Chief Malabo, from around 1919, was a bridge between the Bubis and the Spanish colonizers. ((c) Gunther Tessman/afrolNews)
Chapter 61: Supreme Chiefs
As a conclusion to this series of articles about the Bubis, we are going to say a few words about some of their principal chiefs.
The Spanish and foreigners who have lived on this Fernandian island have only known three supreme chiefs who reigned over all the island.
The first and most memorable was Moka, who had given his name to the heights of Riabba, today called the Valley of Moka.
I knew Moka personally and dealt with him on various occasions. He was a person of majestic presence, just and noble in his conduct, and the first to deal with Europeans.
The first of January of 1888, four and one-half months after the celebrated Father Juanola established the Catholic Mission of Conception in the village of Bolobé on picturesque Conception Bay, Moka sent a messenger to Father Manuel Puente, superior of the mission. He was told that if the inhabitants and chiefs of the villages of Kutari, Bepepe, Bolobé, all those of lower Biapa, including the Bolokos and other villages neighboring the mission, caused trouble for or bothered the mission, Moka would be told and they would be punished. The same was true for the residents of the mission. He would punish them if they caused problems for the villages. Because, Moka told him, “I have the right to end the life of those who violate my decrees.”
The 24th of September of the same year, Father Puente with Brother Lacunza went to the heights of Biapa, court of the king, to salute and offer presents to King Moka and his subordinate chief, Sas Ebuera. They were well received and exchanged gifts, according to Bubi custom.
The 13th of March of the following year Father Puente again went up, this time with Brother Puig, to implore to Moka that he make education mandatory. This Moka refused, saying: “We are not European and we don’t need it.”
They visited the lake, which they discovered after much work since the superstitious Bubi would not tell them where it was, much less accompany them, for fear of the resident spirit they believed lived in those waters. Some school children saw the missionaries drink from the water and were filled with fear. They believed they were going to die, punished by the morimó for this profanity. But, seeing that nothing happened to the missionaries, the boys decided to drink the water and, naturally, nothing happened to them as well.
In February of 1891, Father Sáenz went up to confer with Moka and his council of advisers about rumors circulating among the Bubis that the mission was going to be destroyed. Moka said the rumors were not true. To the contrary, King Moka asked for help from the missionaries to resolve a conflict that had been presented to him in Bantabaré. There had been a killing after a quarrel, and Moka had imposed a large fine on the murderer, but the man refused to pay. Father Sáenz accompanied Moka to the village. Moka was astonished that Father Sáenz carried firearms with him, this apparent lack of trust a discouragement to him. The Father cheered him, however, by saying he was not afraid, that being in the presence of Moka was enough.
Upon arriving at Bantabaré, the Father, with Moka, called the village to a large assembly. They all gathered, but after a lot of chatter, nothing had been resolved. The missionary imposed silence and announced: "It is a question of punishing a murderer with a fine imposed by the king, and he will pay it, even if it will be with force.” A Bubi tried to interrupt him, but a Kruman attacked him, shouting: “Be quiet, Spain is speaking now.” The fine was paid immediately and the matter concluded.
In a few days the gunboat Pelicano arrived with its commander, Mr. Shelly, to punish the Bubis, but it wasn’t necessary. Instead, the commander, with Father Juanola, went up to Moka to interview the king. They established an intimate relationship, and the Spanish flag was hoisted.
In the year 1896 Father Pardina with Brother Puig went up again to visit Moka, requesting the king cede to them a field to experiment with sowing potatoes and to build a small house.
When Moka had seen the good results of the potato planting, he also wanted to try it. This was the first potato harvest in Upper Biapa or the Valley of Moka.
Some time after, two Methodist pastors visited Moka, asking that he allow them to put a mission of their sect in the area, but he refused, saying, “They are enough for me, the Spanish Fathers.”
A memorable date is that of the 19th of February of 1897, when the governor general, Adolfo España, with Mr. Baíllo, Father Juanola and Father Albanell, after visiting the mineral waters of Balacha and the large lake, then visited King Moka. He received them very well and joined with the Bubi chiefs in proclaiming their vassalage to the representative of Spain. The governor general, in recompense, gave them license for the use of gunpowder.
In December 1897, the Most Reverend Father Apostolic Prefect, accompanied by Fathers Mallén and Aymemí, went up from Musola to visit King Moka, who was painstaking in entertaining them, giving them lodging for two days in his village. Not so the second chief, Sas Ebuera, who angrily returned some cloth that the Most Reverent Father had gifted to the boys and girls of his settlement. Moka, upon seeing the shamelessness of Sas, threw him out of his house with indignation, saying to him: "In my house no one can trouble the Fathers.”
Finally, the 22nd of February in 1899, up went Father Pardina to visit the settlements of Upper Biapa. He found Moka seriously ill, so much so that he died the following day without his having been able to speak of religion, as they hid the sick king, his corpse, and the site where they buried him. They treated foreigners with so much reserve.
The legitimate successor to Moka should have been Malabo, brother of Moka. However, Sas Ebuera, against all rights and through force, seized power, silencing peaceful Malabo.
In October of 1899 some missionaries of Musola and Conception went up to the Moka highlands to see the coronation of intrusive Sas Ebuera as supreme chief of the Bubis. The ceremony was poor and lackluster; the food and drink, skimpy, the dancing, little animated. The allocution of Sas was extremely cold, and his comportment with his assistants was reserved and barely polite. The attendance was of some five hundred people in entirety.
In a few days he had already prohibited the Bubis, under severe penalty, to be in touch with foreigners, including the missionaries, as he abhorred their customs.
Few years could his reign last. The governor found himself forced to punish the rebelliousness of Sas, of Pasy, his commander, and of Bioko, his instigator. They refused to comply with the orders of the Spanish governor, saying they feared no one and that if the whites had weapons, they, too, had weapons.
On June 26, 1904, the lieutenant of the civil guard, a Mr. De la Torre, with a white corporal of Conception, the Senalgese sergeant Sila, and a good number of indigenous soldiers, were put in charge of punishing their disrespect to authority. It sufficed that Sergeant Sila went up to Moka with the police, who found no resistance in the Bubis. Sas was sick and was low in his hammock with many people of his village imprisoned. They were transferred to Santa Isabel, where Sas died in the hospital on July 3, but not of illness, but for his tenacious refusal to eat and take medicine. Before he expired, he received baptism, after sufficient instruction, taking the name of Pablo. Thus ended all. The rest of the prisoners returned immediately to their domiciles.
With this the road remained clear for Malabo to take his place as chief. He was from the most ancient of the family of Moka, whose family, according to the Bubis, had brought the Bubis to the island.
Malabo was the opposite of Sas. His conduct followed that of his big brother Moka. He was very attached to the Spanish governor, peaceful, and quite dear to both Bubis and foreigners.
Upon his death, not long ago, at the respectable state of more than a century of years, we can say that with Malabo ended the great leadership of the Bubis.