A People’s Journey

Islands of memories: Torres Strait Islands and Manilamen
The calming sound of the rolling waves,
the soft sea breeze that whispers in our ears,       
the tales of lives led, islands of memories
gently awakening our minds and hearts
to recognise our original face, our ancestral heritage,
the spirit of seafarers from the orient.

Flashback images of fresh young faces, of lads,
many not quite twenty, who sailed southward
through the Strait, landing on groups
of sprawled Torres Strait islands,
life-changing twist of fate that made them emerge
as indentured foreign divers for the once globally sought after gem —
the glistening pearl — the risky venture
sustained their survival.

Some, like birds, flew back and returned
to their home nest, Las Islas Filipinas (Philippine Islands)
once poetically called the ‘Pearl of the Orient’
(Perla del mar de Oriente or Perlas ng Silanganan).

Others stayed, making their new adopted land their home,
their lifeblood mingled with the locals,
destined to be transplanted on the ancestral land
of other seafaring people, the kaleidoscope
of integrated cultures defied definition,
their descendants naming themselves beyond borderlines,
honouring their forefathers’ uncharted lives
spent tilling the soil and working the waters
for their families, with industry’s development
and growth relying upon their toil.

Melanesian, South Pacific Islanders, Manilamen,
wherever they came from,
became hardened survivors beyond
the artificial construct of white, black or coloured,
simply embracing the fascinating diversity
of distinct cultures, allowing the ghost of the past
from the bottom of the ocean permeate
consciousness so that the land and seas can speak freely,
reclaiming nature as the sound of the drums
that beat the heart of our shared heritage,
unwilling to deny the truth of our becoming,
recognising the thread that weaves the fabric
and designs of the pattern of life —
the living testament of identity, who we really are —
the spirit of the land, the soul of the earth
that echoes the lives
of people who have merged
with Australia’s Dreamtime.

By Deborah Ruiz Wall,
Island Villas, John Street, Thursday Island,
25th July 2015.

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