Wednesday, March 17, 1999

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Eddie Flores, Jr., left, vice president of the Filipino
Community Center Inc., and Roland Casamina, president,
with a model of the future Filipino Community Center
to be built in Waipahu.

New Filipino clout
culminates in plans
for community center

More than half the money needed
for a facility at a former sugar mill
in Waipahu has been raised

By Susan Kreifels


A newly cut road, now awaiting pavement, runs by the abandoned sugar mill in Waipahu. It's been 50 years in the coming.

That's how long Hawaii's Filipinos have craved their own community center, planned for the old mill site.

And as the fastest-growing ethnic group in the state builds its political and economic clout, businesses and politicians are starting to pitch in.

Filipino leaders expect they will have most of the needed $10 million for the center by the end of the year.

The Bank of Hawaii is the first business to put up cash -- $50,000 last month. Aston Hotels & Resorts also has committed money but is still working out amounts, said Roland Casamina, president of the Filipino Community Center Inc.

The center is approaching more companies where Filipinos do business, and they could be a potentially large share. The 168,682 Filipinos in Hawaii represented 15.2 percent of the population in the 1990 census, making them the third-largest ethnic group in the state.

"Businesses believe it's about time Filipinos have a center like this," said Casamina, who's been carrying a large model of the center in his car to take to meetings. "Actively supporting the Filipino community is good for business."

Lawrence M. Johnson, chairman and CEO of the Bank of Hawaii, agrees that Filipinos need such a center.

"The Filipino community is an under-served group in Hawaii," said Johnson. "We are pleased to participate in changing that."

Earlier groups could never muster enough support for a center. The current effort started in 1992.

"This is a symbol of a maturing community," said Casamina, also president of the House of Finance. "We're not yet so-called leaders but we've begun to arrive as active, contributing members of this society."

Last year the state Legislature approved $1.5 million for the center, and the City Council tagged $500,000 of federal funding for it.

The center already holds two acres of sugar mill land worth $3 million. Amfac donated the land in turn for Filipino support in reshaping Waipahu, victim of the near-dead sugar industry here.

So the community center now has about 55 percent of the estimated $10 million. With a fund-raiser scheduled during the May 8 Filipino festival and a mini-telethon in September or October, Casamina expects to have all the money by the end of the year.

The planned 50,000-square-foot center will not only promote Filipino culture but also house programs for the general community such as senior citizen and youth activities as well as immigrant and medical services, Casamina said.

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