President Tsai Ing-wen (leftmost) inside the Airai Bai. (Rhealyn C. Pojas)
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen had become the first foreign female head of state to enter the oldest traditional meeting house in Palau, the Airai Bai.
Palau’s tradition follows a very strict rule when it comes to who will be allowed entrance to its traditional men’s meeting house. Traditions had it that women and outsiders are strongly prohibited from entering the Airai Bai but the Ngarairrai, the Council of Chiefs in Airai’s Ordomel hamlet, made an exception for Taiwan’s highest ranking government official during her visit to the historical site on March 23.
No less than Ngarairrai leader Ngiraked Yukiwo P. Dengokl and other members of the Ordomel hamlet council of chiefs welcomed President Tsai Ing-wen during her visit.
Chief Ngiraked explained to President Tsai the roles and functions of the traditional government in Palau’s society.
“Your visit today to our Bai and to our village is a historic one and a historical precedent as it is the first ever visit by a visiting head of state who is a woman,” Chief Ngiraked told the visiting President.
“We appreciate your country’s friendship with our country and all the help your country has provided to our country which have helped spur economic growth. We understand that your country is working with our leadership to establish an Austronesian forum here in Palau. We welcome this as scientific studies have established our Austronesian link,”the traditional chief added.
The traditional leaders and President Tsai had a brief conversation before proceeding to feast of Palauan traditional food in tents set up near the Airai Bai.
The Airai Bai, which is located in Airai State, is one of Palau’s famous attractions. Through a cooperation with Palau’s tourism arm, the Palau Visitors Authority (PVA), tourists can also enjoy authentic Palauan cuisine which President Tsai herself had tried. (Rhealyn C. Pojas)