Anita E. Sagayaga Fernandez
Lucy Peros | All photos courtesy Anita FernandezCan you imagine how a mother and a father feel when they say good bye to their five sons to go to an unknown place not knowing if they will ever see each other again? Can you also imagine how these five strong young men felt when they said good bye to their parents to come to Hawai‘i as 1946 Sakadas? These brothers were: Mariano, Paulino, Marcelino, Valentine and Sesinando Sagayaga. Perhaps “courage” is the key word for both parents and their sons. As Bethany Hamilton, a shark attack survivor puts it, “Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid. Courage means you don’t let fear stop you.” Today, only one of the five Sagayaga brothers is still alive—Sesinando Sagayaga, who is now 95 years old.
This month’s Sakada Offspring is Anita Sagayaga Fernandez, one of the daughters of Sesinando. She was born on July 15, 1956 in Pu‘unēnē, Maui, Hawai‘i at the Pu‘unēnē Plantation Hospital located at Hansen Road. The Sagayaga’s first home was at Young Hee Camp near the Hongwanji Church. When Anita was five years old, her family moved to the 6th increment in Kahului. She attended Lihikai School on Ka‘ahumanu Ave. located across the Maui Beach Hotel and then moved to the new Lihikai School on Papa Ave. in the 3rd grade. She graduated from St. Anthony High School. After high school, she ventured to California attending University of San Francisco earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology.
Anita is married to Clayton Fernandez. He works at Tri Isle Inc. as warehouse foreman. Their daughter Christina Parilla is a former pre-school teacher at Maui Economic Opportunity Headstart and at the Christ The King Child Development Center. She now owns a day care center. Christina is married to Dwight Parilla Jr. They have a daughter Amanda. Their son Chad is an electrical engineer, working for the County of Maui, Department of Public Works. He is married to Mandy Santos. They have a son Luke.
Anita’s siblings are Charles, Nancy and Shirley. Charles is married to Rose Macadangdang. They have a son Chris and a daughter Kacie. Charles works for Maui Memorial Medical Center. Nancy is married to Michael Tanji. They have two stepchildren Mychal Tanji and Marisa Waits. Nancy works for the County of Maui Real Property Tax Division. Shirley is married to Jack Carlisle. They have three children Mitchell, Megan and Matthew. Shirley works in a dental office at Richard Roudebush Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Indianapolis, Indiana.
At Maui Memorial Hospital (1980–1990), Anita was a lab assistant. She performed phlebotomy duties and assisted technicians in preparing patients’ samples for testing. In 1991–2011, she was Sanitary Chemist IV at the County of Maui Department of Environmental Management Wastewater Division Central Laboratory. She supervised the laboratory and performed different analytical testing on wastewater samples to comply with State and Federal regulations. The County of Maui began a reclamation program in recycling the wastewater by treating the wastewater in different processes to produce clean water safe for irrigation.
Anita was awarded the Manager of the Year for County of Maui, Department of Public Works for 1999–2000.
Anita is very active in the community. At Christ the King Catholic Church, she is involved in the Hospital, Charity Walk, People in Care Facility, Food Pantry and Eucharistic Ministries. At Kaunoa Senior Center, she is a member of the Advisory Council Board and volunteers in the office performing clerical duties.
Baking is one of Anita’s favorite hobbies and interests. She enjoys doing different crafts activities as well as watching softball and dancing hula. Most of all, she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren and family.
Clayton and Anita are involved in Worldwide Marriage Encounter Movement. They attended their first encounter weekend in 2008, on their 27th wedding anniversary. They wanted to share their personal reflection regarding the weekend. “It is a special feeling, knowing God has blessed us to be together. We learned that our spouse is very special and not to take each other for granted. It is a celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage. It is written in the Bible to love God and He says to love one another. Marriage is a holy relationship with each other and with God. We pray that more couples may experience a Marriage Encounter weekend to enhance their marriage to be better. The weekend provides tools in communication and sharing one’s feelings which helps to enhance relationship and love for each other.”
Anita and her siblings are very caring of their 95-year old Dad, Sesinando Sagayaga, a 1946 Sakada.
