NOV. 4, 2017



Waipahu Town...(cont.)

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All of you Las Vegas lovers, a grand prize awaits. There will be a drawing for a vacation package for two to Las Vegas provided by Vacations Hawaii. Attendees can increase their chances in winning the Vegas draw by participating in the Food Drive. Bring non-perishable food items for donation that will go to Waipahu community food pantries.

Title Sponsors of the anniversary celebration are Hawaiian Electric, Aloha KIA, Ahuna Rentals, Family and Friends of Agriculture, Viking Power Generator, Kamehameha Schools, Western Union, Vacations Hawaii, Monsanto, D.R. Horton.

Community Health Fair

At the celebration, the Bayanihan Clinic Without Walls (BCWW) will be giving back to the Waipahu community by providing free health screenings and consultations that include:  Ask-A-Doctor, Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, Curbside Consultation, Dental, Diabetes, Diabetic Eye Check-Up, Healthy Diet, Mammogram, Mental Health, Optometry, Osteoporosis Screening, Physical Therapy, Radiology and Spirometry.

“The BCWW, which recently had a very successful fundraiser concert, is holding a Community Health Fair to highlight the importance of health preservation and awareness, especially among the recently arrived immigrants,” said Dr. Sonido.

Nostalgia and the town itself seem synonymous

Beyond the festivity, why are people really celebrating? What is, what was -- the town we all love and call Waipahu?

Waipahu town today is in transition, at a crossroads from old to modern, and parts that will just remain the same, by purpose for historical preservation. The H-1 freeway is that physical barrier that separates the two worlds of Waipahu. And the new half even has a new name, Waikele. But it still remains for the most part, Waipahu. While even historic Waipahu is gradually undergoing a make-over, the town’s rich history is deeply steeped and old-time residents are making sure to pass down stories of what it used to be.

Waipahu historian and WCA media director for the 120th anniversary Kula Abiva, explains that even before Benjamin Dillingham, Paul Isenberg, M.P Robinson and H. Hackfeld came to Waipahu and the Oahu Sugar Company first started harvesting crops in 1899, two years after the company’s incorporation, the place was home to Hawaiian chieftains.

"Waipahu is rich in history from time before its sugar history.  Many people do not know that because of Waipahu's numerous fresh water artesian wells, many of the great chiefs of Oahu chose to live in this part of the island.  They chose Waipahu which means "gushing waters" not only because of the abundance of fresh water in a dry and otherwise desert environment but also because of the rich soil that produced great taro fields and the large fishponds that the taro fields drained into.  This was the wealth of the noble class," said Abiva.

He adds "We celebrate the great history of Waipahu and tell nits story beyond the sugar experience. People are always excited to know the Hawaiian history of this land.”

In fact, some historians say prior to western settlement, to Hawaiian royalty, Waipahu was considered the capital of Oahu.

So, the 120 years anniversary mark that we are celebrating is really the beginning of only the town’s sugar plantation past. This chapter in time began with one major anchor company and close to 1,000 immigrants. Similar to trends in many parts of rural America, a financially giant corporation comes in to vitalize and establish a community. The difference here is that the community was borne by imported labor, immigrants from the Philippines, Japan, China, Portugal, and Spain. And that giant corporation was the Oahu Sugar Company. Together they turned their neighborhood of work, into a livable, vibrant community with Waipahu Depot Road and vicinity streets the town’s core. Immigration swelled into the thousands a few years later and other immigrants from Korea, Puerto Rico, Germany, and even Norway became a part of the labor force.

Reminders of Waipahu’s plantation past can be seen everywhere, even in the names of important places around town. August Ahrens Elementary School and Hans L’Orange Park are named after Oahu Sugar Company’s managers. Hans L’Orange Park used to be called the Oahu Sugar Company field where concerts and carnivals took place, similar to the anniversary gathering soon to take place this month. The park now is used mostly for baseball and is the home field of Hawaii Pacific University’s men’s baseball team.

Some notables through the 120 years of Waipahu: the Oahu Sugar Plantation finally closed its door in 1995, almost 100 years after opening; in 1973, the City and County of Honolulu and State of Hawaii purchased 40 acres opposite the Waipahu sugar mill to establish the Waipahu Cultural and Garden Park Center, known today as the Hawaii Plantation Village; and in 2002, the FilCom Center was inaugurated, the largest Filipino Community center outside of the Philippines.

Rep. Aquino says some proud moments of Waipahu’s history include “the rise of the Waipahu public school complex and the quality of education our children are receiving today.  The $23M in merit-based scholarships for Waipahu High’s Class of 2017 is a testament to the great work that our high, intermediate and elementary schools are doing to ensure a solid workforce and good citizens for the near future.  We also have a rich sports history from the Waipahu bicycling clubs, boxing champion Brian Viloria and baseball standout Jerome Williams in recent times, football, softball wrestling, etc. that it is truly amazing.”

Since the demise of the sugar industry, Waipahu town has had its share of challenges. Homelessness, aging buildings and infrastructure, and crime, to name a few. In a strange irony, the glorious past it once held arguably has kept them behind as some developers and large companies still associate Waipahu as that town that died when the sugar industry left. Development in Waipahu now plays catch up to its newer West Oahu neighbors.

But in the midst of the current economic lull, residents of Waipahu remain hopeful for a revitalized community; and positive changes are noticeable.

Aquino explains, “Currently, Waipahu has tremendous value moving forward.  Today’s vision of a strong community involves so many things which includes:  a great public school system, proud residents who are civic-minded and service-oriented, better roads and transportation alternatives, an active business community, faith-based organizations that do great things for all residents and finally emphasizing the natural gifts and resources in our community among other things.  We have a lot of these good things in place today and we can continue to build on these for the future.”

For now, there are many things the community of Waipahu can be proud of. That in and of itself is a great reason to celebrate the town’s 120th year anniversary.

© 2008-2017 Hawaii Filipino Chronicle Inc.