Hopes and Expectations for 2022
Gilbert S.C. Keith-Agaran and Alfredo G. Evangelista, Assistant Editor
Even before the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, fireworks exploded across the sky. Neighbors—especially in Central Maui—had competitions in exploding firecrackers. Japanese and other local families exhibited their kadomatsu and kagami mochi. Filipinos posted on Facebook photos of their twelve fruits. Many Filipinos wore polka dots and jumped when the clock showed 12 a.m. Others popped champagne and sang Auld Lang Syne which roughly translated means times gone by: Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And the days of auld lang syne? (In the joyous celebration of the coming of the New Year, there was even a Facebook video of someone playing Auld Lang Syne on his kazoo!)
In years past, it was all optimism for the New Year. But the COVID pandemic changed that. Throughout Maui and the State, there are prayers 2022 will be better than 2021 and 2020.
Entering the final year of his first term, Mayor Michael Victorino expressed more optimism than his daily press conferences: “Maui County is a community first, and visitor destination second. Although tourism remains our County’s main economic engine, our economy can improve its balance through support for industries in agriculture, arts and creativity, science and technology, health and wellness, education and environmental restoration.”
Victorino outlined his plan: “Like a strong, stable chair, my plan for economic recovery has four legs: upgrading to greener infrastructure to enable more affordable and attainable housing; balancing tourism; diversifying Maui County’s economy; and strengthening our County’s holdings for future generations. As we look ahead, we will use the County’s land and real estate assets to make way for new housing construction, help prepare for climate change by moving parks and roads inland and protect open spaces by preserving our natural and cultural treasures.”
With the nation and the state entering a third year of the pandemic, COVID-19 continues to color local officials’ expectations and hopes for the coming year. Beginning his last year in office, Governor David Ige commented, “While the year 2021 was tough for many, I was grateful to see the community continue to rally together to keep one another safe. My hope for the new year is that we continue the momentum in putting our family, friends and neighbors at the forefront as we all work together to end this pandemic.”
Small business owner Grace Sales’ basic hope is the pandemic will come to a close by 2022. “Like you, I want things to go back to normal. I also want to travel, not wear a mask, not hear someone die of COVID or see people fight about vaccination. I don’t want to be suspicious every time someone coughs, constantly worry about new virus variants that’s beginning to evolve into a transformer name or be under the threat of being confined again to my house and do endless TikToks to bid time. Never have I imagined during the early days of this pandemic that I would be so afraid to be a foot away from another human being as if his or her breath would melt my face or insides, or that toilet papers would sell like hot cakes.” Sales understands she can’t just “hope and rely on magic for things to happen. I know that I have to do my part as a responsible member of the community because while I can’t control someone else’s actions, I can control mine. By now, we have all realized that this pandemic is just not about you and me. We all have to do our share if we want to have this pandemic be over soon.”
Mayor Victorino is optimistic. “My hope for Maui County in 2022 is to safeguard the health and safety of our people so we can continue on the road to economic diversity and recovery. Our people are our greatest resource, and they need to be able to live and work here, raise their families and retire here if they so choose.” With a lot of plans for the next year, the Mayor added, “To make all this possible, we need to remain vigilant against COVID-19 and its variants. We can take care of ourselves, family and friends by getting vaccinated and following up with booster shots after six months. Testing for COVID is another important way to curb the virus by identifying infected individuals quickly.”
UH Maui College Chancellor Lui Hokoana added, “Just one hope: That everyone gets vaccinated so we can kick this pandemic. And we can help. If they want a vaccination, they can call the UHMC Health Center at 984-3493 and schedule an appointment to get a Covid VAX shot.” Victorino also observed, “I’m proud of what our residents have accomplished in limiting the impact of the virus on our island communities. However, COVID does not give credit for good behavior. We can do all the right things. But if we let our guard down even once, the virus is ready to exploit that opportunity. Small things matter, like washing hands frequently, avoiding crowds and watching physical distancing from those outside your household.”
Small business owner Melen Agcolicol expressed her hope: “My hopes for 2022 is to have COVID go away completely so our lives will go back to normal. Our health is my primary concern and it affects our daily activities and lifestyles.”
