Reminiscences of Saligao of the 1940s

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

The village of Saligao situated to the north-west of Goa in the Bardez taluka (sub-district) is much different today than what it used to be in the 1940s. And so am I, of course! Nevertheless, those formative years as a small lad growing up in this picturesque and charming Goan village left a deep and indelible impression on my mind; an impression that remains intact with me to this day.

I remember that – in addition to my family members – there were quite a few others who made quite an impact on my young mind. One of them was Bolu Mauxi. She was a kind and religious woman in our neighbourhood, but she liked to maintain a stern and tough demeanour. She led the religious rituals in the Chapel of St Anne located in Tabravaddo; at the ward cross; and, also at the time when the statue of Our Lady of Miracles was installed in the homes. Before she lost her sight she initiated another woman – Idinha Menezes e Remédios – in carrying out the religious services which lay people were authorized to conduct. Many people did consult Bolu Mauxi on other matters. Her take on historical dates and facts were noteworthy, if not always verifiable. She once told me that Saligaokars lost their sugarcane trade soon after the Second World War as refined sugar was freely available at low prices in the ration shops in Saligao, Calangute and Mapuça.

Another lady I remember was Preciosa Remedios commonly known as Precy tiê. She was called to homes in the neighbhourhood whenever someone was sick. She placed her ears on the chest of the patients, examined the colour of the tongue, felt the pulse and quickly came up with her diagnosis, prescribing some innocuous “medicines” to hasten the cure, probably based on her keen observation of real doctors and real prescriptions. If she felt the case was indeed a serious one, warranting authentic medical attention, she graciously made arrangements to summon Dr. António Pinto do Rosário or Dr. Pedrito Rodrigues, both from Porvorim; or, Dr. Avelino Carvalho or Dr. Menino Machado, both from Saligao, to visit the patients at home. The seriousness of the case could be guessed according to the doctors chosen for the particular case. Then Precy tiê would follow the progress of the patient, as a voluntary helper.

Then there was Lizzie Cordeiro, a young lady who instilled fear in the minds of youngsters. Her facial expression, characterized by widening of her eyes to the size of saucers, was enough to silence the crying of the small lads and lasses. I was terribly afraid of her and even at this old age memories of her cause the hair on my hands to stand!

School strolls

I also remember my uncle taking me on walks, especially to areas where there were schools. He showed me the Costa’s school at Mollembhatt, and another one next to Martinho Cordeiro’s house in Arrarim, run by Pulquéria Lobo, sister of Anacleto Lobo, our principal at the Mater Dei Institute.  Then there was the primary Portuguese school run by Professora Alice. While the physical structure of these schools now lies in ruins, the same definitely cannot be said of the education imparted to the many who attended these schools.

I always passed the Escola Primaria de Saligao, popularly known as Aula, on my way to our Saligao village church. I learnt the three R’s at the Saligao Union School at Arrarim. I cannot forget Miss Marilia de Abreu, who fed me well with knowledge as well as chocolates.

Finally, in the late forties, I was sent to Mater Dei. Whilst in the fourth standard, besides English we had a public Primeiro grau exam in Portuguese. During the oral examination the public was allowed to witness the event and many a parent or guardian went with great enthusiasm to hear their children answer the questions before a board of three professors, two invited from outside and one our own Portuguese teacher. The only tragic thing about this exam was that the results were declared publicly on the same day. Looking back, I feel it was cruel. One can imagine the traumatic experience of a nine-year-old child being told publicly that he or she had failed, but that is the way it was. On the other hand, those who passed celebrated by firing crackers. My success was celebrated with chunks of salt thrown into the kitchen fire at home.

Revelling in the rain

When the first rains came, umbrellas and wooden slippers (khaddavo or chirpam) made their appearance, and schools opened in the third week of June However on 13th June, St. Anthony’s feast day, we jumped in the wells. The same ritual was followed on 24th June, the feast of St. John (San Joao), going from house to house.

I clearly remember the day my friend Santan Mendes and I went to Buddugeli Baim for a dip in that famous well. I was not adept at swimming, although in previous years with vanzam (empty coconut shells) tied to my back I did swim in that same well. This time I plunged in without vanzam and was struggling to stay afloat even as I tried desperately to move to the edge and climb out. Risking his own life, Santan dived in to save me. Finally we both emerged out alive. A young lass who witnessed the scene reported every detail of the incident to my people at home. Well, I was saved alright, but the sound beating I received for my ill-advised escapade sends shivers up my spine even as I reminisce about it now.

Peace and war

In the evenings all the children played marbles. The ladies at home passed their time with tablam and the men with cards. Apart from the tensions of inter-vaddó or inter-village competitions in games such as football and cricket, life to us seemed comparatively peaceful, easy and full of fun.

The impact of the Second World War on me at my new institution, Saligao Union School, was harsh. They discontinued the annual prize distribution ceremony as the prices of the prizes had shot up and they could not afford to procure them in sufficient numbers. In other schools they even cancelled the Annual Day function.

Sugar and kerosene were rationed and one had to stand for hours to get one’s quota. However we had rice and other ingredients for our xitt-koddi. But shortage or no shortage, life went on. By September 1945, the war had come to an end, and with it ended an era. There was a new school, Lourdes Convent High School, started in Cotula in 1946 by the Franciscan Missionaries of Christ the King, which is still running at present at Donvaddo/Sonarbhatt. The Saligao Seminary was nearing completion and we visited it frequently where we met our Chaplain of St. Anne’s Chapel, Fr. Paulo Arcanjo de Menezes from Sangolda. On the way we passed the Christuleacho Vôd (banyan tree said to be haunted by the ghost of Christalina), which is the Gateway to Saligao.

