malta ke mo metik er a klungoliolem e dimlak mosiur er a nasake ni hutari
Today’s song — Yumeni Kienai [remaining in my dreams] — is another song of love lost, this time because one or both of their families did not approve of the relationship. But in this song, as in many others like it, the singer does not want to let go and she dreams of reuniting with her lover in the future. But her lover made things difficult as he didn’t accept the decision of the elders and incited others to support their quest to be a couple. He fed the fire (ng ulsiu a ngau) of the controversy. That led to major conflict in their houses, their village and, in fact, all of Palau, and the singer says “hey, chill out and wait until peace returns so that we can get together in the future without causing another major crisis.”
There are several reasons why the families might not approve of a couple getting together. The anthropologist H.G. Barnett related a story he was told by a rubak named Ngiraoik, probably in the late 1940s :
In former times, Ngiraoik said, important families kept a much closer watch on their children than they do now. All young people had love affairs that were carried on in secrecy, just as now; but parents were not blind and if they were members of a ranking family they put a stop to an undesirable affair at once.
Here Ngiraoik told a story which is known all over Palau and which is said to be true. It tells of a love affair between a young man of high rank and a girl from a low-class family. This was bad enough, but what made the match impossible was the fact that they were third cousins. In the beginning they did not know this, nor did their parents, for they belonged to different clans that came from different parts of the island. The great-grandfather of the boy was a brother of the great-grandmother of the girl, which made their children necessarily of different clans, since everyone belongs to the clan of his or her mother and must marry outside it. It just happened that in this case the love-struck pair were related to their sibling great-grandparents through males only, and over the generations this connection had been forgotten. This is the more understandable in that the boy’s line had consistently married up the social scale while the girl’s immediate forebears married down. When all this came to light the couple was forbidden to see each other again. They refused to submit and continued to meet secretly. Finally one night they loaded a canoe with food and other goods and set sail for the south, never to be heard of again.
That is a story that must have been put to music at some point, so perhaps someone can identify the song for me. But the story does convey the tension between love on the one hand and family obligations (to marry up the social ladder) on the other. And that tension is definitely evident in Yumeni Kienai.