Graun Blong Mi (My Land)
PORT MORESBY - I am originally a highlander from Simbu who, like many others from the New Guinea Islands, Sepik, Papua and a few from the upper highlands provinces, migrated to Lae back then and call Lae home. I grew up in Lae from the 1970s to 1990s.
My greatest memories in life come from growing up in Lae City. Later in life I called myself ‘Simbu blo Morobe’, because Lae will always be closer to my heart.
The spirit of Lae made me who I am in life. It gave me education. My eldest son was born at ANGAU Hospital, which had some of the best facilities and some of the best doctors and nurses back then.
I attended St Martin’s primary school at Papuan Compound, later Lae high school and eventually to national high school and the University of Papua New Guinea.
So I have fond memories of Lae, and one day, in my grand old age, I intend to return and settle in Lae one more time.
I love my ‘kru sako’ from Mumeng, sweet cooking bananas and ‘kalapuas’ from Markham Valley, Wain, Busumang and the surrounding villages that sell their local produce at Lae Market.
My favorite pastime in the late 1970s and early 1980s were local places to enjoy good Kung Fu and cowboy movies on the big screen.
This was at one of three big theatres located at Top Town, Eric Woo (Eriku) and the one past Lae Market, right opposite where Rabtrad wholesale is now located.
A ticket into these huge movie theatres was two kina. For small boys like me, this was a fortune, so during weekends and school holidays I collected empty bottles and saved a few coins until I had two kina to buy a ticket to watch the movies.
Our rainy and green Lae City was the most peaceful place to live and get educated.
Crime and criminals were never heard of. Women and young girls could walk around freely at nights even as far as from Top Toen to Eriku and into the Miles areas.
Morobeans were some of the best and most peace-loving people I have ever came across. I had friends from Butibum like Casey and many others, and good mates like Malum Nalu from Salamaua, former deputy governor Julius Nalau and many others.
Some of the big names in this country today like Lionel Manua, Jimmy Maladina and the Maladina clan and me were boys from the Miles areas.
We grew up in the settlements and slums of Lae City to become what we are in life and we owe our life’s achievements to the good and kind hearted people of Lae and Morobe Province.
Over time, the City of Lae has grown and is now a thriving hub of commerce and trade. I wholeheartedly agree with Sly Gawi on his sentiments that because of the evil of rapid growth, mass migration and exponential growth, this once beautiful and peaceful city has gone to the dogs.
I wish the clock could rewind back to those days, when life was full of fun and laughter, when neighbours looked out for each other, crime was unheard of, littering and loitering was odd, respect for each other was the norm, all the PMV buses were owned and operated by the Aris or Buangs of Mumeng.
Sometimes when you didn’t have money to pay, they let you go free and didn’t worry of you were a 50 toea short.
That was my Lae City and I will always have these good times in my memory rather than the current status where thugs and tribalism rule in the open and in all the settlements around the fringes of a once great city.
Mi tu Simbu blo Morobe na, antap lo dispela, me tu Kumul blo Morobe.
Henry Mokono grew up at Lae's One Mile block behind Irimo street. He is now chief executive officer of Eda Ranu, Port Moresby’s water and sewerage utility