Dinengdeng & Pinakbet

A Cayetano Retrospective

Benjamin Cayetano: First highest-ranking elected official of Filipino ancestry in the State of Hawai‘i: 6th in a series.

Gilbert S.C. Keith-Agaran

Editor’s Note: 2019 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the election of Benjamin J. Cayetano as the Fifth Governor of the State of Hawai‘i and the first Filipino-American elected as the head of an American state. This is the sixth in a series of articles profiling Cayetano and his historic election and service. Versions of these articles appeared previously in The Filipino Summit.

Counting Heads

In the summer of 1994, Filipino lawyer Alfredo Evangelista received a telephone call at his Graulty Evangelista & Quiban law firm from a so-called leader in the Filipino community. Throughout the hour-long telephone conversation, the so-called leader peppered Fred with a series of questions about Lt. Gov. Ben Cayetano. The conversation came down to whether Ben was the best candidate and, if elected, how many Filipinos would he appoint to his cabinet.

Fred, who had worked with Cayetano at the Schutter law firm and who had been involved in the two successful campaigns for Lt. Governor could not help but get frustrated with the questions and the inability of this so-called leader in the Filipino community to understand the significance of having a Filipino as the leader of the state government. He finally snapped, “It doesn’t matter how many Filipinos he appoints. I’d rather have the number one in the State be Filipino and no other Filipinos than having a non-Filipino and lots of Filipinos.” To Fred, it was useless to continue that conversation but he realized that there would be folks out there counting how many Manongs and Manangs would be in any administration.

Sometime after the 1994 election, a Filipino community “leader” commented to some friends who worked on Lt. Gov. Cayetano’s campaign his interest in serving as a director or deputy director in the Cayetano administration. Asked if the person was going to submit a letter in response to the new Governor’s advertisement, the person snapped: “If they want me, they know where I am.”

That person never served in the Cabinet.

One of the things that always surprised me was the selected scrutiny placed on the Governor’s appointments to his Cabinet and state boards and commissions by some people in the Filipino community. Gubernatorial and mayoral candidates have made promises about appointing a certain number of Filipinos (and some actually have done so upon election apparently). Ben Cayetano never made such promises.

As the administration held press conferences on new appointments, certain Filipino community members would show up at the Executive Chambers to count the number of Manongs and Manangs being introduced or announced. While Governor Cayetano did appoint quite a number of Filipinos to various positions throughout his eight years, there was an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the number and perhaps ultimately the people who were tapped.

What they perhaps missed is that Governor Cayetano quietly broke the bamboo ceiling of such a spoils systems. Instead of one or two cabinet positions, one Supreme Court position, only certain administrative bodies or Cabinet positions or legislative seats, it was wide open. Filipinos served in all kinds of places during Governor Cayetano’s administration, reflecting the varied skills, experiences and professions in the community.

Sam Callejo

Governor Cayetano included four Filipino directors during his term of office: Sam Callejo as comptroller, George Iranon as public safety director, Leonard Agor as labor director and myself as the first Filipino Chair of the Board of Land and Natural Resources and the Commission on Water Resources Management (and briefly as labor director). Callejo later held the Chief of Staff position as well.

As a lawyer, one significant moment for me was when Governor Cayetano elevated Intermediate Court Judge Simeon R. Acoba, Jr. to the Hawai‘i Supreme Court. Conventional wisdom would have raised political concerns that the five-member court already had a Filipino—Justice Mario Ramil. The Governor also named to the circuit court bench Reynaldo Graulty and Artemio Baxa, two Philippine-born lawyers.

At the end of the administration, Fred compiled a list of Cayetano appointees from the Filipino community. For the most part, these people applied although no doubt the Governor and his circle certainly knew where some of them were and did go and get them.

