Family reunions, child birth celebrations (omengat), birthday parties, house parties, state government inaugurations, state elections, rallies, townhalls, rock island family outings and yes, funerals, happening nearly every weekend for two months are keeping this island vibrant despite the pandemic.
Where many countries around the world are being restricted in their movements and activities in order to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Palau has been fortunate to escape the virus and enjoy greater freedom which means lots of activities and events happening around the island.
With schools about to open, there’s a rush to hold house parties where at least two house parties are held each night during pay day weekends. Last payday weekend for example, house parties were held on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, with two happening each night. House parties are not taxed so there’s no official data to reflect the amounts collected, but based on anecdotal evidence, it runs from low of $5 thousand to as high as $25,000 per event.
In addition, Palau’s 2020 General Election is few months away and the campaign is heating up. Townhalls, rallies, and meetings are held as means for candidates to reach as many voters as they can. Everyone from presidential to congressional candidates are vying for attention in the activities taking place around the island. Money is being spent to promote various candidates and fueling up many of these activities.
Another happening event, family reunion, is fast becoming a regular activity in Palau, bringing multiple families from five or six generations together. This means a large crowd of relatives, lots of food, dancing, live bands and other entertainments to keep everyone happy.
At the reunion of Sechedui family of Peliliu last Sunday, one of the largest known family groups in Palau, they were able to count about 300 people. This is said to be a small fraction of the family group as many are off-island or were unable to attend that day. An aspiring young candidate to Senate, TJ Remengesau who also hails from this big family group, took the opportunity to announce officially his intentions to run for the Senate seat to his aunts and uncles and numerous relatives. Other officials in this family group include Presidential candidate Surangel Whipps Jr., Senator Mason Whipps, Senator Rukebai Inabo and Senator Phillip Reklai. One of the main reasons for these reunions, expressed Minister Charles Obichang, another member of this family group, is to reconnect families, learn their roots and their relations to each other.
On the other side of town, a childbirth ceremony (omengat) was held at Olngabang, welcoming a new baby to another large extended family.
There were coastal cleanups, birthday parties, inauguration of new Kayangel State government and so many other activities taking place at the same time.
All in all, people are making time this summer to hold activities, be it large family reunions or small family outings to rock island, it is happening all over the island.
There is no one identifiable cause of such abundance of activities, but one thing is clear, it is keeping the country vibrant and the local economy afloat.