State of Pohnpei in the Federated State of Micronesia. Pohnpei is the second wettest place on earth and it name one of the green states and well known of valuable tradition in the Micronesia.
However, I am here to tell you about the temple of a mysterious ancient city in the Pacific. It is called Nan Madol, “the places in between” or the “Venice of the Pacific”. Nan Madol itself is a mysterious place. As Dr. Rufino Mauricio says: “the beauty of Nan Madol lies in the mystery of it”. Even the story of how Nan Madol was constructed is incredible to believe — that this kind of work done by man power and not with tools or equipment.
Oral History of Nan Madol
Stories and legends cannot explain exactly how Nan Madol was created. With these big rocks people cannot not believe that it was constructed by the people of Pohnpei and coordinated by two men.
According to an interview with Mr. Miler Benjamin, I learned that before Nan Madol was constructed there were two men who came from far away. These two men believed that they came from Katau Peidi somewhere from west. The name of these two men is Olosohpa and Olosihpa.
Olosohpa and Olosihpa started their journey from the sea from the raging waves and navigated their way into the island of Pohnpei. Once they reached Pohnpei they planned to build a ceremonial place that they can worship for their gods. They started their first attempt at Sokehs but were not successful due to the strong waves and rough current. They move to Tipwendongalap Nett and were also unsuccessful because the soil there was too soft or muddy. After that, they move to Depehk and try to build there but were also not successful. Finally, those two men decided that they needed to looked for somewhere else to build their ceremonial place. They found Sounahleng Madolenimw which was the best place to build. So that’s where they started to build Nan Madol.
Legend says that they began to build not with tools but with supernatural abilities. How to they transport these big rocks and pile them up, nobody knows. How long it took them to build Nan Madol, nobody knows. What we know is that Nan Madol became the center of Pohnpei and place for the kings of Pohnpei.
The complex ruins of Nan Madol composed of palaces, temples, mortuaries, and residential sectors. Each area of Nan Madol has its own significant name and oral history. Nan Madol itself composed of stories that are really interesting and significant around world at the same time those stories reflect our real activities today. The Nan Madol ruins have all the factors that qualifies it be one of the wonders of the world. The story of its construction is pillared only by myths and legends.
Reflections of our trip yesterday
I have been to Nan Madol three times but I never visited with books, tour guide, media, and even people representing government agencies. This time, I had a feeling that I never had when I was visiting before. It reminds me the first time that I visited there. I felt scared and at the same time curious. On our way out to Nan Madol I was eager and afraid to know what new things that were going to be learned from our visit. I never felt the kind of feeling that I had yesterday.
I always tell myself what will happen to us if we were not following the rules that were supposed to follow. Most of the time I went to Nan Madol I would just go to Nan Douwas (the main structure) and be done. But during yesterday’s trip, I saw an unbelievable thing in Nan Madol that only some people know about.
I went to a place called “Keriahn” where the sand beach was very different from all the other kinds of sand in Pohnpei. According to an interview from Miler Benjamin “Keriahn was a place where people who committed a crime would be buried during the Saudeleur dynasty.” So people believe and speculate that’s why the sand is special in that area. It was the first time that I saw this kind of sand beach there that is different from all over the beaches in Pohnpei.
Some people don’t know that there is such a kind of place in Nan Madol.
Our legends pave our vision of our beginning, which means that the legend of Pohnpei and Nan Madol itself shape who we were and what is our background. They describe our identity to people around the world. They also enlighten our values and beliefs that each and everyone share with our ancestor.
A true Pohnpeian needs these legends and stories of who we are and where we come from. It is a indication of a true Pohnpeian.
So when people ask who you are, you have a solid answer to tell them. Let’s be proud of our own stories and the true identity of our people. “Pwurakih Mei Pwapwa”