Ling Tebangâ€™s exquisite mahogany storyboards hang in the lobbies of the Pacific Islandsâ€™ most distinguished financial institutions and luxury resorts.
His Breadfruit Story carvings tells a particularly compelling story.
According to ancient Palauan legends, demigods traveled from village to village. They performed amazing feats to teach people valuable lessons.
On the northeast coast of Palauâ€™s largest island, Babeldaob, are the remains of an ancient sunken village. Itâ€™s stone pathways and dwelling platforms can be seen just beneath the clear ocean waters. The island village was called Ngibtal.
According to legend, the female demigod, Dirachedesbsungel, spent her working life teaching the women of Palau how to grow taro. After many years of selfless service she settled as an old woman in Ngibtal. She wanted only to rest and to be treated with respect.
Dirachedesbsungei had a son, another demigod named Dirrachedebsungel, who traveled constantly. No one knew for sure where or when he would appear, for he was the teacher of natural childbirth. Until Dirachedebsungel taught the women of Palau about natural childbirth, the stomachs of pregnant women were cut open to remove the baby. Most such women died from the procedure.
And so the aged mother lived alone in the village. Each day she would watch as the local fishermen returned with their bountiful catch of her favorite fresh fish. But despite her many years of service to the community, no one offered her any of the fish, nor did they offer any other assistance. Although surrounded by villagers, the old woman was alone, hungry and miserable.
Finally, after a particularly long absence, her son came to visit. He felt remorse and sadness when he observed his motherâ€™s pitiful state, knowing that she went hungry most days. So the son found a huge, hollow breadfruit tree near the waterâ€™s edge in his motherâ€™s yard, and broke off a branch. From that moment, with every surge of the ocean, fresh fish were driven up the tree and out of its hollow trunk to the waiting arms of his mother. Now his mother had fresh fish to eat every day.
But the villagers, seeing the old womanâ€™s good fortune, grew jealous and wanted to take her abundance of fish for themselves, without the need to cast their nets at sea.
So one day a boisterous group of young men entered the old womanâ€™s yard and cut down the magic tree. Immediately the ocean rose through the remaining hollow stump and flooded the entire village of Ngibtal. All the villagers drowned â€“ except the old woman who survived and moved to another village. There she assumed another title and name, and was treated with respect and dignity for her remaining years.
Related objectThe Fish Bearing Tree of Ngibtal