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Macau Stories: Reflections on Macau & the Macanese

 

saudades macau (english) | saudades macau (portuguese) | macanese - what future? | immigration stories |

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Saudades Macau

The following reflections by José L. R. Estorninho is an adaptation of a piece that was published in the 'Casa de Macau Australia Newsletter', issue June 2007.

To remember is to live. It is with fond memories that I put down some recollections of my childhood and of Macau. I lived in the block of houses in Rua da Praia Grande, an area of the city renowned for its ambience and the quality of life we enjoyed in those days. I remember for example, towards the end of the 50s and 60s, Rua da Praia Grande was the stage for many of the important happenings that took place in Macau. It was a place where everyday life manifested itself, from the highest to the humblest origins in the territory.

It was a place where we could enjoy beautiful views - watching sailing junks anchored in the bay, tranquilly framed by the shade of the large leafy trees, and yet at the same time it was a place that was bustling with colour and life. I can remember it to this day even though I was still a child at the time - anyone who lived there could never forget.

I remember pleasant men with their tricycles and rickshaws in front of our houses;
the fishermen with their rods sitting on the embankment wall of the bay or in bamboo huts with their nets in front of the “Bom Parto” fort.


I remember the coffee vendor “On Kei”; the grocer “A Hoi”; the “ngau nam min”; the fried “ngau lei sou”, and the “iau chá kuai” with “pak chuk”, “mak ngá tong” and “chu cheong fan”; “kau chang kou”; “tau fu fá”; “chá tau fu and van tan”; “ham ioc chong”; the woman selling bread and sweet cakes; fruits; and the man selling gasoline and the newspaper sellers, the “tin-tin” men who went around collecting newspaper and other items; and I remember, too, the men with their mobile carts selling ice cream.

I remember the students and their senior missionaries of the Ricci School;
I remember father Moreira of S. Lourenço parish, who used to travel on foot down all those steps from his church, together with his assistant, down past the slope next to the Government Palace , carrying a cross, incense and holy water to come and bless our houses at Easter.

I remember the Pousada de Macau where the sweet smell of their famous traditional cooking would assail every passer-by, and their cooks in their white aprons, carefree and happy while they took time to rest outside in a free
moment.

I remember the big typhoons that would come regularly in the hot summer months, devastating everything in their paths with strong winds which blew against our houses and whipped up great waves against the bay walls.

I remember the raising and the lowering of the Portuguese National flag and the guards of the colonial army from Mozambique at the Government Palace with their red Fez and mauser rifles with drawn bayonets - they were later replaced by the military police.

I remember the daily passage of the classic “Princess”, the dark limousine that used to carry the then governors of Macau to work.

I remember the military parades to celebrate the National day on 10th June with substantial support of the
population of Macau.

I remember the ferries “Tak Shin”, “Fat Shan” and the “Tai Loi” which would sound their loud horns to announce their arrival at Barra, the entrance to Inner Harbour.

I remember the fireworks on 1st October to celebrate China’s National day followed by the nationalists on 10th October; I remember Chinese New Year, the dragon boat races; the foot races and the cycling races; and the Our Lady of Fatima procession to Penha
Hill.

I remember the 123 incidents.

I remember the racing cars of the Macau Grand Prix and their drivers, the smell of burning oil and tyres from their cars and the ear shattering yet eloquent noises from their racing engines which permeated the whole area every year in November.

And finally, I remember Christmas, and the presents I would receive every year when I went to visit my old and good friend Rangel in house number 13 who sadly passed away last year.

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Saudades Macau

Porque recordar é viver, é com muitas saudades que venho aqui com algumas recordações da minha infância, assim como de Macau. Vivia eu então num dos quarteirões na Rua da Praia Grande, numa zona da cidade considerada priviligiada pelo ambiente e qualidade que desfrutávamos naqueles tempos.
Recordo-me, como exemplo nos finais dos anos 50 e 60, onde era praticamente, ali na Rua da Praia Grande, onde se desenrolava a mudança e o palco dos maiores acontecimentos de Macau.

Era também, por onde se vivia o quotidiano do dia a dia, desde as pessoas mais humildes à autoridade máxima do território. Os acontecimentos mais importantes de Macau passavam muitas vezes quase, inevitavelmente, a escassos metros das nossas casas, e mesmo frente às nossas janelas. Parecia que tudo acontecia incrivelmente perto à nossa volta como se de um “écran” enorme, e um filme ao vivo se tratasse. Era realmente uma zona muito agradável para se viver, onde as nossas casas podiam desfrutar com uma bela vista para o mar, e os juncos de vela que na altura se ancoravam e atracavam junto àquela baía, com as suas àrvores frondosas, emprestavam um ar e ambiente calmo, mas que oferecia ao mesmo tempo, movimento e colorido à vida para quem ali morava. Sendo, eu na altura ainda miúdo, mas também testemunho: Pois, para quem lá viveu nunca haverá de esquecer:

Recordo-me dos simpáticos homens dos triciclos ou “riquexó”, frente às nossas casas; e os homens com as canas de pesca, junto às muralhas da baía; ou a barraca de pesca, defronte à fortaleza do Bom Parto.

