Tanya Marie Alconcel Barbero
Lucy Peros | All photos courtesy Alconcel Barbero ‘Ohana
“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members,” Coretta Scott King, wife of Dr. Martin Luther King once said. This month’s featured Sakada Offspring, Tanya Marie Alconcel Barbero together with her husband Lee Barbero prove this to be true.
Tanya was born on January 21, 1961 in Wailuku at Maui Memorial Hospital and grew up in Waikapū Camp. Her paternal grandfather was Frank Quiteves Alconcel who lived in Pu‘unēnē.
Tanya attended Wailuku Elementary, ‘Īao School, Baldwin High School and Maui Community College.
As an offspring of three Sakadas, Tanya feels truly fortunate to be a third generation Hawai‘i born Filipina. Her maternal great grandfather, Milton Pacheco Salvani, arrived in Hawai‘i from Iloilo in 1911. She remembers growing up in the “old” Waikapū and had the chance to experience a bit of plantation life. She remembers living in the plantation style house with the banyo (bathroom) outside the house. She claims it was really a subsistence lifestyle, with her extended family living awfully close by—next door or just a few houses away. Tanya’s family had a pig farm and her grandfather and father each had their vegetable farms. They raised chickens and goats too. When it was time for replenishing, they slaughtered their own livestock. Camp neighbors shared their harvests. Tanya even remembers joining in at hukilaus or net fishing with the whole camp in Kīhei and then dividing the catch among families. Attending many parties at the Waikapū Filipino Clubhouse are also priceless events to remember for Tanya. Tanya enjoyed her childhood, simple and growing up in the country with lots of fun family time.
In school, Tanya was very active and did very well academically. She was a member of the Girl Scouts in elementary school and at ‘Īao School. She was a student body president in the eighth grade. Tanya loved music and participated in band from sixth grade to 12th grade, playing the French horn. She received numerous awards and achievements in Music. She was in Select Band for Maui County, a member of the prestigious Modern Music Masters Honor Society and represented Baldwin High School as a member of the Hula Bowl Marching Band in 1978. She was also given the John Phillip Sousa award in 1979. The award recognizes young musicians displaying superior musicianship, leadership, dependability, loyalty, cooperation and other qualities of conduct which school instrumental music programs strive to impart. The Sousa award is the top nationwide prize in the school band field, both in prestige and appearance.
Tanya’s husband Lee Barbero attended Christ The King School, Kahului School, Maui High School and Maui Community College. He received a College Certificate of Completion in Carpentry and Building Maintenance. He currently works at St. Anthony Maintenance.
Tanya and Lee have three children: Marlena Barbero is a graduate of Baldwin High School and Chaminade University with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. Marlena works as a Senior Purchasing Agent at Maui Medical Group. Isaiah Barbero is 16 years old. He is a Junior at Baldwin High School. Ivah Barbero is seven years old, attending Lihikai School.
Tanya’s Dad, Joseph Alconcel, Sr. was a journeyman welder at Wailuku Agribusiness (formerly Wailuku Sugar). He was a farmer and musician playing dinner music at Maui Beach Hotel in the ’70s and ’80s. He died in 2011. Her mom, Judy Arzaga Alconcel was a pharmaceutical tech at Kaiser Permanente. Prior to that, she worked as a pharmacy tech at Craft’s Drug Store in the old Kahului Shopping Center. Judy keeps busy caring for grandchildren and great-grandchildren and now lives with Tanya and Lee in Kahului.
Tanya’s siblings are Joseph Alconcel, Jr., Journey Mason, lives in Kahului, has two adult daughters.
Trina Alconcel Napaepae, a retired administrative assistant, married to John Napaepae living in Utah with their son and family.
Chad Alconcel and his four children and two grandsons live in Wailuku.
Celeste Alconcel Mollena married to Barney Mollena is a Realtor Broker with Keller Williams Realty. They live in Waikapū with their twins after purchasing and renovating their grandparents’ home.
In 2020, Tanya received the Island Treasure Award for St. Anthony from Maui Council of Filipino Catholic Clubs.
Tanya and Lee are both involved in the following church related ministries: Worldwide Marriage Encounter Presenting Team, Active ministries at St. Anthony Church and School, Youth Ministry, Baptism, Hospitality and Family Life Ministry. They work with couples for marriage convalidation and provide Marriage Enrichments. They are also involved in end-of-life care and advanced health care directives. They are also general license foster parents for over 20 years caring for dozens of children during that time, mostly in sibling groups (because it was hard to think children would be separated from each other).
Tanya has several hobbies and interests. She enjoys cooking, creating graphic designs for organizations and ministry events. When time allows, she tends to succulents, orchids and anthuriums. She enjoys playing with little kids and finding ways to get people together. She loves music, singing and playing guitar or ‘ukulele. She is interested in anything dealing with faith and family. She loves to dabble in foreign languages because she feels that it helps her to learn more about people and their cultures.
