Unlocking Educational Opportunities for Hawaiians with Filipino Heritage

Today, one in four residents of Hawaii has Filipino ancestry. Immigrants from the 7,000 islands of the Philippines have settled in communities such as Kalihi and Waipahu, where there is a strong support system. Despite this, the popular view of Filipinos and other Asian Americans as model minorities may lead to the assumption that this group has no problems and is unlikely to need services. However, recent studies on Filipino youth in Hawaii have highlighted the challenges they face. During focus groups, adolescent girls spoke of the sacrifices their parents made by leaving their “comfortable and family life” in the Philippines to seek opportunities for their children in Hawaii.

Unfortunately, Filipinos have the lowest percentage of secondary education graduates (51%) and the second lowest percentage of college graduates (11%), and attendance at university has gradually declined in recent years (Office of Institutional Research, 2004; Okamura, 26% Agbayani, 199).In order to address this issue, community leaders are trying to rebuild the connection between Filipino heritage and Hawaii. The leaders of the Waipahu Filipino Community Center are organizing events and workshops, such as one on eskrima, a Filipino martial art. This is intended to help young people develop an appreciation for the language and traditions of their ancestors. Approximately 85% of Filipinos in Hawaii are Ilocanos, meaning that their roots go back to the Ilocos region in the north of the Philippines, mainly to the provinces of Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. To learn more about this region's history and culture, HNN traveled to Ilocos Sur, specifically Candon City which is ground zero for Filipino immigration to Hawaii. These initiatives are intended to position native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and Filipinos to better access and succeed after high school learning opportunities, allowing them to work and pursue careers with salaries that support their families.

It is hoped that these efforts will help promote educational opportunities among Hawaiians with Filipino ancestry. The Waipahu Filipino Community Center is taking steps to ensure that Hawaiians with Filipino heritage can access educational opportunities. Through events such as eskrima workshops, they are helping young people develop an appreciation for their ancestors' language and traditions. Additionally, HNN has traveled to Candon City in Ilocos Sur to learn more about the history and culture of this region. These initiatives are intended to provide native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and Filipinos with better access to post-secondary education so they can pursue careers with salaries that support their families.