Prince Philip: The tribe on the island of Vanuatu that worshipped the Duke of Edinburgh as a god mourn his death

Video report by ITV News Correspondent Geraint Vincent

As people in the UK mourn the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, a tribe on the Pacific island of Vanuatu who revered Prince Philip as a god came together on Monday to remember him. Journalist Ginny Stein reports from Vanuatu for ITV News.

"Prince Philip was a black man", Chief Willie Lop, the highest ranking man on Vanuatu’s Tanna Island spoke without a shadow of a doubt. 

We met as he was getting ready to welcome this South Pacific Island nation’s entire cabinet to his island.  

In a land where cultural and traditional beliefs or stories, command respect and play a huge role in the way people live, paying respects to the chief of all chiefs on this remote island, far from Britain, was of paramount importance.

I needed to pay my respects in order to gain access to a village where talks of succession were about to begin. 

'We believe that Prince Philip came from Tanna', says Chief Willie Lop, the highest ranking man on Vanuatu’s Tanna Island Credit: Ginny Stein

Since the 1950s, people here have revered the Duke of Edinburgh as the spirit of an ancient warrior who swam into the sea in search of a distant land.

"We believe that Prince Philip came from Tanna, and that he went to England and married Queen Elizabeth. We have been in touch with him. He sent us his photo as a sign," said Chief Willie.

In the main market of Lenakel, we meet others, who also had a stories to tell about Prince Philip.  

But the same question is repeated. "Where do you believe Prince Philip was born?"

"Where I come from, people think he was born a long way from here," I say, trying to be as diplomatic as I can be, "but I know you believe things differently here." 

Some of the people of Vanuatu believed Prince Philip was a god Credit: Ginny Stein

To be in Tanna, and to spend a day immersed with followers of the Prince Philip movement, is to feel as though you are seeing a belief system coming to terms with itself.

It is growing, and moving to its own rhythms, taking in as much of the outside world as it chooses, while staying true to itself. 

The road to the island village of Yakel, is rough. Deep trenches, with jungles closing in on either side. And then, the jungle parts and we enter a wide nakamal - a traditional meeting place in Vanuatu - surrounded by tall, shading giving banyan tree. 

The island village of Yakel in Tanna, Vanuatu Credit: Ginny Stein

People here live a kastom filled life - a local word derived from 'custom' referring to traditional culture and way life of Vanuatu passed down through the generations which many hold dear.

The stories passed down over generations dictate how people live. The people of Yakel have already decided who they believe should succeed Prince Philip to lead their movement.  

People have been gathering to tell their stories of Prince Philip Credit: Ginny Stein

Prince Charles will succeed him, I am told. Charles will take the rank that was given to his father. 

I have come with a colleague to Yakel to pay our respects but also to keep a promise, made to an elder some years ago. That we would record a secret message to be delivered to the Queen and the Royal family. 

"We are terribly, terribly sorry that Prince Philip has died," Chief Albi says. The rest of what he says I cannot say. 

Not far away, down a windy bush track, that only those familiar with this area could hope to find, we make our way to another village.  

Yaohnanen village is widely viewed as the birthplace of The Prince Philip Movement. 

The people of Vanuatu are discussing if Charles should replace Philip Credit: Ginny Stein

The Union Flag is flying at half mast on the grounds of the nakamal. Men are lying around, waiting to take turns to speak. There is a sombre, seriousness about the events here today. 

The passing of a man, who many admired for his respect of traditions, and for the support he showed his wife, means discussions will not be taken lightly.

The people of Yaohnanen are willing to consider Prince Charles as a candidate, but there is no guarantee he will be handed the title. 

Chief Jack Malia leads discussion, but steps back as soon as he is done, to let others have their say. 

The Union Flag at half mast in the village of Yakel Credit: Ginny Stein

These talks could well go on for days. The future of the movement is at stake. But for the people of Tanna, there is one certainty. Links to Britain will never be severed. 

"Queen Elizabeth remains, but her husband is dead. We have a connection with the mother of (the royal family)," Chief Jack Malia told me.  

"Earlier we talked about how our families are linked. We were linked before and we are still linked with them." 

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