- Eat a meat pie: although this didn’t originate from PNG, this place had a lot of Australian influences and selling meat pies was one of them. Growing up in PNG, meat pies were our go-to food when we didn’t have packed lunches. Back in the day when my metabolism was still good, two meat pies and I was done for the entire day.
- Eat at Asia Aromas: this restaurant used to just be a crammy place inside a rundown Steamships building in town. While growing up, the Chinese restaurants we frequently visited such as Marco Polo, Kwantung and this other one at the old Papuan Yacht Club became hard to visit because of its location and the danger it came with. We ordered the same dishes we used to order when we were kids (except for the chow kway teow).
- Experience a hold-up: we had already started planning a small get together over coffee and planned to meet at Duffy at the Harbourfront. Just my luck though, after deciding to wait for Telitah and Kiri outside the cafe, a rascal standing outside the door stopped me from opening the door, was shaking his head and showing me a gun stuffed in his shorts. He then opened the door and pushed me back into the cafe and that’s when I thought, “I shit… ok.” While walking towards the end of the room, I was mouthing to the ladies at the counter that the place was being held up. Before reaching the end of the room, another rascal came out of the back room and pushed me aside as he made his way to the counter. I saw the manager and whispered out loud that the place was being robbed. He looked at me with fear in his eyes as though he already knew and he watched everything happen. It was a surprisingly calm and quiet robbery. The other customers in the cafe had no idea what was going on. A table of people who what seemed to be having a business meeting was seated right behind the 2nd rascal were clueless of what was happening until a caucasian man in the table next to where I was standing sounded what looked like a personal alarm. The rascals calmly walked out of the cafe with the morning’s takings and that were out of sight when everyone else in the cafe realized what was going on. My hands were shaking as I looked for my mum’s number on the mobile phone she let me use. I couldn’t decide whether to call her or to call Telitah or Kiri cause I knew that my mum and brother were probably just about to get in the car. It had barely been 5 minutes since they left me at Duffy when all of this happened. Mum came back to see if I was ok and eventually, I told her that she could go and that I was fine staying and waiting. While waiting for Telitah to come, I spoke with the Chue brothers about what happened with random people approaching me asking me if I was alright. Apparently, I was the only person in the cafe that the rascals had interacted with but thankfully nothing was taken from me.
- Meet up with wantoks: after all the ruckus, Telitah even came and met me. The last time we had seen each other was when she lived in Palmerston North and my flatmates and I dropped by on our way back from Rotorua after attending the Raggamuffin festival. Ashlon Chue ended up shouting us coffee because of what happened and Telitah and I happily just caught up with each other. We went to Vision City, the only mall in the city and bumped into Joanna, an old classmate of ours.
- Eat Big Rooster: no one leaves PNG without eating Big Rooster. As a child growing up in PNG, Big Rooster was the McDonald’s and Jollibee of Port Moresby. Mum knew how much we loved Big Rooster’s soggy chips and so she bought some for dinner.
- Visit my first school: St. Joseph’s: this place was the first school that made growing up in PNG unique. Its ugly brown and yellow uniform had changed although it is still brown with yellow hats. I remember using a Mac for the first time at Joey’s and looking after a pre-schooler with down-syndrome and spending a lot of time in the library reading books to her. This was where I also first started learning how to play the piano and I remember witnessing a girl from Bougainville fall into a steel rod that was exposed from the ground and piercing a hole under her chin.
- Eat a lamington: again, lamingtons aren’t from PNG but because of Aussie influences, lamingtons became a big thing while growing up as they were always selling lamingtons at the tuckshop for snacks. There was something about the spongey, chocolate and coconut-filled cakes that made them really addictive.
- Go for a swim at Taurama pool: this place used to just have an olympic-sized pool and fibre glass seats and a couple of playground equipment on the side. During swimming carnivals and swimming practice, we would have to lay down our towels onto the seats because the fibre glass seats would cause the back of our thighs to just itch and matching it with the hot, glaring sun didn’t make it feel any better. The establishment now has a 25m pool aside from the 50m pool, a fun pool area for kids, a gym and basketball courts. They’ve gotten rid of the fibre glass seats and have replaced it with cement steps which is now covered. They’ve changed the water from chlorine and now use salt water. A massive improvement to a place we used to spend so much of our PE days in.
- Eat fish ’n chips: yes, you can eat this in the Philippines, but there’s something about eating fish ’n chips that you know was prepared the way Aussies and Kiwis would want to eat it.
- Have a Gaytime: and no, I’m not talking about having a “happy” time. For some reason, this ice cream is only being sold in PNG.
One week later…
I’ve held off finishing this entry because I was going through a bout of separation anxiety. As I sat in the Uber I booked on my way home from the airport, I had this yearning to go back to PNG and be with my nephew and niece. It wasn’t entirely impossible for me to live there but I knew I didn’t want to be in that Uber and that it didn’t feel right being back here in Manila.
I don’t know if it’ll ever feel right being here in Manila again.