The Amazing People of M’Buke Island, Manus, Papua New Guinea
28 – 30 June 2010
S2 22.915 E146 49.513 – M’Buke Island
S2 18.697 E146 51.595 – Anun Island
At low tide, we navigated our small boat through the incredibly healthy coral reefs of Anun Island, M’Buke. Anun and another beautiful island called Champoin are proposed ecotourism sites by the M’Buke Islands People Association (MIPA)
From Lorengau, the provincial capital of Manus, our ride to the remote M’Buke Islands was three long hours in flat calm seas. We were in an open banana boat with a 40 hp outboard motor engine. Selarn Karluwin, Manus staff of WWF WMP and our guide even saw a leatherback turtle along the way!
M’Buke Island has a community of about 600 people
The community welcomed us to their island. We were warmly greeted by many high level officials from the Chief all the way to the councillor!
Now why did we have to go to such a remote area you might ask. Is diving there great? Well it was not about diving this time. We were there to visit WWF Western Melanesia Programme’s only marine project in PNG. It was a most enlightening trip. The people were so eloquent in expressing their jokes, thoughts and opinions. They surprised us with their wisdom of the most unexpected sort and upon asking one question after another, we found out they were people of the Wind Nation.
The flag that symbolizes the Wind Nation
Councillor John Tokios explained what the Wind Nation was all about. It was their religion and majority of the people of M’Buke Islands belong to the Wind Nation. The Wind Nation believes in total freedom. Freedom from hardship, hunger, old age and decease. They believe in a continuous life – an ongoing life that has no end.
Councillor Tokios said: “The Wind is the creator. Without air, no living thing will live. This is the reason why the Wind is the creator. Wind is the creator’s name, not what he is. The Wind is what everything revolves around in. The Wind creates and the Wind can take away.”
Wind Nation’s Five Fundamentals to Total Freedom:
To live a life, you must like people. To be accepted, you must accept people.
You can joke a happy joke – not one that creates anger. While joking, it must not be insulting.
You should be happy and smile. Be playful.
Get together as a community through rituals – discuss things that will answer all objectives to create total freedom.
M’Buke used to be a German coconut plantation and the linguistic group Titans or the seafarers that live off coral reefs from mainland Manus relocated to work here in the early 1940s. There are three linguistic groups in Manus – the inland people are the Usia. The coastal dwellers are the Matankol. The seafarers are the Titans. And the people of M’Buke are Titans.
An old fisherman bent with age paddled out to collect firewood for his home
The Titans believe that when they die, their spirit does not go to heaven but stays with them. Their dead are still amongst them but they are not seen. They don’t go to heaven because there is no air in heaven. They are all earthly beings and they will always belong to the earth.
This full moon illuminated image shows the M’Buke houses on stilts at night with the streaks of stars in the sky
The M’Buke Island people both young and old make up the rich character of this amazing place. We loved our short stay here as Yogi and I deeply share the Fundamentals of Total Freedom. I told the councillor we were in essence wantok which, in Tok Pisin, means “someone who speaks my language”. Here are some faces and moods of M’Buke.
Some characters are like magnets to the lens and this man is one of them
I was told that wisdom is naturally born to the people of M’Buke and this man’s face shows it
Be happy. These little girls followed us around and yes, they were a happy bunch
Is this total freedom? Yes. It is.
Freedom from hunger. Within a few minutes, this man caught his family’s dinner by simply paddling around the area where he is allowed to fish. With a Marine Protected Area managed by the local community, there is an abundance of fish for everyone
Play. Be happy and smile
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Stella was born in Manila, Philippines in 1965. She studied anthropology but ended up in advertising, producing radio and TV commercials for 7 years. After quitting advertising, she ventured into the freelance world in Manila producing video documentaries for a publishing house, government agencies, non govenmental organisations, and the academe. She moved on to producing books and had a stint at working with foreign production companies visiting Manila. Stella, now based in Cairns, produces photo stories with her husband Jürgen Freund.