Exploring the Filipino Community in Hawaii: A Journey Through History and Culture

When I returned to Hawaii in 1974, I heard that Filipinos would be the next group to “succeed in the islands.” About 85% of Filipinos in Hawaii are Ilocanos, meaning that they have their roots in the Ilocos region of the northern Philippines, mainly in the provinces of Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. The leaders of the Waipahu Filipino Community Center are trying to reestablish that connection, including through events and workshops, such as one on eskrima, a Filipino martial art. However, no Filipino has represented Hawaii in Congress, unlike Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans, native Hawaiians and whites. The Filipino community in Hawaii began in the last century with single men who were brought in as plantation workers. The problem of underrepresentation is much worse for Filipino teachers in the university university system, where progress has been much slower in increasing their numbers.

Today, newly arrived Filipino immigrants come from all 7,000 islands and settle in communities such as Kalihi and Waipahu, where there is a strong support system. Henry Manayan, 48, is one of Honolulu's leading surgeons and also heads the United Philippine Council of Hawaii. HNN traveled to Ilocos Sur to learn about its history and culture, first to Candon City, an area where Filipino immigration to Hawaii is concentrated. This area has the highest concentration of Filipinos in Hawaii, with many of them being among the poorest members of a Hawaiian-Filipino community that has grown in recent years to become the third largest and fastest growing ethnic group in this multiracial state. Only a handful of Filipinos study at Honolulu State University, representing 2.2 percent of the student body, compared to 38.7 percent of Japanese students.

Therefore, only recently has a strong family-oriented Filipino community with varied occupational capacities been established here. No Filipino community anywhere else in the United States is as large as the concentration of more than 35,000 people in and around Honolulu, where the largest number of Filipino immigrants has settled. Hawaii is full of regulations that are applied to block the access of “outsiders” to their jobs, making it difficult for Filipino professionals to arrive in this country. Community leaders believe that Filipino heritage is being reborn in Hawaii, as young people gain an appreciation for the language and traditions of their ancestors. Having more Filipino teachers can have a direct impact on the educational and professional success of Filipino-American students through their interaction in the classroom and the personal support they receive. The most popular Filipino neighborhoods in Hawaii are Ewa Villages (73.13%) and Whitmore Village (66.76%).

These two areas have become hubs for Filipinos living in Hawaii due to their strong sense of community and cultural ties. They offer a variety of activities for Filipinos to participate in and celebrate their heritage. The Filipino community in Hawaii is growing rapidly and it is important for them to be represented at all levels of society. It is essential that more Filipinos are encouraged to pursue higher education so they can become successful professionals and contribute to society. It is also important for Filipinos to be aware of their cultural heritage so they can pass it on to future generations. The journey through history and culture that makes up the Filipino community in Hawaii is an inspiring one.

From its humble beginnings as plantation workers brought over from the Philippines to its current status as one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in this multiracial state, Filipinos have made a lasting impact on Hawaiian society. With more Filipinos pursuing higher education and becoming successful professionals, they can continue to make a positive contribution to society while preserving their cultural heritage for future generations.