With all of his many accomplishments in life, this ambitious Sakada Offspring remains humble and compassionate. Artemio Baxa was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth but was born in a lowly household, in a tiny village in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte, Philippines on December 16, 1937. He is the son of Juan Eda Baxa and Maria Subia Constantino.
In his early formative years, Artemio spent quite a bit of time tending to the family’s domestic animals like carabao, goats, etc. and helped with the needs of his household, like fetching water from the well, and gathering firewood from the nearby mountain. Unfortunately, his mother died when Artemio was only ten years old and his father’s sister, Pilar Baxa took care of him and his brother, Arnold Baxa. Their father Juan was already in Hawai‘i at that time because he came to Hawaii in the early 1930s. Juan was a very thrifty man saving his hard-earned dollars from the sugar plantation, HC&S, sending it to the Philippines for Artemio and Arnold to spend for their education. Artemio proudly shared that he earned his first dime by shining shoes in their town during weekends.
After high school, Artemio first attended the University of Sto. Tomas. Then he attended the Ateneo de Manila University School of Law in 1960. He passed his Bar in 1961. Then he went back to Bacarra and worked for a while.
Artemio first came to the United States in 1963 as a graduate student at the University of Chicago Law School earning a master’s degree in Comparative Law. After Chicago, he went back to the Philippines and started his legal career as an Assistant Attorney with the Manila law firm of the former Philippine Senator, the late Don Vicente J. Francisco who was also the publisher of the Philippine Lawyers Journal.
At the urging of his father, Artemio decided to immigrate to Hawai‘i. When Don Vicente learned about Artemio’s plan, he told Artemio that he was making a big mistake and that he would only be picking pineapples.
Artemio arrived in Hawai‘i in 1967 and lived with his father in the plantation camps, first in Alabama Village in Pu‘unēnē and in Camp I in Spreckelsville. Don Vicente was right. Life did not come easily for Artemio to find a job as a lawyer. Like everyone else, we all have to work to earn some money for our daily living. Artemio’s first odd jobs included in doing yardwork, working as a bellhop at the Wailuku Hotel, now the Maui Medical Group Building, night clerk at the Maui Beach Hotel, and as a community aide in the anti-poverty agency, now called MEO (Maui Economic Opportunity). He saved his money and got married to the late Lucina Baxa.
When their child Artemio Baxa II was two months old, Artemio and Lucina agreed to sell their home to enable Artemio to attend the Richardson Law School at the University of Hawai‘i-Mānoa where he earned his Juris Doctor Degree in 1978. It was his first previous training and education that paved his way to later become a Circuit Court judge in the State of Hawai‘i, member of the Maui Charter Commission, member of the University of Hawai‘i Board of Regents, and a member of the Hawai‘i Civil Rights Commission. In 1985, he attended Harvard University Law School and received a certificate from the Program of Instructions for lawyers.
Artemio went to work in the Maui County Department of Corporation Counsel and later became a County Prosecutor where he was working when named the first Maui County Employee of the Year in 1988. His wife Lucina had to accept the award for him because he had paid his way to a Mainland conference to learn how to be a better prosecutor. Artemio was selected from among 1,200 Maui County employees as the Maui County’s first Employee of the Year. Now Chief Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza said this about Artemio: “From my point of view, I really see the community has gotten much, much more because of the dedication of Artemio. In many organizations we have a consensus that everyone can be replaced. In our case, we feel Artemio is an exception to that rule. He’s truly one of a kind.” (Taken from the Maui News, July 4, 1988 issue). He went from prosecutor, and nights of sleeping in the office while working on cases, to defender in 1991 when he joined the law firm of Lowenthal & August for five years.
Artemio returned to the prosecutor’s office where he stayed until Governor Ben Cayetano nominated him as a Circuit Judge. James Kawashima of the Judicial Selection Commission said of Judge Baxa: “He is one of the most humble, self-effacing individuals you will ever meet. He is not the typical lawyer who is flashy and egotistical.”
When Artemio announced his retirement as a Circuit Judge in December 28, 2001, the Maui News Opinion Section in its November 9, 2001 issue, titled, “Retiring judge a Maui role model,” Deputy Public Defender Barry Porter said of Judge Baxa: “He really has a heart of the common man. He always listens to everything everybody has to say. He was very patient, an incredibly fair and compassionate judge.” When Judge Baxa left the bench, he was quoted saying: “I think it’s about time for me to give back to the community.” The article also added: “The judge plans to do volunteer work, and if he doesn’t mind a suggestion, nothing could be more appropriate than using his life’s story as an inspiration for youngsters who could find no better role model than Artemio Baxa.”
In 2005, when Maui County held its Centennial Celebration following its establishment in 1905, Artemio was recognized as one of the Outstanding Citizens of Maui County for the last one hundred years (1905–2005). In October 2010, Artemio was awarded the Golden Sakada Lifetime Achievement Award given by the United Filipino Council of the State of Hawai‘i. He was also honored in 2002 as one of 20 Outstanding Filipino Americans in the United States and Canada by the Filipino Image Magazine in Washington D.C.
Artemio served as an officer and/or board member in various and community organizations. Among them are: The Maui Jaycees, Maui Mental Health Association, Hale Makua Board, Maui Chamber of Commerce and Maui Economic Opportunity, Inc. He also served as President of the Maui County Bar Association, and as Maui County’s Commissioner in the State of Hawai‘i Filipino Centennial Commission which in 2006, commemorated the 100 years of Filipino Immigration to Hawai‘i.
From a very humble beginning to the successes he encountered in his life, Judge Artemio Baxa had this to say: “This proves once again that no matter what the odds are, education can be the greatest equalizer in life that can offer opportunities to anyone to be of services to others and the community.”
Artemio further says: “My father, Juan always reminded me that the measure of a man is not determined by the triumph that comes at the end of the day. Rather, it is determined by how he tries to overcome the obstacles, the setbacks, and/or the reverses of fortune that come his way. Far more important than ability or talent, are perseverance and resiliency of character.”
Personally and lovingly, retired Judge Artemio Baxa also said this: “In my old and declining years, my rock and strength are the abiding love and devoted care and concern of my beloved, Dr. Luz Patricia Medina, my only child and son, Artemio Baxa II, and my only living brother, Arnold C. Baxa and his family.”