The story of Totoga Wai from Babaka village

Keith Jacksn & Friends: PNG Attitude, 12 December 2011


The Totoga Wai is the story of my great-grandfathers and their forefathers and the great gigantic alligator and the formation of the precious salt water river at Babaka village, the place I call my home. Totoga is the name and Wai is the river where the Babaka people earn their livelihood and enjoy the environment.  The story is from my father’s clan and is true and correct, however I do not wish to highlight the names of people to preserve the identities of the families.

Irupara Beach, Babaka

MANY YEARS AGO there lived a village chief and his family in their bush material house built on high posts.  The couple had five beautiful daughters, the first in her mid 20’s and the last in her teens

One day in the morning, the elder daughter noticed the dog barking at something very strange that caught the attention of the family, so the father decided to check beneath the house and to his amazed saw a huge gigantic male alligator underneath the house ready and prepared to attack,

The father wondered why the reptile was right under his house and began to ask, with fear gripping the entire family, why he camped there,

The Crocodile was motionless and, unmoved, remained calm.  The father asked all the questions he could think of from anything that could strike his attention, but the crocodile was never moved.

Finally the father asked the crocodile if he wanted one his five daughters and the huge crocodile wagged its tail and leapt for joy in a very happy mood. The father, with sad face and astonished body language, climbed into the house quietly, no words to utter, because it was not the answer he anticipated,

The mother and the daughters asked the Father what actually happened; the father broke the news and everybody kept silent lost in words and thought.

The father asked his four daughters who all refused to accept the reptile enthusiastically but the fifth daughter responded positively: “Because all my sisters refused to accept the reptile, I am giving myself to the reptile to save us from any unexpected circumstances.”

The father, after being assured by the daughter climbed down under the house to meet the crocodile and confident that the crocodile was not going to attack him

The father stood in front of the huge crocodile and broke the news that his desire to marry one his daughters was granted and the very happy crocodile again leaped in joy and began to dance and move around the house celebrating.

The father called a meeting with the people of the seven houses in the village and the very small population bravely put on a big feast and, with tearful departure, farewelled the daughter from human being to reptile life.

The daughter and the crocodile were decorated with traditional gifts, necklaces, pig tusks and many other items including food.

The daughter sat on the back of the gigantic crocodile which slowly submerged under the creek.  A week later the crocodile turned the creek into a big and wide river for the people of Babaka village 

After their marriage the daughter was half crocodile and half human (from waist up human figure and waist below crocodile tail).

After the formation of the river the historical sites were named to remember the daughter and the crocodile’s family.  Wapuli is a local yam.  Turage Na  means give.

At any given time when a person returned from fishing trip and paddled past the site Wapuli turagena and called for food, the daughter would provide them hot cooked yams (wapuli) right from the river.

One day the other sisters decided to see their sister in half reptile and human figure, so they ventured out fishing.  Upon their return they called for food and, as the sister lifted the hot dish of yams, the sisters reached down and lifted the sister out of the river and saw her amazing reptile and human figure.

Since then the sister crocodile disappeared and never returned to produce hot yams, and the crocodiles never killed any man or dog after the creation of the crocodile human river.

In history and today the Babaka people enjoy the existence of the river and the friendly crocodiles that do not attack any person or animal.  We continue to enjoy the river with an abundance of mangroves, seafood and much more.

Whenever people by chance see a crocodile while fishing they always are blessed with plenty of fish or crab to take home and they tell tales of their day’s blessings.

Babaka village is situated 200km by road east of Port Moresby, approximately 3 hours drive by vehicle.  It has a population of more than 1,000 people who of course are subsistence farmers.  The educated elites work and reside in the cities and frequently come home and enjoy the flora and fauna of the village environment.

Beauty Rupa Loi, 14, was born in Port Moresby and is a student at St Paul’s Primary School

Published by Ples Singsing

Ples Singsing is envisioned to be a new platform for Papua Niuginian expressions of creativity, ingenuity and originality in art and culture. We deliberately highlight these two very broad themes as they can encompass the diverse subjects, from technology, medicine and architecture to linguistics, music, fishing, gardening et cetera. Papua Niuginian ways of thinking, living, believing, communicating, dying and so on can cover the gamut of academic, journalistic or opinionated writing and we believe that unless we give ourselves a platform to talk about and discuss these things in an open, free and non-exclusively academic space that they may remain the fodder for academics, journalists and other types of writers alone. New social media platforms have given every individual a personal space to share their feelings and ideas openly, sometimes without immediate censure. The Ples Singsing writer’s blog would like to provide another more structured platform for Papua Niuginian expressions in written, visual and audio formats while also providing some regulation of the type and content of materials to be shared publicly.

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