WRITERS PEN | REPORTINGS & ESSAYS

Islands of memories: Torres Strait Islands and Manilamen

Deborah Ruiz Wall

The calming sound of the rolling waves,

the soft sea breeze that whispers in our ears,     

the tales of lives led, islands of memories

gently awakening our minds and hearts

to recognise our original face, our ancestral heritage,

the spirit of seafarers from the orient.

Flashback images of fresh young faces, of lads,

many not quite twenty, who sailed southward

through the Strait, landing on groups

of sprawled Torres Strait islands,

life-changing twist of fate that made them emerge

as indentured foreign divers for the once globally sought after gem —

the glistening pearl — the risky venture

sustained their survival.

Some, like birds, flew back and returned

to their home nest, Las Islas Filipinas (Philippine Islands)

once poetically called the ‘Pearl of the Orient’

(Perla del mar de Oriente or Perlas ng Silanganan).

Others stayed, making their new adopted land their home,

their lifeblood mingled with the locals,

destined to be transplanted on the ancestral land

of other seafaring people, the kaleidoscope

of integrated cultures defied definition,

their descendants naming themselves beyond borderlines,

honouring their forefathers’ uncharted lives

spent tilling the soil and working the waters

for their families, with industry’s development

and growth relying upon their toil.

Melanesian, South Pacific Islanders, Manilamen,

wherever they came from,

became hardened survivors beyond

the artificial construct of white, black or coloured,

simply embracing the fascinating diversity

of distinct cultures, allowing the ghost of the past

from the bottom of the ocean permeate

consciousness so that the land and seas can speak freely,

reclaiming nature as the sound of the drums

that beat the heart of our shared heritage,

unwilling to deny the truth of our becoming,

recognising the thread that weaves the fabric

and designs of the pattern of life —

the living testament of identity, who we really are —

the spirit of the land, the soul of the earth

that echoes the lives

of people who have merged

with Australia’s Dreamtime.

By Deborah Ruiz Wall,

Island Villas, John Street, Thursday Island, 25th July 2015.


See the related story: Filipino Yarning as published in The Australian Filipina.


Photo credits: Peter Sabatino, Robyn Hutchison and writer's own.

In the Photos:
Peter Sabatino & Deborah Wall’s Interview with Jenni Enosa of Radio 4MW, Torres Strait

(L-R): Denise Barry, Peter Sabatino, Fr Saju, Deborah Wall and Robyn Hutchinson in front of St Joseph’s Church, Hammond Island.

(L-R): Robyn Hutchinson, Deborah Wall, Mary Bowie, Denise Barry, Anima Pearson and Josie Cowley (back view) yarning at the dining table


 

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