the tale of manubada island

02 Jun
June 2, 2013

for all my time lived in port moresby, i have been blessed with living in the most beautiful part of the city, paga hill, that overlooks ela beach and the pier of wilson’s wharf. just off the shoreline, slightly to the east, lies the island of manubada. In motu, one of the 820 languages spoken in the country, manubada literally means ‘big bird’, the name bestowed on the island because of its rich story…

legend has it that many years ago, long before port moresby was a city or the beaches were bustling as they are now, there was a small fishing village along the shoreline and there were no islands in sight. the people of the village were happy people, living off the land and sea, casting their heavy fishing nets deep into the ocean and growing their mounds of sweet potatoes on the land. but one day, a giant bird suddenly appeared in the sky and started attacking all the villagers. terrified, the villagers tried to fight the bird off but it was too big and kept swooping down on the village, tearing apart the huts delicately balanced in the water, and killing most of the people in its wake.

only one young mother managed to escape. while the bird was attacking one side of the village, she grabbed her two young boys, only babies at the time, and tucked them safely into her dugout canoe. then she crept into the canoe herself, covered herself with fishing nets, and silently paddled herself out of the village. after some time she had paddled far enough away and looked back at her village, now completely destroyed, and knew she would never be able to return.

soon she made a new home for herself and her two boys, and raised them alone, teaching them how to plant sweet potato and how to fish in the sea. every day she told them about the giant bird that had destroyed their village and every day the boys listened with great intent. soon the boys grew into strong young men, some of the finest fishermen in the whole area. when they were strong enough they decided they would return to the village and claim back their ancestral land from the big bird that had caused such devastation.

aerial view of manubada island

one day they got into their dugout canoe and paddled all the way back to the village, just as their mother had done so many years before. as they came closer to the land, suddenly the big bird appeared and started attacking the boys in their canoe. a great fight began, with the bird flying high above them and then swopping down, the boys paddling hard and firing their wooden arrows each time the bird dove. eventually, one of the boys readied himself with an arrow as his brother steadied the canoe, and as the bird swooped down to attack them, he released his arrow which flew straight into the bird’s heart, killing him almost instantly. the brothers watched as the big bird fell from the sky and as his body hit the water, it suddenly turned into land. so came about manubada island, the land in the sea the shape of a big bird.

the brothers and their mother returned to their village and began their lives again. now, many years later, the village is known as koki and all the people living in their stilted houses that stretch into the sea look at the island, and are reminded of the day when the brothers killed the big bird and formed manubada island.

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