The return to normalcy is also on the mind of Maui County Council Chair Alice Lee. “I feel very hopeful that 2022 will bring us many opportunities to not just return to normalcy but to reestablish a new and improved way of life for all of us post COVID -19. We will work to diversify and strengthen our economy, provide a wider range of affordable housing to local home buyers and to those who are houseless, do a better job of protecting our environment and expand access to education and training. This is just the beginning!”
Helping to do her part to protect the environment through her business is a goal for Gabrielle Gutierrez: “I will make Sugaring the main form of hair removal here on Maui and the rest of Hawai‘i. As a Filipina that was born and raised here on Maui and has seen our landfills grow exponentially over the years has motivated me to become a steward of love for the land. I am so thankful that I create an impact through my work by helping and teaching other estheticians the right skills and techniques on how to properly sugar others in their line of work. Sugaring is biodegradable (the sugar paste is made of just three ingredients: sugar, lemon, and water) and there’s less waste involved (no sticks or strips) compared to waxing. Being more mindful of the waste that’s created through everyday tasks and practicing alternative ways on how to live waste-free for myself and others are my hopes for 2022.”
Michelle Balala, a teacher at Kahului School, expressed “I hope 2022 brings more opportunities and normality in our daily lives.” She has very personal reasons for a positive outlook. “I’m looking forward to marrying my best friend this year with all of my family and friends from near and far.” Busy Balala is optimistic about her business ventures. “With my business, Exertus Financial Partners, I look forward to helping more families eliminate debt. It’s an exciting year and I have a really good feeling about 2022.”
On the federal level, Hawai‘i’s senior U.S. Senator Brian Schatz remarked “2021 was not an easy year and I’m grateful to the Filipino American community, including so many on the frontlines who have sacrificed so much to help Hawai‘i fight this ongoing pandemic. Together, we were able to take important steps to move our state forward. In Washington, we worked to pass the American Rescue Plan and delivered more than $6 billion to Hawai‘i to keep people in their homes, support small businesses and workers and distribute vaccines. And our bipartisan infrastructure bill has already provided millions of dollars to improve our roads, bridges and public transportation, making it safer and easier for people to get around while creating thousands of local jobs. As we begin 2022, we continue our work to keep people healthy and rebuild our local economy. We’re also working hard to address the climate crisis and improve health care for Hawai‘i families by lowering the cost of prescription drugs and expanding Medicaid. Representing our state in Washington is a privilege I don’t take for granted and I look forward to continuing this important work in the new year. I hope everyone has a safe and healthy 2022. Mabuhay!”
U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono noted, “In 2021, under President Biden, we were able to accomplish so much to help working families, including passing the American Rescue Plan and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. We also passed my legislation, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, to address the rise in verbal attacks and physical violence the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community has experienced during the pandemic.”
She added “But there is a lot more work that needs to be done. Next Congress, the first thing the Senate must do is pass legislation to protect the sacred right to vote. We also must pass President Biden’s Build Back Better plan to lower costs for families in Hawai‘i and take urgent steps to combat the climate crisis. We are determined to get this done.”
U.S. Representative Kaiali‘i Kahele, completing his first year in the U.S. Congress, noted, “As we head into 2022, it is fitting to look back at what we have lived through and accomplished. Like many of you, my family and I have felt the impact of the last year that included both triumph and disaster for our communities. We endured our second year of the global COVID-19 pandemic, lived through floods that devastated our island communities and witnessed the Capitol insurrection that threatened our democracy. Yet through it all, we remained steadfast and together we will continue to build a home that is safe and healthy for our families, kūpuna and keiki. In Congress, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act became law and will bring at least $2.8 billion to Hawai‘i. We are on track to rebuilding our country stronger with working families and climate sustainability as a top priority. I want to thank you for the opportunity to serve as your voice in Washington, D.C. and look forward to continuing our important work for Hawai‘i in the new year. Hau‘oli Makahiki Hou!”