Appointments to the Cabinet:

Leonard Agor, Director, Department of Labor and Industrial Relations;
Deputy Director, Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Rudy Alivado, Deputy Director, Department of Public Safety Sam Callejo, Governor’s Chief of Staff; State Comptroller, Department of Accounting and General Services;
Deputy Director, Department of Transportation Gilbert Coloma-Agaran, Chairman, Board of Land & Natural Resources;
Director, Department of Labor and Industrial Relations;
Deputy Director, Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs;
Deputy Director, Department of Land & Natural Resources Mark Forman, Director of Office of Community Services, Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Reynaldo Graulty, Insurance Commissioner, Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Moya Davenport Gray, Director of Office of Information George Iranon, Director, Department of Public Safety Alfred Lardizabal, Deputy Negotiator, Office of Collective Bargaining Pauline Namuo, Deputy Director, Department of Public Safety Eric Penarosa, Deputy Director, Department of Public Safety John Sabas, Director of Office of Community Services, Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Robert Viduya, Deputy Director, Department of Public Safety

Senior Staff Appointments in the Office of the Governor:

Kim Murakawa

Clarita Barretto, Executive Assistant to the Governor Genaro Bimbo, Deputy Legislative Coordinator Joseph F. Blanco, Executive Assistant to the Governor;
Special Advisor for Technology Development Sam Callejo, Chief of Staff Sheila Forman, Director of Office of Children and Youth Kim Murakawa, Press Secretary Pauline Namuo, Legislative Coordinator Kathleen Racuya-Markrich, Press Secretary David Rodriguez, Legislative Coordinator Robert Viduya, Director of Office of Veterans Services

Appointments to the Judiciary:

Simeon R. Acoba, Jr., Supreme Court of Hawai‘i Artemio Baxa, Circuit Court of the Second Circuit Reynaldo D. Graulty, Circuit Court of the First Circuit

Appointments to the Legislature:

Felipe Abinsay, Jr., State House of Representatives Benjamin Cabreros, State House of Representatives Willie Espero, State House of Representatives Ron Menor, State Senate


State Foundation on Culture and the Arts

Ethel Alikpala Ward, 1996

Alfred Laureta, 1997, 2001


Defender Council

Geronimo Valdriz, 1995, 1999

Alfred B. Castillo, Jr., 1999

Board of Directors, Housing Finance and Development Corporation

Benjamin Saguibo, 1997


Community-Based Economic Development Advisory Council

Vince G. Bagoyo, Jr., 1995, 1998

Hawai‘i Community Development Authority

Allan Los Banos, Jr., 2001

Board of Directors of the Hawai‘i Health Systems Corporation

B. Martin Luna, 1999

Board of Directors, Hawai‘i Strategic Development Corporation

Ted Subia Mina, 1995

Rose Cruz Churma, 1997

Antonio J. Saguibo, Jr., 2001

Edmund C. Aczon, 2002

Hawai‘i Tourism Marketing Council

Sandra K.M. Albano, 1995

Cha Thompson, 1995

Leticia T. Gaoing, 1997

Board of Directors, Housing and Community Development

Corporation of Hawai‘i

Allan Los Banos, Jr., 1998, 1999

Land Use Commission

Isaac Fiesta, Jr., 1997, 2001

Small Business Regulatory Review Board

Memito N. Ablan, 1999


State Board of Public Accountancy

Maria A. Unemori, 1996

State Boxing Commission of Hawai‘i

Alfred Castro, 2002

State Board of Chiropractic Examiners

Maude I. Panganiban, D.C., 1996

Contractors License Board

Clyde J. Eugenio, 1995, 1999

Ernie Bello, 1999

Anacleto “Lito” Alcantra, 2000

Board of Dental Examiners

Janet M. Y. Primiano, 1995

Modesta Gaerlan-Tokunaga, D.D.S., 1997

State Board of Professional Engineers, Architects, Surveyors, and Landscape Architects

