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9th June  - Lubo

I’m suspicious of travellers who go searching for Eden, the place that’s ‘untouched’. There’s something unhealthy in it - the idea that you, the representative of the West are a pollutant, ready to taint all that lies before you. It’s self-centred and denies the perspectives of those around you who, I’m glad to say, seem to think having a foreigner around is a good excuse for fun.  Tanudan is however as close to Eden as anything I’ve seen.

It’s paradise because it’s 10 hours walk to the end of the road, or the end that hasn’t been washed down the mountain because too much money was stolen to build it properly.

You can find yourself sitting in a thatched hut, on a soft split-bamboo floor, surrounded by adzed mahogany wall, flickering red in the lamp light. Outside, beyond luminous green terraces, dragon-flies flutter about a river yet to encounter detergent. Most bowls are coconuts. There’s little plastic, no rubbish and no ‘shop’. Money can buy gin, but you sense that it may have been given up by a relative who keeping it for an occasion. And you can’t buy cigarettes.

Eden without fags – nightmare!

The other thing of course is that need to remember your M-16 or at least your speak when you go for a walk in this paradise. Maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise. I don’t suppose anything much happened in Eden. Without a bit of warfare it was probably desperately boring.


Jerome Tuppayak


Over breakfast Jerome Tuppyak told me about Lubo’s war with their neighbours from Mangali.

The last one started in 1984. The B’dong (peace pact) had only been in place for about five years. There had been another long war in the 1970’s, though these dates are rough. No-one around here is very bothered about dates. Ask and old man how old he is and he’s liable to reply ‘My son was this tall when the Japanese came’. I’m not sure that I trust the headhunting ‘scores’ very much either.

So, ‘according to Jerome’, 38 people from Mangali died, which, given that there are probably only a couple of thousand of them, is a lot.

The conflict started when a Mangali hunter, out in the dense forest, shot at what he thought was a pig. It was a hunter from Lubo, who died. The Lubo people took their revenge, killing three people from Mangali.

Jerome acted as Sacuwsak, the ‘go-between’ tasked with finding a settlement. After a couple of tense months, the Mangali people demanded 60,000 pesos to restore the peace pact. The Lubo folks raised 40,000, so Jerome had to take it upon his own good self to make up the shortfall, in the form of four carabaos.

He gave three reasons for his generosity: to prevent killing; to do good in the eyes of God; and to increase his progress towards becoming a Pangat (a respected statesman).  Indeed, so pangat-like was his behaviour in resolving the conflict, he ‘won’ the election for councillor had his victory not been denied by xxxxxx’s ‘watchers’ who fiddled the results.

Jerome was chosen as Sacuwsak because his wife was from Mangali, which meant he was both exempt from being killed in revenge and honour bound to play no part in the conflict.

Two years before (1982) there had also been a tribal war with Tulgeo. This one started with a fight at the Batong Buhay mines  in which Lubo man was injured. The Lubo people set out to take their revenge, sneaking through Tinglayan territory by night. It had to be night, because had the Tinglayan people known what they were up to, they too would have tried to kill them.

As it was, the Lubo people got to the boundary with Tulgeo where they saw a man and shot him. He died and he turned out to be from Tinglayan. Undaunted, the Lubo people continued with their mission and in the ensuing conflict two people were killed on each side.

Of course, now there was a problem with Tinglayan – a case of ‘saramak’, or accidental killing due to a failure to identify your victim. According to Jerome, samaraks should only be settled by negotiation. So, the Lubo  peace-pact holder waited to be contacted by his Tinglayan counterpart. But instead of taking the ‘proper’ course of action, the Tinglayan people went to the provincial capital (Tabuk) found a man from Lubo and killed him. This again called for revenge, so the Lubo people killed another from Tinglayan, after which the two sides “got tired”, called in some neutrals and resolved their differences.  Phew!

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