October is Filipino-American History Month

Celebrate at the Maui Fil-Am Heritage Festival®

I confess. I’m the guy in Sam Cooke’s love song “(What a) Wonderful World” with that famous line: “Don’t know much about history.” English and Social Studies were my favorite high school subjects but we really didn’t have traditional history classes—learning about dates and events and the people who lived them. Instead we had “World Cultures” in my freshman year—not World History or Hawaiian History. In college, I majored in political science and dabbled in public administration but didn’t take any history classes. I guess that’s why I’m not a history buff like Gilbert Keith-Agaran who studied American Intellectual History (oh, excuse me) at some elitist East Coast Ivy League college that does not start with an “H”.

Commemorating the first Filipino-American History month at the Hawai‘i State Library October 4, 2008. Then-Rep. Joey Manahan stands 2nd from the left.
Photo courtesy Joey Manahan

When the Hawai‘i legislature passed the bill establishing Filipino-American History Month (Act 15, 2008), I was somewhat indifferent. Yes, in 1991 I started to read about Sakadas in Hawai‘i but that was the extent of my venture into the historical records. After all, what did Filipino-American History Month mean? And why October?

Then-Representative Joey Manahan, the principal author of H.B. 3343, included the following findings:

  • “[T]he writings and teachings of American history have often overlooked the historical role of Asian-Americans, including the role of Filipino-Americans.”
  • “The earliest documented presence of Filipinos in America was in 1587 in California and a settlement on the bayous of Louisiana in 1763, when seamen, later called Manilamen, jumped ship during the Spanish galleon trade era.”
  • “Filipino-Americans continue to make a lasting impact on the history and heritage of Hawai‘i and the United States.”
  • “[T]here have also been critical economic, cultural, social, and other notable contributions by Filipino-Americans to the development of United States history.”
  • “[T]he prominence of Hawai‘i’s Filipino and Filipino-American population warrants an official commemoration of the history and heritage of Filipino-Americans.”
The first Filipinos arrived in Hawai‘i in 1888 and became a part of the Royal Hawaiian Band. This photograph of the band was taken in 1889.
Photo courtesy “Ho‘okuleana” Blogspot

Act 15 (2008) designated the month of October as “Filipino-American History Month” to “commemorate the contributions of Filipino-Americans to the history and heritage of Hawai‘i and the United States.” The bill was signed by the governor and codified at Hawai‘i Revised Statutes Section 8-18.

Manahan, who immigrated to the United States thirty-six years ago, believed “it was important for our youth to remember the values and positive impressions that our ancestors brought with them to Hawai‘i and the United States. American history has too long overlooked the economic, cultural and social contributions that Filipino-Americans have made since the first Filipinos set foot on California soil in 1587,” said Manahan. “In our school history books, historians sometimes fail to mention Filipinos as being one of the major immigrant groups who immigrated to the United States.”

Phil Sabado is shown here at the 2013 Pinoy Artist Contest. This year’s contest will be coordinated by rising young artist Matthew Agcolicol.
Photo: Ceasar Lizada

The Filipino-American National Historical Society began celebrating Filipino-American History Month in 1988. Thanks to the leadership of Manahan, Hawai‘i became the first state to formally recognize October as Filipino-American History Month, making Act 15 landmark legislation.

The Any Kine Adobo® Contest is sponsored by Tante’s Island Cuisine this year. It is a call to all would-be chefs. Dominic Suguitan and Jorge Tirona, who claim to be master adobo eaters are coordinating this event.
Photo: Ceasar Lizada

“The law represents a major milestone for our Filipino community in Hawai‘i,” observed Manahan, “and it has become a driving force for increased recognition and awareness nationwide. In subsequent years, State legislatures around the country adopted laws and resolutions in their respective States. Today, Filipino-American History month is officially recognized by the U.S. Congress and it was celebrated in the White House by President Barrack Obama.”

Back to some history lessons….
Did you know?

  • The earliest record of Filipinos in the United States was in October 1587 when Filipinos landed in Morro Bay, now known as San Luis Obispo, in California.
  • In 1763, Filipino seamen established the first permanent settlement in North America in Saint Malo, Louisiana.
  • Prior to the arrival of the first Sakadas in Hawai‘i in 1906, the first Filipinos arrived in Hawai‘i in 1888 and became a part of the Royal Hawaiian Band.
  • In 1974, Hawai‘i Associate Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Menor became the first Filipino in the United States to sit on a state’s highest court.
  • In 1994, Hawai‘i’s Benjamin J. Cayetano became the first Filipino in the United States to be elected governor.
  • According to the 2010 census, there are now 342,095 Filipinos or part Filipinos in the State of Hawai‘i.
  • Filipinos are now the second largest ethnic group in Hawai‘i.
Madelyne Pascua and David Cordero demonstrate the effective and live Philippine martial art of Escrima.
Photo: Ceasar Lizada

The premier celebration of Filipino-American History Month in Hawai‘i takes places on Maui. In 2011, I was fortunate to have the backing of the Maui Filipino Chamber of Commerce Foundation led by president Elizabeth Ayson and initiated the Maui Fil-Am Heritage Festival® to celebrate Filipino-American History Month and to promote Filipino businesses.

