Reef of Heaven

Story and photos by Sasha Santiago

PROFILE

My grandpa once told me that if I do not know my history then I do not know anything. He said I would be like a leaf that does not know it is part of a tree.

However, as typical Pohnpeians, knowing the full version of our history is utterly impossible. How will it be possible to understand our history when it is told by different people in different versions of the same story or legend, passed down by the tongues of other people who may or may not have spoken the truth?

Our historical knowledge rests upon the judgments and interpretations which in turn depends on the interpreter’s point of view. I am not denying the possibility that some of our legends may ring of truth but I am simply stating the fact that:

No one knows

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No one knows how people who have never seen or worn a shirt in their lives could have figured out a way to transport thousands of 10 to 50 ton rocks from one side of the island to the other.

Nan Madol is a mystery that is left unsolved and will probably remain unsolved for a thousand more years to come.

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Nevertheless, the mystery of this place makes me believe in magic. It makes me wonder and imagine if giants or magical beings once existed and roamed our lands. Nan Madol can change your beliefs on what is and what is not possible.

Rocks used for traditional sakau ceremonies by our ancestors.

Rocks used for traditional sakau ceremonies by our ancestors.

Visiting Nan Madol for the 5th time in my life still felt exactly like my first visit. I walked in with huge excitement and curiosity and walked out amazed and happy but more curious than when I entered.

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When you look at it, this place is all patterns, patterns on top of patterns, pattern hidden by patterns, patterns that affect other patterns, and patterns within patterns.

It’s like a constant puzzle game with so many missing or hidden pieces.

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I’m not going to try and tell the story of how and when this place was constructed because I merely do not know. What I do know is that Nan Madol is Pohnpei’s most precious possession. Nan Madol makes me feel proud of being a Pohnpeian. It gives me the sense of pride that I am a descendant of very intelligent people, because only intelligent people would figure out a way to construct 92 man-made islets made of extremely heavy basalt rocks. Pohnpei is nothing more than a dot on the globe and yet it holds one of the most mysterious places in the world.

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4 Comments

  1. Jake Hetiback - July 26, 2016

    Nice one Ms. Santiago. Keep up the good work.

  2. Leopmpwei Roiie - July 27, 2016

    Candidly written and certainly resonates the hidden truth about Nan Madol. Legend also indicated that the true history of Nan Madol would never be revealed nor discovered, thus most archeologists’ researches came up empty handed. And like Ms. Santiago implied in her piece, “it’s patterns everywhere”…

  3. Juanita Rilometo Lawrence - July 27, 2016

    Wow, great piece, Sasha! I love your underlying theme of unsolved mystery. It keeps the mind pondering and wondering. It is what makes Nan Madol unique. Generation after generation will keep pondering and pondering till the end.

  4. Amy - October 18, 2016

    Ms. Santiago.. I am so impressed this morning as I see your name and other TRIO folks, I know more stories are still in there, this is your field writing, I encourage you to do more. Wonderful job.

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