Oscar Portugal, 2000

Alfredo G. Evangelista, 2002

Board of Medical Examiners

Antonio K. Tan, M.D., 1995

Ramon K. Sy, M.D., 1999

State Board of Nursing

Rowena Tachibana, L.P.N., 1998

Board of Osteopathic Examiners

Rudy Briones, 1997

Board of Pharmacy

Angelina E. Ramos-Tablizo, 1998

Board of Private Detectives and Guards

Frank P. Lafita, 1997

Board of Public Broadcasting

Ricky C. Manayan, 1995, 1999

Magdalena Pasion Domingo, 1996

Real Estate Commission

Alfredo G. Evangelista, 1996, 1998


Civil Defense Advisory Council

Albert “Benny” Rodero, 1995, 1999

Edith C. Pascua, 1997, 1998, 2002

Alejandro Lomosad, 1996, 2000

Advisory Board on Veterans Services

Rogelio Evangelista, 1996, 2000

Ed Mina, 1997


District School Advisory Council, First School Board District

Donnamarie B. Pabre, 1995

District School Advisory Council, Third School Board District

Almo Paraso, 1995

Hawai‘i School-to-Work Opportunities Executive Council

Theresia C. McMurdo, 1998, 2001 Nobleza E. Magsanoc, 2000

Hawai‘i Teacher Standards Board

Gervacio Buenconsejo, 1996, 1998


Architectural Access Committee

Oscar C. Paez, Jr., 1996, 1997

State Planning Council on Developmental Disabilities

Esperanza N. Cadavona, 1999

Disability and Communication Access Board

Oscar C. Paez, Jr., 2000

Hawaii Advisory Commission on Drug Abuse and Controlled Substances

Dominic K. Inocelda, 1997

Lorraine Godoy, 1997

Policy Advisory Board for Elder Affairs

Fely Libre Faulkner, 1995, 1999

Richard I.C. Caldito, Sr., 2000

Emergency Medical Services Advisory Committee

Teofilo Phil Tacbian, 2000

Environmental Council

Roger Castro, 1997

Melissa Dumaran, 2002

Central O‘ahu Subarea Health Planning Council

Adela G. Sanidad, 1996

Hawai‘i County Subarea Health Planning Council

Lito Asuncion, 1997

Juliette M. Tulang, 2001

Kaua‘i County Subarea Health Planning Council

Eleanor R. Ragasa, 1997

Cesar G. Cadabes, 2000

Elizabeth Ubay, 2000

Trinidad Raval, 2001

Aida Pascual, 2002

Windward O‘ahu Subarea Health Planning Council

Agnes E. Pigao Cadiz, 2000

Diamond Head Service Area Board on Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Fred Pascua, 1995, 1999

Maui Service Area Board on Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Rowena Marie Dagdag, 2000

Windward O‘ahu Service Area Board on Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Katherine Baltazar, 2000

Board of Certification of Operating Personnel in Wastewater Treatment Plants

Jose M. Padron, 1995, 1999

County Public Health Facility Management Advisory Committee, County of Maui

Dolores Malagsic Fabrao, 1996


Civil Service Commission

Ricardo Medina, 1996, 2000

Normita F. Fenn, 1998


Hawaii Housing Authority

Allan Los Banos, Jr., 1997

Board of Human Services

Angel Ramos, 1995

Juvenile Justice State Advisory Council

Reynaldo D. Graulty, 1998


Civil Rights Commission

Claudio R. Suyat, 1997

Advisory Commission on Employment and Human Resources

Elena M. Bumanglag, 1995

Hawaii Labor Relations Board

Kathleen Racuya-Markrich, 2000

Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board

Vicente F. Aquino, 1996

Hawaii Workforce Development Council

Clayton E. Dela Cruz, 2000


Joseph Blanco (Center)

Aquatic Life and Wildlife Advisory Committee, City and County of Honolulu

Teodoro “Ted” Saribay, 1995

Natural Area Reserves System Commission

Pascual Dabis, 1997, 2001

Commission on Water Resource Management

Clayton W. Dela Cruz, 2002


Hawaii Paroling Authority

Lani Rae Suiso Garcia, 1997, 2000


Board of Taxation Review, First Taxation District

Amor B. Nino, 1997

Board of Taxation Review, Second Taxation District

Randolph R. Cabanilla, 1999, 2000

Board of Taxation Review, Fourth Taxation District

George M. Menor, 1997, 2001

Eduardo Topenio, Jr., 1997, 2001


State Highway Safety Council

Orlando S. Soriano, 1995

Hernando R. Tan, 1999

Commission on Transportation

Rudy Miranda, 1999

James C. Pacopac, 2002


Board of Regents, University of Hawai‘i

Joseph F. Blanco, 1996

Board of Directors, Research Corporation of the University of Hawai‘i

Eugene N. Tiwanak, 2001


Board of Registration, Island of O‘ahu

Herman T. Andaya, Jr., 1998, 1999


Hawai‘i Library Advisory Commission

Antonia R. Lambayan, 1995

Kaua‘i Library Advisory Commission

Federico R. Cuaresma, 1995

Jesus S. Guirao, 1996


Amy Agbayani, 2000

Gilbert S.C. Keith-Agaran serves as the State Senator for Central Maui. Before marrying Kallie Keith, his name was Gilbert S. Coloma-Agaran.