Lukas: The Fish Caller


Lukas Barayap in action

Tempo magazine
10-16 January 2011

He can summon different kinds of fishes at Doreri Bay, West Papua. Lukas Barayap got his ability from prayers. He believes man can communicate with animals as told by stories of Prophet Suleiman in the Bible and Koran. He guards and protects the ocean from threats of bomb explosion and potassium by fishermen. Bakaro Beach is now green. The waves are good for surfing. Not just in Doreri Bay, fishes in Toba Lake also listen to him. Tempo’s reporter Bagja Hidayat reported his skill of calling fish.

Standing on Bakaro Beach edge wearing a polo shirt and shorts, Lukas Awiman Barayap blew his whistle while throwing tree termites into the ocean. Weather on the second Friday morning of December was clear. Wind blew softly after last night’s rain poured down on Manokwari, capital of West Papua.

Lukas kept blowing his whistle. Higher pitch and higher. After throwing quarter of his tree termites, miraculously, waves started to get bigger. Strangely, the wind still blew softly. The water that initially only covered his feet now covered his waist. Its strength pushed this fifty year old man backward two steps.

“Look, they’re coming,” he yelled. Lukas blew his whistle louder and threw more termites.

The green and clear water of Doreri Beach showed another miracle. The water turned colourful from various fishes eating termites. Many surfed the waves to come near his foot as if to say hello.

Seeing fishes as big as five fingers came near, Lukas lowered his body to drop the termite into the water and whispered to the fishes, “Tell your friends to come here. There’s food.” He blew another whistle. Prit….prit….

Lukas came out of the water to climb to a higher cliff to blow his final whistle and threw his last termites. “That is bulanak, this one is kapas, babara, kakatua and over there is hias,” he pointed to the fishes underneath.

He stared at them before turning his body. Slowly, group by group of fishes disappeared into the ocean or swam behind the corals. The waves also went back to normal.

Lukas’ ability to call and communicate with fishes and other water creatures in Doreri Bay started in 1995. At that time, Bakaro Beach was still isolated. Squeezed in between small islands, the beach that connects directly to Pacific Oceean was unknown to many.

But this beach attracted lots of fishermen since you can clearly see fishes and coral reefs from your boat. So the ocean slaughter period began in 1999. Impatient fishermen used potassium poison to catch fishes. “Mornings used to be like war zone. Bombs went off endlessly,” said Lukas.

Then in the afternoon, dead fishes floated, coral reef ruined, the beach damaged. Lukas who has lived here since 1979 could not stand it. As a Merauke local, he knows those destroyers were not Bakaro people. Bakaro fishermen caught fishes using small hooks from boats. They only caught enough for daily supply, only selling if there’s left over. As a preacher, Lukas kept reminding his followers to protect Bakaro River.

The demolition from outside fishermen triggered Lukas to find a way to stop them. He realised him alone could not oppose many bomb-using fishermen. Nor could he preach to them to preserve nature. He got a crazy idea on the night of 15 December 1995. Lukas would try to gather the fishes around him when those fishermen assembled the bombs.

Lukas believes human can speak to animals as written in the Genesis 1: 26-28. Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” The same goes in Koran that mentions Prophet Suleiman’s ability to talk to animals.

The next day Lukas walked to the coast. His house is only 200 meters away. He sat on one of the cliff facing the ocean. He closed his eyes and started praying: “Please show us God what You have revealed to the Prophets….show us….show us…..”

With full concentration, he kept praying. Suddenly, he heard a man screamed behind him from far away mountain. “Try tree termites……” It was definitely human’s voice. Lukas opened his eyes and turned around. Nobody there. The morning was quiet. No Bakaro man had come out of their house. He faced back into the ocean and closed his eyes.

Lukas continued to pray for ways with his sincere intention to call those fishes so he could save them. “Then I heard a spirit’s voice advising me to use materials around me,” he said. He grabbed a stone and knocked it on the cliff. Miracle appeared. Waves turned big carrying fishes to the shore near him. Lukas was amazed on what he saw.

