Saturday, October 16, 1999

100 Who Made A Difference

Star Pablo Manlapit Star

Star-Bulletin file photo
Manlapit was an advocate for and
organizer of immigrant workers.

Plantation worker
gave Filipinos a voice

By Debra Barayuga


TO plantation managers, Pablo Manlapit was a labor agitator, rabble-rouser and subversive. To his fellow plantation workers, he was an advocate for better wages and working conditions.

Manlapit came to Hawaii in 1910 as a labor recruit and worked at Hamakua Mill Co. He took classes at night and worked his way out of the plantation to become a labor clerk.

He was blamed for causing trouble at Hamakua and neighboring plantations between 1910 and 1913, and was in the middle of labor disputes with stevedores in Honolulu.

He became one of the few Filipino lawyers in the 1920s and distinguished himself as spokesman for the Filipino labor movement here. He was later disbarred by the territorial attorney general because of his "unworthiness and gross unfitness."

Nevertheless, he emerged as one of the most prominent leaders among the first generation of Filipinos who arrived during the first wave of immigration beginning in 1906, said Dean Alegado, University of Hawaii ethnic studies professor.

Manlapit helped organize strikes in 1920 and 1924 that drew thousands of plantation workers. His critics accused him of misleading these "uneducated Filipinos."

So strong was his influence among his countrymen that he was implicated in the violent September 1924 strike on Kauai -- later known as the Hanapepe Massacre -- even though he wasn't there. Sixteen were killed during the rioting, including four policemen.

Manlapit was arrested with 60 other Filipinos, tried for conspiracy, and sentenced to two to 10 years in Oahu Prison. Upon his release, he went to California. He returned to Hawaii in 1933 but was deported to the Philippines in 1934 after being convicted of collecting excessive fees from a World War I veteran's loan. Manlapit, 79, died in the Philippines in 1969.

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