Island News

PQ’s struggle to success

Written By : WAISEA MAKUTU. I have to sacrifice to get my elder sister complete her education, recalled Pita Qalikaono as tears rolled down his face. “We were brought up
29 Jan 2011 12:00

image Written By : WAISEA MAKUTU. I have to sacrifice to get my elder sister complete her education, recalled Pita Qalikaono as tears rolled down his face.
“We were brought up single-handedly by our mother and with her relatives always there in support even through they themselves were struggling and were on the edge,” Qalikaono said.
Reminiscing of those cherished memories that carved the man he is today, he acknowledges the Lord to have an impact on his upbringing and his destiny that is being determined by Him alone.
“I will not let an opportunity go to waste but to make the most of it with the best of my efforts,” he said.
Qalikaono maybe recognised today as having a thriving catering servicing company but yet what he went through in life has made him an achiever.
PQ as he is commonly known was born on the 8th of May, 1955.
“Being a bull (Taurus) maybe will give some indication how tough and determined I was,” Qalikaono said.
He was dubbed the naughty black boy and at the age of four, his life nearly ended when he fell overboard playing with friends at Navua.
He began schooling at Navua Primary School now known as Vashist Muni Memorial School. He attended class one to eight and continued on to the secondary level.
During his school days, he had worked on weekends and holidays to pay for his school fees.
One of his teachers had complained of a dirty boy in his class because his fingernails were always dirty.
The same teacher then felt for him and volunteered to guide him after school everyday.
During the weekly rugby and soccer competitions, I would run home and get juice and roti and curry parcels from my mother to sell them at the ground.
That was where my first encounter with Master Ropate Qalo who had just played against the All Blacks with the national team came.
He would call over the little black boy with the juice and pay for his mate’s thirst reliever.
Later on at the Travelodge when I was on duty one day I reminded him of buying off the little black boy at Navua.
He was happy that I had made it in life.
“It was after the second year at college in 1972 when my mum could not cope financially and I had dropped out to assist with our well-being,” he added.
He started off packing bananas for export.
Looking for greener pastures he helped in the construction of the Pacific Harbour complex as an assistant to the carpenters.
Things didn’t work out for him in the trade and he left for Suva to stay with an uncle at Marks Lane or ‘Vale ni Karasini’ which is now known as Raojibhai Patel Street.
His comfort zone was under the floors and it had ample space between the building and the ground.
“We would fence its surrounding to keep away the stray animals,” he added looking down with a sullen expression.
He did odd jobs to earn honest money as he termed it like caddying for tourists. Never was in his dreams this exodus to Suva was God’s will and the realism of his destiny.
“And then I encountered a Mr Butru Gautam and it was the beginning of the end of my perils,” he sighed with relief.
He volunteered and started working as a dishwasher at the Travelodge, which is now the Holiday Inn in Suva and his diligence in execution of duties earned him promotion as a waiter in 1973.
While working his way to the top he also picked up new ideas of the trade as flame broiled cooking (cooking near tables with the patrons seated), wine waiter, lounge waiter, barman and room service manager.
In 1976 he moved to Scotts at Flagstaff as a supervisor and in 1977coordinated the Queen’s dinner at the then famous Grand Pacific Hotel situated across the road from Albert Park.
He left after a while to where his adopted career had all begun.
“They were real tourists back then who did not mind spending,” the hardworking PQ said.
He was function’s captain and coordinator and later on as assistant Food and Beverage manager. In 1990 he became manager for this department until his retirement in 1996 at the age of 43.
“I was on an educational tour to the Hilton and Omni Hotels in the United States of America when it occurred to me that there should be activities after the hotel career,” he proudly said.
“Whatever you do should be from the heart with love care and respect,” he advised.
His favourite colour is brown and loves dhal and rice on his tinplate because he was brought up with his menu.
He would care for some red wine and yaqona (kava) but water at the normal temperature would be ideal.
He names personalities such as Waisele Serevi in rugby, Emosi Ugavule in soccer and Neil Diamond in singing as the best in their trade.
“I love to dress as long as it’s appealing,” he teasingly quipped.
“I have both a Toyota Hiace but the better of choices is my Subaru sportscar.
“I like listening to the Domo-iViti and Viti FM with Luisa Utoniika and Malakai Qaqacava respectively as hosts.
“The Old Timers and Miramira kei Nakoilava are my best local vocal entertainers and not to miss I greatly adore my wife and love my God,” he added.
PQ is from the Mataqali Butubutu of Dravuwalu, Naceva in Kadavu and is married to Iva Vakacakaudrove of Nalotu, Yawe also in Kadavu and they have four children.
His advice to young kids is not to trap themselves with bad weeds (meaning companion).
He hates seeing the unfortunates being pushed aside for they should be given love and care.

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