On scorching summer days with thermometers edging up to fanciful temperatures, Gozo swarms with tourists. A brisk ten-minute walk south-west of the capital Victoria - a daring endeavor in the blistering heat - brings a day tripper to the outskirts of a tiny village - Il-Munxar.
The peaceful atmosphere and a soft refreshing breeze hide the feverish activity going on during the busy hours of the morning. Even before daybreak the tolls of the parish church bells have pierced the shrouding silence, beckoning the faithful to worship. At sunrise, housewives and farmers are already at work tending with care to their duties. Meanwhile, the outstretched hand of St. Paul - the patron saint of Il-Munxar towards whom the parishioners' devotion and veneration have never ceased - keeps a constant vigil over the community life.
Wedged between the sloping sides of two parallel valleys Il-Munxar is a closely-knit village community - a characteristic evoked by its motto, 'Parvulus set munitus', small but secure. Il-Munxar is Maltese for 'bucksaw', a saw set in an adjustable H shaped frame used for sawing firewood on a buck. The imagery is suggested by the promontory that runs from behind the village church sawing into the surrounding area creating Ghancija valley on the Il-Munxar side and Ix-Xlendi valley on the Il-Fontana side.
The name is first recorded as 'il monxar' in a notarial deed of July 2, 1584. A 1790 census showed 79 families living in Il-Munxar. Since then the village population, excepting minor interludes such as the cholera outbreak of 1837, has been gradually increasing, reaching a present aggregate just short of seven hundred. Worth mentioning are the remnants of a prehistoric temple at Ta' Marziena, Il-Munxar. These age-old relics are a number of megalithic blocks in which however, curvilinear wall alignments can be recognized and a plan of them drawn by Trump in 1960 reveals a long semi-elliptical stretch of wall with the open side facing east. An arrangement of stones within the enclosed area suggests the shape of one or two apses of a temple. Several Ggantija and Hal Tarxien shreds can be observed on the soil surface.
Throughout the years, Il-Munxar has always retained exclusive features and traditions. In the last decade however, young people have been inclined to abandon their parents' ploughshare, herd and household chores in favour of books and a more rewarding job which yields money and satisfaction. Eminent among the village people is Professor Joseph Aquilina - a name synonymous to the native language. Born in Il-Munxar on April 7, 1911, Professor Aquilina graduated first as Bachelor of Arts and later as a lawyer from the University of Malta. Between 1937 and 1940 he read Comparative Semitic Philology at the University of London where he obtained a doctorate. Among the prominent posts which Aquilina held as a full time professor at the University of Malta, was that as Dean of the Faculty of Arts. Author of numerous works, including novels, critical studies, drama, linguistic papers and religious books, Professor Aquilina has recently published his monumental 'Maltese-English Dictionary'. Indeed an achievement which honours his birthplace.
Within a stone's throw of Il-Munxar's parish church, there is Ix-Xlendi Bay, a popular tourist resort encompassed within a sprawling countryside. The lapping blue ripples which caress the golden sands in summer change to surging foam and heaving waves in mid-Winter. Otherwise foreigners and locals gaze spell bound as the copper red sunsets of late Spring and early Autumn adorn the clear waters with gilded streaks on a garnished phosphorescence.
Besides the parish church, a temple wrought from the typical Maltese milk-white stone, Il-Munxar prides itself with an impressive Parish Centre, the foundations of which were laid in 1972. The building of this multi-purpose complex was terminated in the subsequent years, following the indefatigable efforts of the community wisely led by Fr. Savior Debrincat parish priest at that time. In time the parish centre has become the hub of practically all major pastoral, social, educational, cultural and recreational activities of the village.
An official primary school has never been established in Il-Munxar in spite of a post-war attempt in this respect. In fact late in November 1953 a junior school was opened in a rented building which however lasted only until May 1955. Since then, students have always received their elementary educational at Ta' Sannat Primary school. Nonetheless two parish-based kindergarten classes operated in the late 1960s. Furthermore a very recent innovation has been the launching of a Summer school run by the Education Department. A wide variety of subjects is offered ranging from elementary instruction to post-secondary tuition. The aim behind this project, which so far has been successful is to keep students academically oriented even during the holiday season. The Il-Munxar Local Council was established in June 1994.
It is nightfall. As the twilight recedes, the lonely shepherd returns with his flock, the weary student closes his books, the fatigued worker is at home with his family and the Rosary beads roll silently through the weak fingers of the aged, invoking Providence for yet another serene night over Il-Munxar.