Childhood Memories … Before the Internet

Childhood Memories … Before the Internet

Vanessa Joy Domingo

Some things happen in our lives that stay in our memory for a long time—in fact, they can end up being with us forever! Are there memories you cherish from when you were a child? As a teenager? Are the memories you hold on to the ones that have influenced your life the most? Do they pass through your mind like the wind breezing through or do they linger, making the seconds feel like hours?

I have memories from when I was in the fourth grade. Our family took a summer trip to the Philippines. Although we frequently (almost every two years) traveled to the Philippines, it was the first time I understood the dollar could buy you a lot in this country. The excitement bubbled through me as we wandered in SM City Manila. Racks of shoes and clothing. I couldn’t wait to go shopping. It was busy with people bustling through but I was wide-eyed at the bright displays of every shop. I made a mental note of how much bigger this mall was compared to Queen Ka‘ahumanu.

Happy moments from a trip to the Philippines: Eating at Jollibee with Mom (Juvy), Two-year old sister Allison-Jane, Dad (Danilo), Eight-year old sister Brenda-Lynn, and the rebellious Vanessa at nine-years old.
Photo: Vanessa Joy Domingo

My parents ushered my sister and I through the crowd. “We’re going downstairs,” they explained. We stepped on the escalator. I sit down on the step as the escalator lowers us. My sister joins me and we laugh. I ignore the warnings my parents give us. “Get up now, already, Vanessa.” I pretend not to hear them. At the very last moment as I see the tile floor loom ahead of us, I get ready to stand and am suddenly met with the sinking realization I am unable to move. “Mom!” I scream—trying to grab onto the escalator railing to pull myself up. My shorts had gotten caught at the edge of the step. I was panicked, my nine-year old mind wondering if I was going to get smashed into the folding steps that slipped under the floor. The long line of mallgoers behind us wondered what was going on. The steps were struggling to move. My eyes brimmed with tears. Then suddenly, my dad hooks his hands underneath my armpits, pulling me up and pushing me forward at the same time. I am free. And still alive. And still getting scoldings. I was probably the happiest that a person could be with a gaping hole in her shorts. A moment that seemed to last forever, was finally over. My parents bought me an oversized shirt to cover the hole. Pink, with a green hem. This Pokémon shirt ended up being one of my favorite ones to wear that year. Apologetic for what had happened, I make another mental note that day. Listen to what my parents say the first time around.

Thinking about that memory makes me laugh. At times I do feel rebellious. My parents always told me to heed their warnings because they’ve had their share of lessons learned. But sometimes, it always takes a lesson learned the hard way for it to stick to you. As with every life moment, there is something to learn.

Joan Banaag at five years old with Mom and younger sister Christy at the at Hyatt Regency Maui in 1987.
Photo courtesy Joan Banaag

“I remember my mom, Editha Banaag, being a single mother for almost 10 years before my dad, Mario Banaag, arrived from the Philippines in 1991,” recalls Joan Banaag. “She raised two girls while working as a housekeeper at the Hyatt Regency Maui. Every year, my mom took us to the Christmas party at the Hyatt and ensured that we had the best time during the holiday season. I enjoyed playing with all the other kids and making new friends, some of whom I still talk to as an adult. Even though my mom was busy working a full-time job, she made sure that she spent quality time with us and that we were able to enjoy our childhood. It was through my mom’s perseverance that I learned to be an independent hardworking woman. She has dedicated 36 years working for the Hyatt Regency in Kā‘anapali.”

“There are many memories that I hold dear to my heart. I always looked forward to family occasions, summers, and the holidays when my grandpa Damian Cuello, Sr. would come to visit us from the island of Molokai. My grandpa was a very friendly man who knew how to have fun and make everyone laugh,” said Judith Hook. “In fact, he had the most infectious laugh that would make you laugh along if you heard it. He was an exceptional cook who concocted delicious Filipino food for our parties. My favorite was his pork and peas recipe. I remember at parties he would try to dance hula while he balanced his drink on the top of his head. Grandpa loved to share stories at dinner and make us laugh. The story that he always shared was about his migration to Maui. In 1946, he braved the seas and rode on a ship to a new life on the island. Looking back, learning about my Sakada roots through my grandpa make me appreciate how he left his life in the Philippines to eventually bring my mom and dad to Maui. I’m glad a few of my friends had the opportunity to meet him. He was the coolest grandpa anyone could ever have.

