DISPATCHES FROM THE PHILIPPINES
COURTESY GOVERNOR'S STAFF
Gov. Linda Lingle browses through a book at the Cabugao public library in Ilocos Sur province in the Philippines. Many of the books and computers in the library were donated by Kauai Filipinos who trace their roots to the Cabugao area.
Island Filipinos come home to Cabugao
Day 6 -- Jan. 9
OUR JOURNEY to Port Salomague in Cabugao, Ilocos Sur, brought the history of the sakadas full circle. It was here in 1946 that the last group of sakadas boarded a ship to Hawaii.
In a moving ceremony overlooking the port, I joined Gov. Luis "Chavit" Singson and other officials from Ilocos Sur province and representatives from the Hawaii delegation in unveiling a statue as a tribute to the historic journey of the second wave of sakadas. They braved the uncertainty of living in a foreign land to seek a better life for their children and grandchildren.
Editor's note: Gov. Linda Lingle is touring the Philippines in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Filipino immigration to Hawaii. She is writing a daily journal of her trip for the Star-Bulletin.
The artist captured the essence of the sakadas, portraying a plantation worker bent over in the field. It represented the hard and difficult life the brave sakadas endured. As the sun beat down on them for hours in the fields, these sakadas could not have imagined the achievements of their descendants and the valuable contributions they would make to Hawaii.
Today's ceremony was the pinnacle of the Philippines homecoming for many in our delegation. Seeing the spot from where their forebearers departed a century ago, combined with the events of the past few days, has changed the lives of many members of our group. Some have told me that they have gained a renewed understanding of their culture, and pride in the achievements of Filipinos.
FOLLOWING the ceremony, we visited the Cabugao municipal building, where I visited the small public library, which represents yet another connection to Hawaii. The Kauai Filipinos who trace their roots to Cabugao (including Edwin Navaro, who is part of our delegation) have donated books and computer equipment to this small but important library for the children of Cabugao.
Cabugao Mayor Diocaesar Suero treated our delegation to a fabulous lunch at Cabugao Beach Resort. The beach was a welcome sight for many in our group, as we looked out on the waters of the South China Sea.
Our next stop was the town of Vigan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our delegates boarded kalesas, which are horse-drawn carriages, and were given a tour along the cobblestone streets of Vigan, where we viewed Spanish-influenced architecture. We also strolled through the town and viewed demonstrations of Ilocos crafts. Along the way we tasted Filipino delicacies such as bebingka (rice cake with coconut), tinabong (sweet glutinous rice cooked in bamboo stalks), and ampanadas (fried tortillas stuffed with meat and vegetables).
WHILE IN Vigan City, we visited the University of Northern Philippines, where Kapiolani Community College signed a memorandum of understanding to promote nursing education and exchanges. UNP President Lauro Tacbas said today's signing was "a dream come true" and will help strengthen the partnership the university already has with the University of Hawaii community college system under an existing agreement with Leeward Community College.
As we left Vigan and headed to Dagupan in Pangasinan province, we stopped at towns along the way, including Santa, the hometown of Felix and Crecencia Befitel, the family I lived with during my first years on Molokai in the late 1970s. It was their first visit to Santa since they left in 1969 with their two eldest children to pursue a new life in Hawaii. We stopped at the home where Shirley and Nelson Befitel were born, and were greeted by Ezmerelda, Crecencia's sister, and her family. This reunion gave me an opportunity to gain a better sense of the family that first introduced me to the Filipino culture.
OUR NEXT two stops reinforced the strong ties Hawaii maintains with the Philippines. I visited the new San Esteban Aloha Mission municipal health center annex that was dedicated on Dec. 26. The funds to construct the building came from donations raised by Hawaii Filipinos who descended from the people who had originated from San Esteban. The second example was in Tagudin. Hawaii Filipinos from this area donated funds to purchase a dump truck to haul the town's trash. The words "Hawaiian Tagudin Association" were on the side of the truck bed.
Tomorrow is my last day in the Philippines, and the delegation will continue on to Cebu. I will spend my final day visiting a children's shelter in Dagupan before returning to Manila to meet with officials at the U.S. Embassy and participate in a women's leadership forum.