This document is aimed at better informing potential international guests
(specifically those interested in eco-tourism) planning on visiting Papua
New Guinea and may choose to spend a night or more at Kokop Village. Over
the last 29 years, this typical rural Papua New Guinea village has been
my motherland. I wish to share some important facts of my village with
those that are interested in learning and possible arrange for a visit
there. This document informs you about the location, history, people, climate,
food, nature, culture, and many other aspects of Kokop Village. Should
you need any further information, send e-mail to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Location: Kokop Village is home of the 2, 200 strong Kentiga Tribe.
It is located 20 minutes drive west of Mt. Hagen City in the province of
Western Highlands, Papua New Guinea. The village is situated on a ridge
and at the height of over 5, 000 feet above sea level. With two big rivers
(Turulg & Glaulg) running parallel on its eastern and western borders,
Kokop sits on a water table where countless fountains, springs, creeks,
and tributaries are found. Bordering five different native tribes on all
sides, Kokop is the principal village of the Kentiga Tribe. Blessed with
fertile black topsoil, lush undergrowth, and diverse vegetation, Kokop
is home to a complex web of plant and animal life. The physical landscape
varies from picturesque rolling hills to greenish flat lands. About 80
percent of the land is covered with trees of all kinds while the rest is
occuppied by stretches of food gardens, hut houses, pig yards, and unharvested
It is believed that Kokop Village was first founded between the late 1500s
and mid-1600s. Traditional stories, passed on from generation to generation
mention that a young man, named Kent, first settled in what is now called
"Kokop Village." It is strongly believed that he came with other people
and together they settled at Kokop. It is of course certain that he brought
with him a wife. Nobody knows how many children they had. It is also not
known whether or not Kent was a polygamist. The name "Kokop" originated
during Kent's era. Between now and Kent's era, there are over 10 generations
of people. The land of Papua New Guinea was first spotted by Portugese
explorers in the early 1500s. It is during this time that Kent begun his
journey for a new place and ended up settling at Kokop. According to traditional
legends or stories, most of the tribes that live in Western Highlands believed
to have come from the western part of the province; that is, towards what
is now Southern Highlands and Enga Provinces. Before Kent settled at Kokop,
the place was a no-man's land.
Because of constant tribal fights, men did not settle to have many kids.
Tribal fighting has ceased gradually (between 1930s and 2000) and stability
has arrived, thus lending to better conditions for a population boom. Also
polygamy was and still is a major force in the expansion of population
figures among the Kentiga. Today, there are a total of 2, 200 Kentiga people.
The rate of nationwide population growth is above 2 percent, one of the
highest in the world.
Kokop is a communal village where everyone cares and shares with each other.
It is a village where everyone is concerned about the general wellbeing
of each other. Anyone's business is everyones' business. Everyone likes
chatting, talking, gossiping, and verbally expressing any feelings openly
among and between each other daily. Life is not so sophisticated as in
the Western nations. Everyone lives off the land as subsistence farmers.
Houses or huts are built from bush materials. Kokop is a remote village
filled with a generous people that live a simple life, and pleased with
it. Polygamy is still practiced at Kokop but by a rarely few population.
Peace and harmony is literally present despite few cases of negative attitudes
by youngsters. The people are some of the friendliest you'd find on earth.
They enjoy the company of international guests. In fact, international
guests at Kokop are always susceptible to curious looks and smiling faces
day in and day out.
There are two economic systems operating in Papua New Guinea: 1. traditional
(non-taxable) system, and 2. modern economic (taxable) system. The subsistance
farmers at Kokop bring their surplus produce to agricultural market in
Mt. Hagen City, sell them (in the traditional economic system) and then
buy manufactured items such as soap, cooking oil, soap, etc. (in the modern
economic system) to sustain their living. The Kina is the modern currency
of exchange. Barter system exists today but in a very refined and limited
way. The traditional money; "kina shell," is not used anymore as legal
tender, rather it serves as a relic which international guests find it
'touristy' and worth purchasing. The Gross Domestic Per Capita for Papua
New Guinea is US$1,260. According to my estimation, the average person
at Kokop earns a total of K700 per year. There are only few persons in
the tribe that engage in private businesses and work for the government.
The rest of the 2, 200 people are villagers or subsistance farmers.
