Melen was born on May 5, 1966 in Badoc, Ilocos Norte, Philippines to Stanley and Rufina Magbual. She has seven brothers and four sisters. In 1980, she came to Maui with her mom, brothers and sisters to join their father, Stanley who arrived in 1979. Her family came to Hawai‘i through the sponsorship of her Aunty Juana Cajigal who was married to a 1946 Sakada, Victor Cajigal from Badoc. Melen and the whole Magbual family are very grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Victor Cajigal for being instrumental in sponsoring them to come to Hawai‘i. “I need to emphasize that our family including my parents would not be here in Hawai‘i without Uncle Victor’s and Aunty Juana’s hard work in bringing us here in Hawai‘i. I know that we owe a lot to them. They may be gone physically, but we honor them by having Thanksgiving dinner at their house every Thanksgiving Day just to show our gratitude and remembering why we are here today,” said Melen with a grateful heart.
In 1983, her dad started Four Sisters Bakery—the name came from his four daughters in Hawai‘i (Melen is one of them; the fifth daughter initially stayed in the Philippines and arrived in 1997) who were instrumental in starting and working with the business. “My dad started his bakery with just $200 as start up cash—just enough to buy flour and the other ingredients that was good for one day supply,” said Melen. “Then money rolled over and he bought more supplies for the subsequent days. I learned from my Dad that having a one time huge profit is not good. He said be like the Chinese. You rather have less profit with more quantity.”
A 1984 graduate of Maui High School, Melen earned her Associates Degree in Liberal Arts from Maui Community College, now known as University of Hawai‘i Maui College.
In 1988, Melen married Miguel Agcolicol. They have four sons. Michael, their eldest, received his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from San Diego State University and is now working with Rick Engineering in San Diego, California. Their second son, Matthew, also graduated from San Diego State University and received his Bachelor of Arts in Applied Arts and Science. He is a self-employed artist on Maui. Moses, their third son, is studying Criminal Justice at Mesa College in San Diego. Their youngest son Miguel Jr. is currently a Senior at Baldwin High School.
In 1992, Melen became a business owner. Located across from Four Sisters Bakery on Vineyard Street was Copy Plus. When the owner had health issues, she sold the business to Melen, and Melen started Copy Services—offering photocopying and printing services. “Having my two oldest boys, ages two and nine months old, I took the challenge and managed the business with my children with me everyday. I kept their playpen in the back of my office and scheduled to breast feed during lunch time when Mike came in. We had limited services such as copying and printing. A lot of times I was asked if I was a notary or if I could type resumes or assist in answering immigration questions. I received my notary commission in 1993. By that time, I was able to offer services for immigration assistance and even started income tax preparation.”
Initially, Melen had a difficult time managing her business and family time. After several months she perfected her routine and her job became easier. Her two sons grew up with her at work until they were able to go to Pre-school.
Even with her busy schedule, Melen became an active member of many community organizations. She is very active in the Maui Filipino Chamber of Commerce (past President, Vice President, Secretary, Director) and the Maui Filipino Chamber of Commerce Foundation (past President, Vice President, Secretary). Melen is also the coordinator and organizer of Badoc Association of Maui and volunteers many hours for the American Lung Association. Other organizations Melen was involved in include Binhi at Ani (Corresponding Secretary, Treasurer), Dance International Production (Parent volunteer), Filipino Chamber of Commerce of Hawai‘i-Maui Chapter (Secretary), Filipino Cultural Club, Maui Filipino Community Council (Corresponding Secretary, Treasurer), Maui High School Filipino Club (President), Paoay Currimao Organization of Maui (Secretary), Sariling Gawa Council, Maui Chapter (Coordinator), St. Ann’s Church (Eucharistic Minister, Youth Group Assistant), Wailuku Main Street Association/Tri-Isle Main Street Resource Center (Secretary, Director). Melen was also a Team Mom to her sons’ various sports teams.
As a businesswomen and community volunteer, Melen has been nominated and received several prestigious awards. In 2014, the Seasons for Peace Foundation awarded Melen with the Maui Peace Hero award. Melen was also recognized as one of the 100 Best Filipinos on Maui by the Maui Filipino Centennial Coordinating Council and was a nominee for the Filipino Entrepreneur of the Year Award sponsored by the Filipino Chamber of Commerce of Hawai‘i.
Today, Melen’s business offers more services than when it first started. When electronic filing became the norm, Melen needed to expand her business. “Thanks to the Filipino community, when you do good work, they refer you to others. And that’s how I grew my business,” she said. “As I reflect on the hardship of starting a family in Hawai‘i, anything is possible as long as you have the patience to tackle what comes next in life. To me, my ultimate goal is to have my children finish college and have an education as weapon. Nowadays, without school, you have no chance of climbing the corporate ladder.”
Indeed, Melen’s personal reflection is something we can all adopt.