Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Palauan First-Born (Ngasech) Ceremony, Part Two

There is lots of preparation the night before and the morning of the ngasech (pronounced sorta like nah-sa).

[This is the herb bath ready for the morning fire]

These women are weaving 75 baskets that the VIP food will rest in. Emadch's mother (Tulik), who was in charge of this ceremony, doesn't like to see lots of ugly plastic that is usually floating around these ceremonies. Apparently the rules of the ceremony (imposed not by a Food Safety Commission, but instead by the traditional senior female leaders of Palau) require the food to come in plastic containers, so Tulik decided to enclose the plastic in the traditional serving dishes. It was a really neat - if expensive - idea. The food for the non-VIP's was buffet-style using paper plates.

I went to bed just before midnight and the preparation party was still going strong. There usually isn't much sleep the night before the ceremony.

[Palauan tapioca - it's ground down from the root and mixed with some sugar and water(?), then stuffed inside frond leaves, sewn up with twine, then boiled for awhile. It's a great-tasting starch]

[300 coconuts were ordered (and I think I drank at least five!)]

The women handle all of the food and preparation of the woman and girls for the ceremony while the men set up the tents, tables, and chairs. The men also are in charge of acquiring and husking the coconuts and bringing in all of the palm fronds used for decoration as well as for weaving. It's amazing to stand on the sideline (which was my role as a photographer) and watch it all come together. There are no checklists - everybody just knows what to do based on their age and gender.

The street was blocked off for the ceremony, which was a bit of a no-no, but when a woman named bilung showed up, everything that was questionable about the ceremony was automatically approved just by having bilung in attendance. Bilung is the Palauan name for her position, which is the most important woman in Palau.


Katy. said...

This is completely fascinating.. :) Can't wait to see/read more!

Tmaungil Meltel said...

This is great I'm so happy people are interested in my country! Most people never heard of it or know where it is!

Anonymous said...

Good job Dave ! but everyone should also know that it is only the womens family who is in charge of all the preps, logistics and food and stuff...and her neighbors if she lives in Palau and good friends if they want to...

francisco rabasco said...

What language they speak?
They use angaur language or japanese