Palau Funeral Home & Chapel Building, the first private mortuary in Palau, opened its doors for service in Ngetkib, Airai, yesterday, February 24th . The beautiful facility combines all the modern services of a mortuary and accommodates the intricacies of Palau’s cultural funerary practices.
“The place is designed with primary purpose of comforting, to focus on comforting the families and loved ones of the departed and not so much on the money aspects of thefunerals,” said Pastor Daniel Velez during his dedication of the facility.
The facility consists of a preparation room, a viewing room, a family arrangement room, a chapel, an outside sitting area for funeral attendees, a facility for food preparation and restrooms and other amenities to fully facilitate a Palauan funeral or a non-Palauan funeral program.
Remengesau Dave Orrukem, one of the chiefs of Ngetkib village, in welcoming the crowd to the opening of the new mortuary said that the new facility merges the modern needs with the cultural values and practices honored in the Palauan culture. In planning for the facility, the owners consulted with the chiefs of the village of Ngetkib to ensure that all traditional beliefs and practices of Ngetkib are respected and followed.
One of the traditional beliefs of Ngetkib is that a person who is not from Ngetkib cannot have his/her funeral held in Ngetkib. To enable this, a practice of paying an entry fee (osisebellel) and exit fee (otebedellel) to the chief of the place where the funeral is held will be done for anybody who is not from Ngetkib.
Palau Funeral Home and Chapel Building is owned by the daughter of the original entrepreneur who opened the first mortuary services in Palau, Santos Borja.
In 2002, then-Vice President and Minister of Health Sandra Pierantozzi said they decided to bid out the mortuary service to the private sector and Mr. Borja, the lab technician and only person in Palau with embalming skills and know-how, was the only bidder and won the bid.
“In those days, if someone passed away and their relatives wanted to get the body early in the morning to bring to Babeldaob, we needed to get someone from the lab to come in early morning to prepare the body and process all information required. Then we had to pay $50 at the police station in order to get the ambulance to transport the body to wherever the destination was. If there’s an accident or an emergency, that ambulance would not be available,” said Mrs. Pierantozzi in an interview at the new facility.
Mr. Borja won the bid and operated the mortuary from the hospital for 6 years by himself and sometimes with assistance of the hospital lab personnel.
Upon his passing, his sons and daughter took over. His son Franky Borja ran the service until his passing a few years ago, and his sister Lisa Borja Tmetuchl along with her husband Uchel Tmetuchl have raised the service now to the next level with an entire facility separated from the hospital providing full mortuary and funeral services.
President Surangel Whipps Jr. said that they have opened and continued this operation as a service of love to the Palauan people. The Chapel is named Santo Borja Chapel in honor of the man who started the service.
Today, the Funeral Home will hold its first funeral event, the funeral of DirraIrachel Gustav Salii Adelbai, which will be held at Santos Borja Chapel, followed by burial in Koror.