Micronesian Diary
Felicia R. Beardsley
Yap State, FSM - January 1999
Meeting house Bechiyal is situated on the northern edge of Map (or, Maap). This is a well-known place; much of its fame derives from Bechiyal's Chief, John Tamag, who is the architect of many of the splendid traditional structures in Yap.

January 23, 1999

Faluw in Bechiyal
Faluw in Bechiyal --- also built by John Tamag

Storm damage
Storm damage remaining in Bechiyal --- this one is a house

Meeting house interiorIt is a beautiful place, and was a great event. The platforms are really spectacular, all paved with wheels of money leaning up against them. The traditional meeting house is unbelievable. It was designed by John Tamag, Chief of Bechiyal Village and the principal traditional architect here in Yap. This place was rebuilt after being destoryed by a typhoon. John Tamag takes on many apprentices, and they do the work while he directs. The inside of this one is painted yellow and the lashings are all coconut sennit, which is all hand-made. These are tied around the coconut trunks in various patterns of weaving, then the insides are painted in a combination of traditional and modern designs. The traditional are fish, spears, birds and such. These are used to keep in mind that even though all are at peace, you should be ever ready for war (the spears), or if going out fishing you should be conscious of the fish and that you need to catch them. As for birds, they are good luck, so you want them always present (they represent land, schools of fish and so on). The flooring is of split bamboo. I say again, it was a really beautiful place.

John Tamag
John Tamag, Chief of Bechiyal Village

Dr. Beardsley at Bechiyal
Dr. Beardsley at Bechiyal

Ship cannon
Ship cannon --- used here as a decoration.
This is probably a ship cannon once used in defense of the Spanish Fort

Interior viewInterior viewInterior view

The community building had been destroyed in the last typhoon a couple of years ago, so today's open house was intended to show off the reconstruction.

Meeting houseThe people included many chiefs, the governor, members of the Council of Pilung, and a whole lot of other people. It was hard to keep Teresa calm. She was under a lot of scrutiny, with people watching her and how she behaved. That was difficult for her at times. It made me a little nervous trying to keep her from offending anyone. That is one thing here: behavior is central to people's opinions of you! At least when we wandered she had time to get some of the ants out of her pants. And she took a couple of pictures.

There were a lot of people and a whole lot of food. And a dance. The village itself is too small to have a dancing troupe, but the dance was from the next village. The Section Chief (part of the municipality, a group of villages) dedicated the dance to me. It was the men's dance. I didn't know --- but, boy, I was glad I did not sit up front.

It is interesting in that the older members of the dance group are in the center of the line; these are also the more experienced, and symmetrically down to each end the members become younger until the last members at the ends are all young boys about 5 or 7 or so.




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