Adeus Macau

by Nuno Loureiro d'Eça* This memoir was originally published in the UMA News Bulletin Nov-Dec 1998

"Hovering" the mouse pointer over a Portuguese or Macaísta word will often show its English translation.

The end of Macau as a Portuguese-administered territory is fast approaching and before that chapter closes I would like to express my sentiments and to relate a few anecdotes. This article is dedicated to all the Portuguese from Hong Kong and Shanghai who served in the uniformed services and the hospitals during those grim and agonizing war years in Macau.. But let's not forget those young and old people who succumbed to malnutrition and disease because of the war. I too, lost my father and my brother João – leaving a young family bereft of fatherly love and guidance. Life seemed increasingly precarious for us. Most of our boys continued their schooling in S. Luiz Gonzaga and Salesiano (the girls in Santa Rosa de Lima) – thus sparing them the ugly and sinister side of life in Macau. But conversely, a large number of ex-La Salle boys joined the police force and army.

The policemen were the most vulnerable to danger and they had to be alert for criminals and the politically inspired enemies of neutral Macau. There were occasional disturbances at the nightclubs instigated by the intoxicated and boisterous members of the Imperial Japanese Forces who were "staying" in Macau. An irritant to all was the continuous demand that the bands played Japanese military tunes. But fortunately, the intrepid Commandante Cunha and his "boys" resolved the tense and politically sensitive situation before it exploded out of hand. Poor band leader Andy Hidalgo and Eddy Guzman and their musicians!

Art Carneiro's venue escaped this predicament; except for Avichi Yvanovich's penchant for crooning with Art's band. Avichi was very good though, rendering with a bass voice Stardust, etc. I know because many times I was on nightclub duty at the Riviera Hotel. Art's music deu-me arrepios!

I was only sixteen years of age when I lied about my age to join the fire brigade where I worked for over three years as a corporal. The other boys from Hong Kong were my cousins Henrique Eça da Silva and Damaso Loureiro d'Aquino; Reinaldo dos Santos and Jeronimo Ozorio who joined before the war. Damaso joined soon after he and Heldy Remedios escaped from Shamshuipo prisoner of war camp.

The brigade was run quasi-military style with bugle calls for everything! Our duties, apart from fighting fires, were disaster relief and retrieving bodies after suicides, etc. After a particularly severe typhoon the brigade was dispatched to assist in recovering cadavers from the floating population. There I witnessed a mind-boggling scene: hundreds of dead men, children and women were "strewn" in the water near the breakwaters – many were bloated and decomposing.

Another unpleasant job was having to hose down the concrete floors of the insane asylum cells at Kiang Wu Hospital. After hosing the debris and human excrement, I would invariably "nick-off" to cheer up our boys and girls who were sick in another wing of the compound. Young Frank da Luz (Carlos and Dick's brother) always had a smile for me in spite of his terminal sickness. Betty Gutierrez (Olga and Aida's sister) was another I visited frequently.

As if all that wasn't enough, we had to contend with the cholera epidemic in summer. I remember Chief Nurse Senhor Ozorio's desperation every time I transported by ambulance the victims to São Januário Hospital – some days as many as 25! So, 25 victims = 25 showers back at the station = the cleanest guy in Macau!! The nature of the job is yuk and yuk!! – if you know what I mean.

Joe da Luz (Adeus meu caro antigo amigo). Sento muito Patsy e família!

I used to meet Joe nearly every day of the year during the war. I still recall vividly the night he scared the pants off me. Joe was posted near the bottom steps of the ruins of St. Paul, and I decided to take the short cut home after duty. It was pitch dark except for a dim street light in the distance. A cold wind was blowing and the rustling leaves made spooky noises. It was midnight and I took the steps slowly. I couldn't see Joe as he was hidden and suddenly from nowhere he challenged me! Bloody hell! "It's me, Joe," I said meekly. Then Joe appeared, wearing his heavy army coat with the collar pulled up to his neck, and slinging his tommy gun back on to his shoulder. I saw Joe and Patsy once or twice more in San Francisco some years ago.

Johnny Gomes (Hobo Joe)

Hobo Joe, a policeman, was posted some 150 feet from Clube Melco where a dance party was in progress. Marco Amante (also a fireman) and his band were making sweet music which wafted out to where Johnny was standing. He picked me out of the crowd and pleaded with me to change clothes and play policeman for a little while – he had an unbearable urge to dance! After a lot of arguing I relented and Johnny had his dances. After changing and resuming his stance he had the pleasure of the patrol officer arriving on his bicycle to check on him. I think it was David Monteiro. Phew!!

Ingmar Eriksen and Ex-La Sallers

On my way home one afternoon, hell broke out and cops with tommy-guns poured out of Central Police Station to scramble on to an open truck. The alarm was ringing furiously and the intrepid Commandante Cunha was barking out orders to his boys who comprised of (I hope I'm right): Mon Malig, Alfredo Tavares, Rusky Guterres (Fuji's brother), Edmundo Silva, Victor Cruz, Gussy Santos , Joe (Ping Ping) Mercado, Mendonça and guess who? – Ingmar Eriksen! who looked quite perplexed as to what the orders were about as he spoke only 3 or 4 words of Portuguese. Falá são ya! Where are you now, mate?

Bosco Guterres & Co., etc.

Ex-La Sallers who joined the army were: Alberto (Lanky) dos Santos, Corporal Almeida (Shai), João (Jucas) Belard, Hugo Pedruco and Bosco Guterres. Lanky Santos did a bit of boxing and one of his opponents was the Filipino Aromin, who was also in La Salle. Often I would see Bosco (on my way home after duty) sitting on the Praia Grande wall looking out to sea contemplating; perhaps, when is this "whole thing" going to end. We would talk until it was time for him to resume his sentry duty at the entrance of the Governor's Palace. Many times Bosco and I would stand together saluting the flag while it was being lowered – caught as it were – bugle sounding and rifles clanging while being brought to attention mode by the honor guard. It was quite impressive and spine-tingling! Makes you feel proud you're Portuguese. Finally, the ubiquitous Doctors Tony Guterres and Eddie Gosano, etc. riding their bicycles to visit the sick and afflicted in the hospitals and refugee centers at all times of the day and night. And, lastly, let's not forget the armed guards, viz: Jorge Rozario, Ronny Castro, etc., attached to the British Consulate at Praia Grande.

*    The late Nuno Loureiro d'Eça lived in New Zealand after the war.