by Belinda A. Aquino. Ph.D.
It is extremely difficult to write about Dean T. Alegado – someone you can only describe in superlatives. This space about him and his achievements will not do justice to his remarkable life and stellar achievements during his lifetime. This article can only capture a glimpse of his essence and the legacy he left behind following his unfortunate and untimely passing.
His accomplishments cover a broad range of fields that he tackled extremely well – academia, journalism, community outreach, activism, progressive causes designed to uplift the status of the underprivileged and underrepresented. He had the vision, leadership and practical wisdom to pursue a plan of action that would successfully achieve the goals that he set out to accomplish.
It was my great fortune to have known him for a long time, learning so much in the process not only as a great friend but as a colleague in academia, coworker in various programs, projects, workshops, seminars and other activities that required intellectual leadership, meaningful insight, and a deep understanding of vast range of disciplines and areas of human knowledge. It was pretty amazing to see him play out all these demanding tasks toward a successful conclusion.
He also possessed a pleasant temperament which considered any problem as reasonably doable. I never saw him lose his cool no matter how demanding the job was. No job or assignment was too small or too big for him. He did it all without fretting or showing any kind of displeasure about the behavior of others. Whether it was a matter of organizing a public demonstration or meeting with the opposite side of a particular issue, he never lost his cool.
A sense of Equality and Social Justice
One of Dean’s most admirable characteristics was his strong sense of equality, peace and social justice.
According to Rene Ciria-Cruz, Dean was politically awakened by the Civil Rights and Anti-War movements in the 60s, the Filipino-American Identity Movement, and the immediate opposition to the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines. He became a leading member of the Union of Democratic Filipinos or Katipunan ng Demokratikong Pilipino (KDP), a national leftwing organization of US- born Filipinos and new Filipino immigrants. Dean volunteered to come to Hawaii to start a KDP group and initiate political activities against the Marcos dictatorship. He was a steadfast and progressive activist to the very end of his like and is wellloved by his fellow activists and friends.
During the dark days of Ferdinand Marcos’s martial law regime from the 1960s until his overthrow by the People Power Revolution that toppled the dictatorship in 1986, ending in his exile in Hawaii, Dean’s leadership was critical in organizing dissent. From abroad, Dean was in the forefront leading the movement to restore democratic rights in the Philippines.
Dean was also allied with the Friends of the Filipino People (FFP), a national organization that had an active chapter in Hawaii. Ideologically, he was not as dangerously “radical” as the dictatorship had described him. Dean was not one to incite violence or radical actions about his positions in politics. He was very composed and reasonable in all his dealings with everyone including those who considered him a mortal enemy. Even if he won his battles, he was never boastful about his success. He was always graceful even in success.
Dean as an academic and scholar
When the Ethnic Studies Program (later a Department was established as part of the academic curriculum of the University of Hawaii at Manoa), Dean was named the Chair of this new university program. He patiently and successfully worked with other university programs and departments to make Ethnic Studies a relevant and complementary program to these other units on the Manoa campus. He expanded the academic content of Ethnic Studies to complement the course offerings in other departments as a minor or major field. He increased the number of grants and the amount received in extramural funding for the department to support service learning projects in the community. He increased the number of Ethnic Studies majors. He successfully relocated department office from temporary portable building to newer building to meet the needs of a growing medium-sized department that has become nationally prominent in the field of Asian Pacific American studies.
It was at this time that I got to working closely with him on academic matters including research and publications. I was the director of the Center for Philippine Studies which was established later than Ethnic Studies, largely to recognize the role of Filipinos since the plantation era in the 1900s to the growth, history, and economy of Hawaii even long before it became a state of the United States of 1959.
Dean arrived in Hawaii from the Mainland already with two MA degrees – one from University of California, Berkeley with a major in Philippine History, and the other from Harvard’s Special Program on Philippine History headed by Professor Boone Schirmer.
When he moved to Hawaii, he began to get his Ph.D. degree from the Department of Political Science with a strong interest in Philippine Studies and Filipinos internationally. We had various collaborative programs, one of which was called “The Age of Discovery,” which was given grant to organize seminars and workshops on the neighbor islands with participants from the various islands.
This joint venture produced the first academic publication entitled, “The Age of Discovery: Impact on Philippine Culture and Society, 1992,” which was reprinted twice because it had the greatest number of hits on the internet as a reference material on the Philippines for courses on the mainland. To this day, the publication still garners the most number of hits online as an authoritative reference on Philippine Culture and Society. Dean prepared a bibliography on the Philippines: Pre-Hispanic to 19th Century, which is readily a reliable reference on early Philippine history.
The Center eventually produced a publication series covering topics on Philippine culture, society and the diaspora. The Center also began a lecture series in which an expert on the Philippines/Filipinos is invited to give a lecture every month on campus, sometimes even twice a month.
Dean has left us but his legacy will live on in our collective memory. His intellectual legacy lives on as well at the University which he spent the best years of life with his talents and productive leadership.
DR. BELINDA A. AQUINO, Ph.D. is currently Professor Emeritus at the University of Hawaii at Manoa where where she was Professor of Political Science and Asian Studies before retiring and Founding Director of the Center for Philippine Studies at the School of Pacific Studies. An accomplished journalist, she is currently the Chronicle’s Contributor and writer of various Philippine and international publications.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Alegado’s funeral services was recently held in Hawaii. There will be a virtual celebration of life on Sat., Nov. 28 at 2 pm (Hawaiʻi time) at: eventbrite.com/e/a-celebration-oflife-dean-tiburcio-alegado-tickets-128923647099. In person celebration of life and internment of ashes are planned for November 2021 in San Narciso, Zambales.