Jhanessty Vaye Bautista | Maui High School, Class of 2024
The month of August was a difficult one for the island of Maui. Named one of the most devastating disasters in history, three wildfires have taken so much from our community. The event is a difficult one to talk about. Lives and homes are forever lost. The historic town of Lāhainā is burned to ashes. While some things can be rebuilt, things will never be the same. Although that fact is true, the memories of these areas near and dear to our hearts will live on forever.
Lāhainā, to me, can be described as its very own island. It is a drive as short as an hour or as long as three hours away from me. My memories and experiences there are very minimal but they are filled with love, youth, learning and a profound sense of community.
My memories of upcountry are even more scarce. Motion sickness always gets the best of me. But with the mere hours I have spent in the area, its defining feature is it is the brightest green I will ever see on Maui. And even with the fires affecting the area, life and nature will prevail.
Lastly, Kīhei. The town where I was raised since birth. There is no doubt I have a lifetime full of fond memories about the area, so choosing one to reminisce on is quite difficult. Instead, I look forward to the future. My future, as I embark on my Senior year, and the future of Maui.
All areas affected are near and dear to me. It has been very upsetting to see the island I have grown up on and continue to grow up on, face the tragedy it did. Though the whole island was shaken by such events, I want to give a platform to some students to speak about their experiences.
Students of Maui describe the fires as heartbreaking, surreal, humbling, unexpected, scary, while others are just speechless.
Mikaila Acosta, a student from Lāhainā expresses her sorrow as she mourns the loss of her home and the neighborhood she grew up in. “It breaks my heart to know the memories I made in Lāhainā were taken away in seconds. I am so thankful for all those memories me and my family will remember and cherish forever,” she explains. As Mikaila and her family evacuated the area, she watched as the winds created a firestorm stretching from mountain to sea. “Although we lost our home, I am very grateful that me, my family and my dogs were able to escape the fire safely. It is still very overwhelming and all we can do is stay strong and take things day by day.” Although overwhelmed, Mikaila reminisces on those tender moments shared with her family: “My favorite memory of Lāhainā was walking down Front Street Lāhainā with my family, seeing all the different shopping stores whether it was clothing, Aloha souvenirs or simply eating dinner at a restaurant as well as watching the beautiful sunset on the edge of Front Street.” Although those buildings that once existed on Front Street are gone, the beautiful sunset will become a sunrise the next morning, reminding us we will get through these challenging times one day at a time.
Aleyah Falealili-Jenkins is a student who attended Lāhaināluna as a boarder. She explains the fire paused her time at the school, interrupting her third-year attending. Now having to transfer schools, she sheds light on memories she hopes to return to in the fall. “My favorite memory of Lāhaināluna was definitely everything related to the boarding department. Lining the ‘L’ every year, two times, hosting David Malo Day for our Lāhainā community and hanging out on Front Street when we had town privileges.” She expresses how important it is to be kind during these times. “You never know what we witnessed and experienced during this scary time, so be careful with your words. Just love one another and show Aloha.”
Joe Kainoa Caminos has many friends in Lāhainā and Kula alike displaced by the fires. During these times, he offers his hand and shows Aloha to those in need. “The first few days of the fires, we had to house one of our friends and their family before they were able to return to their home in Kula. We went to the shelter the first night to see if help was needed and we ran into them setting up their cots in the corner. After that we offered for them to stay at our place and they did.” Although residing in Kula, Kainoa has his fair share of memories in Lāhainā. He paints a picture of his favorite memory in the area—him, his friends, some ice-cream and the beautiful ocean. Lāhainā continues to live on during these times through simple heartwarming memories.
Dylan Domingo resides in North Kīhei, and lives awfully close to where the Pulehu fires were. “The fires were massive and close to my neighborhood, to the point where I could see and even smell the fire right up the street. Rushing to pack our necessities and whatnots, we quickly evacuated and waited overnight at the Planet Fitness parking lot.” Thankfully, he was able to return home the next morning, and with most of his family living in Lāhainā, he felt at ease when they came down to Kīhei until they were able to return safely. His favorite memory of Lāhainā was one full of youth, as he reminisces about his adventures through Front Street, parkour on the rocks in the outlet, etc. He especially loved “the nights spent in Bubba Gump and entering their Wi-Fi password, ‘1Forest1’.” He is also an avid sunset watcher, as the sunsets in Lāhainā are like no other you will experience elsewhere.
If you can provide supplies, relief or donations to those affected, please do. If you cannot, your kindness is important and very needed during times like this. Aleyah says, “Don’t be pilau to those who’ve lost everything.” Understanding is important during these times. “In an age of incredible communication, miscommunication is bound to become an issue. As the dust settles, people begin to point fingers and throw in these right and these wrongs. I think it is important to tune out the social media that emphasizes blame and to try to understand each other. Understand our pain and understand our shortcomings. That will make us more connected and overall, I think that it will build a stronger community,” Kainoa explains.
Filipinos have something called the Bayanihan Spirit. This is the communal desire to show acts of kindness to those in need. It is something to be constantly practiced in the years to come as our island comes together to rebuild homes and memories. Lāhainā translates to “relentless sun” and I think it is a perfect way to envision that, through these dark times, Maui will shine relentlessly throughout it all.
Google® Is Not Everything is a monthly column authored by high school students. The title of the column emphasizes education is more than just googling a topic. Google® is a registered trademark. This month’s guest columnist is Jhanessty Vaye Bautista, a Senior at Maui High School. She is a President of Maui High’s Key Club, Vice-President of Maui High’s Filipino Cultural Club, Executive Secretary of Maui High’s Student Government, a member of Blue Thunder, Maui High’s Robotics club, and member of the National Honor Society. Jhanessty is in the ACOM Pathway at Maui High, focusing on graphic design and entrepreneurship. In her free time, she reads books of any and all genres, sketches out designs for her new graphics project, sings karaoke alone or with a group of her close family and friends and loves anything with the popular videogame’s Minecraft Bee. She is the daughter of Vanessa and Jhon Boy Bautista.