Filipinos in Hawaii share their success by giving back ‘blessings’ to the homeland

For many Filipino immigrants, achieving success in Hawaii means sharing their blessings with people back in their homeland.
Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 5:00 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 29, 2022 at 5:40 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For many Filipino immigrants, achieving success in Hawaii means sharing it with people back in their homeland.

That includes retired Hawaii lawmaker Jun Abinsay, who is from Ilocos Sur, a province in northern Philippines.

He moved to Honolulu more than 50 years ago — part of the waves of migration that date back to 1906 when the first Filipinos were brought to Hawaii to work on the sugar plantations.

These migrant workers were known as “sakadas.”

Honoring that legacy is Abinsay’s mission.

As a state representative from 1995 to 2006, he advocated for immigrant rights and led the 2006 centennial celebration of the arrival of the sakadas.

“You’ve got to know where you came from, especially the parents, sometimes their children they are not really into recognizing the sacrifices,” Abinsay said. “That celebration was our way of making sure that they do understand to exemplify the spirit of giving back.”

Now Abinsay is working with Philippine officials to welcome back generations of Ilocos Surians for a global homecoming event in 2024.

Singson said he’s planning to travel to Hawaii next year to meet with the Filipino community.

“We start from Hawaii, to campaign all over the world. By 2024, we’ll meet here,” explained Ilocos Sur Governor Jerry Singson. “Hawaiian group is very active in the development of our province.”

He calls Filipinos who work overseas and send money to their families the “real heroes.”

“Whatever blessings they receive, they can share,” he said.

And sharing is second nature. Last year, overseas Filipinos sent a record $31.4 billion back home.

Remittances make up 9% of the Philippines’ GDP. And that’s growing as Filipinos take on higher-paying jobs.

“It’s significantly giving in more remittances than before, because of that hierarchy in the job level,” said Eufrocinio Bernabe, Jr., Asst Secretary of the Philippines Department of Finance.

That money helps many community projects. For example, one of the many projects Filipinos in Hawaii support in this region is the City of Vigan Simulation and Therapeutic Activity Center.

The center is designed to provide hope, support and therapy for the families of developmentally disabled children.

Meanwhile, many parents say it’s a lifeline.

“Here in the Philippines, or especially in our province, it’s very expensive for therapeutic like this,” said Ronnie Frando, whose daughter had delayed speech issues when she started about 3 years ago, but now is talking.

Hawaii donors also support Balay Taripato, a home for seniors with dementia.

Caregivers say the residents were abandoned by their families.

Aloha and mabuhay – a shared spirit of giving back -- and honoring those who are forever connected to Hawaii and the Philippines.