Baybayin, the Philippine indigenous written word will be demonstrated by U.H. Maui College’s Kabatak club. They will be on-hand to write your name in this script.
Photo: Alfredo Evangelista

This year’s Filipino-American History Month began with a Philippine Flag raising ceremony on Monday, October 2 at the County Building. Maui is the only County in the State of Hawai‘i to have the Philippine flag flown at the County Building during the whole month of October. At the Flag Raising ceremony, Mayor Alan Arakawa issued a proclamation proclaiming October as Filipino American History Month throughout the County of Maui and inviting “all residents to attend the Maui Fil-Am Heritage Festival to discover the cultural diversity that makes Maui a special place to work, play and live.”

Mg Pedring’s Ice Candy has become a welcome and wonderful “must-have” treat each year at the Festival.
Photo: Ceasar Lizada

“We’re grateful Mayor Arakawa has continued the tradition of flying the Philippine flag at the County Building throughout the month of October,” said Sharon Zalsos, president of the Maui Filipino Chamber of Commerce Foundation. “It’s a testament to the standing of the Filipino-American community here on Maui and we’re proud to share our history, our culture, and our heritage with all of Maui.”

The 2017 Maui Fil-Am Heritage Festival® on Saturday, October 21 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. will have a new look and a new feel when it’s staged for the first time at Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center. “We’re really excited about the change in venue,” explained Jake Belmonte, Event Chairperson, “and we look forward to presenting another high-quality, exciting Festival.”

Chef Gemsley Balagso of the Westin Nanea Ocean Villas will return to defend his Master P-Noy Chef® title on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017.
Photo: Ceasar Lizada

This year’s Festival will feature many of the events that attracts folks to the festival. At the top of the list is the Master P-Noy Chef® Cook Off. Chef Gemsley Balagso of Westin Nanea Ocean Villas will return to defend his title against challengers Chef Jonathan Pasion of Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort and Chef Jason Carpio of Wailea Beach Resort-Marriott. Guest hosting this year will be Chef Jojo Vasquez of The Plantation House. Vasquez was selected by his fellow Chefs as the 2017 Chef of the Year.

The theme of this year’s Cook Off is “Street Food” and the Chefs will compete in a culinary competition and be judged on execution of the final product, taste and most unique interpretation of the Filipino culinary heritage. On site, there will be a common pantry that will include a variety of traditional protein used in Filipino dishes (for example fish, poultry, beef, pork, or goat), a variety of dried herbs, noodles, an array of fresh vegetables (for example marrungay, sweet potato leaves, okra, and paria) and a Mystery Basket of ingredients. Each Chef will be allowed to bring one assistant from their own staff and will also be assisted by a student from the University of Hawai‘i Maui College. “The Festival is one of the events that our students look forward to,” said Belmonte who is a Chef Instructor at UH Maui College’s Maui Culinary Academy. “It’s a win-win situation for the Chefs, the Academy, and the Festival.” Although it is a friendly competition for a year of bragging rights, the winner will be awarded a special prize from Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel.

Stories written by the sons and daughters of Sakadas will be featured at this year’s “We Got History Exhibit®.”
Photo: Janno

Another Festival favorite is the Speedy Balut Eating Contest® sponsored by Esteban Construction. While balut is rumored to be a natural aphrodisiac, the Festival is featuring a balut eating contest because it’s a wild, crazy, and fun event! The winner will win a $500 cash prize. Entrants must be experienced balut eaters. The first four to complete eating one balut will proceed to the final round, where they will be required to eat two baluts. The speedy one wins!

Manang Tina serves up one of the many Filipino culinary delights that will be available for purchase, this year through “scripts” at the Festival.
Photo: Janno

The Polvoron Challenge: Eat&Tweet® sponsored by Benjamin Acob, Attorney at Law asks the questions “Do you know how to whistle?” and “Can you do it after eating Polvoron?” Polvoron originated from Spain and is similar to a crumbly shortbread made of powdered milk, toasted flour, and butter. And it tastes good! The contest combines one’s ability to eat polvoron and tweet (not electronically, of course, but a whistle—sort of the Filipino version of eating saltine crackers and saying “Polly wants a cracker”)! If you’re first, you will win a $500 cash prize. The first four to complete eating one Polvoron and tweeting will proceed to the final round, where they will be required to eat two Polvoron and tweet. First one to eat&tweet wins!

