Damien Arabagali Portrait
Damien Arabagali

by Damien Arabagali

The culture heroes of the Huli are human beings who, due to their good character, were visited by super natural or heavenly beings (dahuluya ali) who gave them characteristics that allowed them to do extraordinary deeds. They have the power to fight giants, change into birds or disappear suddenly from sight.

Tage Tarali and lpa Mulu Luguya

The first of these culture heroes is called Tage Tarali. He usually fights giants on behalf of human beings. These dangerous giants are called dama paya horonaba and live on human flesh. Tage Tarali attacks them single handed with a very strong bow and kills many of them. He escapes final death by becoming a parrot which he is able to do by unwrapping a special parcel that was given to him by one of the heavenly beings. The content of the parcel is not known.

Another culture hero is lpa Mulu Luguya. It is believed that he was an orphan and that the young ladies from the sky used to come and finish his garden work. At night when he was asleep. He followed them to their home in the sky and receives a special gift from the father of the beautiful ladies who had generously made his garden.

But he made a mistake by killing a sky woman. The woman’s blood became a source for success in all aspects of his life, like raising pigs, fighting and the growth of his body. There is a long legend about lpa Mulu Luguya which is associated with the haro/i institution that is dealt with below.

The concept of a culture hero is not foreign to the Judea-Christian scriptures. As a matter of fact, the Old Testament is full of such heroes, including Noah, Abraham, the Judges and some of the early prophets. The Huli people therefore were in a frame of mind that allowed them to accept the stories of Sacred History which feature in the missionaries’ teaching.


One particular culture hero of the Huli is called Bayabaya, which literally means “good good”, hence “the very good man”. He was a real person who was killed by those responsible for the rituals at Pepenete. His blood was essential for the fertility rites of the land. Things would be much better now had Bayabaya not been killed. A great deal of evil has come on the Huli since the death of Bayabaya. Bayabaya was mistaken for Jesus Christ by the Huli. The old wise man I interviewed said that the story of Bayabaya is not a legend, He lived six generations ago. Some of his bones are still preserved, and the descendants of the murderers still fear revenge for their misdeed.

Bayabaya was good looking boy, but nothing is known of his father. He was always seen with his mother, called Tiripi, who was a very special however she came from Hela Duna, from a small place called Hewai Kambe, which is near lake Kopiago. Tiripi was of special importance for the land fertility rite (dindi kamu}. She had to be there for the rite to succeed. When the dindi kamu was taking place, Huli people would not cross rivers and they abstained from certain food. The population would also help Bayabaya and his mother go to Pepenete with their escorts. The route of Bayabaya and his mother is still there today.

Bayabaya was killed at Pepenete. On the day of the fertility ceremony, Tiripi told the kamu agali, or ritual specialist, to make a small cut on the boy’s fingers while cutting pig meat with him. She told him to make it look like an accident. He was told to collect the blood from Bayabaya’s finger and mix it with the pigs blood. This mixture was used in the ceremony. The priest would sprinkle it over the land, and this would make the land fertile again. Tiripi left them and went with the other women to wash the pig’s intestines. While she was away, Bayabaya was betrayed by Kolipa Kali who was the leader of the Peta tribe in Tari. He told the priests and elders that the mother told him that the child was to be killed. Kolipa Kali thought that by killing the boy the land would become fertile forever, and there would no need to repeat the ceremony. The other leaders listened to his reasoning and agreed on Bayabaya’s death. The following leaders killed and cut up Bayabaya: Tuku Kewai of the Tukure clan, Apu Awiria of Wenani clan, Hupi Yape of the Pai clan, Pai Taro of Luwini, Kolipa Kali of Peta and some men from the Yarini clan living at Pepenete. This was the first human sacrifice. After the body was cut up, they gave each clan the following pieces of Bayabaya’s body:

the Peta tribe got pirikini (waist}, the Haro tribe got halene ears},
the Halago and Habura tribes got habuni (lips}, the Tobe tribe got tombene (stomach},
the Ayako tribe got ayuni (pancreas}, the Pi tribe got pirikini (waist}, and the Wita tribe got wipuni (genitals}.

The tribes were named in this way in order not to forget the Bayabaya incident. The head (hakuane} was dropped into the Kupame and Narime Lakes. These two lakes are located on the foothills of Mt Ambua (Dama Peaks}. The intestines (sini} and some bones (kuni} were buried in the Haiyafugwa, Tali Fugwa, Kererefugwa and Mogorofugwa swamps in the Huli land. Today, most of the big leaders still have in their possession some of the bones of Bayabaya.