Judith Hook when she was a high school senior with Grandpa Damian in 2000.
Photo courtesy Judith Hook
Three-year old Trisha Pascua with her Dad Daniel, circa 1985.
Photo courtesy Trisha Pascua

Trisha Pascua points to a photo with her Dad at Disneyland. “Here’s a picture from 1985 which makes me three years old with my father Daniel. We’re at Disneyland and it was the first time I’ve ever been there. It was in fact my first trip to the mainland. It was me and my parents. I was young so I don’t recall much—but I do remember being excited to ride a big plane to get there and enjoying some of the rides we rode. I was afraid to get close to some of the costumed characters, but I was curious from afar. Experiencing everything was overwhelming and wonderful at the same time. And as I look at this photo, I see a little girl having the time of her life at Disneyland while showing the world a shaka. It also brings me back to how close I was with my father growing up. My mom worked night shifts so my dad and I would watch movies together, go night fishing, and take me shopping. I was my dad’s opihi!”

Other memories can bring us back to places where we feel most at home or happiest.

Top: Grandmother Leonarda Renan and Grandfather Donato Herrera. Bottom: Beverly Domingo Nomura (3yrs), Jenilee Domingo Arrocena (5yrs), Mark Domingo (6yrs).
Photo courtesy Beverly Domingo Nomura

Beverly Domingo Nomura remembers playing outdoors: “I enjoyed playing milk covers and marbles. We didn’t have to worry about being able to play outside back then and my sister Cheryl and I played with the kids next door or my cousins Jenilee and Mark who lived a short block away. We rollerbladed and biked. We didn’t have any screen time because they weren’t around then but being outdoors and having fun with friends and family were the best. I hope my son gets to experience growing up and having fun playing outside with his cousins just as I have.”

“In 1978, my family and I lived in Washington state for a year. I was 8 years old and we had just come from the Philippines,” reminisces Edward Garcia. “When the snow fell, I was so excited to experience it for the first time. I never thought that I would be able to ever play in it. It was a dream come true. That day, my brothers and sisters and I played for hours. I never wanted to go back inside the house. I was amazed and didn’t want the day to end. Living in Yakima, was so different from what I knew.”

While Garcia is reminded of his short time in Washington state, Richard Bali Antone remembers growing up in the plantation camp. “Living in Skill Village, I was always out and about playing outside with my cousins,” said Antone. “We would always climb this Portuguese bread oven. Riding our bikes out there on the dirt road was an adventure. Surprisingly, I found out that the same oven that we used to climb on, was moved to the Sugar Cane Museum in Pu‘unēnē a few years later. It’s still there today.”

Eight-year old Ed playing in the snow.
Photo courtesy Edward Garcia

Sometimes, our memories bring us back to the people that we feel most connected to—our friends. No matter how far apart we can be, memories can keep friendships going strong.

Cousin Wayne Permito, Richard Antone (7 years old), Cousin Jaime Ribao, circa 1983.
Photo courtesy Richard Antone

“One childhood memory?! Hmm? So many to choose from …,” said Jenilee Domingo Arrocena as she pondered her answer to my question. “Blue Angel! That was the nickname that I gave my first brand new car. A 2000 Honda Accord sedan, 4 cylinder, with manual transmission. Aside from the color of the vehicle, the car got its name from the shadow casted from the passenger headlight. One night, I was passing the wiliwili trees on Mokulele Highway (Veteran’s Highway as it’s now called) I noticed that the headlight would illuminate an angel image on the trees. I didn’t think it was from my car—yet it followed alongside me. I thought of it as my guardian angel watching over me. Therefore, the name Blue Angel was what it came out to be. My car was designated the cruise car for our group of friends. Everyone wanted to go cruising in it. Blue Angel has gone to many places all over Maui. If you were to ask my friends, the BEST and FUN place that I always took them was to the Mākena ‘roller coaster.’ It was those up and down hills on the way to and from Big Beach. I remember taking them and one of us would yell ‘Faster!’ as we gained more speed to hit these double dips. I would see my friends in the rearview mirror putting up their hands and some of them closing their eyes and waiting in anticipation for the drops. All you could hear was screaming and ‘Oh my God! We flew off the ground a little!’ or ‘My stomach! My stomach!’ as they ached in pain and laughter. You bet we went back and forth on that road a few more times till we were over it or until there were too many cars passing by. Back then we didn’t have many things to do. Smart phones weren’t in the picture back in the late 90s to beginning 2000s. We just had our Nokia, Motorola Razor flip phone or even pagers. We were into the car scene. Fixing up cars and even taking it to the drag races. Yes, my brother (Mark Domingo) insisted that I enter drag races with my Blue Angel. I’m not your average girly girl. I was my brother’s assistant growing up. I did what boys did because it was much more fun than playing with Barbie and Ken dolls. Ha ha! Anyway, not much work was done to the Blue Angel except slapping on rims, adjustable coil-overs, cold air intake, body kit, cat back exhaust, sounds and a few cosmetic modifications. I entered the drag race on August 21, 2004. This was the first and only time that I would participate. To my surprise, I placed. I was awarded first runner up. That’s pretty good for a first timer, I think. Man, the adrenaline rush I felt in driving fast for a quarter mile. So exhilarating. Blue Angel went through a lot but we had a good five-year run. In 2005 I got my brand-new BMW 330i and named it Dark Knight. That was a fun car to drive too. My husband drives it now. With my two boys. I needed to get a family car. A 2015 Toyota Highlander which I call Black Beauty. All I have now are just memories of Blue Angel, my best friends and all the fun we all had. I can always count on my best friends no matter what. If I needed help, at least one of them is always there to come to the rescue in person or by text. We would be mass texting each other anytime on any given day, which is basically, every day. For Elisa and Jackie who live on the west and east coast respectively, they can wake up to 200-plus texts from us Maui girls. That’s the kind of friendship we have. An everlasting one. ‘Til death do us part without the vows. That’s my friends.”