ILWU Local 142 has been a proud sponsor of the Festival since 2011.
Photo: Janno

Any Kine Adobo® Contest sponsored by Tante’s Island Cuisine is a call to all would-be chefs. Dominic Suguitan and Jorge Tirona, who claim to be master adobo eaters are coordinating this event. Their question is two-fold: Got Adobo? Do you believe you can adobo bamboo shoots, chicken, goat, okra, pork, squid, or just any kine? To prove it, enter the Contest and if you are the winner, you will win a $500 cash prize. Restricted to the first seven participants only and the participant must be at the Festival by 9:30 a.m. with their entry, which must be enough to fill thirty-five (35) portions (2-ounce containers). If you can’t cook and you want to participate in the contest, sign up to be one of the 30 Guest Judges.

Three-time Master P-Noy Chef® Joey Macadangdang is shown here at the 2015 Maui Fil-Am Heritage Festival.
Photo: Ceasar Lizada

Pabitin at the Fest! sponsored by Friends of Justin Woodson is one of the children’s activities. The Pabitin, which also originated from Spain, is a popular game at fiestas and birthday parties. A lattice of bamboo sticks, called a balag, is suspended and lowered and raised quickly. The balag contains bags filled with toys, snacks, coins, and other items. The Pabitin will be held at 11 a.m., 12 p.m., 1 p.m., and 2 p.m. Kids, practice your jumping skills!

The Pinoy Artist Contest sponsored by Friends of Yuki Lei Sugimura will be coordinated by rising young artist Matthew Agcolicol. The theme of “Home Sweet Home” was selected in recognition of the Bahay Kubo at Kepaniwai Park. There are two categories: two-dimensional art (no larger than 24 inches by 18 inches, matting excluded) and three-dimensional art (no larger than 24 inches on all sides). The age categories are: Grades K–5; Grades 6–8; Grades 9–12; and adult. All artwork must be submitted to the Agcolicol Art & Studio at 1975 Vineyard Street, Suite 304 in Wailuku, by appointment only. Please contact Agcolicol at (808) 205-7655 or matthewagcolicol@rocketmail.com. Art may be submitted at Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center on Wednesday, October 18 but please contact Agcolicol. The first place in theme will be awarded $250 in cash while second place in theme will be awarded $150 in cash and third place in theme will be awarded $75 in cash. Other prizes will also be awarded. Art submitted for the Maui Fair will be accepted. And yes, because the Contest brings together art work from Maui’s artists of all ages and of all ethnicities, you don’t have to be Pinoy to join the contest!

Pabitin at the Fest! is among the children’s favorites… it is a popular game, originating in Spain in which the children try for snacks, toys, and sometimes even money.
Photo: Ceasar Lizada

Oh Wow! Parol Making Contest® sponsored by Vidad’s Local Kine Grindz.

If you think you’re not artistic enough to enter the Pinoy Artist Contest®, how about trying to create a Christmas parol on-site. Sorry but you can’t bring it home to finish. The first fifty youth will be provided a FREE parol making kit. Basic materials of glue, crepe paper, and cellophane will also be provided and you may bring your own special materials. The criteria for judging will be originality, workmanship, creativity, and “The Oh Wow!” factor. All parols will be displayed through December at Vidad’s. The first-place winner will receive $250 in cash while second-place will receive $150 in cash and third-place will receive $75 in cash. Remember, the parols must be completed on-site.

The “Speedy Balut Eating Contest®” is an annual favorite of the Festival—it always draws a competitive crowd and contestants. Experienced balut-eaters only, please!
Photo: Ceasar Lizada

Your Name in Baybayin

Even before the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, Filipinos were literate and had their own script/alphabet—Baybayin. At the Festival, the Kabatak Club from the University of Hawai‘i Maui College will assist you in writing your name in Baybayin on paper. For a small fee (three scripts), you can write your name on bamboo!
Mg Pedrings Cart sponsored by Friends of Don Guzman.

Ring! Ring! If you see the colorful painted two-wheeled wooden cart at the Festival, you can purchase ice candy (coconut, melon and avocado flavors). It’s going to be a hot day so you don’t want to miss out.

The exciting “Tinikling” dance will traditionally cap the conclusion of the Festival. Percussive, challenging and necessitating much skill and precision, this dance originates from Leyte in the Visayan region of the Philippines. Photo: Janno


Fabulous Filipino Food

Did somebody mention food? Who wants to eat bbq, pancit, adobo, pinakbet, dinardaraan, pork and peas, chicharon, fried rice omelet, lumpia, halo halo, cascaron, bibingka, puto, sweet rice, and more?

Well, the Festival will be your one-stop shop for Filipino food and kankanen. Yes, Filipino restaurants will be on hand with Filipino food for your purchase, consumption on-site, and even your balon (take home).

