Hats off to Bun Pan Guy
Many years ago, 43 to be exact, on our way to Barrouallie, dey was dis elderly fellar, well dressed in âfuneral wearâ, standing on de ole Cane Grove bridge, hitching ah ride. He thanked us foh picking him up, den introduced himself: âI am de man dey call Bun Pan Guyâ he said. Ah was meeting him foh de first time, ah did hear ah lot of him, how he was de Founder and President of âBun Pan,â de Marriaqua United Friendly Society, de countryâs biggest and most popular Society, wid thousands ah members from practically every community throughout SVG.
Ah financial member of de organization had died and he, as de Societyâs boss, was heading to Rose Hall to certify de man died and actually disbursed de $900 death benefit money at dat time. Today, Bun Pan pays $5, 300 death benefit. Ah was asked to mek an appeal to citizens to join de Society and keep one ah we rich Heritage alive. Lie-Za say ah donât have long to live, so she signing me up and putting her name as de beneficiary. She nah know âMe hard fee dead!â
Dis âBun Pan Guyâ was ah humble man wid ah vision. Way back den and before, poor people were afraid to die, couldnât afford ah decent burial. Many folks had to hussle to de Prisons to buy ah rough looking $5 Breadfruit board coffin made by prisoners in de apprenticeship program.
So Bun Pan Guy came up wid a simple I-dear dat allowed everybody, poor as well as rich, to have a respectable burial. All he asked for, was members to make small, but regular monthly savings towards dey Funeral expenses. De key word was Strength! âStrength in numbers, Strength in Unity!â Ah member dies, de Society buries him/her, at de end of de financial year, all death benefits paid out were counted, de total was divided among de thousands of surviving members. Interestingly de âannual fineâ or âdeath contributionâ per person was as low as $20 a year, but dat was actually oneâs contribution towards his/her funeral expenses later. Back den people lived longer. Cancer and AIDS were unheard of! Fewer cars and vans, so people got exercise from walking! We ate what we grew, KFC was âKeep Fish Cooking!â Sugar was ah sweetener not ah Disease, Tyres and not people had Pressure.
Bun Pan Society also served as ah âSave Allâ at Christmas foh members who made good monthly payments thru de year. December when all Society Books were made up, death fines deducted, members had nuff money left over to draw-out and go Christmas Shopping at Chippy Browneâs Shopping Centre in Freeland.
Ah Friendly Society is good foh de community and de country. Datâs why it vex me to read Searchlightâs Back Page headlines: â Membersâ Funds may be at risk in Friendly Societies in SVG.â How de president of de Buccament Wise and Prudent Friendly Society got 12 months up Be-Lie foh stealing $ 85, 000 of de Societyâs Funds. Den deyâs talk dat âhanky-pankyâ going on in de Troumaca Temperance Friendly Society. Dem non-cents canât happen in Bun Pan, not anymore. Not under de distinguished Press-he-den-see of Mad-is-straight Ricky Burn-it. And all dem pussy-cats in dem Societies wid dem deceptive names like âWise and Prudent and Temperance and Friendly?â send dem Courts ley Ricky prosecute dem; he reserving ah short ten years up Be-Lie fee dem!
Before ah close, Lie-Za say to tell de PM dat âCoconut Batâ and Ed-yuh-care-shun went fuh a race and âCoconut Batâ won. And wid dat is gone ah gone again.
One Love Bassy
Bassy Alexander is a land surveyor, folklorist and social commentator.