Jenilee with her Blue Angel Accord, the results, her trophy and her friends.
Photo courtesy Jenilee Domingo Arrocena

Vanessa Bulosan remembers her best summer ever. “Summer of 1999 … one of the most memorable summers ever! A summer full of late nights, early morning, fun filled weekends and friendship! Growing up I honestly didn’t have much close friends but the summer of ‘99 was different. I was introduced to a few new people from my brother and cousins. Who knew I would have grown so close to them! We really were YOUNG, WILD AND FREE! My friends Jen, Mj, Bernadette, Michelle and Ari were the girls I hung with and grew with that summer. We would spend nights going to eat out and cruise. Blasting music in Jen’s ‘Blue Angel’ or just drive around in Berna’s ‘Rootapootpoot’ cars! We would go ghost hunting at old Maui High School and stay out past 1 a.m. when all the ghosts came out! We would go hotel hopping to take a million and one pictures and just walk around acting like tourists. We would go to Wailea for ‘the roller coaster.’ These nights were endless! We would be out till 2 or 3 in the morning doing whatever came to mind. Of course, that summer was all about graduation parties so that was a big PLUS since they were all in high school and I was still in intermediate school. At graduation parties we got to eat and then dance. Afterwards, there would either be after parties or just like any other night we could cruise around wherever our heart desired. One thing I discovered that summer was a thing called ROOM PARTIES! Parents would rent a hotel room and we would all hang out or go swimming, nights were always so short but of course we had our daytime fun. Driving up to Rice park and sliding down the hill and cruising around the head of the island! Growing up with these girls made me grow up a lot faster since we are five to six years apart. After a very fun filled summer, going back to school was so hard since they were the ones I was with the entire summer and they were in a different school. Summer of ‘99 was honestly the best summer! I only hope and pray that my kids would have the same memorable experiences that I had and will have friends like I do. Technology is a blessing and a curse but back in the day it was so much easier to have fun without cell phones interrupting everything!”

Photo collage of Vanessa Bulosan and friends.
Photo courtesy Vanessa Bulosan

Do you remember what life was like before technology consumed our time? When you close your eyes and think of memories with your friends, can you vividly remember everything? The laughter, the noise, the music, the smell of good food. For all the moments that you don’t want to miss—birthdays, weddings, pranks, every celebration. Were you there or were you too busy being consumed by social media and technology? The sudden passing of legendary basketball player Kobe Bryant shocked the world. We were all blindsided by the lesson that you never know what can happen to you. To say I love you to loved ones, to cherish every moment and to be present and live life to the fullest. If you had to look back from today, would you be satisfied with the memories that you’ve created? Would you be satisfied with all that you have achieved in your life? Or would there still be more that you wish you could do and pursue with passion? Think about it.

Vanessa Joy Domingo is a graduate of Maui High School and is currently attending University of Hawai‘i Maui College. She is employed with Coldwell Banker – Wailea Village as a Realtor and is the 2018 Miss Maui Filipina. When she has free time, she loves to go fishing, go to the gym and practice aerial silks. Her fondest memories have always revolved around food. Discovering how to cook opened another outlet for learning and enjoyment. She remembers baking with her mom, watching her aunties in the Philippines roast cashews over an open fire and eating sorbet cones in the hot sun in Vigan. She hopes to continue making food memories.