HAWAII  FETES  100  YEARS  OF  PINOY  IMMIGRATION

WAIPAHU, HAWAII, JULY 29, 2005
 
(STAR) (AP) Benjamin Saguibo credits his life’s accomplishments to his parents’ immigration from the Philippines to Hawaii in search of a better life.

He credits them for the 60-cents-an-hour wage he made pumping gas when he was 18, and for the $2.75 an hour he later got as a construction worker building military homes at Schofield Barracks.

"It’s a good thing our parents came to Hawaii," said Saguibo, 69, now business manager and secretary-treasurer for the Laborer’s International Union Local 368, a position he rose to from his construction worker days. "It was lucky for us."

Next year will mark 100 years since a group of 15 farm workers, also known as ‘sacada,’ left the Philippines in 1906 and came to the Big Island to work in sugarcane fields. Waves of immigrants that followed brought the state’s Filipino-American population to more than 275,000, second only to California, where more than one million live.

And to commemorate the stories of struggle and success of Filipino immigrants, the Filipino Centennial Celebration Commission is planning yearlong festivities beginning Dec. 10.

At a news conference Wednesday at the Filipino Community Center, the commission unveiled the events planned for 2006, including concerts, parades, cultural exhibits, a film festival and a historical dramatization of the first Filipinos to arrive in Hawaii.

"This is a way for us to look back on where we came from, where we are today, and what the future holds for the next generation of Filipino youth," said Elias Beniga, chairman of the commission.

The celebration has also received state support. Gov. Linda Lingle, honorary chairwoman of Hawaii’s Filipino Centennial Celebration, gave the commission a $50,000 check on top of the $150,000 in state appropriations she released last year.

The Filipino migration to Hawaii, Lingle said, is "really the story of America, a country where a group of people... had the opportunity to excel."

"Their willingness to sacrifice paid off," Lingle said, also announcing she would make her first trip to the Philippines in January.

Jeoffrey Cudiamat, president of the Filipino Junior Chamber of Commerce, praised the achievements Filipinos have made, noting that many have become doctors, lawyers, lawmakers, and even governor.

Former governor Ben Cayetano, who served from 1994-2002, was the first Filipino American to win a state’s highest office.

"We are at a better advantage compared to what the sacada had to go through," Cudiamat said.

Lito Alcantara, founder and president of the contracting firm Group Builders, also said he owed all he has acquired in his career to Filipino immigrants.

"We have accomplished a lot," he said. "Without their sacrifice, there would have been no opportunities."


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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