[Our family stayed in Sydney for another year and then spent two years in the Philippines. Unfortunately, there are no journals for this period so I have included the few letters my mother sent from the Philippines. Martial law was introduced to the Philippines by President Marcos in September 1972. This prompted us to return to Emu Park in 1973.]
2nd May 1971
Yes, we’d be delighted to have Mark. Leave him with us for as long as you like. A holiday in the Philippines and the countryside would do him a world of good. Manila is a pleasant city and the countryside in Luzon is magnificent. We haven’t had the chance to visit any of the other islands. The best thing is the people, diverse, very able and friendly in a person to person fashion.
We’ll send him back to you speaking Tagalog.
7th May 1971
So we are here in the Pilipinas. Magandang umaga po = Good morning Sir or Madam.
What have I to report? Nothing very much really. So terribly ordinary – like ordering furniture, looking for kapok and buying fish and coffee beans. We went out to a Welcome to the Philippines Dinner last night and it was all wrong, discreet and rich. I felt sad although the view was good. An 11th floor Sydney view without water and two nice bits of meat spoilt with too much food beforehand. I drank lemon and soda, longing for a cigarette.
We have a fish pond in the tiny garden and we have stocked it with fish. Lost all the guppies because they swam away forever through the outlet pipe. Bought more – very expensive. Anyway, a stupid price for a guppy. Especially guppies given to disappearing down the drain.
Was it hot when we arrived! Man was it hot. Port Moresby was an adventure. A slow roast at 325F. This machine [IBM electric typewriter] sticks at a certain place and all the keys are different for each golf ball and I have a chart which I don’t look at and so get things wrong. My reflexes are all wrong too, I press to get a semi-colon on golf ball courier 72 and I get an N with a curl on top of it. I ask you, how does one disguise an N with a curl on top of it to look like a semi-colon? Life is very difficult.
We have one maid and seem to have difficulty getting another. That’s because Johnny would like a mature woman who is able to cook Pilipino foods. These golf balls are the end and I feel so hungry, it is 1.30pm and I’m waiting for Johnny to return.
We have a betel leaf creeper in the garden and alas and alack, poetic justice and whatnot, I burnt my mouth trying out a betel-nut-lime chew. The lime being wot you whitewash catacombs with.
Can I think of nothing else but food? Yennyway, the place we are in is good. It’s going to rain presently and so things will cool off. Got to type a long paper for Johnny now – wish me luck. I will be at it all weekend if this letter is any guide. So bye for now. Maybe I shall have something worthwhile to say tomorrow.
15th May 1971
So wot to report. I’m sitting in the kanteen of the Philippine Women’s University drinking black instankoffee, facing a notice which says:
TO THE MANAGEMENT (Establishment?)
This reminds me of a super one I’d been saving for you. On a noticeboard somewhere I read:
DON’T READ THIS
Alas, nothing below the arrow.
Which brings to mind (though I fail to see the connection) of hundreds of wooden carvings for sale of a fist with the middle finger (extra long) sticking straight up. Wot significance? Dare I ask? Whom?
People here are great. Mostly smiling and bursting into song now and then.
There’s this market filled with 2” by 2” shops (I exaggerate very little) selling ready-made dresses. Thousands and thousands of 2’ by 2’ shops and everyone (der women) wears dresses, she said sadly burning herself with the instakoffee.
Why yam I drinking koffee at the kanteen of the Phil. Women’s Univ.? Because I am waiting for a 9am to strike so that I can present myself for the dance course I am attending.
We’re being taught by der famous Bayanihan dancers. Them dat goes round the world many times. They are good. We’re a mixed class – mainly school teachers and young kids. Every Saturday the Bayanihan dancers put on a show and this Saturday, tomorrow, we will go to see them.
It is now Saturday and I’ve returned from the dance performances and am copying out what I wrote in my notebook to you. We have learnt three dances so far. Jota Canitena, Pandanggo and the well-known Tinikling. There are no fs and vs in Tagalog by the way and c comes out as k; pity me, am I not mixed up already?
There seems to be a natural grace about everybody and the students don’t look awkward learning the dances. I feel like a bluddy giraffe.
The first dance I can only just do, the second needs practice because we’re supposed to balance a glass, with burning candle inside, on our head and a glass (mit said candle) on the back of each hand and dance and smile and look graceful.
17th June 1971
Thank you very much for your letter. It came as a great relief to me because I was worried. I had visions of the three of you in a Nepalese jail gnawing on dry powroti.
You could keep up your reading at least can’t you? When Anna is asleep? I should be the last one to ask that question – I would like to do so many things but what happens? I get side-tracked and end up doing very little. Are we not frail?
It is good to be in Manila but it will be better when we get out of to the Provinces – when we can speak Pilipino. We are here initially for another year, but would like to stay on for another year.
Let me know when you know your short-term and long-term plans. Maybe.
Oh hell, are we not all insecure? That is, most of us don’t have very much money, don’t know where we’re going etc. etc. and all that. This is not much help is it? But above all, don’t worry, it is killing, I know.
The kids are fine, the moves upset them a little initially and then they make friends and enjoy themselves till the next move. Gareth is three now and talks and talks.
I’m using an IBM electric typewriter and when I change the golf ball type I don’t know where everything is and get the queerest things when I want a question mark or say a simple comma.
I had better stop and post this to you soon. Give Anna a big kiss for me, maybe I’ll see you someday. Give my regards to Minoru.
Use the Australian address, it is much quicker.
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