The first rising of the ‘palolo’ or sea worm any time now over the next few days is once again raising hopeful expectations all around Samoa.
The silent prayers are for a heavy rising so there will be more to go around. For a couple of old palolo catchers like Saufatu Tamati Tovi of Saleilua, Falealili and Lupe Tausaga from Samata and Taga, Savai’i, the reaction is mixed.
The duo is hoping for the palolo to come swarming to the surface but are critical at the same time that it has become noticeably weakened over the years.
The first rising of the palolo is this month, October, and the normal belief is that it will be strongest in Upolu.
Palolo will rise again next month in November and these palolo-wise elders, Saufatu and Lupe, believe it is the turn for Savai’i.
The poor rising, however, is bemoaned as the direct result of people hardly bothering anymore with the respected tradition associated with the palolo.
One example is people no longer go to great lengths to stitch ‘ula’ or garlands from sweet smelling flowers or fragrant tree leaves in the night, to wear at sea as they await the rising of the palolo at the dawn of the new morning.
Women would be well dressed in matching puletasi wear and the men in their clean lavalava or wrap around.
“Sadly this unique palolo tradition is no longer respected and this is perhaps the reason why we are no longer making big catches,” Saufatu said.
Another part of the palolo culture that is severely violated is the sharing of this sea food delicacy around the families.
“ In the past no one sold any palolo. It was mainly for family to enjoy and share with others,” Lupe recollected..
“This commendable tradition of sharing no longer exists. People are selling their catches – everything seems to be about financial gains.
“ No one ever thought of selling palolo in the past. It was caught mainly for family consumption. But things have changed.”
The two men are fishermen and keen palolo catchers and like the others have been keeping an eye on the weather.
Thick clouds and heavy rains at this time of the year are usually regarded as signs of the palolo.
Many holds the belief that bad weather is a good sign the palolo rising will be good. Not all agree though.
" Sometimes in the past, prolonged sunny weather throughout the month also leads to a good rising. “
“Sometimes with heavy rain, would produce a bad harvest. So sometimes what is expected does not happen.”
Despite the disappointment of weak rising over recent years, unpredictable weather, and complaints about the loss of respected palolo traditions, the two palolo catchers are determined to be out there in cold, went morning of the rising,