Ating Kabuhayan

Please and Thank You, Mom and Dad

Editor’s note: The Fil-Am Voice extends its condolences to John and his family on the recent passing of his Mom Winona.

John A.H. Tomoso†

My mother, Winona Veronica Kaleimokuo-keanuenue Alo Tomoso, recently passed into the Life Eternal. She was born and raised on this island, from parents who came from families deeply and indigenously rooted in the soil of this island. She was a simply elegant woman, gracious to a fault yet not afraid to speak her mind; often to say what others may not have had the courage to express. I often thought that my Mom, to her last day on earth, knew what she was saying. My father, Constantino (Connie) Tomoso, was also born and raised on this island but of parents newly arrived from Cebu, in the Philippines. He was a very smart man, kind and considerate to a fault yet a constant advocate for those who didn’t know they were being left out. My own insistence on participating in family and civic affairs comes from my Dad. My Mom and Dad contributed in many ways to the way I live my life on this island.

I am shown sitting on my father’s lap with my mother sitting alongside in the living room couch back in 1954.

Being Native Hawaiian, Mom knew a lot about the sky, the sea and the ‘āina. From my Grandmother, she inherited a green thumb and knew her way around the kitchen. She cooked for us, what became our favorite dishes; Hawaiian, Chinese, Ha‘ole Food, even Japanese. Her family was firmly involved in cultural, political and civic affairs. If it was important, her family was involved; probably planning and organizing an event. To this day, people know me because of where my Upcountry Kula ‘Ohana lived and worked.

Dad was the most educated of all seven siblings. He was also athletic. He even died while winning a rousing round of doubles tennis. He deeply cared for his family and for everyone around him. He would regale all of us with stories of growing up on the plantation, poor yet never starving and never wanting for any clothes or books for school. They all helped each other and his siblings helped him to go to school and learn, probably to take over the family business. To this day, people know me as Connie’s son. Sadly, most of my Dad’s contemporaries have also gone on to God. I say this because my Dad saw the Church as so very important. He went to daily Mass and saw to it that none of us would miss Mass on Sundays.

My parents both knew how to party, hosting familial and social affairs. From both, I learned how to entertain and host, paying attention to the details of making sure guests were comfortable and welcomed. My parents, especially my Mom, wanted my siblings and I to look good, to mind your manners, to be respectful and to always be thankful, especially to God. I remember many a story and discussion about being grateful and knowing the difference between what you need and what you want. In all of this, my parents instilled in me a concern for and love of living with others, of being in and building community, including remembering others who passed on. Thus, regular trips to clean and decorate the graves of relatives were on our family calendar.

My mom and dad’s formal wedding portrait in 1952.

Now, knowing that both my parents are in heaven, I am thinking a lot about what all their upbringing of my siblings and I really meant. What comes to mind right away is the feeling and perspective that the self doesn’t really matter too much if one forgets about the other; others, who probably are more needy than you, who need more love than you, who worked harder than you, building this island and preserving it for others. I know that they were born and lived here in another time, a simpler and gentler and more peaceful time. Growing up, they left their car keys in the ignition so that they wouldn’t get lost. This was also a time when churches were left open, 24/7. I remember going with my Dad to light a candle in memory of someone who had died or whose birthday we needed to remember and say a prayer. Another thing both my parents taught us was that you had to be accountable and to always do what you said you would do; in other words, to finish what you began.

I could go on and on. Kababayan, remember your parents. We are a clear reflection of who they are. What they did, to raise us, to nurture us, to ensure that our needs and not necessarily our wants were met, brings us to the Maui that you and I know and love and now work to bring up and nurture our own children, deep in the soil of this island.

One more thing, I know a please and a thank you go a long way with others. Well, they went a long way with my Mom and Dad. Say these words often, say them regularly. Each time you say them, make it a prayer to God, in thanksgiving for your Mom and Dad. Our Moms and Dads are the building blocks of the community and quality of life we all share and enjoy!

John A. Hau‘oli Tomoso† is a Priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Hawai‘i and a retired Social Worker, with 42 years of licensed practice. Born and raised on Maui, he lives in Kahului with his wife, Susan D. Tomoso, who is a retired Educator, with 30 years of teaching experience.