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Fiji Time: 8:56 AM on Monday 21 April

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The mystery of ABC

Avinesh Gopal
Tuesday, January 15, 2013

IT is a mystery and is expected to remain one for a long time to come.

No one knows who wrote them on a rock.

But whatever was written gave a new village name to three men in search of a new site.

The three men — Rupeni Sau, Levani Kubu and Livai Lobau — were the only survivors of a massive landslide.

The landslide is reported to have buried the entire Nagaga Village in the highlands of Lautoka on February 22, 1931.

Mr Sau, Mr Kubu and Mr Lobau were able to crawl out through a gap "underground" and survived the landslide.

Going down memory lane, the location of Nagaga Village had changed six times since the early times, when cannibalism was rife.

The reasons for relocating the village varied according to events at that time.

It has been documented that the village was first located near the seashore in present day Lautoka but a war to seize the land among the tribe broke out.

Villagers abandoned the rich land along the seashore and moved up the hill in order to survive.

They built a fort on a hill in the Koroyanitu mountain range and watched for their enemies from there.

The reason to move there was to find suitable agricultural land and to obtain food such as wild pigs, fruits and honey.

However, the village location kept changing because of tribal wars, in which enemies were killed and eaten according to rituals.

Cannibalism continued until 1835 when Christianity was introduced in villages.

As time changed, the villagers moved Nagaga Village to its sixth location near Mount Batilamu.

However, instead of a tribal war, this time it was a massive landslide from the mountain on that fateful night in 1931 that saw the village buried.

The three survivors moved in search of a new village site.

During their search for a new site as they moved towards the coast, they came across a rock in the range of mountains.

Story has it that they saw the letters "ABC" written on a rock and they immediately recognised it as letters of the alphabet.

A missionary is reported to have gone to the old Nagaga Village in 1835 and taught villagers the alphabet and this knowledge was passed down the generations.

The ancestors of Nagaga villagers had interpreted the A as Ai Vakatekivu — Beginning; B as Bula Tawa Mudu — Eternal Life, and C as Cakacaka Mana — Miracle Work.

So the new village was named by the three survivors as ABACA, which is located about 16 kilometres away from Lautoka City, in the Koroyanitu mountain range.

That is the Ai Vakatekivu, the beginning and the history of Abaca, which has a population of about 100 people now.

B or Bula Tawa Mudu — Eternal Life — is about kava or yaqona (piper methysticum) which is widely used as a token of goodwill and respect amongst the people of the South Pacific.

It is also about the i sevusevu (traditional kava ceremony).

The letter B is also about plants and their daily usage in villagers lives, including for medicine.

Also, it is about the daily life in Abaca, which includes women going to Lautoka Market every Saturday, church schedule, women's group activity, children and food.

C or Cakacaka Mana — Miracle Work — is about villagers utilising their land to plant root crops, vegetables and fruits for their sustenance and for the market.

It is about the traditional Fijian house (bure), particularly what wood is used for different parts of the bure.

The letter C is also about the village ground (rara) which is a very important place for the villagers, used as a path from one house to another every day and on formal occasions it is used for weddings or funerals.

Abaca villagers have an eco-tourism project in the Koroyanitu National Heritage Park area, which is in the Koroyanitu mountain range.

Mr Sau's son, Viliame Rokoua, who is the headman of Abaca Village, confirmed how the village got its name.

"The survivors saw the three letters of the alphabet carved or engraved on the rock quite far from here (village)," he said.

"The three letters were at such a place where no one can go to just like that.

"If someone had to write them on that part of the rock, then that person would have had to fly or hang from a rope from right on top.

"But then climbing up to the top to hang from a rope to write the three letters is just not possible, as there's no way up except by flying there."

Mr Rokoua said from the stories passed down by his father, he knew that the three survivors were baffled after seeing ABC written where it was.

"We still don't even know how the letters came there."

He said the villagers were still wondering about the ABC and whether they were on the rock naturally and got covered over time.

The rock can be accessed from Vaivai and from where it is, one can see the entire Lautoka City in the distance and some other areas.

Mr Rokoua said the letter A had disappeared while only a slight part of the letter B was visible on the rock, with C next to it.

"Only the letter C is left and the belief in the village is, as per stories passed down, that once the letter C disappears, then there will be some kind of good luck for Abaca.

"That's the belief and we don't really know what it means, from the naming of the village until now," said Mr Rokoua.

And are the voices and cries of their buried ancestors which Abaca villagers say they hear from the buried Nagaga Village connected to the good luck belief?

Could the villagers' ancestors be trying to give a message to the people of Abaca, which has a landscape associated with a large and very old volcano?

Only time will tell whether the letters ABC would bring the villagers good luck, especially after the letter C disappears, naturally or miraculously.