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Farewell, my dear brother, Philip Kai Morre

Mundua     Philip recent
A recent portrait of the late Philip Kai Morre - counsellor, churchman, author, community leader


KUNDIAWA - It is often difficult to accept reports or notices of friends’ passing, especially if they are very close to you.

On the morning of Tuesday 25th April, a work colleague of Philip Morre Kai in the Community Services Division of the Simbu Provincial Government called me.

He was enquiring on behalf of the Division’s members to find out if what they heard that morning about Philip’s passing was authentic or a mere circulation of rumour.

I stood frozen. “No idea,” I responded, and added, “I did drive him to the hospital yesterday afternoon.”

And the caller said, “Yes, that’s what we heard. But word just reached us that he had passed away last night, and we are trying to establish whether this is true because you are close to him”.

“Well, I know nothing about that. You’ll have to find out from his family,” I said.

Our talk ended there. I knew Philip was very sick but I did not believe he would pass on so soon.

On the previous morning, Monday 24th April, as I was about to start my day at the office, Philip called me from his Guo village.

“Arnold, I am feeling very sick”, he said, “Can you come and drive me to the hospital, please?”

And I responded, “No problem, but not right now. I have a few things to clear out first. It won’t be long. Do you think you can wait for me for at least an hour, or two?”

“That’s alright,” he replied. “You can come around midday and pick me up”, and we switched off.

It was after 1.30 pm that I drove to Guo. I waited at the roadside and it took a while before Philip made it to the car, using a walking stick and supported by his son.

He settled beside me in the cabin and we pulled away. But unlike past rides he spoke very little, really nothing, for most of the trip.

I could see he was terribly ill. He was not the cheerful Philip I knew. His eyes were closed most of the time, as if he had dozed off.

When we reached town he directed me to drive to his office first to pick up his clinical record book.

He instructed his son to collect the book for him and we continued to the hospital.

His final words were, “Arnold, thank you. I’ll get off here”, and I said, “Call me when you finish from here.”

Those were our last parting words. He headed straight into the Emergency Wing and I drove on. I was never going to see him alive again, nor his final moments.

At 7.4 5pm, on 24 April, about five hours after I had driven him to the hospital, my good friend, colleague and brother, Philip Morre Kai, passed away in his hospital bed.

Philip was a writer and we first met in 2014 when we formed the Simbu Writers Association.

Later I found out that he was an ex-seminarian and a devoted Catholic. We met on Sundays and instantly established a bond that included the late Peter Kepa and James Arba, both ex-seminarians.

Mundua     Arnold  Phillip Kai & Peter Kepa  October 2021
Arnold Mundua, Philip Kai Morre and Peter Kepa, October 2021

Every Sunday after Mass we would spend hours chatting before heading to our homes. I had many wonderful moments listening to these men.

Unfortunately, Peter Kepa passed away in 2021. Philip and I co-authored a message of tribute that appeared in PNG Attitude.

A year later in 2022, James Arba passed on. Again, Philip and I co-authored a tribute to James that also appeared in PNG Attitude.

In mid-April this year, as Philip and I were travelling to Guo in my car, out of the blue, Philip started a conversation.

He asked, “We wrote the tributes for Peter and James when they left, now who is going to write for us when we leave?”

It was an unexpected topic and I let out an empty smile, not really knowing what to say or where to start.

But I finally managed to say, “Well, if I go first you can write mine. And if you go first, I will write yours”. He said nothing more and we moved on, switching topics.

Immediately after I took the call and learnt of Philip’s passing, the conversation that he started some two weeks earlier and never completed flashed in my mind.

We had promised to write for each other should one of us depart first. Tears welled in my eyes when I recalled that cloudy afternoon.

Philip was a natural born leader and perhaps he knew his hour was approaching and maybe he wanted to remind me of what I should do.

I’m writing this as a tribute and honour to this great Simbu man that I and many others, whose lives he had touched and changed, will miss.

Philip was born on 6th December 1960 in Guo village, about five kilometers north-west of Kundiawa township.

He was the fourth child of six born to Apa Simakus and Martha Gambuk from the Monduku sub-clan of the major Egu clan in the Enduga tribe.

Although Philip’s father passed on early, his mum, a brave Auakane lady from the neighbouring Kamaneku tribe, was the pillar and role model in Philip’s life.

She lived to a ripe age of 94 before she passed on in 2017. Philip often spoke highly of his mum and his love for her is evident in his book ‘Drugs and Their Dangers in Papua New Guinea’. He dedicated the book to her on the opening page.