Tiripi could not find her son when she came back with the other women, and she asked the men where he was. The look on the men’s faces told her what had happened. She wept bitterly for her son, and the Huli men chased her out of the area. She was beaten as she walked back to the Duna area. The Huli people threw mud and insulting words at her, and she was raped as she walked by, crying for her only child. All the Huli tribes mistreated her except the Tani tribe, who washed and fed her. She was decorated with shell money and the Yepari and Yaga clansmen dried her tears.They comforted her and told her to stay with them for a while. Because of this treatment, she made this prophecy:

The Yago and Yepari clans of the Tani tribe will grow and spread throughout the Tani Valley. No single tribe in the whole Huli area will be as big as you. The clans of the rest of Huli, the clans who beat and raped me, will disappear in times of famine and sickness.

To the Huli men of today, this prophecy is being fulfilled. The Tani tribe is the biggest single tribe in the whole Huli area. The other tribes are small in comparison. Many have died due to famine and sickness. Tiripi also gave the Huli fear, shame and pain., There was no pain, fear or shame before Bayabaya was killed.

Bayabaya’s mother continued her journey home after a few days of rest, and she was never heard of again,. although, she is believed to be still living now. These incidents actually happened six generations ago. The Huli know who killed Bayabaya. The killer’s descendants all know about it. The people realized long ago that the leaders who killed Bayabaya had made a great mistake by shedding innocent blood. They have repented of this great sin and have incorporated into the Datagaliwabe worship the rite of repentance for the evil they did to Bayabaya.

This has been blood of Bayabaya in a bamboo container.

The gebe ali priests of that place have also taken on the responsibility of requesting forgiveness on behalf of the whole Huli race.

Councillor Alembo of Pi Nakia, the ex-gebe ali Augustine Agile and others I have interviewed in Tari, Pureni and Koroba have identified Bayabaya with Jesus. The “good thing”, the innocent young man who was betrayed and killed by their priest was identified with the man Jesus that Fr Berard told them about. The blood of Christ is important. So was the blood of Bayabaya. It was because of this close similarities that one day in 1955, the Huli leaders were led by Yalitima Ulubi, came to Fr Berard to make up for what they had done wrong in the past.

I interviewed Fr Berard at the Capuchin College in March 1985 concerning the compensation the Huli leaders tried to pay for Bayabaya. He stated very clearly that this took place in Pureni, as reported by the old man I interviewed. Fr Berard confirmed that the Huli leaders came to him and told him that they had the pigs to compensate for the death of Bayabaya whom he was reminding them about. Fr Berard told them that he was preaching about another person, Jesus, who was not killed by the Huli but by the Jews. The incident clearly shows that the story of Bayabaya is part of the Hulis’ very recent memory. In this book, I am concerned with the meaning of the story, not the facts, dates and literary forms. The event of Bayabaya no doubt prepared the Huli to grasp the message about Christ.

A Land Prepared

It would appear that many missionaries did not realize fully that the Huli were already in contact with the type of doctrines they themselves preached. The Huli believed that a creator was living in the home in the sky along with many good people. The concept of God who is in heaven watches over everything was not new to the people. Datagaliwabe had some of the characteristics of the Christian God. The Christian teaching about good and bad spirits and the immortality of souls was nothing new to them. The saving mission of Christ was similar to that of Bayabaya, who was a culture hero and even a historical person like Jesus.

The ritual killing of Bayabaya was the first thing of this kind ever done in Huli history. He was killed so that his blood would make the land fertile forever. The Huli realized that their action was not good in the eyes of Datagaliwabe. The Pepenete gebe anda liturgy was changed to make amends for their sin of killing Bayabaya, by incorporating sacrifices on behalf the Huli people. Repentance of having committed sin was therefore also nothing new to the Huli people. The rays of the light were already working among the priest of my people. It was through the grace of God that they felt deep sorrow for killing Good-Good. That was why the leaders brought pigs to Fr Berard as a sign of repentance. It is my opinion that the Hulis rapid conversion to Christianity and their belief in God’s Word through Christ were due indirectly to the fact that people were prepared beforehand. The Lord had been working among my people. The bush had been cleared, the trees cut and the earth dug up in preparation for the seed, Jesus Christ. If in ancient days, Bayabaya, through his sacrifices and life giving rites he inspired, gave life to the Huli land, we can now take Jesus’s words. “I am the Resurrection and Life” (John 11:25) and I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6). For us Christians, Jesus is both the source of “living water” (cf. John 7:37-38), and the giver of or us Christians, Jesus is both the source of “living water “the bread of life” (John 6:35).

Even though not everything was clear, I see that through all of this God was speaking to the Huli people. He was preparing the Huli people to grasp Christ fully through the true story of Bayabaya. I have put the stamp of God onto the true story of Bayabaya, just as the Israelites put the stamp of Yahweh on stories they borrowed from other people living near them. God was using the world to show Himself to the Huli people so they would understand the Lord Jesus Christ.

(Extract from Datagaliwabe Was Working Among The Huli. Damien Arabagali. Treid Pacific (PNG) Ltd. 1999. pp. 38-42.)