Dulce Karen Butay
Editor’s Note: Many on The Fil-Am Voice’s staff have connections to Sakadas and the plantations. Although we generally hate to be the subject of the articles / columns, this is the fifth in a series focusing on The Fil-Am Voice’s staff’s Sakada offsprings.
Lucy Peros | All photos courtesy Dulce Karen Butay
“I remember my grandpa Ruperto “Tomas” Butay talking about his journey to Hawai‘i,” said Dulce Karen Butay, this month’s Sakada Offspring feature. “He mentioned there were lots of them and they even ran out of food on the boat. So they had to find anything to eat to satisfy their hunger. Grandpa Tomas said some would even chew on their rubber slippers while some chewed on toothpicks,” Butay recalls.
Tomas, who was born on May 25, 1925 in San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte, Philippines, was only twenty years old when he signed up to go to Hawai‘i to work in the plantations. He was just starting a family when he left his wife, Engracia “Ingra” Villanueva Butay and his oldest daughter, Thelma Butay Gallardo, who was just six months old. Butay came with his two older brothers, Victor Butay (24), and Romualdo “Maldo” Butay (22) on January 14, 1946. They sailed from Port Salomague, Cabugao, Philippines on board the S.S. Maunawili. After they landed in Honolulu, Tomas was assigned to work on the sugar plantation on O‘ahu. His siblings were all assigned to different plantations on different islands.
Life as a Sakada was difficult. “My grandpa told me it was hard to work in the sugar plantation and so when his contract expired, he returned to the Philippines on September 4, 1949,” said Butay. But Butay would benefit from her Grandpa Tomas rejoining her Grandma Ingra.
Butay would live with her grandparents until she was ten years old. She claims they really spoiled her to the point that her grandma would prepare the food and even spoon-fed her. “All I had to do was chew and swallow,” said Butay with a laugh. She has lots of fond memories about her grandpa who taught her how to ride a bike.
Tomas used his hard-earned money to start a business, a carinderia (a small restaurant) in their town known as Butay’s Carinderia. “My grandpa is a very good cook, unfortunately, none of us, his children and his grandchildren, learned how to cook his famous caldo (beef soup),” said Butay. Tomas taught Butay how to help him in his carinderia by serving water to their customers and by taking away used dishes.
Both grandparents taught her how to work hard and do her best. They taught her to be respectful especially to the elderly and not to answer them back. “Grandpa was a happy man. He was always smiling whenever I saw him. My grandma on the other hand was the disciplinarian and strict. When she gives you the ‘eye,’ just watch out and listen. They loved each other. I never saw them fight. Grandpa was a very generous man. He often fed us, his grandchildren in his carinderia,” reminisced Butay.
Tomas’ hard work in Butay’s Carinderia provided enough financial support for Tomas to put some of his children to college. Three out of his seven children were able to graduate as a CPA, a Civil Engineer, and a Doctor of Medicine.
Butay was born on November 7, 1978 in San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte, Philippines, the daughter of Jesus “Jessie” Butay and Dolly Butay of San Nicolas. In the 1970’s, Butay’s mom was petitioned by Butay’s Auntie, Guadalupe “Oping” Bautista who was married to a Sakada, Felix Bautista. It took twenty plus years to have the petition papers to be processed because of the change of the marital status of Butay’s mom.
“I remember when my Mom told me we are migrating to Hawai‘i. I told her I didn’t want to go. It must have broken her heart. She tried to convince me and told to me to give it a try,” said Butay. “Unfortunately, when our papers were being processed, my dad passed. I remember he was making plans what he would do when we got to Hawai‘i. He would open a restaurant and serve Filipino food. My dad was a great cook too. We had maids cleaning the house, ironing our clothes but we never had a maid to cook our food because my Dad was the one who cooks our food,” recalls Butay. “Sadly, we were not able to learn how to cook from my Dad. I only started cooking when I came to Hawai‘i. I burnt even the simplest or easiest food to prepare. But later, I learned how to cook by just the memory of how my father’s food tasted like.”
With their father’s passing, the family went through some challenges. However, with the help and financial generosity of the siblings of Butay’s mom, six of her family members including Butay’s siblings Jeslie Butay, Jesus Butay, Jr., Daisy Butay Hayen, Dianne Butay-Guiwa, and Debbie Butay, were able to come to Hawai‘i. Butay and her family cannot thank these uncles and aunties enough for their help and generosity. Without the help of Butay’s family—Dionicia Calaro, Roberta Dumlao, Guadalupe “Oping” Bautista, the late Balbina “Binang” Domion, and the late Jose Damo—her family would not be here today.
Before coming to Hawai‘i, Butay attended Santa Rosa Academy School in Elementary and Holy Spirit Academy of Laoag in High School. Butay even attended one semester of college at Mariano Marcos State University, majoring in Accountancy, before arriving in Hawai‘i at the age of 16, which in Hawai‘i, is of high school age.
