IN 1960 a government patrol post was established in Kandep.
The people were rounded up to clear land and build the new government station and the Kandep-Laiagam road.
My father arose early every morning to walk several kilometres to help build bush material houses for the patrol officer, his servants, policemen, teachers and health workers.
The people also worked on the road and the building of a new primary school and clinic.
The government had ordered that this be done and every man had to obey. Those who did not turn up were rounded up and beaten or put in jail.
From time to time I joined my mother, who went to barter bags of sweet potatoes for salt, cooking oil, bars of soap, beads and other goodies at the government station.
At about this time I became very sick. My parents, and relatives who came to see the progress of my illness, were alarmed as my condition worsened.
I could hardly move and my breathing became difficult. Eating was impossible.
My relatives agreed this was no ordinary illness and they were fearful I might die. The village magician, Yambauo Piui, was summoned to determine the cause.
First, he had me sit up. Then he spat and breathed into some special leaves called kapaon yoko that he had brought with him.
This was followed by the chanting of some magical words. After a few seconds, he yawned hard and seemed to be in a trance.
Some time later, the magician came to his senses and delivered the diagnosis. He said the cause of my illness was an uncle, Peruwa, who had been killed in tribal warfare.
The magician said my uncle wanted my father to sacrifice our pregnant sow. The pig was to be killed at the mouth of a small spring that had been discovered in the middle of a new garden my father was clearing.
“If the pig is not offered by the spring as Peruwa wants, then the child will surely die,” the magician said grimly. Terror gripped me when I heard those words. I felt already paralysed.
“Okay, we will kill the pig my brother wants,” mt father said. “I just hope Peruwa stops making my son ill.”
His words relieved me and a sudden peace descended on me. My mother had miscarried a son before me and my father was understandably worried he might lose me as well.
Meanwhile the pig was untied and brought from the pen into the living room. The final part of the magician’s ceremony was to begin.
The magician cut some hair off the pig with a bamboo knife and tied it into a bundle. Then he burned one end of the bundle. It gave off a terrible smell. The magician looked me in the eye and gave me the bundle of smouldering stinking hair. I took it in my hands.
“There that’s it. That’s the signal. Peruwa is satisfied,” the magician said. “The child will be all right if the pig is killed now.”
The pig was immediately led to the new garden, where the spring had sprouted from the ground.
Stones, ferns called tambo and vegetables were hastily collected on the way.
When the ingredients were ready, the poor animal was slaughtered. The blood oozing from its nose was allowed to drip into the mouth of the spring. This was the offering to the spirit.
The head and organs like the liver of the pig were cooked in a mumu near the mouth of the spring to further appease my late uncle. The rest of the meat was cooked in a bigger mumu nearby.
When the two mumu pits were uncovered, I was encouraged to eat some of the pork. This I did, to the obvious delight of my father. This was an indication that the spirit had let go of me and that I would recover fully in the next few days.
After recovering, I began school, enrolling in Preparatory class at Kandep Primary ‘T’ School in 1964.
When a primary school was established by Fr Gerald Jerry Theis SVD at Mariant Catholic Mission near my village, I transferred there for convenience sake.
One day in 1967, my Grade 2 teacher told us to dress smartly the following morning. He said a Radio Man from the state-run National Broadcasting Commission station, Radio Western Highlands, would be coming to record our songs.
I was at the front and singing with much enthusiasm into the microphone. I watched the Radio Man’s every move as he turned knobs and flicked switches, changed batteries and tape reels and signalled us when to sing and when to stop.
It was awesome to watch the two tape spools spinning round and round. With a primitive background, I could not possibly comprehend the operations of the portable recording machine.
Before he departed, the Radio Man told us to listen to our songs in a special children’s program transmitted over Radio Western Highlands. I never heard the songs because there was no radio in my village in those days.
Twelve years later, I met the Radio Man when I signed up as a broadcast officer with Radio Western Highlands. It was mid-1979 and he was the late Paul Lare, who became my best friend and an inspiration as I began my career in the media.
I never dreamt that one day I would be a broadcaster and a journalist. . I grew up with the understanding that, when they left school, people only worked as policeman, aid post orderlies, interpreters, drivers and perhaps kiaps.
I was among the first people from my area to complete Grade 10 in 1975 and then I found myself finishing my education at Idubada Technical College in Port Moresby, so very far from Kandep
I had been selected to study chemical technology, electrical engineering and communications engineering at the University of Technology. The Education Department made a mistake in offering me three courses instead of one. But I didn’t have a clue what any of them was about.