After the arrival of the first missionaries and gold miners to the Western
Highlands in the 1930s, peace and harmony between tribes begun. It did
not happen overnight. There were some fierce fighting between many tribes.
Between 1930 and 1985, many tribal wars broke out and lasted for years
among many tribes in Western Highlands. My tribe fought the nearby Kungnuka
tribe over a land dispute that last two years in the early 1980s (1980-982).
The introduction of Christianity by Catholic and Lutheran missionaries
to the province helped alot in solving these tribal enmity and brought
peace to the multitude of natives.The natives had their own spiritual gods
both before and after the arrival of the missionaries; however, to this
date, there is never a group that believes in gods other than the Christian's
God. Religion was single-handedly the powerful force that changed the face
of Kokop and the Kentiga tribe as well as other tribes and their ways of
life and thiking. Today, 99 percent of the Kentiga people are Lutheran
Church members and are active participants.
The people at Kokop speak Melpa and Miam native languages. Majority of
the people can speak Pidgin while a little percentage demonstrate competence
in the use of English language. Nearly every person from the tribe that
has gone to school and completed sixth grade is able to speak, read, and
write basic English. The medium of education throughout Papua New Guinea
is English, thus many young persons nationwide are able to speak, read,
and write communicable English. There are a total 860 native languages
and dialects spoken throughout Papua New Guinea out of the 3, 400 native
languages spoken worldwide.
It is warm during the day and gets cooler in the night. Thick blankets
become useful during some of the nights at Kokop, although used unfrequently.
During the rainy seasons, it can be very cold, windy, and chilly. During
sunny seasons, it can be warm in the nights and a presence of moist air
can be felt. Mud is synonymous with rainy season, and dust is synonymous
with sunny seasons.
Food, and Feasting: Food gardens in Kokop are located predominately
away from the families’ hut houses, though not always. All kinds of vegetables
are grown. Sweet potato or “kaukau” is the staple among the Kentiga. Bananas
and taros of different kinds are supplemental to the main staple. Pig and
chicken meat are eaten occasionally. The Kokop people are somewhat vegetarian
because they do not have meat of all kinds in their daily diet unless available.
Sharing of food is a powerful way of making friends in this culture as
always been through endless ages. Food sharing unites enemies or can divide
friends into lifelong enemies. Food poisoning was one way to cause
deliberate death to an enemy apart from tribal fights. Feasts occur only
during set dates and involves the participation of nearly everyone or majority
of the people from the tribe. Feasts can become too ellaborate and a source
The practice or lifestyle of polgygamy, once common, is now are less common
practice. Often businessmen of today resort to such a practice, although
not many in numbers. My great-grandfather was a polygamist, so was my grandfather.
My father practised polygamy but later dismissed all his wivies to get
married only to my mother. The lifestyle of children and wivies in a polygamous
relationships are often difficult, painful, and leave scars for ages. Modern
religions such as Christianity practiced nationwide discourage polygamy.
There are speculations growing out of grave concerns to outlaw this practice.
Whether it will be outlawed or not is something that is yet to be seen
in time, but there is one thing certain: polygamy is a "Big-Man" thing
and it is here to stay in Western Highlands Province and Papua New Guinea.
Nearly all the children at Kokop go to primary schools in the nearby villages.
About 90 percent of the teenagers and young adults at Kokop have been to
some level of education. Many parents place education as a foremost priority
for their kids. My dad enforced his will on me in an excruciatingly disciplinarian
during my school days, thus making me reach the heights of educational
successes I enjoy today. There is no education facility of any kind in
Kokop. I am hoping that one day, there will be a primary school or some
educational institution for the Kentiga people.
There is no health facility in the village, however there is one clinic
that was newly built at another village where some of the Kentiga people
live. It is not far from Kokop. The head of Western Highlands Province's
health department is a gentleman from Kentiga Tribe. He made sure that
a health clinic was established in his homeland. The Kentiga people finally
enjoy the benefits of health services provided by this clinic near Kokop.
Most of the sicknesses present at Kokop were never heard of before. In
fact, the older generation wonder as to where these set of cruel diseases
came from. All they guess is that the "white men" brought it all on them.
Few older people think that it is God's curse on society for disobedience.
