A couple of hours before his fatal shooting, former Kumul rugby league superstar Aquila Emil held his elder daughter, Vavine, 20, and they both wept.
|A memorial banner for Aquila Emil which was made by his former rugby league team mates|
Tomorrow never came, as Emil had his life so tragically cut short, and Vavine must now face this world without him.
Emil’s elder sister, Margaret Worri, remembers that all of last week, he had been with her.
|Sister Margaret Worri|
“That’s the thing that haunts me so much,” she tells me at Emil’s haus krai (house of mourning) today.
“It was more or less a reconciliation time with his children.
“On the Thursday (Feb 3) before he was killed, he drove here to our house and said he was hungry.
“He asked me about my children, and even offered to pay school fees for his nephews and nieces.
“I said my children were fine.
“He then asked me to go with him.
“He asked me to do him a favor.
“He said he had not been talking with his daughter.
“He asked me to go and talk with his daughter.”
Brother and sister drove to DHL, where the daughter Vavine worked, and after much coaxing by her aunt, the reluctant daughter agreed to talk with her father.
“They hugged and cried,” Worri recalls.
“I told her not to be hard on her dad.
“I told her to appreciate dad and thank God.”
Emil dropped off his sister at her home, where she gave him K50, and he drove off into the sunset.
“At 3am on Friday (Feb 4), they called me and told me that he was at the emergency ward,” Worri adds as tears start rolling.
“We went to the emergency ward and there was blood all over.
“I could not believe what I saw.
“Doctors and nurses were trying to resuscitate him.
“His heart was still beating, but then, he took his last breath and closed his eyes.
“I found it hard to cry.
“I touched him all over and then I broke down.
“The saddest thing is that he spent his last couple of days with me.
“He had love for his children, for his brothers and sisters.
“He is gone but his legacy will live on.
“He did not die for nothing.
“Aquila was a peace-maker.
“He was not a violent person.”
Dad is also not coming home again to Jr Aquila, 23, a student at IBS; Martha, 16, in Grade 8 at Babaka Primary School; Rupa Penias, 12, in Grade 7 at Babaka; and Tau Vaitas, 10, in Grade 5 at Babaka.
More so, his soul mate, his beautiful wife, Marieta, from Babaka village outside Port Moresby, who still cannot get over the initial shock of his killing.
|Widow Marieta Emil and eldest son Jr Aquila|
“He was a good father.
“He never beat up the children or argued with me.
“He always cooked for us.”
Emil was born in April 1967 on the idyllic island village of Umbukul, New Hanover, New Ireland province, the fifth in a family of five boys and four girls.
Their father was a devout Christian and pastor of the United Church, who passed away last year, while the mother passed away some 20 years ago.
“Aquila was known as Temerem, a village name,” Worri remembers.
“His other nickname in the village was Gurumasi.
“Out of all my brothers, he was probably the shortest.
“He was exactly like our dad.
“I saw that dad loved him more than us.
“He had a special place in his heart for the little man.
“Aquila was a great cook.
“Aquila and I were so close; however, we were also the worst of enemies
“It happened that he gave me a black eye once over a plate of rice.”
Younger brother, Albert, says he learnt so many things such as spearing and diving for fish from Emil.
“I learned so many things from him,” he says,
“Whatever I was supposed to learn from dad, he taught me.”
Emil did Grades 1-6 at Umbul Primary School, Grades 7-10 at Utu High School in Kavieng, and in 1983 went to Malaguna Technical College in Rabaul where he studied printing.
After Malaguna, he came to Port Moresby, signed up with the PNG Defence Force and had a short stint along the PNG-Indonesia border, before returning to Port Moresby and rugby league stardom.
The livewire “little man” from New Ireland electrified the Lloyd Robson Oval starting from 1988 onwards for Port Moresby Brothers.
Those were the halcyon days of club football in PNG as the artful dodger strutted his stuff for Brothers against legendary teams such as Kone Tigers, Paga Panthers, Magani, Wests, Tarangau, Defence and the likes.
I was a fresh-faced cadet reporter out of university, at Niugini Nius with the inimitable sports team of Jack Metta and Ronald Bulum, and Emil gave us some of the greatest live shows that PNG has ever seen, that we often ran out of superlatives to describe him.
Later, after Niugini Nius closed, I teamed up with Post-Courier and The National and covered many games around the country with Emil starring for Port Moresby Vipers in the inter-city rugby league competition and also international games for the Kumuls.
In 1993, during the World Sevens in Sydney, Vipers, captained by Emil, Wests’ magician Tuksy Karu at pivot, and players par-excellence such as fullback Philip Boge, Mark Agi and Daroa Ben-Moide demolished highly-fancied NRL teams and shocked and entertained the rugby league world.
They proved all critics wrong and made it all the way to the finals.
The same boys were part of the best-ever Kumul side that nearly caused the upset of the century when they almost beat the seemingly-invincible Australian Kangaroos in Townsville in 1991.
The Kumuls were eventually beaten 34-14, but it was the best-ever result for the Kumuls, considering it was not the usual cricket scorelines we have today.
The halves combination of No. 6 Karu and No. 7 Emil demolished the Australian combination of Laurie Daley and Allan Langer, while Hanuabada fullback Philip Boge blew Michael Hancock off the paddock with a solid tackle which saw him carried out on a stretcher.
Emil’s life was taken in a moment of madness last Friday; however, the memories will never die.
And the most-touching thing is that his wife and family have forgiven the alleged killer, saying God himself will be the judge.
“We will forgive and let God himself be the judge,” Worri says.
“We come from a humble, Christian family and we were brought up in a loving way.
“We will maintain that.
“I know that if dad was here, he would say the same thing.”
|Relatives displaying the memorial banner at the haus krai today|