Lina’s father was born in 1896, while the Philippines was still under Spanish rule. Papa was not born in the Philippines but instead in Hawaii. We don’t know why his father was in Hawaii, or anything about his mother, a native Hawaiian, or his birthplace, so we have not yet been able to trace Lina’s Hawaiian family.


Iolani Palace, the home of Hawaiian royalty

Queen Liliuokalani

Queen Lili’uokalani, deposed by a US-backed military coup in 1893


The Hawaii State Capitol

We do know that Papa had the opportunity to stay in Hawaii but chose not to, and that he offered Lina the chance to become an American citizen when she was only 10. Lina was not interested. She has not forgotten, though, that Papa told her that if she did live in Hawaii, she would one day be able to study at the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii. As a ¼ native Hawaiian she would also have had free tuition at the best schools in Hawaii. How different her life would have been! So we made a pilgrimage to the East-West Center in Manoa, not to regret the road not taken but to celebrate the choices we have in life.

East-West Center

Lina at the East-West Center

We also visited the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum in Pu’unene, Kahului on Maui. The nearby sugar mill, Maui’s last, was to close in another month, the end of a way of life that has brought workers from all over the world to these islands. Not just Filipinos but Japanese, Portuguese, Puerto Ricans, Korean and Chinese came to Hawaii, many to work in the cane fields. They are commemorated in Kepaniwai Park’s Heritage Gardens in the I’ao Valley.   A statue of Dr. José Rizal, the Philippine national hero, stands next to a traditional “nipa” house. Not far away, a statue of Dr. Sun Yat Sen, who had deep roots in Hawaii, commemorates his role in the Chinese revolution.


Dr. José Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines

Japanese cane workers

A statue commemorating the Japanese sugar cane workers in Kepaniwai Park’s Heritage Gardens

The mill and the fields around it remind us of La Carlota, where Lina grew up in the midst of Sugar Central, Asia’s largest sugar mill at the time. [See

Sugar mill

The Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Mill

The industry’s passing will be mourned by many and celebrated by others. The smoke from burning the leaves off the cane stalks became an issue for the residents of the new communities springing up around the plantations. The soil has been depleted and, at certain seasons, blows out to sea. Perhaps a better agricultural use will be found for this land.   Yet for the families that will lose their jobs, and whose history has been so bound to sugar, this is a sad passage.

We consulted the archives at the Sugar Museum to find out if there is any record of Potenciano Hervas, Lina’s father, ever working in the industry here. There is not. Perhaps we will find some records on Oahu that tell more of his story.

Squash Hat

Vicente Mateo’s squash hat

Squash hat inside

The inside of this utilitarian hat has a beautiful design.

In the Makawao History Museum, devoted in large part to that town’s cowboy history, we found a “squash ‘hat’ brought by Vicente Mateo when he immigrated from the Philippines in 1928,” donated by his grandson Luke Carvalho. A beautiful and unusual hat hints at another untold story.