Recordo-me das tendas de café “On Kei”, da mercearia “A Hói”; do “Ngau Nám Min”, e dos fritos “ngau lei sou e iau chá kuai” com “pák chuk”; dos “mak ngá tóng” e “chu cheong fan”; do “kau chang kou”; do “tau fu fá”; do “chá tau fu e van tan”; do “hám ioc chong”; a mulher dos pães doces e salgados; das frutas; o homem de “petróleo”, e o distribuidor de jornais; o homem dos “tin-tins” para recolha dos jornais e outros objectos; recordo-me, também, dos homens com os carrinhos ambulantes que vendiam sorvetes e gelados.

Recordo-me dos alunos e o missionário superior da escola Ricci; recordo-me do padre Moreira da paróquia de S.Lourenço, que fazia o percurso a pé até ao nosso bairro, depois da longa descida das escadarias da sua igreja, e da rampa, ao lado do Palácio do Governo, acompanhado por seu ajudante, empunhados de uma cruz e de incensos, e água benta para benzer as nossas casas, por altura da Páscoa.

Recordo-me da Pousada de Macau, que para quem lá passava era apanhado pelo forte cheiro da sua famosa e conhecida cozinha tradicional por onde se esfumava junto ao tardoz da garagem, com os seus cozinheiros de batina branca, despreocupados e bem dispostos se descansavam nos banquinhos durante as suas horas livres.

Recordo-me dos grandes tufões que apareciam sistematicamente, nos meses quentes de Verão, e que assolavam fortemente com ondas e rajadas de ventos, as muralhas da baía e as nossas casas.

Recordo-me do hastear e arrear da bandeira nacional e as sentinelas do Palácio do Governo pela tropa colonial, de “cofió” de cor encarnada na cabeça, com as espingardas “mauser” munidos de sabre-baioneta - sendo mais tarde a guarda de honra ao governador substituída pela polícia militar.

Recordo-me da passagem diária do clássico “Princess” um “limousine” de cor mista escura que servia diáriamente para a deslocação dos então, Governadores de Macau.

Recordo-me da parada militar do dia 10 de Junho, com a população de Macau a assistir em peso.
Recordo-me dos barcos-vapor “Tak Shin”, “Fat Shan” e “Tái Loi”, e os seus “buzinões” que emitiam nas suas carreiras entre Macau e Hong Kong, ao entrarem na barra.

Recordo-me do fogo de artifício do dia 01 de Outubro, com a iluminação e as bandeirinhas engalanadas ao longo da Baía; do dia dos nacionalistas chineses, no dia 10 de Outubro; e do Ano Novo Chinês; das regatas de Barcos-Dragão; das corridas pedestres e do ciclismo; da procissão da Nossa Senhora de Fátima para a Penha.

Recordo-me dos incidentes de 123.

Recordo-me dos carros com os seus participantes do Grande Prémio de Macau, e do cheiro do óleo deixado pelos motores com o seu barulho ensurdecedor mas de som eloquente dos escapes livres, que empregnavam toda a zona, todos os anos no mês de Novembro, anunciando a sua chegada ao passar defronte às nossas casas.

Recordo-me, enfim, do Natal e das prendas de que ia recebendo todos os anos, quando ía visitar à casa nº13, do meu velho e bom amigo Rangel, a quem tristemente deixou-nos para sempre no ano passado.

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The following story by John Estorninho first appeared in the 'Casa de Macau Australia Newsletter', February 2007 issue

The Macanese - What Future?

I am a Macanese. My grandfather from my father’s side came to Macau from Portugal as a soldier, and married a Macanese woman, and my grandparents from my mother’s side were Macanese going back to the 17th Century, from the families of Da Luz and Machado Mendonça. I came to Australia when I was just eighteen years old, and later married an Italian woman and have two sons. For many years I have neglected my Macanese heritage. But just lately I have been thinking quite a bit about it, and have been asking myself ‘what is a Macanese?’ I am not Portuguese, nor am I Chinese. So what am I? I am a Creole, of Portuguese descent resulting from inter-marriages between Portuguese men and Goanese, Malay and Chinese women.

Since time immemorial, the Macanese have always migrated to greener pastures, seeking either employment or an opportunity to improve himself. Many Macanese, in the last hundred years, have migrated to Canton, Shanghai, Hong Kong and all over the world. In the post WWII years, the main destinations have been Portugal, Brasil, the USA, Canada and Australia.

Somehow, the Macanese, and its culture, have retained contact with Macau. The Macanese never lost their identity and always knew who they were. But we now live in much bigger cities so the tyranny of distance makes it difficult to keep in touch with each other in the cities where we live as well as our mother city of Macau.

There is a danger that the Macanese descendants will lose touch with Macau and its unique culture. Because of the fragmentation of the Macanese society, many Macanese are marrying into other cultures, or adopting and assimilating into the cultures of the countries they live in. Just pause for a minute and look around your family and other Macanese families. Your children are assimilating into the countries they live in, and marrying people of different cultures. It is happening in all the countries where the Macanese have migrated. This factor, by itself, is not that bad, because the Macanese have a history of mixing with other nationalities, previously being mainly Portuguese and Chinese, but
are now expanding the mixture to many other cultures.