Tanya took up a profession in Clinical Medical Assisting, which was a new allied health field in the 1980s. She completed her studies at Med Assist School of Hawai‘i on O‘ahu. She obtained credentialing and worked as a Registered Medical Assistant at Maui Medical Group in 1982. She was the second Registered Medical Assistant hired at the group. She considers herself as a life-long unconventional student. She worked and studied throughout her 40-year healthcare career where she did direct patient care assisting doctors primarily in internal medicine and OBGYN. At Maui Medical Group, she also studied and earned certification as a Certified Cardiographic Technician and ran the EKG and Pulmonary Function labs for 17 years. Her leadership skills allowed her to take on supervisory roles eventually leading to the last 5 years as the Nursing Department manager before leaving to take on a new part-time position as Community Outreach Liaison at Hospice Maui in 2017. Tanya recently started working for St. Anthony Church as the Director of Faith Formation and Family Life. She previously worked there also as Youth Minister in 1984–1985.
Tanya’s grandfather Pegelio Domingo Arzaga came to Hawai‘i from San Nicolas, Laoag, Ilocos Norte, Philippines around 1930 with his first cousin Angel Arzaga. They were first assigned to the Big Island and later transferred to Wailuku Sugar. His plantation housing was provided in Waikapū in the bachelor’s quarters. As a single man, he was part of the camp band and played the trombone. He met her grandmother who was born in Waikapū in the camp. Her grandfather’s first job was to hāpai kō or laborer that carried the cane transport carts or horses. Later, he worked his way up to an irrigator. He was very smart and as a child, dreamed of becoming a lawyer. Tanya’s grandparents got married in 1936 and had five daughters. During the war, her grandfather moved the family to O‘ahu where he worked as a stevedore from 1941 to 1943. He was also an entrepreneur. He had a livestock (piggery) farm. He also had a vegetable garden and provided fresh produce for his extended family. He was also very civic minded and proud of his Filipino heritage. He served as the president of the Waikapū Filipino Community Association for many years. He was also involved in the ILWU to advocate for fair working conditions for immigrant workers. He sustained a back injury that resulted in back surgery. He was fortunate to have a hospital bed at that time. He got better and after he retired from Wailuku Sugar, he worked for about 20 years as the caretaker of the St. Anthony Church Cemetery. Tanya even had the privilege to pick her grandfather up after school after his work and they got to go home together, enjoying each other’s company. Tanya enjoyed listening to her grandfather’s story about him being the Big Boss at his job at the cemetery because he had “800 people under him” (those buried in the cemetery).
Tanya has such fond memories of his grandfather and grandmother. She shares her reflection on them:
I looked up to my grandpa as a smart man! He always kept up with the news and I have a heartwarming memory of him sitting in his recliner reading the newspaper and talking to me about the headlines. I was only eight years old and remember that he talked to me like I was someone important enough to know theses things. Grandpa told us that we should speak English and discouraged us from speaking Ilokano (even though I asked to learn). He said it was important to speak English if we were to get ahead in school. He encouraged education, often reminding me that he didn’t get a chance to go to school so he would do what he could to help his children and grandchildren go to college.
Grandpa would wake up early every morning to cook his lunch before he went to work at the plantation. He would make dinengdeng or other simple meals. He always packed peanut butter sandwiches. When he came home from work, he would tell me to empty his kau-kau tin and magically there was always leftovers for me. He was organized and meticulous and very resourceful. He was an excellent cook and after he died, all I asked for was the pots he used to cook my favorite dishes and his kau-kau tin. He took lead whenever we slaughtered pigs for our own home use and also to share/sell with the community. I have wonderful memories of the entire family, aunts, uncles, cousins and freezers.
My grandfather had a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother and would say his rosary every night. I liked to be with him as he prayed because it gave me such peace.
He and my grandmother were all about FAMILY. I remember how they were always there to help us when we were in need. And my grandmother would make it a point that we get together regularly for Sunday dinner. He and my grandmother were married for nearly 52 years before my grandmother died of cancer in 1988. I remember he wanted the wording on her casket spray to say ‘Forever Loving You’ because love continues. It doesn’t end, so he didn’t want it to be in past tense. That strikes a chord in my heart even to this day!
Lucy Peros is a retired schoolteacher, having taught at St. Anthony Grade School and Waihe‘e Elementary School. Both of her late parents, Elpidio Cachero Cabalo (a 1946 Sakada) and Alejandra Cabudoy Cabalo of Hāli‘imaile, worked for Maui Land and Pine Company. Lucy now enjoys retirement and has time to join other seniors in the Enhance Fitness Program under the Department of Aging three times a week. She also attends the line dancing class and other activities at Kaunoa Senior Center and joins other Waihe‘e School retirees when help is needed at the school. Lucy also devotes some of her time to activities at Christ The King Catholic Church. She enjoys writing and reading in her spare time.