Hirono did provide a note of optimism for the new year: “Hawai‘i’s cultural and environmental advocates and stewards have shown that we can come together to protect Hawai‘i’s precious resources and address critical issues and the thoughtful management of Hawai‘i tourism. In the next year, we must continue to work together to achieve a strong, resilient Hawai‘i.”
With the State legislative session scheduled to begin January 19, 2022, Maui’s longest serving state lawmaker Rosalyn Baker noted, “My hopes for 2022 include a world especially Hawai‘i Nei without COVID and where we all strive to practice and live Aloha even in dealings with people with whom we may disagree on important issues. I hope 2022 will provide us with meaningful capital improvement funds for education, health and hospital care on Maui as well as the opportunity to enact laws to address important community issues with a budget that meaningfully funds education, human services and capital improvements for our roads and other critical infrastructure.”
The third branch of government—the Judiciary—has a new addition on Maui: per diem judge Lance Collins, who is also a music producer. “My 2021 was bookended by the launch of the Kawili album in January and my appointment as a per diem district court judge in December. This year also saw Judge Clarissa Malinao appointed to the circuit court on O‘ahu and Judge Kirstin Hamman elevated to the circuit court here on Maui. I’m confident that future judicial appointments will continue to help the bench reflect the diversity of our communities in Hawai’i. In the meantime, my hope for 2022 is that our community will continue to work on addressing the barriers young Filipinos in Hawai‘i encounter that limit their access to higher education opportunities.”
Mayor Victorino implored, “Let’s work together to make our community a better place to live. That can mean picking up ‘ōpala on the side of the road or flashing a friendly shaka to someone passing by. Our roads can be a little safer, every day, if we practice Aloha, slow down and focus on the road ahead. Joycelyn and I pray that you and your ‘ohana will have a safe, healthy and prosperous New Year. Aloha and Hau‘oli Makahiki Hou!”
From the private sector, Jay Salva, Mahi Pono Supervisor, looks back on a couple of years of planting out the former sugar lands with more diversified crops: “Maraming salamat po for your support over these past couple of years as we work to preserve open space and keep Maui’s agriculture lands healthy and active. Wishing you peace, health and happiness this holiday season and throughout 2022. Maligayang Bagong Taon!”
For Bryan Sales, who manages his family’s business: B. Sales Trucking, Excavation, Pumping & Plumbing Services LLC, he says his “hopes for 2022 is for things to get back to pre-COVID days. Days where we can be with family and friends again. I also hope for good health for my family and me. And lastly, I hope for our family business to continue to grow and be successful.”
Jeny Bissell, a nurse with the State of Hawai‘i ran off a list of her hopes—most of which were COVID related:
“• Zero hospitalization from COVID.
• Zero death from COVID.
• 100 percent of Maui County population ages 5 years old and older get vaccinated; and ages 16 years old and older get boosted.
• More gratitude, kindness and less complaints and rudeness.
• Be the branch of the solution than the root of the problem.
• Only put out negative and/or positive energy that you can handle.
• Put self-care as your number one priority, health is wealth.”
After a pretty un-eventful hurricane season, punctuated with the Kona low storm that swept through the island chain, Maui Emergency Management Agency Director Herman Andaya expressed, “As one year ends and another begins, the Andaya family pray that all of our homes and hearts be filled with peace, joy, gratitude and love. In the new year, it is our hope that we continue working together in improving the lives of our residents and creating a community that fosters goodwill and generosity to all.”
But it is the youth who may have been the most challenged. “As a teacher, I hope that schools continue to focus on safety first during this pandemic,” says Balala. “The pandemic isn’t over, but I believe as long as everyone does their part in getting vaccinated, wearing masks and staying home when sick will help end it soon. I also hope that my students are able to be ready for the next school year. Distance learning was very tough for everyone (teachers, students and parents). Students had a lot to catch up on and this 2021-2022 school year is a lot of pressure for teachers and administrators. So I hope that our students will be ready and prepared.”