“The Foundation believes it’s important to feature Maui’s Filipino restaurants selling their most popular dishes. Our Filipino restaurants need continued exposure and the Festival will help to expand their markets” said Lydia Dela Cruz, Food Vendors coordinator.

Participating restaurants are Central Mini Mart Fast Food and Catering, Lea’s Halo Halo Sweets & Treats, RM Mini Mart and Fast Food & Catering Services, CAA Market Place, Vidad’s Local Kine Grindz, Paradise Supermart, and Randy’s Catering & Fast Foods. Come hungry!

This year’s Festival requires scripts only (vendors will not accept cash). Payment for scripts will be via cash and credit cards; no checks will be accepted. If you want to purchase scripts prior to the event, you may purchase them at Copy Services and my lawfirm, Law Offices of Alfredo Evangelista, both in Wailuku.

Don’t forget to register to win a roundtrip airfare to the Philippines. Two separate drawings will be made—sponsored by none other than our friends at Philippine Airlines.
Photo: Ceasar Lizada

Back-to-Back Cultural Entertainment

Who says Maui doesn’t have great cultural entertainment? But we’re not talking about hula, Taiko, or even a Chinese lion dance. The Festival’s back-to-back entertainment will be strictly Filipino cultural entertainment (not even an English song!) After all, we’re celebrating Filipino-American History month.
“Our entertainment will showcase Maui’s Filipino talents that will include songs and dances of the Philippines,” said Madelyne Pascua, Program coordinator. “Come early and find a seat because you won’t want to give up your space!”

Entertainers will include Amancio Sarmiento, La Galería: Compañía Baile Filipino, Dance International Production, and Angelina Abapo. The opening act will be Sinulog coordinated by the Sto. Nino Organization.

Hosting this year’s Festival will be Wayne Aguiran of Epic Entertainment Hawai‘i.
We Got History Exhibit® sponsored by Monsanto Hawai‘i.

As in prior years, the Festival will incorporate a historical exhibit. This year the exhibit will feature stories written by the sons and daughters of Sakadas from Maui.
Leaving on a Jet Plane…

Yes, if you’re lucky, you could be leaving on a jet plane. If you come early and stay the whole day, don’t forget to register for the… yes, Philippine Airlines through the courtesy of Sol Solleza, will again sponsor airfare, round trip from Honolulu to Manila, economy class. And guess what? Philippine Airlines is donating two trips!

Certain restrictions apply including but not limited to: one entry per person, must be at least eighteen years of age, and must be present, with proper identification, to win.

Corporate and Community Support

The Maui Fil-Am Heritage Festival® is being supported by several companies and community groups who believe in its importance and significance.

“Local sponsor support is so vital to the Festival’s success,” said Melen Agcolicol, Event Co-Chairperson. “Without our sponsors, the Maui Filipino Chamber Foundation would not be able to showcase our culture, heritage, history and growing number of Filipino businesses on Maui. We are extremely grateful for our sponsors.”

Major Sponsors include the A&B Foundation, Monsanto Hawai‘i, County of Maui, Philippine Airlines, ILWU, HMSA, McDonald’s, MassMutual Pacific, Renato & Maria A.F. Etrata Foundation, Western Union, Law Offices of Alfredo Evangelista, A Limited Liability Law Company, Tante’s Island Cuisine, Esteban Construction, LLC, Benjamin Acob, Attorney at Law, Vidad’s Local Kine Grindz, Friends of Don Guzman, Friends of Justin Woodson, Friends of Yuki Lei Sugimura, Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center, 99.9 Kiss FM, Maui Culinary Academy, Four Sisters Catering, Mix 105.5, and Lizada Photography.

Yes, this Festival has something for everyone—delicious Filipino food to eat and take home, challenging contests with prizes, interesting displays, continuous and multi-talented Filipino entertainment—a terrific way to celebrate Filipino-American History Month and to support Filipino businesses.

Manahan acknowledges the Maui Fil-Am Heritage Festival® is the premier event in Hawai‘i that celebrates Filipino-American History Month. “I’m looking forward to joining you on Maui this year,” said Manahan. “We need to continue to strive for an increased awareness and commitment to cultivate our identity, our language, and our heritage for future generations. Hopefully this movement leads to more proactive agendas to further institutionalize our Filipino-American history, our language and our culture throughout the United States.”

Yes, Maui nō ka ‘oi! Remember, come early and enjoy the Maui Fil-Am Heritage Festival® on Saturday, October 21, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at its new location, Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center. Even non-history buffs are welcome!

To keep up-to-date, visit the Chamber’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MauiFilipinoChamber. Pre-registration for the various contests may be made by email to foundation@mauifilipinochamber.com or via fax to 888-411-0834. Telephone inquiries to (808) 242-8100.