I also remember the Rev. Parish Priests such as Fr. Cruz Gaspar Viegas from Carmona, Fr. António das Mercês de Melo from Verna and his Assistant Fr. José Roberto Vás from Raia. It was during their tenure that I made my First Holy Communion in the forties. In 1948, the 75th year of the foundation of Saligao Church was celebrated on 26th November. That evening, after the High Mass, Fr. Hermínio Inácio da Vitória Pinto Lobo from Pequeno Morodd regaled us all with classical and devotional pieces sung by his choir from Panjim in the portico of the Church and ended that evening function rendering the famous Saligao Anthem “O Brilhante e a Estrela”.

The wonder years

I must say I spent my first delightful years at Mater Dei during the late forties. I can never forget the teachers at Mater Dei, such as Mr. Anacleto Lobo (Principal),  Mrs. Ines Lobo (school clerk), the secretary Mr. Lobo, Mrs. Pulqueria, Ms. Olive, Ms. Helene, Mr. Lubino Sequeira, Mr. Sakardande, Mr. Kolgaonkar, Mr. Kenkre, Mr. Robert Luis, Mr. Varkey, Mr. Joshi, Mr. Archibald Serrão, Mr. W. Stephen, Ms D’Souza from Mangalore,  Mr. Fructuoso D’Sousa ( Mr. Fruto), Ms. Nancy D’Sousa, Ms. Zita Carvalho, Mr. Caitie Vaz, Mr. Mantri and Fr. Alvaro Martins from Taleigão.

In the forties, school hours extended from morning to evening. The students used to often ask the inimitable secretary Mr. Lobo at about 4.30 p.m. what time it was and his answer would invariably be, “Ten minutes past half past four!”

Mater Dei won several trophies in football tournaments and athletics meets. These trophies are still on display in the school cupboards. We had boy scout and girl guides units, as well as Mocidade Portuguêsa. The Portuguese Commandants trained us in marching, drills, songs, etc.

In 1947 India achieved independence and the tricolour was flown everywhere in India, except Goa. In was hoisted in Goa on 19th December, 1961 and Goa became part of Indian Union. That was the end of the Portuguese era, an era that was such an important factor of my childhood years growing up in the quaint Goan village of Saligao.

5 comments on Reminiscences Of Saligao Of The 1940s

  • Dear Saliganvkars,
    A very happy anniversary feast of the foundation day of our Mae de Deus Church, Saligao, Goa. to each one of you. At this very hour the statue of Mae de Deus was ceremoniously installed in our Church at Saligao on 26th November , 1873. Exactly at five in the evening the the celebration of Feast Mass is beeing celebrated in our historic Church in Saligao on 26th November, 2010 in our days And Val D’Souza the editor made it an excelent celebration inaugurating the new format of SaligaoSerenade. My heartfelt thanks go to him and Mel D’Souza,from Canada whose illustrations you saw in many of our past postings. Mel D’Souza is fortunately with us in Goa and we three will make this blog a better one. While I thank Val & Mel for their excellent collaboration I wish you happy reading and my prayers are with you and with your families wherever you are.Jesus and Mae de Deus bless you all.Kindly keep us in your prayers Thanks ! fr. nascimento mascarenhas

  • Wasy D'Cruz

    Fr. Mascimento:

    Congratulations on the successful installation of your blog.Looking forward to visiting this blog as often as possible.

    Thanks again for all your effort in reminding all of us Saliganvkers
    of the beautiful memories of our happy childhood in Saligao.

    May God bless you.

    Wasy D’Cruz

  • Wasy D'Cruz

    Fr. Nascimento:

    Sorry, I misclicked and hence misspelled your name. Forgive me.


  • Dear Mr. Wasy,
    I was glad that after a long time my frienf Val D’Souza originally my neighbour in Saligao and now in Santa Cruz, Mumbai, has come out with a new format ” Saligao Serenade”. I hope you enjoy reading our essays on Men and Matters of Saligao Fortunately Mel D’Souza( Canada/ Arrarim) who does the illustration for our web-site was in Goa/Panjim-Saligao recently and so also Val. So we three enjoyed each other’s company and it was good Mel sends you regard as he too was Mater Dei student and knows you also. My brother Michael in Mumbai remembers you and sends X’Mas greetings I too wish you a Glorious Christmas and Happy New Year 2012 Much love, fr. nascimento mascarenhas

  • Alita Castellino D'Souza

    Dear Fr. NascimentoMscarenhasAmong the comments on Saligao of the 1940s Icame across the dear name of my beloved aunt Tia Marilia (Abreu) She is the sister of my dear mother Anna Otilia Abreu e Castellino. Just as she fed you on Chocolates she introduced us to sugar cane with this long cane and a tap on our bottoms crashing our dreams of receiving a long long twisted cane of the most delicious red and white candy stick. Later however she had the sugar cane peeled and cut into bite-size pieces much to our delight. thank goodness she restored our faith inthis delightful cane.She was always full of pranks which she played on us.She was an affectionate and loving aunt spoiling us weith all we ever wnted. The next introduction was to “belio”I”ll keep this for another time. I also went to her school and learntalot from her. Regards

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