For 2013 Maui High School alum Jared Sam Agtunong, who graduated from Vanguard College and most recently from Pepperdine University with a Master’s in Public Policy, he is back home to make a difference. “For many college-aged young adults, the pandemic brought a number of Maui kids who call this island their home, back from the continent. Uncertainty remains for many of us, especially as the pandemic continues to shake the economy—plans for setting out in our careers, paying off student loans, homeownership, travel, etc. We are an entrepreneurially focused generation setting out in an evolving post-digital labor market. Amid COVID-19, I crossed the finish line of my academic journey by emailing my final paper from my childhood bedroom in Kahului. Anticlimactic, to say the least; the road ahead seemed quite uncertain and not the best of circumstances to graduate into. Personally, it wasn’t an easy season, but whatever challenge, hurdle, or task came my way, I told myself—‘Jared, you got this.’ And even if you fail—to quote from the movie Zootopia—‘birds don’t just fly, they fall down and get up.’”
Agtunong, who now works with the County of Maui as a grant writer in the Office of Economic Development, observed: “Maui County exhibited some of the highest unemployment rates in the country, our visitor industry taking a nosedive, and the fluctuations of COVID-19 statistics have constantly left our community with a rocky sense of stability. Despite all of this, throughout 2021, weathering through COVID-19 surges, drought, wildfires, and flooding—I’ve witnessed our Maui friends and family coming through for each other in many ways.”
2021 brought a lot of reflection by Agtunong: “This past year has left me with three things to reflect on: a greater appreciation for my island home, the strength of Maui’s people to show up for each other and a sense of fortitude that regardless of the challenge—we’ll make it through. Maui’s people are resilient, strong and resolute, evidenced by our deep sense of the Aloha spirit. But community resiliency is not simply a race of perseverance; it is our ability to withstand adversity and bounce back, which is why I need to pause and reflect on my hopes for the New Year. My hope for 2022, especially for Maui’s young adults is that of ‘rest, a communal determination to carry on, and courage to jump into adventure, whatever that may be.’ ”
The journey is what you make of it, as Stanford University freshman Alexis Viloria reminds herself. “For me, 2021 was a journey in itself. Being online all year, graduating and moving to college, the experiences I gained are unrivaled. This being my first year back in person since 2020 (also living in a new place and on my own for the very first time), I have big hopes for 2022. As most people hope, I wish for continued vigilance and education surrounding the pandemic—I’d love to continue having the experiences and learning opportunities available to me in a physically accessible environment. Finally, being in a place I’ve dreamed of for so long with new friends to join me in my journey, a step backward in our progression towards the end of the pandemic, as we are experiencing now, is scary to think about. I also hope to prioritize my own well-being amongst the chaos that college can be whether it be physically, mentally or emotionally. I’m looking forward to a new year full of resilience, exploration and care.”
The resilience of the bamboo is often used to describe the Filipino people. The pandemic has certainly challenged this belief but in the last two years, Maui’s Filipino community has seen the Bayanihan spirit come through.
“Binhi at Ani’s motto is to ‘Promote the Bayanihan Spirit,’ ” says Agcolicol, president of Binhi at Ani. “Despite Binhi’s challenges of being closed and losing its sole source of revenues from rentals, we decided to promote the Bayanihan spirit by creating programs to help the community: the Bayanihan Food Distribution, the Bayanihan Feeding Program and the Bakuna at Binhi at Ani Filipino Community Center. In turn, we’ve been blessed by our sponsors, advertisers, donors and hundreds of volunteers. Binhi at Ani remains hopeful our plans to reopen in 2022 will be fully realized.”
Gilbert S.C. Keith-Agaran holds degrees from Maui High School (1980), Yale College (1984) and Berkeley Law School (formerly Boalt Hall School of Law), the University of California at Berkeley (1987). He practices law at the Wailuku firm of Takitani Agaran Jorgensen & Wildman LLLP. He lives in Kahului with his wife Kallie Keith-Agaran.
Alfredo G. Evangelista is a graduate of Maui High School (1976), the University of Southern California (1980), and the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law (1983). He is a sole practitioner at Law Offices of Alfredo Evangelista, A Limited Liability Law Company, concentrating in estate planning, business start-up and consultation, nonprofit corporations, and litigation. He has been practicing law for 38 years (since 1983) and returned home in 2010 to be with his family and to marry his high school sweetheart, the former Basilia Tumacder Idica.