Lucy Peros | All photos courtesy The Asuncion ‘Ohana
This month’s featured Sakada Offspring is a devoted husband, father, grandfather and dedicated parishioner of Christ The King Church. He is none other than Frederico “Fred” Philip Asuncion. He is the son of a Sakada, the late Valeriano Asuncion and Luciana Domingcil Asuncion. Valeriano came to Hawai‘i in 1923 as an agricultural contract laborer and was joined by his wife Luciana five years later in 1928. Both came from Bacarra, Ilocos Norte, Philippines. Valeriano worked for Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company in Pu‘unēnē. He worked as an irrigator, seed cutter, and in the mill as a boiler room attendant where he retired from after forty-one years with the company. Fred, their son, presumed that his parents did not have any type of formal schooling in the Philippines because they were not able to read and write. They only had their verbal communication skills from the old country. According to Fred, despite their level of schooling, they were very loving and hard-working parents. They both worked hard to provide for their family here and in the Philippines. Valeriano was one of a kind. He had the “gift of healing.” He was known not only on Maui but in the whole state of Hawai‘i. He was able to put back sprained or fractured bones in place by gentle massage called ilot using a mashed up bark of katimbaw or tawwa-tawwa plant. He applied the heated mashed bark on the affected bone area called tapal. It was a very powerful medicinal plant. Many Filipinos have this plant in their backyard including this writer for emergency purposes. Valeriano was also known as mammoyon. To diagnose someone’s cause of sickness, he used a plate with vinegar and two pebbles in it. When the pebbles move to different directions, he was able to diagnose the cause of sickness. Also by using an animal horn (goat’s), he had the ability to ease someone’s pain by placing it on the painful area using the horn to suck out the pain. By word of mouth, many came to Valeriano to seek his help. Fred became his assistant. He never accepted any payment even though people whom he helped offered.
Fred was born on November 30, 1935 in Pu‘unēnē, Maui, Hawai‘i. He grew up in various villages and camps in Pu‘unēnē. He attended Pu‘unēnē Elementary School and Baldwin High School. After graduation, Fred enlisted in the military and was in active duty until 1957.
Fred then enrolled in the two year Business Program at the Maui Technical School (presently University of Hawai‘i Maui College). He graduated in 1959 with an Accounting Certificate. While at the school, he served as the student body president during his second year. At graduation, he received the Daughters of the American Revolution Medal. This award is given to a graduating student who possesses the qualities of dependability, service, leadership and patriotism. His plans to further his education were placed on hold due to family obligations.
In 1960, Fred married the former Leonarda “Leo” Razo. Their children are: Fred Asuncion, Jr., retired as a Splicer from Hawaiian Telephone Company, who resides at Ohia at Kehalani with his wife Malia, two children and two grandchildren in Wailuku; Lynne Marie Asuncion Arcia, employed as a Pharmacy Tech at Kaiser Maui Lani Clinic and resides with her husband at The Parkway at Maui Lani in Kahului; and Chad Asuncion, employed as the Digital Operations Manager for KHNL/KGMB & KFVE on O‘ahu, who resides with his wife Christine and two children on Oahu. All children were educated in Catholic schools, Christ the King and Saint Anthony Jr. & Sr. High School.
After ten years of being in the workforce, Fred enrolled at Maui Community College while still working and earned an Associate Degree in Accounting in 1970. As a veteran of the Korean War, Fred was entitled to further his education under the G.I. Bill. After earning his degree, Fred’s first job was with Maui Dry Goods Company in Wailuku as their Credit Manager. The basic responsibilities of his job were reviewing all sales contracts for home furnishings, home appliances, and automobiles that salesmen sold on credit to determine the creditworthiness of the buyer and to approve or reject the sale. He managed the account receivables and handled collections on delinquent accounts. Fred claimed that he was not happy with the job and after three months on the job, he left the company to accept a civil service position with the State Department of Taxation as a Tax Clerk in the Maui County Real Property Tax Division. Fred felt that his decision in accepting this job was the benefits it offered for the long term and great potential for upward movement to higher positions in the department. While in the Division, he worked up the career ladder in the Real Property Tax Division from Tax Clerk to Appraisal Assistant, to Appraiser I, II, III, IV and for the last thirteen years before retiring he held the position of Real Property Tax Administrator for the County of Maui. His focus while still working on the job were family, church, military duty in the reserves until he retired from the military in 1990, and credit union volunteerism.
After retiring from the County, he took three years leave to catch up with the deferred maintenance on his home. Fred is such a “life long learner.” After the three year break, Fred attended night classes at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa for six months in the Real Estate Appraiser Course in preparation for taking the State Appraiser exam, which he successfully passed. Presently, he is also a Real Estate Broker: “I am still trying to keep mentally active in the workforce as an independent contractor in the Real Estate Industry.”
Fred is a Korean War Veteran and served sixteen months in Korea after the war ended in July of 1953. He was still in high school when the Korean War began in June of 1950. When Fred graduated from high school in June 1953, it was one month before the Korean War ended. After graduation, Fred enlisted in the military. He received his basic military training at Fort Ord, California, military trade school in Georgia, and was assigned to Korea for a sixteen month tour of duty. After the Korean tour of duty, Fred was re-assigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina doing administrative work in the battalion and group headquarters for the remainder of his active duty service. He separated from active duty in 1957.
The Korean War had no winners only a truce to end the fighting, leaving North and South Korea. They are still divided at the 38th Parallel to this day. By act of Congress, all those who served in the U.S. Military in Korea and had at least eighteen months of duty in the military at the end of 1955 were considered as Korean War Veterans. Fred fell in this category even if he did not go into battle because he served in Korea and had eighteen months of service during that period.
Fortunately, Fred was entitled to all of the benefits of the G.I. Bill. After Fred separated from active duty in 1957, he continued his military service in the reserves–the Army Reserve and Hawai‘i Air National Guard. He retired in 1992 with thirty years of service. He retired as the First Sergeant of the unit with a rank of Master Sergeant.
Memorial Day is a day when we remember all those who died during wartime, including Filipino Veterans, while serving in the U.S. Military and subsequent passing of all veterans. All veterans are honored for their honorable service in the U.S. military by the entire nation on Veterans Day.
“Memorial Day has great meaning to me because I had an older cousin, Julian Asuncion, who was like a big brother to me that I didn’t have while growing up, who made the ultimate sacrifice in the Korean War in 1950,” said Fred, with great emotion. “He now rests at the Makawao Veterans Cemetery. With all the aggressions in the world, especially in the Middle East and terroristic activities here in our own country, our country needs to maintain a strong and efficient all-volunteer military force. One can only hope and pray for world peace.”