WHO says spirits of our ancestors exist no more?
Ask Lomolomo village chief in Vuda, the iTaukei Vunativi, Peni Senibua.
With stories relayed to me together with a photo, it really sent shivers down my spine. I happened to come across such stories after a formal invitation by Vuda native and retired schoolteacher, 60 year-old Nemani Driu from the Mataqali Sauturaga, together with the approval of high chief, the Momo Levu na Tui Vuda, Ratu Eparama Kitione Tavaiqia, 83.
The name Vuda acutally means 'ancestors' and the chiefly village of Viseisei means 'to separate'.
With stories passed down through generations, Mr Driu said the first iTaukei arrived and settled at Lomolomo near Viseisei around the year 1300.
"They then sailed up this river at Viseisei before disembarking on dry land. They travelled on foot to their first village site at the swampy flat land at Lomolomo," Mr Driu said pointing to the spot.
Lomlomo actually means 'swampy or soft area of land'.
Mr Driu added that, after some time during their occupantion of Lomolomo under the leadership of Lutunasobasoba together with his children, they then decided to look for land elsewhere towards the east of Viti Levu.
"Lutunasobasoba had seven children namely Sagavulu the eldest who preferred to stay behind in Vuda, Buisavulu, Rokomoutu, Tuinayau, Romelasiga, Daunisai and Rokoratu in Bukuya, Magodro, Ba," Mr Driu confirmed.
Even today at Lomolomo, Mr Senibua said they still experienced the presence of their ancestors who died centuries ago.
"They still exist in some usually undefined and unknown places to which the living have no access.
"There they look after their descendants welfare, and expect their co-operation in return.
"They have power to both help and harm their wards, although most people believe that the ancestors are here to help and not harm their families," Mr Senibua said.
He added that the ancestors could be angered, and even bring disaster to their descendants, especially when their instructions are not carried out.
"Since they are our ancestors, they have the responsibility to discipline their descendants when they are disobedient."
Mr Senibua tells how one of the grandchildren had some interest in taking photos of some old pottery at the old village site.
"For one to access the site, he or she needs to traditionally seek permission from the iTaukei Vunativi," he explains. But she went on ahead together with a tourist without notifying him about their visit to the site.
"There they took pictures, but when the film was taken to be developed there was a different image on the print photo," he said, looking around for the original print to show me. He held the picture in front of me showing the exact picture they took . "See, it's not a picture of an old pottery, but a picture of an old man with a big beard with an angry look in his eyes," Mr Senibua explained, as I tried to figure the image out.
In another incident, he said two villagers went and fished at night at one of the fishing spots near the village.
"It was at night when he heard footsteps on the other side of the pond.
"But fortunately this villager was not moved or frightened by the noise. He bravely spoke up and thanked him for protecting him.
"Soon after that he heard the movement no more. Surely I think it's just one of our ancestorss letting him know that he's around to protect him that night," said Mr Senibua.
Mr Senibua also pointed out a cave near the old village site of Lomolomo, which many people visited with yaqona or tabua seeking blessings from their ancestors with regards to their business, etc.
He said during the 1970s, one of the villagers was taken in his sleep.
"Suprisingly he woke up in the cave the next morning," Mr Senibua said.
He came back to the village not knowing that he had acquired a special gift until one of his grandchildren cried wanting to eat biscuits.
"All of a sudden he motioned someone in the house to lift a corner of a mat laid on the floor and much to eveyone's suprise, there was money undeneath.
"The rule is when he gives you money for use, there shouldn't be any change left. You have to use it all," said Mr Senibua with a smile.
He added that some ancestors can passively bring harm, by withdrawing their protection when their instructions have not been carried out.
"But all in all they are still around watching over their descendants and protecting them," he said.
Mr Senibua said development nowadays and newly constructed roads in the country have made people less aware and respectful of how sacred and important the old village site of Lomolomo is.
He tells of how early this year, two groups of canecutters from Nakalawaca in Tailevu and Waiqanake villages near Suva faced the consequences of making noise near the old village site.
They suffered swollen faces and couldn't be treated at the hospital. But after seeking forgiveness in the traditional manner to the vanua they were miraculously healed. One should always respect the vanua, because it has eyes and ears," Mr Senibua warned.