I previously had the privilege to talk and listen to Sesinando’s interesting and informative Sakada story. Sesinando was born in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte on July 12, 1925. He left the Philippines on April 9, 1946 aboard the S.S. Maunawili, at Port Salomague in Cabugao, Ilocos Sur, Philippines. According to him, they climbed a ladder made out of rope to get on the S.S. Maunawili. Like many of the other Sakadas, he came to Hawai‘i to find a better life for himself and his family.
Upon arrival at the Kahului Harbor on April 27, 1946, Sesinando and the other Sakadas were transported to Spanish B Camp in Pu‘unēnē, a camp located by the old Holy Family Catholic Church. Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Co. (HC&S) provided all of their basic needs. Sesinando lived with several Sakadas in one house. Life at Spanish B Camp according to Sesinando was a very memorable one. It was a very closed knit community where they shared many things with one another like a big family. They shared such things as vegetables that they gathered from the field or from their backyard garden. They slaughtered pigs or cows and shared. Slaughtering in their backyard was allowable and legal in those days. How fresh the meats must have been!
After six months at Spanish B Camp, Sesinando moved to Young Hee Camp near the Hongwanji Church. He lived there until 1960 when the camps were being phased out.
While at HC&S, Sesinando first cut grass, joined the poison gang (poisoned the weeds) and later the harvesting gang (collect and pile up the sugar cane stalks to be picked up by the harvesting machine). Then he joined the replant gang (replacing the dead sugar canes) (agsugot). He then joined the irrigation gang (agpadanum), directing the water flow to the fields. His main area to work was where the Assembly of God Church and Home Depot are today. That area used to be all sugarcane fields. He mentioned the late Julian Cabalo as his buddy in the irrigation gang. They were paid 43 cents per hour. If they worked more than 25 working days a month, they would receive 7 more cents as a bonus. He worked in the irrigation department until his retirement in 1987.
At the camp, a store boy would go around and take orders from the Sakadas. Their groceries would be charged from their paychecks.
With a big smile on his face, as if he is happy remembering the past, Sesinando enjoyed talking about their social activities at the camp. He said there were lots of dancing, social boxes in which the men could bid. They would pay for each dance. The money that’s produced from these social dances are given to the queen contestants (candidatas) of their choice. Some of the men got carried away in dancing too much that at the end of the month, they had nothing or very little left on their paychecks.
Sesinando remembered that on October 1951, he decided to go back to Bacarra to marry a beautiful young lady by the name of Dominga Dolores Yanos whom he knew since childhood. He said this was the first time he set foot in Manila because as a child, he didn’t have the opportunity to go there. With a twinkle in his eyes and with pride in his voice, he mentioned that Dominga was beautiful, loyal, and faithful that even though several young men in Bacarra wanted to court and marry her, she waited for her Sesinando.
Upon arrival in Bacarra, “Nando” as he was fondly called, visited Dominga right away. Dominga and Sesinando corresponded with each other when he was in Hawai‘i. They respected their tradition of danon where the parents of both children got together and did the marriage proposal and the wedding arrangements. The wedding ceremony was held in Bacarra and a grand reception was held at Nando’s house.
Sesinando came back to Hawai‘i on March 1952. Dominga followed him soon after. Their eldest child Anita was born under the care of the late HC&S doctor, Edward B. Underwood. As mentioned previously, Sesinando and Dominga were blessed with four very caring and loving children.
Sesinando was asked what his advice was to older folks like him and the younger ones. He said “To the old folks like me, I would say enjoy your grandchildren. When I was younger, I would tell them to go home to the Philippines and get married. To the young ones, I would say to them to get a good education for it is easier to find a better job. Education is the best inheritance that parents can give to their children.”
Lucy Peros is a retired school teacher, having taught at St. Anthony Grade School and Waihe‘e Elementary School. Both of her parents, Elpidio Cachero Cabalo (a 1946 Sakada) and Alejandra Cabudoy Cabalo of Hāli‘imaile worked for Maui Land and Pine Company. Lucy now enjoys retirement and has time to join other seniors in the Enhance Fitness Program under the Department of Aging three times a week. She also attends the line dancing class and other activities at Kaunoa and joins other Waihe‘e School retirees when help is needed at the school. Lucy also devotes some of her time to activities at Christ The King Catholic Church. She enjoys writing and reading in her spare time.