Toppling Statues

Statue of Vicente Mesquita as it originally stood in Macau
The statue of Vicente Mesquita as it stood in Macau until it was attacked and torn down by a rioting mob in 1966

Across the U.S., statues of Confederate generals and of those considered to be racists are being attacked, torn down or removed. In the U.K. too, in the city of Bristol an angry mob toppled the statue of slave trader Edward Colston and dumped it into the harbor. When symbols are smashed or defaced in frustration, it can be a harbinger of change to come.

Why does it scare the crap out of the people refusing to accept a new reality―to face their flawed sense of privilege? Because it’s often a precursor for regime change. Sure, we have seen plenty of examples of statue destruction after the fact, such as was the case of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s statue after the U.S. invasion, or of Cecil Rhodes in Zimbabwe after the African was granted independence by Britain in 1980. When statues are attacked, damage is often directed at the parts that would most hurt a human being―not only venting anger at the idea represented by it, but also a humiliation of the person as well; heads cut off, eyes gouged out, ears torn off, revenge meted out on the person as a symbol of tyranny.

54 years ago in Macau, on December 3rd of 1966, a statue of war hero Vicente Mesquita was toppled by rioters. It came after several months of turmoil in Macau. Protests by mainly Communist organizations came to a head on that December day. The Macau government responded by mobilizing army troops to suppress the demonstrators and riots that followed. It resulted in the deaths of 11 Chinese shot dead and 100 others injured. Macau’s leftist organizations rallied merchants to close their shops; China’s border checkpoints were closed, food and water supplies were cut. Macau was under siege and had no option but to kowtow to the leftists. From that day onward, until its reversion to China in 1999, Macau remained under China’s de facto control. The return Portugal’s last colony Macau to China, ended 442 years of Portuguese rule over the enclave.

The statue’s pedestal after the attack

Mesquita is best remembered as the man who helped bring China to its knees when he led a small force of Portuguese soldiers to attack and defeat a fort at Baishaling, China in 1849. However, for a long while, until it suited politicians to resurrect Mesquita as a hero of the Portuguese Empire, his memory was scorned. After his death in 1880, the governor denied his remains a military burial. The bishop forbade interment of his body in Macau’s consecrated ground. Nevertheless, at the start of the Second World War, he was resurrected. Portugal badly needed heroes. As a neutral state, the regime had grown wealthy by selling mineral resources to both ally and axis. It could well afford the erection of a few statues to bolster its image as a colonial power.                                            

The Communists that attacked the statue resented it as a constant reminder of China’s national disgrace―one that began with outsiders camping on the empire’s periphery before eventually infiltrating its very heart and gnashing off chunks.

Anyone wishing to learn more about Vicente Mesquita can do so through my book ‘Mesquita’s Reflections’.

1 Comment

July 1, 2020 · 6:03 am

JINCAN – places

San Francisco

The story of JINCAN begins in southern China (Macau), introducing Shen and his quest for the perfect poison to carry out a final mission. Shen sails across the Pacific to San Francisco, with the hope of escaping his past. It is in San Francisco that Shen and Greystone meet.

In some of the places that Shen and Greystone travel to or through, San Francisco, Panama and the Sierra Nevada mountains, I have written a description of the place as seen through the eyes of early explorers or indigenous people. In this post and ones to follow, I am giving you a taste of how I have introduced each new location, starting with San Francisco.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Observations: Writing, History, Travel and Culture

Pedro José Lobo

A man’s love for Macau

Pedro J. Lobo 1892-1965

A biography of P. J. Lobo, the businessman and philanthropist who also served as Macau’s Director of Economic Services is being written by his grandson, Marco Lobo.

Continue reading


Filed under Observations: Writing, Observations: Writing, History, Travel and Culture

Lei Li Wai – Lillywhite – a short story (part 2 of 2)

Lei Li Wai – Lillywhite

Listen to the story here

Transcript below

Born Year of the Horse, May 8th, 1990

Died Year of the Pig, May 15th,2019

PANDEMONIUM, I LIKE THAT WORD, one that perfectly describes the situation over the past month: lots of noise and confusion caused by excitement, anger, or fear.

