This is 'Babe'. The pride and beloved son of Mangaia.
He came back after his time in NZ, Bringing back with him business that provided jobs for villagers and income for families.
Before I came to Mangaia, I had wanted to stay in the seaside villa.
But they were not operating to host guests,
Despite them being intact & literally right there...
The only place available was Babe's.
Babe's used to be the only bar on the island.
I guess, after Babe had passed,
the only place now for drinks is the fishing association or something rather at the port.
I had gone to Paul, at Rarotonga Backpackers & Holiday Homes, for help,
hoping to see if he has a way of getting a response from Babe's Place,
as I had called and emailed with no response.
Paul rung up Ura to check on the booking status for me,
to make sure I will have a place to sleep when I went.
After confirming the booking with Ura,
Paul told me how good the food the ladies made at Babe's was when he stayed there,
And that all he looked forward to everyday was lunch and dinner.
This was definitely true.
Mo'e & the ladies made yummy sandwiches that I gulped down on,
and dinner that I could easily finish a whole baking tray of.
I also said to Paul, I wasn't sure how to pronounce "Babe's" as I like to get people's names right,
was it like "Bahbeh...?"
"No it's Babe." Paul explained:
"He was gay.
On the outer islands, It's not very accepted there.
Not like here.
He poured petrol on himself and lit himself on fire..."
Paul continued, "So the lady I just called, is Ura, she was the best friend of Babe's,
After Babe died, Ura was left with that guest home,
While she still takes care of her shop,
So she's a bit short on staff."
This conversation actually happened during Pride Week in Rarotonga,
Pride flags could be seen flying here and there around the island.
To hear of this actually happening so close to home was really really sad...
Babe's grave and tombstone is placed directly in front of Babe's Guest House,
Right at the front door of the lounge, overseeing the guests that come and go.
So Babe's Place is now Babe's resting place.
I give my love to Babe and those that Babe had to leave behind.
No matter what,
I still hope for more understanding and love for all,
not antagony or putting shame, or hate...
Babe's Place continues to provide work and income for several on the island.
I believe Babe's legacy is one to be cherished.
I want to say as a stranger who could not be more unrelated to someone like him,
He had done so well for Mangaia,
and what he had left behind will continue to provide for many to come.
“Gender preference does not define you. Your spirit defines you.”
I originally posted the picture I took of Babe's tombstone on Instagram,
but locals and relatives didn't like what I shared in the caption about him.
So out of respect, I took the post down into Archive.
It's a shame that there is such a stigma still about his sexuality.
It doesn't take away all that he had done for his island,
it doesn't take away the fact that he was the most beloved son of Mangaia.
It just makes it seem as if that aspect of him made him any less than he was.
It shouldn't be that way, it shouldn't be a hush-hush thing.
He was loved, and that was everything.
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