by Rose Churma
Last month, the San Francisco Girls’ Choir came to Hawaii and presented a concert at the Hawaii Theater and the Paliku Theater singing excerpts from the opera that was based on a diary of a young girl, Angeles Monrayo, who described her childhood days in Hawaii from January 10, 1924 to her arrival in California on November 17, 1928 and her elopement, but ends when she was expecting her first child.
Angeles Monrayo was born in Romblon province in the Philippines. As a four-month-old infant, she travelled with her parents, brother and several aunts and uncles to Hawaii on the SS Shinyo Maru. Her father and uncles, called sakadas, were recruited to work in the sugar plantations in Hawaii.
Her first entry was on January 10, 1924 when Angeles’ family lived in Waipahu. She writes, “I would like to read about me—what everyday things happen to me—when I am old woman, right now I am only 11 years, 5 months.” And for this, we are grateful that this young girl was able to capture an unfiltered view of those times.
On her second entry, she writes about Pablo Manlapit, who led the workers’ strike in the 1920s and his daughter Mary, as the Manlapit family relocates to Honolulu to prepare for the strike.
The subsequent entries describe her experiences as a child during the strike and its aftermath. The family eventually moved to central California and her last entry was on November 17, 1928.
Angeles’ journal was edited for publication by her daughter Rizaline, who notes that her mom loved to read and write, as well as tell stories, which she retold in the introduction to give perspective to the contents of the diary.
She also notes that Angeles Monroya eventually wrote five more books, where one contained poems written in the 1940s while the other four where diaries from April 1981 to October 1993. Her last entry was right before she had undergone glaucoma surgery, which left her blind.
This publication also contains the memoir of Alejandro S. Raymundo, Angeles’ husband and father of Rizaline, which she notes “…was typed exactly as my father taped it to retain his accent, his voice.”
It covers his birth in Tondo, Manila to his days as an itinerant immigrant worker in the canneries of Alaska to the farms in California. It provides a counterpoint to Angeles’ description of everyday life within the family home, since Alejandro’s thrust is his experiences in the workplace.
The book also contains essays from Jonathan W. Okamura of Hawaii and the late Dawn Bohulano Mabalon of Stockton, California.
The essay “Filipino-American History in Hawaii: A Young Visayan Woman’s Perspective” written by Jonathan Okamura, is a well-researched document that provides context to the 1920s Hawaii when Angeles wrote the first entries in her diary.
The author notes that this diary “provides a contemporary female account of their life and labor prior to World War II” and “constitutes a Visayan view of the Filipino community” since the majority of similar works are from Ilocanos who comprise the largest group in the Filipino community.
Despite Angeles’ limited and irregular formal education (until the fifth grade) and a non-native speaker of English (her first language was Illongo), Okamura states that “her writing ability is all the more remarkable.” Her diary entries show that she is “a very perceptive and thoughtful observer of family and community events among Filipinos at the time.”
Dawn Bohulano Mabalon’s essay “Writing Angeles Monrayo into the Pages of Pinay History” is a contemporary Pinay’s ode to another Pinay.
Mabalon writes that “Angeles’ diary is a precious gift to all of us… it provides such a wealth of information about gender roles, work, family, culture, and community life.”
Angeles’ diary is an invaluable document that offers a window to the past which has been drawn largely from the viewpoint of men, and Mabalon’s essay provides a background for understanding the world that Angeles lived in.
The book’s editor, Rizaline R. Raymundo is the oldest child of Angeles Monrayo and Alejandro S. Raymundo.
As a child of migrant workers, she grew up in different agricultural farmlands in California. A retired school teacher, she is a member of the Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS), which commemorates its 40th anniversary during its biennial conference in Seattle in August 2022.
ROSE CHURMA established a career in architecture 40 years ago, specializing in judicial facilities planning. As a retired architect, she now has the time to do the things she always wanted to do: read books and write about them, as well as encourage others to write.
by Rose Churma