Philip started his primary education at Wandi Primary School in 1967. After attaining his Standard 6 Certificate in 1973, he moved to Kerowagi High School, completing his high school education in 1977. In 1979 he attended St Fidelis College in Alexishafen, Madang, attaining his Grade 12 Certificate in 1980.

Philip was determined to join the priesthood and in 1981 entered the Diocesan College in Bomana outside Port Moresby, where he undertook studies in Developmental Psychology and Spirituality.

From 1982 to 1986 he studied Theology, Philosophy and Human Science at the Catholic Theological Institute, also in Bomana.

He was to enter the same college in 1990 to undertake Advance Studies in Integral Human Development.

However, four years into his training, he decided to quit for a while due to circumstances known only to himself.

He was granted leave but on his request to resume his studies again, the late Archbishop William Kurtz SVD of Kundiawa Diocese refused Philip’s entry into the seminary college. Kurtz had other plans for him.

He engaged Philip to oversee the churches peace and social justice work and to support the Archbishop in carrying out the churches drug rehabilitation programs in the Kundiawa Diocese.

Philip related that, even though he left the seminary, the Archbishop never completely abandoned him as he was still attached to the church in its other programs.

The decision by Kurtz was perhaps a blessing in disguise as it was a roadmap for Philip over the next 30 years.

From 1990 to his recent passing, Philip found himself attending many training programs, short courses, meetings and workshops across the country and overseas, and above all found himself engaged and serving in countless humanitarian programs.

Hence, Philip never regretted leaving the seminary. He would often say, “Even though I left the seminary the Archbishop never leaves me and I am still working for the church.”

In 1995 Philip attended the Australian Institute of Counselling in Addiction under AusAid sponsorship at the recommendation of Archbishop Kurtz, completing the studies with flying colours.

According to one of his course mates, Roland, an Irish national, “Philip is intelligent and has the ability to analyse and solve complex issues of human problems”.

On his return from Australia Philip pioneered the work of alcohol and drug rehabilitation in Simbu.

In the same year, 1995, he met his future wife, Margret, a young primary school teacher at Dumun Primary School.

The couple tied the knot in 1996 and produced five children, three boys and two girls.

The kids (including two recent grandchildren), like with many former seminarians, arrived late for Philip’s age but they remained his pride until his passing.

Philip was influential in his job. His guidance and counselling had tremendous impact and changed the lives of many youths and drug and alcohol abusers in Simbu.

In 2008 he joined the public service as an officer in the Simbu Provincial Administration attached to the Community Services Division.

He pioneered alcohol and drugs rehabilitation programs in Simbu, reaching far and wide attending youth rallies, camps, meetings and workshops.

The publication of his book, ‘Drugs & Their Dangers in PNG’, in 2016 remains the living testimony of the commitment Philip gave to his job.

The book is now accepted as a resource handbook for alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs in many institutions domestically and internationally.

Philip was one of the only three certified officers and drug and alcohol counsellors recognised by the National Narcotics Bureau in PNG.

Philip did not restrict his focus to alcohol and drugs alone.

With the rise in gender-based violence, family sexual violence and child abuse affecting many women and children in Simbu, Philip’s ability to diagnose, rehabilitate reform and shape a person in a new dimension with hope and security for a peaceful lifewas put into full use.

He soon became a gazetted Welfare Officers in the province, counselling victims and offering them hope and security.

He set his goal to establish a safe house in Simbu for victims, but fell his dream fell short when he realised it was unlikely to be achieved because of funding constraints.

Outside his career, Philip was an avid reader and writer. At the end of this obituary, I refer to just some of his many writings and commentaries in PNG Attitude alone.

Early in his career, Philip was one of a team deployed to the Summer Institute of Linguistics and the PNG Bible Society to translate the Bible into the Kuman language of Simbu.

It took Philip and his team many years to complete this work. In the midst of doing this work, the team also wrote a Kuman Dictionary, an independent version based on the Kuman Dictionary by Fr John Nilles SVD in the 1930s.

When the Simbu Writers Association was formed in 2014, Philip became one of the founding and active members and was a regular contributor to the PNG Attitude.

In 2016 he published his first book, ‘Drugs and Their Dangers in PNG’, edited by the late Francis Nii under the imprint of the Simbu Writers Association.

The book is now undergoing its second edition under the title, ‘Drugs and Their Effects in PNG’.