When Butay went to register at Maui High School, Mr. Eugene Kennedy, the school’s registrar, suggested to her she should stay in high school because of her age and Butay enrolled as a Junior at Maui High School. By her senior year, Butay was so ahead academically among her peers that Mr. Howard Nomura, the Principal had difficulty finding classes challenging for her to take. Butay had already taken most of the AP classes and even one year of Japanese class. Nomura had a solution for her, giving Butay an early release to take classes at Maui Community College now known as University of Hawai‘i Maui College. Butay followed Nomura’s advice, enrolled in two classes at MCC and even had time to work part-time at Panda Express for extra spending money.
For Butay, it was a culture shock attending school in Hawai‘i. “It was quite a different environment from what I was used to. I attended exclusive Catholic schools for girls all my life. I felt very uncomfortable when I saw students kissing in front of me. I was used to wearing a uniform, neatly pressed, and closed shoes but at Maui High, the students just wore shorts and slippers,” Butay recalls.
In AP Chemistry, her teacher, Mr. William Shoemaker, asked her to help explain the lesson to her classmates but Butay politely declined. “He told me he felt useless as a teacher because I just sat in his class not learning anything new,” Butay explained. “I told him I would just observe and give him feedback to help him out. I sat second to the back of the class. Behind me was a Japanese girl. She was always kicking my chair through most of the class. I didn’t say anything because I was scared and I was a new student. We had our midterm test and she asked me if she could see my answers. I erased my answers and circled the wrong ones and allowed her to copy my test. After she copied it, I changed my answers and turned it in. The next week, we received our test back, she asked what grade I received; I showed her my A+ paper. I asked her what grade she got and it was a C+. From then, she didn’t kick my chair anymore. She was also wide-eyed when she heard I was graduating summa cum laude and one of the Valedictorians.”
Butay received her A.A. Liberal Arts Degree at MCC and also received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, specializing in Accounting at U.H. West O‘ahu. She is currently employed at the County of Maui, Department of Finance as the Administrative Officer. Butay is also a licensed Resident Producer of Life Insurance with World Financial Group and an Independent Consultant of Saladmaster. She is now part of the Travel Club of Saladmaster and won an all paid trip to Cancún, Mexico with the love of her life, Paul Manzano. She has traveled to Texas, the Philippines and Thailand as one of the delegates from Island Healthy Solutions, a dealer of Saladmaster here in Hawai‘i.
If you want to learn how to speak Philippine languages such as Tagalog, Ilokano, Cebuano, Ilongo, Ibanag, or Kapampangan, don’t hesitate to pick up your monthly copy of the Fil-Am Voice because Butay is the author of our monthly column, Let’s Talk Pinoy!
Butay is also very involved in other community activities. She volunteers at Christ The King Church to bake bread and sell scrips at the church bazaar; she is a blood bank donor and helps raise funds for the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and the Maui Visitors Industry. Butay volunteered to work at the County Fair to sell tickets at the Fair booths and she also helped issue Keiki ID at the First Aid Station. Butay has also participated in cleaning a cemetery, forest restoration and silversword planting through her union, HGEA, of which she is an active member of the MCEC Chapter.
Butay is also involved with a number of organizations such as the Maui High School PTSA (Treasurer SY 2016), Maui Waena Bandboosters (Treasurer SY 2016 to present), Maui Filipino Chamber of Commerce and its Foundation (Treasurer 2015 to present). At the American Heart Association, she was a heart walk coordinator for the Department of Finance.
Butay enjoys cooking and baking as well as doing arts and crafts. She is happy to be a mother to Vanessa Kate Erin Butay Galiza, Keilah Elizabeth Galiza, and a grandmother to Arissa Kira Delos Santos (Vanessa’s daughter).
“It is in God’s plan to give us challenges in life,” said Butay. “And I have a handful of those every now and then. I won’t be able to overcome these challenges without my faith in Him and the love and support of my family, especially my soul mate Paul Manzano. I am so blessed to have been raised by my grandparents and my parents. Their love is priceless and no other love can replace it. I wasn’t raised to give up easily without trying other ways and means. They taught me to take those negative criticisms and turn it into positive thoughts to make myself better. I always find ways to help my siblings and be there for each other because we are on the same boat together.”
Lucy Peros is a retired school teacher. She taught at St. Anthony Grade School and Waihe‘e Elementary School. Both her parents, Elpidio Cabalo and Alejandra Cabalo of Hali‘imaile worked for Maui Land and Pine Company. Her Dad was a 1946 Sakada. She is now enjoying retirement. She now has time to join the other seniors at the Enhance Fitness Program under the Department of Aging three times a week, attend the line dancing class and other activities at Kaunoa, and joins the 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.