My father said to me, some years before he passed away, that the Macanese were doomed to extinction, because the children of the Macanese were adopting other cultures and are in danger of losing their link to Macau and the Macanese culture.

I feel that a Macanese is quite unique, and that the Macanese should make an effort to maintain contacts between themselves and with Macau. If this is not maintained, possibly our children, and most certainly our grandchildren will lose their cultural contact with Macau, lose their identity of being a descendant of a Macanese, and the Macanese, as a distinct entity will disappear forever into oblivion. Our descendants will become Australians, or Americans, Canadians, Portuguese or Brasilians. And that can happen within twenty to fifty years. When you think about it, it is a pity to see the Macanese disappear into oblivion within the next twenty years or so, isn’t it?

It is up to our generation to take measures to ensure and encourage our future generations to preserve their cultural heritage, and to be proud to be the descendant of a Macanese, to retain links with Macau for many generations to come. One obvious facilitator to maintain this link to Macau is Casa de Macau.
But look at it, how many of our children are members of the Casa de Macau, or more importantly how many are actively involved in its management? On the other hand, what programmes are there to encourage our children and grandchildren to actively participate in the activities of Casa de Macau and maintain links with Macau? What are we doing ourselves to encourage our children’s participation? If nothing is done, very soon it will all be lost forever.

I feel it’s up to all of us to start doing something about it, and to start now! Perhaps Casa de Macau could start something on the Internet so we could ‘talk’ to each other, and ideas could be thrown in as to what can we do, not just in Australia, but throughout all the Casas de Macau in the world. The crucial factor is in our children; it doesn’t matter about our generation, we are already entrenched Macanese. We have to convince our children that to uphold the Macanese tradition.

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Immigration Stories

The following story by Jorge Estorninho first appeared in the 'Casa de Macau Australia Newsletter', November 2006 issue

Why Tasmania?

Why Tasmania - why indeed? Back in the fifth, sixth and seventh decades of last century most Filomacs were emigrating to countries like America, Canada, Brazil and Australia and were converging into the main population centres of these big countries. Those who came to Australia settled mainly in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne and, to a lesser extent, in Adelaide and Perth, except for me and my parents and brother. We came to little known Hobart, not so much by choice because so little was known of this city but, with the benefit of hindsight, I would say that it was God who had pre-determined it for me in particular, because I couldn’t have been happier right where I am.

For me, personally, this adventure started in December 1956, when two of my inseparable friends in Macau decided they would go to work in Hong Kong. When I found out, I was devastated and tried to follow suit, but my parents were adamant that I should finish school. My mother wanted me to become
a doctor and I feel that my father just wanted me to finish school. There was one problem with their aspiration, I had a real aversion to studying and I had a love of the fresh air. Football and hockey fields were places of real interest for me, but not even these could beat the smell of the muddy estuaries of Macau and the poor fishing it provided. I had a passion for fishing. Needless to say, these ’pastimes’ kept me away from books regularly and consequently, I lagged behind in my studies. Never the less I was determined to follow my friends and, after a lot of pleading and cajoling, my parents finally relented and allowed me to make my application for a position at the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. This was the beginning of my life adventure and three important events happened since these decisions were taken that greatly influenced and changed my life.

The first one happened when I went for the job interview in mid-January 1957. The person conducting the interviews was very busy on that day and couldn’t spare the time to interview us individually (there were five of us) so he talked to us in the passage and basically just asked two questions (1) can you speak English and (2) can you type? I said yes to both but I wasn’t entirely truthful. I could speak English, but it was only very basic and I could type - with two fingers. I still managed to get the job and started in March of 1957.

The second important event happened in 1960. I was then living with my sister, Diana, who now lives in Canada. At a party she gave at her apartment, a few of her English-speaking friends were invited . My English was still very basic so I was unable to maintain a meaningful and intelligent conversation and felt like a fish out of water. After this happened I felt so embarrassed that I decided it was up to me to change and I made a conscious effort to learn English. This decision turned out to be very helpful for me eight years later when I came to Hobart.

The third and final event happened in 1964. I was then working at the Peninsula Court Branch and, on a particularly slow day, the Branch was virtually empty, there were no cashiers around and there were only two customers. They appeared to be looking for something or someone so I approached them, even though it was not my place to do so, and asked if I could perhaps help them. All they wanted was some Hong Kong coins for their daughter who collected them. After procuring the coins for them, I offered to give them some Macau coins if they would come back the following day. They turned out to be visitors from Hobart and we struck up a friendship and started to correspond with each other.

During 1966/67, at the height of Mao’s Red Book Revolution, which had spilled into Hong Kong, sparking demonstrations and riots, I was asked to come to Australia and the Lewises offered to be my sponsors. After some deliberation, I accepted and arrived in Hobart on 13th March 1968. Since arriving in Hobart that day so long ago my life has once again changed quite dramatically for the better, but this is another story which I might share sometime in the future. I have no regrets in coming to Hobart and I view the decision in 1968 as the best I could have ever made!

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Call for Contributions

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