Monthly Archives: March 2011

OUR HERITAGE: The Filipinos


“Filipinos…we’re always trying to avail ourselves, to make that difference in other people’s lives.”   ~ Danny A. Mateo, First council member of Filipino descent to be elected as Maui County Council chairman.

On December 20, 1906, onboard the SS Doric, the first group of 15 sakadas, or contract laborers, recruited by the Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association, arrived to work on the sugar plantations. They were not the first Filipinos in Hawai`i — others known as “Manila Men” were in Hawaii at the time of the monarchy. At least six were involved with the Royal Hawaiian Band.

But the arrival of the sakadas marked the beginning of an aggressive campaign to recruit Filipino plantation labor. When they reached Hawai`i the oppressive plantation system was already entrenched.

Between 1906 and 1930, the HSPA brought in approximately 120,000 Filipinos, and by 1930 the sakadas had become the majority of the plantation workforce, replacing the Japanese. The last group of 6,000 sakadas arrived in 1946, shortly before Philippine independence was regained from the United States.

After that the quota was limited to 50 a year, later increased to 100. It was only toward the late 1950s that immigration laws enabled Filipinos already in Hawai`i to get their families beyond the quotas.

And in 1965, immigration laws were liberalized to admit not only family members but also professionals, including doctors, nurses, engineers, lawyers, accountants, teachers, health technicians and others with college educations and marketable skills.

Today more immigrants come to Hawai`i from the Philippines than from any other country.

About 36,000 Maui County residents are of Filipino ancestry. For over a century their growing influence in labor, business, education, and government has enriched the unique fabric of our Maui Nui community.

“If there is any hope that we, as a unified, humble, and powerful Filipino community on Maui will grow and prosper, we must honor our past …”   ~Megan Bagoyo, Granddaughter of a sakada, From ANAKA Tribute to Maui’s Filipinos

HINAMATSURI Celebrating Girls Japanese Style

Grandmother to mother, mother to daughter ~ the wish for a daughter’s happiness is both valued and treasured, and still celebrated in this spirit.

The 3rd of March is called Hinamatsuri (Doll’s Festival) and has existed in Japan since the Edo Period (17 – 19 centuries). On this day families pray for the happiness and prosperity of their girls, to ward off evil spirits, and to help ensure that they grow up healthy and beautiful.  

A girl’s first “Girls’ Day” is called her Hatzu-Zekku and it is very popular for her to receive a Hina-Ningyo (doll) display. This display can have up to seven tiers with dolls and small furniture. At the top are the dolls of the emperor and empress, with a miniature gilded screen placed behind them, very much like the imperial court.

The dolls are ceremonial dolls, a heritage of the household, many of them handed down from generation to generation. They are displayed for a few days in the best room of the house at this festival time then carefully boxed and put away until the next year.  There is a superstition that says that families slow to put away the dolls will have trouble marrying off their daughters!

In addition to displaying Hina dolls, special foods are included in the celebration. Hina arare (pastel-colored light rice crackers) and hishimochi (diamond- shaped rice cakes with pink, green, and white layers) are placed in front of the Hina dolls as an offering.

Shirozake, a sweet drink made from fermented rice, is also served. Similar to sake, but without alcohol, it is safe for children to enjoy as well.

The celebration of Hinamatsuri, brought to Hawaii in the 1800s by Japanese immigrants who settled here to work on plantations, is one of so many diverse cultural traditions that have become part of life here in Maui Nui.