The Filipino Culture in Hawaii: A Historical and Cultural Perspective

Filipinos are the fastest-growing ethnic minority in Hawaii, due to continued immigration from the Philippines and high birth rates in the Filipino community. Some 3,500 immigrants from the Philippines, mostly children, come to Hawaii every year. Nationally, Filipinos are second only to Chinese in terms of Asian immigration to the United States. There are approximately 2.5 million Filipinos in the US, not counting the undocumented. Filipinos also lead in terms of foreign workers around the world.

This article examines the context and history of Filipino migration to Hawaii, as well as the unique mix of cultures and influences that have shaped Filipino identity in the state. It also looks at how Filipinos have adapted to life in Hawaii and how they have contributed to the development of Hawaiian English Creole. The first Filipinos arrived in Hawaii in 1906, and since then they have been a major part of the state's population. Today, there are over 200,000 Filipinos living in Hawaii, making up around 10% of the state's population. This is due to continued immigration from the Philippines and high birth rates in the Filipino community.

Some 3,500 immigrants from the Philippines come to Hawaii every year. When the first Filipinos arrived in Hawaii, they brought with them a unique mix of cultures and influences. This mix has shaped Filipino identity in Hawaii and has resulted in a distinct ethnocultural identity that maintains important threads of continuity with traditional Filipino culture while also reflecting the diverse social and historical forces that Filipino immigrants faced over the last 104 years. Filipino immigrants came to Hawaii for many of the same reasons as other immigrant groups: to improve their lives and fight for better pay and working conditions. They used their own cultural coping skills to strive for dignity and a better life. The goodwill and aloha spirit of native Hawaiians has also had an influence on all immigrant cultures in Hawaii. Today, newly arrived Filipino immigrants settle in communities such as Kalihi and Waipahu, where there is a strong support system.

The word 'banda de ong' (ilokano, poison), which was first used in the Philippines at the turn of the century for Filipinos who participated in the American phase of the Philippine Revolution (known in American textbooks as the Philippine insurrection), is now used as a noun, adjective, and verb alike. The leaders of the Waipahu Filipino Community Center are trying to rebuild that connection between past and present by organizing events and workshops such as one on eskrima, a Filipino martial art. Community leaders believe that Filipino heritage is being reborn in Hawaii as young people develop an appreciation for their ancestors' language and traditions. Public schools in rural Hawaii were not under direct control of plantation management but were considered an extension of it since virtually all children had parents who worked on plantations. Meanwhile, broader economic and political developments caused tourism to overshadow agriculture as the dominant force in Hawaii's economy. Nowadays, pidgin is a language that children have to learn along with standard English taught in classrooms to get along well with their classmates. When it comes to commemoration events, two recurring themes are included: history and identity of Filipino community in Hawaii.