Dancers from the Filipiniana Dance Troupe performed a "Putong" to welcome honored guests, clapping in rhythm at left, yesterday. The Filipino Community Center was dedicated during a special ceremony in Waipahu.

Filipino center
elicits praise

Hawaii officials and residents
celebrate the grand opening

By Rosemarie Bernardo

For Waipahu resident Jaybee Galinato, the sight of a large yellow sun painted above the rear entrance of the newly built Filipino Community Center gave him "goosebumps."

"It reminds me a lot of the Philippine flag ... something that gives a sign of hope," said Galinato, 27, who arrived in Hawaii from Manila in 1990.

"I think it's about time that we are able to have a representation as concrete as this," Galinato said.

Galinato joined hundreds of people to celebrate the grand opening of the $14.2 million FilCom Center at 94-428 Mokuola St. yesterday. Social, cultural and educational programs are planned to be held at the center for the community.

Along with the activities, staff members of the FilCom Center hope to one day include memorabilia of the sakadas (Filipino plantation workers) who first arrived in Hawaii in 1906 to be displayed at the center.

Philippine government officials and local leaders, including Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, Mayor Jeremy Harris and State Sen. Ron Menor (D, Mililani-Waipio Gentry), attended the grand opening ceremony.

Children from the Filipiniana Dance Troupe, dressed in traditional clothing, performed during the opening festivities while musicians strummed on their guitars.

"Waipahu is the perfect place to have it," said Galinato's friend Phil Ajolo.

"(It's) right next to a popular landmark," said Ajolo looking toward the smokestack at the Oahu Sugar Mill that closed in April 1995.

Seventy-three-year-old Consolacion Galima flew to Honolulu from Hilo to attend the grand opening of the FilCom Center as a tribute to her father, Juan Bungcayao.

Bungcayao arrived in Honolulu in the early 1920s to work in the Waipahu plantation fields.

"It looks like a palace ... I'm so happy," Galima said of the center.

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