Macau Stories: Reflections on Macau & the Macanese
macau (english) | saudades
macau (portuguese) | macanese
- what future? |
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
remember the 123 incidents.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
following story by John Estorninho first appeared in the
'Casa de Macau Australia Newsletter', February 2007 issue
Macanese - What Future?
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
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
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.
following story by Jorge Estorninho first appeared in the
'Casa de Macau Australia Newsletter', November 2006 issue
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
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!
you have a story about your experiences of living in or
leaving Macau, please share them with us.
Simply email Casa de Macau Australia by clicking