Philip and the late Peter Kepa were in the process of writing a small book on the murdered pioneer German SVD missionary priest, Fr Karl Morscheuser, when Peter passed away in 2021.

Unfortunately, Philip could not continue the project when all the data and research notes collected were lost when Peter passed on.

Philip was shattered by this and eventually abandoned the project when he could not retrieve the notes and documents.

Until his passing held a number of significant community positions including Interim President of the Simbu Writers Association, Secretary of the St Vincent De Paul Society and Board member of the Callan Services Disabilities Centre.

There were many other activities, groups and church matters that Philip participated in as a member, one of the most notable of these being the St Francis of Assisi Group in Kundiawa.

The many members and people associated with these groups will truly miss Philip’s presence, as will his work colleagues in the Community Development office in Kundiawa.

“Philip is a respected citizen and we felt protected when he is around, especially in time of public unrests. That will be missed now,” said Katrina Aiwa, Principal Advisor of Community Development Services in Kundiawa.

Philip is survived by his wife Margaret Kai, five children (Sacky, Baundo, Phylliscitta, Sheila and Mogia) and two grandchildren (Philip Kai Jr and Jojo).

Brother, you told me about a dream you had, where Peter flew in with a chopper, picked you up and flew you around over a beautiful countryside of majestic mountains, gentle valleys and pristine rivers before he dropped you off.

And you said Peter showed me where he went - his new home - last night. I know you are with him there in that beautiful place you saw for that wonderful reunion.

I will miss your jokes, especially the one about your rebel pig that went loose with the rope still tied to the feet. May You Rest In Eternal Peace.’

Some of the writings of Philip Kai Morre

The out-of-control problem of drug & alcohol abuse: A review by Philip Fitzpatrick of ‘Drugs and Their Dangers in Papua New Guinea’ (November 2015)

Thoughts on effective conflict management (April 2018)

Intractable drugs problem: Worst is yet to come (June 2018)

The view from down here (January 2020)

Somare: We honour a giant who has fallen (March 2021)

We know we must change, but are you helping (March 2022)

PNG youth is trapped in the web of modernity (December 2022)


A comment on our corrupted justice system

Posted by Philip Kai Morre in PNG Attitude | 25 November 2020

In the midst of constitutional and political crisis, the justice system and courts are not working with unbiased rulings. Delayed process is another factor.

Many court cases involving politicians are struck out on the pretence of lack of evidence. Political influence in the court system is becoming a norm.

Setting up a Commission of Enquiry is another waste of money and resources that does not provide any evidence of wrongdoing by politicians or public servants.

The amount of money expended on commissions of enquiry is far greater than the amount being investigated and so much money goes down the drain. No prosecution done and we are left wondering how our justice system is operating.

Should we have a justice system that is workable or with two sets of laws, one for the politicians and one for the common people.

I would suggest we use the criminal code of Hammurabi in the Old Testament that is best suited in the PNG context: "Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth".

If a politician steals, cut his finger off; if a rapist, remove his private parts; etc.

Parliament is for law makers and it will be workable if we have 111 moralists who know the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, value and devalue, and justice and injustice.

All decisions and actions in parliament must reflect good governance, transparency and justice for the benefit of the people.


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Betty Wakia

Sorry Arnold to hear passing of Philip. I will missed reading his articles here.

Dominica Are

I am deeply sorry to hear of Philip's passing.
He has left his mark through his writings and incredible social work.

Thank you for this beautiful tribute, Arnold. Condolences to his immediate family.

Joseph Irai

Arnold, I am sad at Philip's passing. You have written well of him. I know Philip as a down-to-earth person who would help anyone.

Garrett Roche

Sorry to hear about the passing of Philip Kai Morre. I appreciated his various contributions and comments.

I do not remember meeting Philip, but I would have known some of his former classmates and the late Peter Kepa. May he rest in peace.

Arnold Mundua

Thanks Phil, please inform Gareth. According to Philip, when we talked about his book some time ago, Gareth went through it thoroughly. It is unfortunate he passed away so soon.

I cannot mention everyone Phillip worked with in the many areas of his life and career because these were things he never disclosed to me in our conversations.

Thanks again, Phil.

Michael Dom

Arnold, I am sorry for your loss.

This is a sad time for us on this communion.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I'm very sad to hear of Philip's passing, Arnold.

That's a very fine tribute you have written.

I'll pass it to my brother-in-law, Gareth Lewis, a scientist who edited the first edition of Philip's book and corresponded with him.

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