Ancient New Guinea pottery dated to over 3,000 years ago
Series of setbacks shakes the Papua New Guinea economy

The early Filipino missionaries & boat builder Francis Castro


HIS name was Francis Castro. A robust and sturdy man with strong hands. A boat builder of Cuban descent from the island of Panay in Antique Province of the Philippines.

During the 1880s, Francis Castro along with 13 highly trained Filipino catechists accompanied European priests headed by Fr Alain de Boismenu to Yule Island in Papua.

The other Filipinos were Marcello Fabila, Nicholas Albaniel, Juan Dela Cruz, Gregorio Toricheba,  Telesforo Babao, Gregorio Ramos, Emmanuel Natera, Diego Rendall, Bernadino Taligatus, Juan Malabag, Cirilio Espinosa, Anastacio Buen Suseso and Basilio Artango.

Francis was sent to Samarai in Milne Bay Province and stationed on Sidea Island, where he educated the local people in Catholic teachings and also shared his boat making skills with them.

Life on the island was tough at first because some of the local inhabitants were hostile and unwelcoming to this light skinned person. Not only that but he had to battle malaria. And being away from home and family was lonely, but he made the best of it.

There was one night when some men who were against his teachings gathered around a boat he and some village men were building. Francis found out the next day that they had destroyed the boat.

It is said that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, well in this case hell had no fury like Francis Castro seeing one of his boats destroyed.

The local men were frightened when they saw the wild look in his eyes and the priests and other catechists tried to calm him down to no avail. He punched a metal sheet used to build the boat so hard that his fist imprinted it.

The fist imprint was later cut out and hung in the mission house by the locals as a sign of respect.  From then on Francis Castro was treated well and his work as a catechist was made easier.

When his time on that beautiful island was up, he travelled back to Yule Island and from there to his home at Panay in the Philippines.

He felt great to be back among his family and his people, however his heart was in Sidea in Papua and his love of that little island and of a particular woman found him back there some time later.

Francis Castro married a local Normanby woman, Lillian Saula, and they settled on Basilaki Island where he farmed rice and citrus fruit. They had six children, three boys and three girls. Francis lived the rest of his life on Basilaki and it was there he was laid to rest.

Lay missionaries monument, Port Moresby (Alfredo P Hernandez)I am of the fifth generation of Francis Castro’s family. Mmy father’s mother is the grand-daughter of Francis Castro and othe nly child of his third  son Alexis Castro, who died during World War II when the Japanese bombed a merchant ship, MV Mamutu, which was transporting them  to Cairns.

At the Holy Rosary Parish Church at Six Mile in Port Moresby there is a monument bearing an embedded marble plate with the inscription:

"In remembrance of the first group of Filipino lay missionaries in Papua New Guinea who arrived on Yule Island during the 1880s and others whose names are known only to God: Emmanuel Natera, Diego Rendall, Bernadino Taligatus, Basilio Artango, Telesforo Babao, Francis Castro, Juan Malabag, Gregorio Ramos, Cirilo Espinosa, Gregorio Toricheba, Nicolas Albaniel, Anastacio Buen Suseso, Marcello Fabila, Juan de la Cruz"

Photo of the monument courtesy of Alfredo P Hernandez


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Michaeline McLean

Hi Florence, My name is Michaeline and I am fourth generation of both Bernadino Taligatus and Basilio Artango.

I was wondering if you had any information on Basilio Artango and his wife whose name I do not know.

I am the granddaughter of Eliza Artango their daughter and daughter of Thelma Taligatus, her daughter.

I am in the infancy of my research so any information would be greatly appreciated.

Paul J Morea

Hi Florence - My name's Paul J Morea. I am the fifth generation from Nicolas Albaniel who married an indigenous Australian, Rosey Bombay.

My mother is Ligouri Albaniel, the fourth born daughter of Louise Albaniel. His father Emanuel Albaniel is the first born son of Nicolas Albaniel and Rosey Bombay of Indian and Australian Aboriginal origin.

I am compiling our family history and need a bit more information on Nicolas Albaniel and Rosey Bombay's origins.

If you have any photographs or information at all, please email me on Appreciate your help.

Maria Fowler

Hi Florence - Diego Rendall is my grandfather and I’m looking for more information.

Francessca Jhyeronimo Artango

Hi Florence, I am the great granddaughter of Basilio Artango. My grandfathers' name is Bernadino Artango and my father is the late Kevin John Bernadino Artango.

I with my late father Kevin over the years did our family tree. Amazing how everything becomes clear.

Thanks for the story and yes, this I can say I heard as young girl growing up is true.

Thank you once again.

Florence Castro-Salle

Hi Helen, send me an email and ill send you some contacts of those i think may be able to help you..

Helen Reiher

Hi Florence, My name is Helen Reiher and I am fourth generation of Bernadino Taligatus (my mother's grandfather),

I was looking for some information about my grandmother from Basilaki and I came across this post...very informative. Thank you.

My grandmother was was from Basilaki and her name was Florence Euriamo and she married Marco Taligatus (my mother's father).

I was wondering if you may have some information on her mother who was also from Basilaki and I believe got married to a Filipino named Gorio (Gregorio) Euriamo. Hope you can help. Please let me know.

Many thanks.

Leonard Castro-Sabadi

The ship, MV Mamutu, was shipping the people of mixed race origin to Bramble Kay Island, Australia, in fear that they would join the Imperial Japanese Army who were fast advancing onto Port Moresby.

Florence Castro-Salle

A correction on my piece, I am of the Fourth generation and not the fifth..the fifth would be my children.
Thanks Elayne for the correction.

Elayne Albaniel

Awesome piece of history Flo. It is something we should be proud of and it is something worth sharing to our children and their children.

Lapieh Landu

Wonderful story Flo!

Florence Castro-Salle

Phil, that is the sad part. This piece was from stories told to me by my father and grandmother. I do not really know if Ray is a relative.

Daniel, thank you and, yes, most stories are lost now and most Malayians do not know their history.

Phil Fitzpatrick

Ray Castro runs a freight company in Port Moresby and is an agent for UPS, which freights most of the Crocodile Prize anthologies from the USA to PNG.

We've had some frustrating times with freight and PNG customs and Ray has helped us a lot.

He must be a relative Florence?

Daniel Ipan Kumbon

This beautiful historical peace could have been lost if you did not write it down Forence. I am sure some people of Malay descent could be living at Hanuabada - the Big Village.

These stories must be recorded, they are all part of PNG's bigger picture.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)