I suppose you all know about poor Chong Ping Poh. The fat policeman said his death was an accident, that he fell into the river and cracked his head open on the rocks. I knew all along that Pork Chop was the killer. Ping Poh had been preparing, making his grand plan to take over the town. We had the hidden video cameras recording everything that went on in the rooms above the little casino. And I had the data ready to go public, uploaded to the internet — a click away from being released. Emails with links ready to go to local media.

But I didn’t go through with it.

Why? Well it was my chance you see. The naughty videos would have wrecked the business. Destroyed the clients and left me and the girls with nothing, nowhere to go. We would have been jailed, or sent back to China. I saw the chance to take it all over, the pub, the gaming, the girls, and I had the videos to fend off the bigwigs.

Chief Pork Chop Porcini came to see me the evening after finding Ping Poh’s corpse. The mayor, Bob Flagstaff, was with him. Mayor Bob was a regular, both downstairs and upstairs, but mainly upstairs. He had a particular interest in being spanked by one of my girls, Mei Lin. Skinny little Mei would drag him round the room by his necktie while he crawled about like a dog, then beat his buttocks with a hairbrush while she yelled at him for being a bad dog. Strange behaviour, but not the weirdest, not by a long shot. Anyway, after Pork Chop said Ping Poh was dead, Mayor Bob told me they were taking over the business.

I was ready for them.

Had a few juicy videos queued up on the big screen TV. Showed Mayor Bob’s first. All colour drained from his ruddy face, his eyes bulged, a strangled cackle came from his throat. Then he shouted for me to turn it off. His face went from white to purple. Then the next video came on. Pork Chop dressed in ladies’ underwear, then in a tutu prancing about the room. His reaction was quite a bit more animated than Mayor Bob’s, threatening to kill me.

My English isn’t that good, but it was good enough that through a few words and gestures, click, internet, BAM! I threw my arms up with that last shouted word. They got the message loud and clear.

That’s when the pandemonium started. I knew the danger hadn’t gone away; I knew they would still come for me. With the videos as my leverage, I negotiated for all my girls to get their legal papers. I distributed most of Ping Poh’s money to them and off they went to live their new lives, their American dream. I was quite happy to stay in town and run the business.

But look at me now. A few days after my twenty ninth birthday I lie beneath six feet of dirt, buried under the floorboards of an abandoned warehouse. Perhaps thousands of years from now my remains will be discovered in an archaeological dig. The skeleton of a female warrior? My splintered ribs might be interpreted as battle wounds. The axe that did me in lying buried with me giving the impression of the weapon of an amazon.

My fears were well founded. I had kept my plans intact ready to go with a single click.

Pork Chop and Mayor Bob who had seen their videos were clearly wary but the others, people like the postmaster, chief justice and several other notables wanted me gone and put the pressure on the police chief to get rid of me. After all, what was one more murder to someone who had probably committed dozens? Come to think of it, I probably have neighbours down here. Once I figure this ghost thing out, I’ll do some exploring.

I had the trigger all set up on my phone. Pork Chop came at me with the axe, so ‘click’ I did

Internet, BAM!


Leave a comment

August 21, 2022 · 6:16 am

Chong Ping Po – a short story (Part 1 of 2)

‘Pork Chop’ Porcini

Listen to the story here:

Transcript below:

Chong Ping Poh

Born Year of the Horse, June 18th,1966 

Died Year of the Pig, April 11th,2019

SO UNJUST. EXCRUCIATING PAIN, DEATH FROM A CAVED-IN SKULL distilled into three simple words — blunt force trauma. Not that a dead man feels such things but I felt it at the time and I can tell you it hurt like hell, and then some. And then came the worst part. What could be worse than a bashed-in head, you ask? You just know it’s the end when you draw in lungfuls of muddy river water until it all goes black. Doesn’t go dark all at once though. Drowning is slow. And survival instinct isn’t all what it’s cracked up to be. It prolongs the inevitable — extends the suffering until you just want it to end and let go.