Traditional herbal medicines are still used today despite the fact that
younger generations are losing touch with such practices due to convinience
and trust brought about by modern medicines. The biggest killer disease
at Kokop, according to my knowledge would be respiratory related diseases.
AIDS is a growing concern nationwide. Many people at Kokop are paranoid
as of late by the spread of HIV virus.
Ever heard of Papua New Guinea as a land where cannibals exist? Well, not
over here! When I grew up, it was the people from the other tribes that
did it, not us. When I went to visit friends from those tribes, they pointed
their fingers at us or other tribes. It is thus a blaming game ("pass on
the buck") here in Kokop. My father told me that when the first white men
arrived in 1930s at Mt. Hagen, his father was one of the first native to
witness their arrivals. The natives then thought these white men were cannibals.
The white men upon seeing the raw state of the natives thought these people
were cannibals. This fallacy of judgement from shallow evidence consisted
a spread of "news" from either sides that cannibalism exists. However,
the "fact" is that certain tribes on the coastal areas and parts of the
highlands region practised cannibalism. Whether that "fact" is substantiated
or not remains a mystery, even to this day. "Joke: When you are invited
for a meal at a Papua New Guinean's house, first ask them what would be
served for the meal. You never know, you might be the meal instead!"
and Nature: The natural landscape is phenominally picturesque. One
has got to bring a camera to appreciate the memories of traveling to Kokop.
There are over 2, 000 different species of orchids found in Papua New Guinea.
Some of these orchids are naturally home to the jungles and sides of river
systems at Kokop. There are over 38 species of the colorful Birds of Paradise.
Some of these birds are home to Kokop. Diversity of plant, insect, and
animal life is found everywhere at Kokop.
and Safety Issues: Kokop is the last place on earth for any international
guest to start worrying about security or safety issues. Here is why: the
people of Papua New Guinea come from over a thousand tribes. These tribes
have rules and regulations that are written within the conscious of every
person. One of the rule is that any visitor coming into the tribe's territory
should be shown respect. In essence, if a visitor comes to stay in my home
at Kokop, nobody will do any harm to this visitor. That is because it is
the law. Secondly, if anyone from the village does any harm (which is very
rare an instance), that person will account to me and my family as well
as to the entire tribe regarding the reasons of such harm inflicted on
a visitor. Normally, such persons are punished through shame and compensation
payments, the later as a sign of saying "sorry" to the victims. Over all,
the chances of getting into some unknown safety issues at Kokop is nearly
impossible. You can count on my words.
& Legal Issues: Prior to the arrival of white men, the natives
had their own legal system. Certain persons within the tribe, normally
tribal leaders would congregate at one place at a set time to find ways
to solve a social problem or crime. Common traditional problems that would
enter such court system would be raping of women, disputes over ownership
of land, murder, food poisoning, and stealing, among others. The modern
legal system's arrival has played a major influence in the change of role
and perspective of traditional leaders and their legal role in society.
Compensation payments for any crime commited has been and still is a norm.
The influence of modern money has changed the initial purpose of compensation,
which is expressing apology, to the present day perception of compensation
as a means of getting free monies. Compensation payment in the latter aspect
has brought uncalculated results. In any event, the tribal leaders and
their traditional legal system is still alive, not to strongly as used
to be, but present inspite of the fact that decisions are blurred due to
the confusion of western law's interpretation in a traditional society.
Kokop Village never used to have roads before the 1970s. Between then and
now (2001), there is an accessible road system which is under the provincial
government's plans to be sealed in 2002. If it is sealed, the equation
will change; life, people, culture, and thought patterns will change as
they have been over the past three decades. Since the arrival of the first
white men n 1930s and today (2001), the changes have been extremely fast,
even faster than the mind could absorb. There are few permanent houses,
modern generators, and use of electronic equipments are being used at Kokop.
The growing trend of favoring pop culture and being drawn towards it among
the young population is evident. The changes within the psychological and
physical mindset are so drastic, sometimes there are indications of culture
shock. The modern culture and traditional culture are always conflicting
somewhere within the process of change in various aspects of life at Kokop.
Only a foreign eye could witness the clarity of such cultural shift and
the tensions that compose it all. The Kentiga people and Kokop Village
are subject to constant change due to modern forces sweeping through the
mediums of mass education and socialization activities.
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