Amidst our flood of entries, one has emerged victorious…
Congratulations Christine Sabado!
Sabado Family: A Tribute
A Sakada Love Story of Severina “Paning” and Felix “Feliz” Sabado.
By Christine Sabado
In the misty Nu‘uanu Valley, as I held her frail hand she looked up and spoke in a whisper: “Hidden in the tall grasses a two headed snake spoke and told me that I would live on many islands, and have many children.” I smiled and sat to hear her story as the clouds gathered in the valley. She would pass soon, but not till she had told me her stories.
I am her daughter in law, married to her youngest son. I am blond and come from a family of doctors. This was all new to me.
It was at this time in the early nineteen hundreds that as a young beautiful Filipina walked near her village of Dolores Abbra. The snake rose and saw her eye to eye and spoke to her and predicted her life. That spurred the young Severina, known to all who loved her as “Paning” to leave her homeland at the tender age of fourteen.” It must have been a painful choice to choose a life in a distant land, but when a snake speaks, and at that, a two headed snake; who could refuse?
When the young Severina left her village at such a tender age she was strong and determined and had a plan in place. The recruiters had been set out to the Northern Provinces to find sturdy hard workers. The main requirement was that they could handle the long arduous hours in the Hawaiian sun. Once signed up the rules were set. On the voyage to Hawai‘i in the early 1920s, only married women were allowed to travel from the Philippines. Her resolve to sail to Hawai‘i was so strong that she lied about her age and already being married. She traveled with an uncle who posed as her husband to accomplish her goal and the strange prediction.
After all, hadn’t the two-headed snake told her this was to be her future? Perhaps her family was more willing to release her, knowing that once she was in the new land, she would have a family member she could rely on.
Upon her arrival in Hilo Hawai‘i, the young Paning was told by her “Kabalayan” (town mates) of a man who would soon be returned to the Philippines. The plantation rules were strict; any Panggolo; (troublemakers) were routed out soon after arrival. The man she was told about was constantly in trouble because of his drinking and fighting. His skill was the Filipino stick fighting known as “Escrima,” of which he was highly skill-ed. With two sticks, one in each hand he was renowned. His fighting, combined with drinking proved to be his return ticket to the rice fields of Ilocos Sur.
But no one wanted to impose such a harsh punishment after that long voyage. Things happen in a tight community, and somehow Papa’s people from the mountain village, found fellow Filipino’s from the same voyage that were from young Paning’s village and a plan was hatched and set in motion. They united with a cause and pleaded with the young Paning; “You can help! Just one time; meet and marry this man, then ‘pau’ you can go your way, and he can stay here.” She would be allowed to annul or divorce him after that, or so they said. Somehow, as fate would determine a deal was struck.
So in the quite town of Hilo, Paning met Felix or ‘Feliz,’ (as they pronounced his name) just once, per the arrangement at the small Hawaiian church alter. Papa was always meticulous in his appearance, with a beige or white fedora hat on his head tilted to the right at a slight angle. He dressed well and wore a colorful aloha shirt; always buttoned to the top button, with the sleeveless white ‘Camiseta,’ a knit under shirt.
As the divine would deem the two were married and she chose to stay with him for life; twelve children later, how could she not? He was a charmer with a hearty laugh, not unlike their sons. She was one of those women with a silent power and a rare beauty that could always turn heads as she passed. Full of energy, Papa loved to walk, and was always on the move to somewhere. Their first children were girls, Magdalena and Loretta; the third child was the boy, they named Santi. Papa held great affection for his village, “Santi,” was a shortened version for “Santiago.” In the early days the ‘camps’ had special names for the settlements; Manila camp, Spanish camp, and then Maunaloa Camp on Molokai.
Plantation life for this growing family was a flow from camp to camp as they traveled from island to island, as predicted. Wherever they went there was always family or cabalayan, town-mates, to help them settle in. They never stayed very long and were like roving gypsies. Soon, after a raucous night, a move to the next camp would become necessary. The marriage and children in Hilo did not resolve Papa’s wild ways, and in time his drinking would take the family to the next camp or island.
Then Mama had a dream and saw Papa all in white. From the hat to shoes, he was all white, and seemed to glow. You see she had found the “Way of Salvation” Church and she followed her instinct. You see she was very sensitive to her dreams, and even with money so tight she bought him all these clothes, and laid them carefully out on the coistsone and said: “Now these are all yours, if you attend church just once with me! “Aiya” with large eyes he agreed, after all he loved to look good! That was it! He was saved and later became a devoted member, who always dressed in white, and always carried his Bible, who loved to sing in harmony with her.
The ‘Budidik,’ Philip, the youngest is my husband, the artist, who came from this accidental union in Hilo that was forever bound in devotion and love. Their love never wavered!