“Yep, that’s Ping Pong all right.” Chief Porcini is gazing down at me over his immense gut. “Face all swolled up, but that’s the Chinaman for sure.”

Even in death he mocks me, calling me Ping Pong as he did to my face. Each time I just smiled and nodded, inwardly burning with rage. Well, he doesn’t know that everyone, his so-called pals included, called him Chief Pork Chop. I want to laugh out loud, scare the pants off those ham hocks. Can ghosts laugh? I guess that’s what I am now.

“If not for the river floodin’ and putting him onto the riverbank, we might’a never found him. Figure he musta got drunk and felled in upstream. Bashed his head on the rocks is what I reckon. Bag him up and send him to Morty at the morgue.”

Nobody will think to check Pork Chop’s truncheon for DNA evidence, the weapon he used to brain me, hangs off his belt. This town owes me but this is all the thanks I get. I helped build Unpleasantville over the past twenty five years. Opened up the gaming room behind the Poisonwood Pub. It took off right away. The new games I brought in were an instant hit. I learned them growing up in Macau as a kid. Lined many pockets, including Pork Chop’s from the profits of my gambling establishment. Used my own money to clear the woods and put a road through for the new development north of town. But this, doing me in, was Porky’s plan all along, well, his and the others who could actually make a plan. Yes, those chummy folk from the golf club that were glad to take my money but would never think of letting me join their exclusive community. Now they’ll try to take over the pub and the gaming room. Well, I have a surprise in store for them. Being alive to witness the shockwave hitting city hall, the courthouse and best of all, the police station would have been pure bliss, but knowing I’ll have my revenge from what will surely happen is almost as good. As they say ‘the house always wins’, and that’s a fact.

You see, it wasn’t just the gambling that brought all those country-club-types to my place. And running a gambling room wasn’t all I learned in Macau. I provided other entertainment to take even more cash off my fine patrons. I had the finest ladies transported all the way from China via Caracas and then Havana, and through the Gulf by fishing boat. Worth every penny. Didn’t matter that they couldn’t speak English. And, you see, as they expertly plied their very particular trade upstairs, my madam, my very own Lillywhite made sure that the hidden cameras were catching every move, every grunt. Lillywhite has instructions to make those images public the moment she learns of my fate.    

The body bag is being zipped closed over my face and yet I can still see through it. I think I like being a ghost. Maybe I’ll hang around for a while to watch the fun.

Leave a comment

August 21, 2022 · 6:01 am

Two-part story written for the Unpleasantville podcast

In July (2022) I was invited by Linda Gould, Managing Editor of ‘White Enso’ to contribute to her new project ‘Unpleasantville’. a collection of short stories turned podcasts.
You can access the collection here:
The two stories I wrote are called
Chong Ping Po

and, Lillywhite.

I hope you like them as well as all the stories in this collection.

1 Comment

August 21, 2022 · 5:27 am

PEARL a short story

My short story ‘Pearl’ was recently read as a podcast. Listen here:
The Pearl by Marco Lobo
Kaidankai: Ghost and Supernatural Stories
Apple Podcasts
iHeart Radio

Leave a comment

June 25, 2022 · 5:43 am

The Transience of Cherry Blossoms

Ten years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. In reflection of the episode, I share my personal thoughts and learnings of that period, and of the time since.

We found her in the dark, cold apartment, hunched over, cooking on a small camp stove, stirring a pot of instant noodles. The gas, water and electricity had been cut off and Miyoko, my deaf-in-one-ear, eighty-year old mother-in-law, had her transistor radio turned up loud. It was March 12th, 2011, a day after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off the coast of Miyagi Prefecture, unleashing a tsunami that caused immense damage along Japan’s eastern coastline, in places reaching as far as five kilometers inland.

