It was a painful and horrifying morning of December 2, 1983, when I boarded flight Air Niuguini bound for Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, ETD 0845 hrs. Despite my daughter’s request not got ahead even at the expenses of her bike, I was thinking if I could still comeback knowing that the project would be in Kiunga, of Eastern Province, Papua New Guinea, the heartland of the cannibals. The last reported cannibalism incident was just a year before the year I left. It was also my first time to go outside the country. Worst, I had no experience as a Material Specialist, knowing that I would be working with the world’s largest construction company, BECHTEL. But because of my desire to change the future course of our lives, I went ahead. I was ready though for this scenario for I was a street fighter, a survivor. In the past, I experienced rejection from my in laws, but after years of wooing and humility I was finally accepted, although sometimes the pain of rejection still lingers in my heart up to the present.
While I was at the project site, at first I felt the boredom, and I wanted to go home, but with a few new friends who mentored me, the good salary and the best facilities to compliment our hard work, I felt I was in heaven. I was driven by my goal of giving the best education to my kids. My wife’s daily letters boosted my morale and kept me in high spirits. Of all the Filipinos, I got the most number of letters, mostly from my wife. The usual voice tape and songs from my kids came regularly. In other words, my communication with my family was satisfactory.
What was scary was the danger that lurks everyday in the workplace was much real. There was a time when our client, OK TEDI MINING CORPORATION failed to fulfill their promise of royalty money to the natives of the whole province. This caused an uproar that almost cost the lives of 5,000 expatriates and us Filipinos. That was 3:00 a.m. in the morning, the second year of the second month from arrival; when we were awaken by war shouts. I went out to investigate what was the commotion about, but a horrifying experience almost caused me my life because a few inches from my left at the level of my heart struck a thud. Later I realized that it was the famous tribal arrows laden with poisons. Our mess hall and other vital facilities were also destroyed and our airport at stand still with huge timbers crossing the very runway. Nobody could leave the project nor could somebody come in.
...to be continued