Iris Mercedes Ramil How
Lucy Peros | All photos courtesy Iris Ramil How ‘Ohana
Grandparents are a family’s greatest treasure, the founders of a loving legacy, the greatest storytellers, the keepers of traditions that linger on in cherished memory. Grandparents are the family’s strong foundation. Their very special love sets them apart. Through happiness and sorrow, through their special love and caring, grandparents keep a family close at heart. This is so true with this month’s Sakada Offspring, Iris Mercedes Ramil How, whose grandparents are Sakada Eusebio and Mercedes Ramil.
Iris Ramil How was born in February 1976 in Wailuku, Maui, Hawai‘i. She attended Kahului Elementary School, Lokelani Intermediate School, H.P. Baldwin High School (Class of 1994) and the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa from where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Education and Secondary English in 1999.
Iris was employed as a Teacher at Heights Christian School in Chino Hills, California (2000–2006), as a teacher at Abundant Life Christian Academy in Sherwood, Arkansas (2006–2019), and is now a Seasonal Representative for Mattel in Central Arkansas (2019–present).
Iris lives in Sherwood, Arkansas with her husband Matthew How and their two children, Kekoa and Melia. They have been married for 16 years. Matthew is the principal at Ridge Road Elementary School in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Their son Kekoa, 14, is a ninth grader at North Little Rock High School Center of Excellence. Their daughter Melia, 11, is a sixth grader at North Little Rock Middle School.
Iris has two younger sisters. Aimee is married to Matthew Pang of Honolulu. She works as a Principal Architect while Matthew is a Computer Analyst. They have one daughter. Audree Simmons is Iris’ youngest sister. She is married to Kai Simmons of Honolulu. Audree is an Assistant Accountant at a private school where Kai also works as the Campus Supervisor. They have one son.
Iris received the Secondary Teacher of the Year Award at Abundant Life Christian Academy in 2012. One professional accomplishment Iris feels very proud of occurred in September 2016 when she led a group of 32 (high school students and chaperones) from Arkansas on an educational mission trip to O‘ahu. Her students and their families were able to learn about Hawaiian culture and her own heritage as well as the art, science and history of the 50th State. They even served the community alongside local church and educational organizations.
Iris is a community minded individual. She served on various church leadership committees and selection teams as well as Children’s Ministry, Youth Ministry, Music Ministry and Women’s Ministry. She currently attends Grace Church in Little Rock serving on the Events Team and Welcome Team. She also volunteers on the leadership team of a local MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International group. Iris loves reading, memory keeping, blogging, gardening, playing guitar, yoga and dance fitness.
Like many young Filipinos here in Hawai‘i, Iris is an offspring of a 1946 Sakada. Her grandfather Eusebio Ramil was born in December 1919 in the Philippines and immigrated to Hawai‘i in February 1946. He first worked on Kaua‘i for six months as a plantation laborer, then transferred to Maunaloa, Molokai where he worked for Libby McNeil (which later became Dole Pineapple) as a pineapple plantation worker. After the pineapple closed on Molokai, he worked for Kaluako‘i Resort, maintaining the golf course. When Eusebio came to Hawai‘i, he left behind in the Philippines, his wife Mercedes and their two children: Antonio (Tony) and Benita. Tony was only five years old at the time. Their third child Herminia was born two months after Eusebio left. Ten years later, Eusebio went back to the Philippines to visit his family and that was the first time he saw Herminia. Tony had already graduated from high school. Eusebio’s vacation was about six months and when he returned to Hawai‘i, Mercedes was pregnant with their youngest child, Leonida. In 1965, Eusebio visited the Philippines again, and while he was there, Tony graduated from law school at the University of the Philippines and passed the bar exam placing ninth. The town of Baccara had a big party/fiesta which made it a most memorable vacation for Eusebio.
In February 1970, Mercedes and Tony finally came to Hawai‘i. Mercedes lived on Molokai with Eusebio in their plantation home in Maunaloa while Tony lived on Maui where he was able to practice law.
Tony married the former Luz Romero on July 7, 1973. Iris, their first born was born in February 1976.
In the Filipino culture, it is common for grandparents to take care of their grandchildren while the parents work. Because Iris’ grandparents lived on Molokai, she lived with them there for the first three years of her life until she was old enough to attend preschool on Maui. Both her sisters, Aimee and Audree did the same. Their parents, Tony and Luz would visit them from Maui as much as they could. All three girls also spent every summer on Molokai with their grandparents when they were elementary school age.
Iris was almost ten years old when her grandfather Eusebio died in January 1986. Soon after, Mercedes came to live with Tony and Luz’ family on Maui and she continued to take care of the three girls after school and during the summers. She never remarried and lived on Maui until she passed away in April 2008.
Iris shared her very heartwarming reflection on her loving and caring grandparents, Eusebio and Mercedes Ramil: “Because I was raised by my grandparents during my formative years, I grew very close to both my Tata Eusebio and Nana Mercedes. I have many fond memories of the time I spent with them on their plantation home in Maunaloa. I remember waking up in the mornings to the smell of instant coffee and the sound of the Filipino radio station. I would watch from the window as Tata Eusebio would walk out the front gate and down the street to meet his ride to work at the golf course. When I was little, I thought my grandpa’s job was ‘golf’ because he would bring home golf balls. When he was home, I remember Tata reclining on the floor in the living room in front of the TV against a large, long pillow that Nana had made. My sisters and I would be running around him, playing and he would just relax and enjoy watching us and the TV. I remember laughing a lot with my grandpa around. He would talk to us and play with us in that little living room. I always felt comfortable and safe. My grandparents did not have a car, so we would walk with them to the small store nearby. Tata would let us buy any candy or Hostess treat we wanted. Then we would go with him across the street near the post office where he would sit and “talk story” with the other Filipino men. Both Tata and Nana enjoyed gardening. Nana had a beautiful flower garden in the front and the side of the house. My favorite were the roses and gardenias. Tata grew an abundance of vegetables in the backyard. To me, it seemed like he had a huge farm. He also was a very good carpenter. He made us a wooden swing and also a seesaw! At my parents’ house on Maui, we still have the long table and benches that Tata made in our lānai. Nana Mercedes was an expert seamstress and crocheter. Anything that could be sewn, she made and she sewed a lot of it by hand. Nana started to teach me how to crochet but I never stuck with it. As I reflect on my relationship with Tata and Nana, I realize how blessed I am to have had that time with them, enjoying those happy moments with them. Even though my grandpa drank basi (liquor/wine) and smoked bacco (tobacco), I knew him as a kind and caring person. I am fortunate to have had my grandmother as another mother figure in my life. I watched her take care of everyone: her husband, her children, her grandchildren and people in the community. Both Tata and Nana were examples of strength and humility, putting others above themselves. It is because of their sacrifice that I am the person I am today. Because Tata worked in Hawai‘i as a plantation laborer, all of his children were able to attend school and college. As a teacher, I always shared with my students the story of how I would not be here if it were not for my grandfather who came to the United States as an immigrant to work in the pineapple field of Hawai‘i. Now I share this story with my children and one day my children’s children. Thank you, Tata, for being a Sakada.”
Just a special message from Pope Francis regarding grandparents:
“Grandparents are a treasure in the family. Please, take care of your grandparents: love them and let them talk to your children!”
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.