Except I knew the word ‘communication’ and thought that maybe communications engineering involved people talking on the radio, so I chose to do the course.
Radio played a huge role in those days and impacted very much on the lives of rural Papua New Guineans. Many members of parliament were former radio personalities including Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare himself.
In my third year at the University of Technology, I performed poorly as the course became more technical. I could repeat subjects at my own expense but could not raise the funds. My parents were poor and lived a subsistence life in the village.
But, luckily, I had been sponsored by the National Broadcasting Commission to study Communications Engineering to qualify to work as a technical officer when I graduated.
At the time, it was Sam Piniau, chairman of the NBC, who kindly allowed my request to work as a broadcast officer to raise funds and then return to my studies. Other broadcasters like Ian Dunn and Don Penias provided the guidance I needed.
I was posted to Radio Western Highlands where I met Paul Lare – the announcer who had recorded our songs many years before. I worked under William Kundin, who was the station manager and other radio personalities like Michael Namba, Paul Piel, Paul Ray, Jennifer Pahun, Anna Pundia, Paul Yane, Mathew Tena, Michael Mekela, Michael Mel and others.
Two former radio announcers, Kindi Lawi and Raphael Doa, were now members of parliament.
Very soon I was popular, particularly among crazy girls who came to the studio door when they heard me on air asking me to play their favourite song during the Laik bilong Wanwan late night music show.
A colleague, George Kagle, was my partner in crime during that time. I did not think to go back to complete my studies.
After about three years in Mt Hagen, I joined the staff of Danely Tindiwi from Kandep. He was the first person to be elected Premier of Enga Province under the new provincial government system and I was his press officer.
But soon I realised I had no future working for a politician who could easily be voted out of office at the next election.
So, in 1983, I joined a World Bank sponsored provincial development project, called Enga Yakaa Lasemana or EYL for short, as an Information Officer.
Communication development was one of the project components. Of five staff recruited to the new Media Unit, I was understudy to a British VSO volunteer, Archie Markham.
Archie and I started the Enga Newsletter produced on several sheets of typewritten A4 paper folded together. We sat at a light table with glue, scissors, Letraset, rulers and rubber to prepare our news pages.
That was the beginning of the now popular provincial news magazine, Enga Nius. But I had no proper training in journalism so I asked to be released to study Journalism and Media Studies at the University of PNG. This was the beginning of my exciting career in journalism.
The UK-based Thomson Foundation, the US-based Alfred Friendly Press Foundation and the National Press Foundation offered me scholarships in 1989, 1991 and 2008 respectively in recognition of my efforts to remain in my province and publish a worthwhile newspaper.
I also contributed – and continue to contribute - news and feature stories to the Post Courier, The National, Sunday Chronicle and Paradise Magazine.
Papua New Guinea has a free press, much like in America, Great Britain and other free democracies. There is no government control over what is published or broadcast. But many people in PNG do not have the capacity to run their own media outlets.
In reality, it is only Port Moresby which has a fully functional press. Consequently, almost all journalists live and work in the city – one of the few capitals in the world cut off from the rest of the country and accessible by air or sea only at huge cost.
Our two dailies, two weeklies, two commercial TV stations, one commercial FM station and the National Broadcasting Commission are all Port Moresby based. Almost all are foreign owned.
Except for the NBC, few of these organisations have regional or provincial representation. Only recently has the Post Courier and The National begun to establish regional bureaus in Lae, Mt Hagen and Rabaul.
Given this scenario, I have been privileged to enjoy support from the Enga Provincial Government to publish a newspaper that is as free as any other. I am sure it is the only publication of its kind produced outside Port Moresby at provincial or regional level.
Cold-blooded murders, pack rapes, violence against women, tribal warfare, corruption, nepotism, HIV/AIDS, drug and child abuse – the type of stories that make headline news anywhere - happen here.
I have reported on these issues without fear or favour in the hope that, one day, my province and country will struggle free from these social woes.
Perhaps, the biggest accomplishment in my career has been to live and work among my own 300,000 people opening their eyes and ears to the outside world. And alerting them to dangers like HIV/AIDS that threaten their very existence.
The crowning achievements have been the scholarships I won which gave me the chance to travel around the world.
And I thank PNG Attitude for showing me the way to publish my travel experiences in my book ‘I Can See My Country Clearly Now’ published through CreateSpace.