The day of the earthquake, a Friday, we had taken the day off work and headed for the ski slopes of Nagano. After a couple of hours of skiing, a few minutes before 3:00 pm, the ski lifts stopped running. High winds, I thought as we trudged back to the lodge, hoping to continue our fun later in the day. It soon became clear that something was terribly wrong. People at the lodge were gathered around a television set watching news of the damage caused by the earthquake, and of the tsunami that had slammed into the coast of Miyagi Prefecture a mere 30 minutes after the main seismic shock. Miyagi, more specifically the town of Shiogama, was where my mother-in-law lived. We knew we had to get to her, but with the images of destruction on the TV news, we decided to first return home to Tokyo to plan our next moves.

Miyoko had first been evacuated to a school gymnasium, but with the place having no electricity or running water she returned home, deciding that being surrounded by her own things and the butsudan, the altar set up in honor of her recently deceased husband, was a preferable option.

This is a tale of sorrow, but also of hope and resilience, of how living alongside my community in Tokyo as well as the wider Japanese community has allowed deeper insights into Japanese culture and behavior.

After the earthquake struck, phones were not working. Already a day had passed without our being able to contact Miyoko. Eventually, through contact with a policeman at her koban, neighborhood police station, we received news that she was uninjured and at home. We threw sleeping bags, torches, bottled water and a first-aid kit into the trunk of our car and set off for Tohoku. The main highway north was closed due to earthquake damage, so we drove the 400 kilometers from Tokyo to Miyagi via local roads, through the countryside and small towns. Signs of devastation grew the further north we went and our sense of despair rose along with it. Witnessing the aftermath of the tsunami was terrifying. Sendai Port had been flattened. Cars and boats sat upturned on each other and atop buildings. Plumes of black smoke from oil and chemical fires darkened the sky. Helicopters thumped overhead. Japan Self Defense Force trucks roared here and there, heightening the sense of being in a war zone.

As harrowing as the experience was from witnessing nature’s destructive power, we also felt a sense of hope. People we saw along the way had already started to dust themselves off. Road crews were already out making repairs. In some areas, water was running again. Long orderly queues had formed in places where vital supplies were available.
Nowhere did we see panic. That’s not to say there wasn’t fear — we saw it and felt it each time he earth trembled with an aftershock. Above all, we saw people doing their best trying to restore a sense of order to their shattered world just as Miyoko had been doing in her collapsing apartment building. Even in such dire circumstances, there was no cutting in line in front of the hundred-car lines waiting for petrol at every gas station. The drive back to Tokyo took us fourteen hours, two hours longer than the trip up to Shiogama. The car’s navigation system repeatedly beeped warnings for us not to get within twenty kilometers of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station.

Shortly after the disaster, a Japanese newspaper printed a story that provided a glimpse into the Japanese psyche. It reported that when the earthquake struck, patrons of a Tokyo restaurant fled out into the street. When the tremors subsided, many diners went back into the restaurant and settled their bills. Some of those who had run for their lives returned the next day to pay for their meals.

A week after the devastation that we now know claimed many thousands of lives, as the weather warmed, with the first promise of cherry blossoms — that Japanese symbol of transience, but also of life and rebirth, I took my white-haired mother-in-law for a stroll. She was then as she is now a decade later, imbued with a sense of hope that things will turn out for the best in the end. She is my moral compass, guiding me with words of wisdom such as ‘Sekizen no ie ni wa yokei ari’ — The family that has done many virtuous deeds has abundance.

It is through sharing experiences with my Japanese family and community, joyful ones such as the approach of spring and anticipation of cherry blossoms, as well as the painful ones like natural disasters and the ongoing Covid pandemic, which have helped me more deeply appreciate this country, its people, and my place in it.

1 Comment

Filed under Observations: Writing, History, Travel and Culture