The night the governor came was cool, the mountain air conniving with us organizers of the 2006 Nakem Centennial Centennial.
The year is the 100th of the coming of the first 15 sakadas to Hawai`i to work in the sugarcane plantations owned by the haoles, the while plantation owners who had seen the economic promise of sugar in the world trade. Hawai`i, the much touted tropical paradise, did not know peril in those times except those peril in the fates of those who came to work in the vast tracks of land to assure the plantation owners of the steady supply of cheap and reliable labor.
The governor is the newly reelected Governor Linda Lingle, who, in her desire to explore the possibilities of the economic partnership between the Philippines and the State of Hawai`i, had in January 2006, led the delegation of businesspeople and civic and cultural leaders who went to the Ilocos and many parts of the country to see for themselves social reality of the tie binding the country and her State.
She spoke of the Filipinos with fondness, her ten years of staying with a Filipino family in Maui giving shape and form to her estimation of that Ilocano spirit. She handily won a reelection and her coming over, right after the day of election when victory was still in the air and the euphoria of success was intoxicating, was to the delight of the delagates of this first-ever Nakem Conference. That was, indeed, a generous gesture.
I now view all these episodes of the "Dumanonkayo Ceremonies" in my mind, the scenes coming in like quick flashes of the memory that, in a rather chronological way, began with that invitation for her to come please come and meet up with the Nakem people, those who think that something, indeed, can be done to commit to memory the sacred sacrifices of these sakadas, who between 1906 and 1935, had swollen to about 120,000.
We go by the multiplier here--and we realize how, despite the cruelty of the circumstances embedded in plantation village life, this exodus of men, memory, and muscle, something good came out: something close to redemption as these sakadas helped bankroll the Philippine economy.
Governor Lingle certainly endeared us by her presence and the graciousness in her is evident. She talked stories: of the Filipino family that took care of her for ten years when she decided to relocate to Maui, of the trip that took her to Santa, Ilocos Sur and the other cities and towns, of her meeting with kind Filipinos.
Her stories are endless--and our stories of her coming will be the same as well: endless, with many versions coming from the delegates.
We can only remember that graciousness now as we wish her well with her second term as our leader in these islands of our hopes and desires.
A Solver Agcaoili
U of Hawaii at Manoa
Nob 9, 2006