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Tupela: A memoir of passion & humour


Tupela MY WIFE, MARIE, and I met Libby Bowen (whom we knew by her married name, Libby Phillips) in Goroka in 1971.

I was managing Radio Goroka and Andrew Phillips replaced me when we were posted to Madang.

Libby’s recent book, Tupela, is a highly descriptive, sensitive and personal memoir detailing Libby and Andrew’s married life and experiences in several colourful and some primitive locations in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea during the years leading up to Independence.

Their postings included Kieta, Boku, Rabaul, Goroka and Port Moresby. Some overseas leave travel is also described.

Libby Bowen writes beautifully, with passion, humour and poignancy. She describes some fateful historical incidents, such as the murder in East New Britain of District Commissioner, Jack Emanuel.

She also writes first-hand of the troubles on Bougainville sparked by the establishment of the Panguna copper mine.

Her husband, Andrew, started work in the late 1960s as a Cadet Patrol Officer, eventually changing career to become a Radio Station Manager with the Department of Information, and later still a self-employed film maker.

Libby worked in various secretarial positions at their postings throughout PNG. Her full and interesting life is beautifully detailed, providing a clear insight into the social interaction between Papua New Guineans and expatriates and showing a strong rapport with the traditions and values of this complex society.

I met Andrew and Libby again several years after he took over Radio Goroka. I was stationed in Port Moresby but was invited to return to Goroka for the official opening of the newly renovated station.

There was a large crowd attending and my old “office boy”, Semena, aged around 40, still worked at the station. He was a delightful man who always wore a toy London Bobby’s helmet. In his own right, he was very wealthy, had several wives and owned a productive coffee plantation on a nearby mountainside.

At the appropriate point in the ceremony, Andrew Phillips turned to Semena and commanded: “Semena, yu kisim plag, nau putim igo entap!” [Semena, raise the flag on the flagpole]. Whereupon Semena enthusiastically grabbed the flag, shinnied up the pole, tied the flag to its top, then slid back to earth. There was thunderous applause from the assembly. One of life’s classic PNG moments.

Libby Bowen’s love for Papua New Guinea is palpable throughout Tupela. And the story of the gradual breakdown of her marriage to Andrew is recounted in a moving way.

Tupela is fascinating reading and a highly informative book that held my interest page after page.

“Tupela – A time in an untamed paradise”, self-published by Libby Bowen, 2010 (143 pp). The title is Tok Pisin for “Two People”, or perhaps “We Two” or “The Two Of Us”. Order from Libby Bowen here  ($20 a copy).


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Owen Genty-Nott

Hi Libby, From an old friend. Check your email.

Phil Charley

That's right, Martin. She did run a pizza place in Moresby and talks about that episode in her book.

Martin Hadlow

Nice review, Phil.

As another DIES old boy, it's good to hear of Libby and Andrew again.

In passing, is my memory correct in recalling that Libby also ran a pizza place in Port Moresby, c.1973/74?

Back then, pizzas were, to us, the most exotic kind of dish imaginable and anyone who could cook such things was treated with awe and considerable respect!

Does Libby talk of this chapter of her life in the book?

Phil Fitzpatrick

So where do we get a copy guys?

From the author at [email protected] for $20

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