But those fishes quickly left since Lukas only stood there. They swam back to the ocean. Lukas went home. “Maybe they were disappointed I didn’t give any food,” he said. He went looking for tree termites as suggested by the voice he heard. “Who knows it might be the clue.”

Lukas came back with a handful of termites. Now the fishes came near to eat on tree termites.

Day by day, he is astounded by his own ability to call ocean fishes. He knocks a stone then throws termites that gather fishes to eat.

But Lukas wondered if tree termites are the only kind fishes like to eat. Lukas dived and threw rice, yam and termite. “Turns out, they only eat the termites,” he said. Now, every morning, Lukas feeds those fishes while many fishermen prepared to go fishing with their bombs.

While feeding the fishes, Lukas kept saying to them, “Tell your friends, there is food here so gather around in the morning.” Apart from stone, Lukas tried a whistle. They still came. Since then, Lukas uses a whistle and tree termites to gather fishes of Doreri Bay.

His loud morning whistle blow triggered interest from people of Bakaro. They gathered around and shocked to see Lukas could call and speak to fishes. Stories circulated from mouth to mouth. Lukas’ ability became the show of his town with news saying he possesses special skill.

Lukas always refuses to call his ability as a skill. “This is a gift. I only believe in God,” he said. He is convinced everyone can do it as long as they believe. In his prayers, he always asks the same gift for his wife and two children. “Our intention has to be sincere and we believe this is no black magic.”

His prayers were answered. Marta Barayap, Lukas’s wife, can do the same thing. This 48-year old woman takes turn with Lukas in feeding the fishes in Doreri Bay using a whistle and tree termites every morning. Later on, Musa and Helena Barayap could also do the same thing. Those 10 and 8-year-old children can call out to fishes.

Apparently, this only works for member of Barayap family. Many neighbours and visitors tried to imitate but did not succeed. Tempo too tried blowing the whistle and throwing termites but no fish showed up.

Lukas Barayap’s fame soon travelled outside Barayo. People came to see Lukas in action. They came not only from around Manokwari but also from out of island, even from out of the country. This is because of when tourists asked what is unique in Manokwari, people would answer, “Go and see the fish caller at white sand”, to question

This miracle is a blessing for Bakaro. The green beach full of coconut and mangrove trees has returned to its clean condition. Lukas forbids anyone to fish there, especially while he is feeding them. Fishermen can only catch fish using hook. No one use bomb anymore. Apart from not getting any fish, they are afraid of Lukas.

Children are busy surfing. Here, children are taught to swim and dive since they were a year old. After school, they will run to the coast and play endlessly. Or wait for their parents to come home from fishing.

In 1996, Papua Governor Jacob Pattipi visited Lukas to see for himself Lukas’ ability to call fishes. The governor’s arrival was followed by infrastructure renovation. Road connection to Manokwari was asphalt to facilitate other curious local authorities. Two years later, Bakaro’s 112 families enjoyed their first electricity. Teachers were transferred to teach Bakaro children.

More and more visitors came since the road access was easier. It only takes 20-minute drive from Manokwari down South. This bay is also near Mansinam Island where the Bible first arrived in Papua and is busy with pilgrimage every 5th February 2011. Local government built gazebos for short tourist rest. “This is truly a blessing for us here,” said Lukas who is also the village secretary.

He has never refused any visitor’s request to call fishes. The graduate from Manokwari Preaching School is never tired of repeating his 1995 spiritual story. “Once again, this is not magic. Everyone can do it,” he said. “I always pray that everyone can do this to protect nature and environment.”

Lukas believes that we can communicate with animals, we will love and protect them. Human act contemptible towards animals because they don’t know what animals have given to them.

Lukas never asked for money when asked to perform his fish calling. If a tourist gives him money, he will then donate it for church activities.

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