It’s Time for Gen X Filipinos to Help Lead Our State Through Some of Our Most Pressing Challenges

Filipinos in Hawaii have come a long way in their maturation from the days of plantation workers (1906-1946) who saw their employment as temporary before returning to the Philippines, followed by the Baby boom generation who were the first generation to make Hawaii their permanent home, up to Generation X that currently is settling into their new role as leaders of our community.

Each generation have contributed to the building of our community. The sakadas were the brave pioneers, arguably the most adventurous who sought opportunity in the almost complete unknown. Imagine before the advent of the internet and today’s global community where information about any destination can be accessed and with a high degree of certainty, immediately. The sakadas only had word of mouth as their crystal ball, which was enough for these daring, hard-working Filipinos to leave their country to work in Hawaii.

Our Baby boom Filipinos were our pioneering settlers, the generation that set the foundation for our community in Hawaii. This generation saw themselves as not just Filipinos, but Filipino-Americans. Still closely linked to the Philippines and Philippine culture and language, Baby boomers in Hawaii were the assimilators to their new American-Hawaii society.

They kept most important aspects of their ancestral country but were headstrong to succeed in their new homeland. And part of that recipe for success involved adaptability. In fact in 1980s and 1990s, the buzz word among Hawaii’s Filipinos among Baby boomers was “mainstreaming” – which was a movement to penetrate Hawaii’s greater community and step out of our comfort zone. This generation produced many Fil-Am leaders, including the most known of them all, the former Gov. Ben Cayetano.

Time for Gen X to step up
While the sakada generation could be characterized as the adventurous generation and the Baby boomers as the founding fathers (and mothers) of our community in Hawaii, it’s still too soon to characterize Gen X Hawaii Filipinos (born 1965-1980) from a historical perspective.

Baby boom Filipinos (born 1946-1964) were a massive group and their contributions were immense. The millennials (born 1981-1994) is the next largest generation and are already a formidable, promising group of Filipinos in Hawaii from a voting bloc alone.

What we know and see of Hawaii Filipino Gen X is the continuation and, in some areas, expanding of leadership. Filipino leadership in Hawaii can be seen across the board from politics to corporations to education.

Gen X have fully integrated into American society more than any generations before them. They’re no longer talking about “mainstreaming,” but rather are the mainstream.  

Gen X Filipinos are not as identity conscious as Filipino Baby boomers, in part, because in their (Gen X) fully integrated participation in mainstream society, they haven’t experienced some of the discrimination as their immigrant parents. Their parents were bilingual and through the years had to work on shedding their foreign accent due to discrimination.

Gen X Filipinos are the most educated relative to previous generations. With that comes an expanded perspective that includes seeking employment beyond the confines of Hawaii. Gen X Filipinos born in Hawaii is the first generation to be part of the exodus generation – those leaving Hawaii for the U.S. mainland.

Gen X Filipinos is the first generation to seek a solid balanced life between work-life and personal/family-life. As latchkey children who saw their workaholic parents not being around as much, Gen X are up for the hard grind challenges of work and putting in long hours, but they also prioritize personal and family time.

To achieve this balanced life, Gen Xers seek employment that provides flexibility over money. They seek jobs and careers and thrive at companies that offer flexibility. They enjoy freedom to work independently, which is perhaps why Gen Xers are drawn to entrepreneurial work and side-projects.

Gen X leadership
Filipino Gen X leaders are engrossed in finding solutions to challenges that affect all of Hawaii from combating climate change to building a diverse economy that will provide the jobs and careers to enable residents to stay in the state.

Another major priority is expanding inventory for affordable housing (for the same reason as building a diverse economy). On Oahu alone, 24,000 new units are needed over the next 15 years to address pent-up demand.

The cost of living in Hawaii is astronomical. Working to build a diverse economy and affordable housing will help local residents with the high cost of living, but there must be solutions to our overreliance of imported goods that is largely responsible for the high price of food and essentials.

This is where local food sustainability could offer some relief. The state must invest in farming infrastructure and build the local food industry to a scale of economy that would eventually make locally grown foods more affordable. At the moment, only some locally produced foods are more affordable than imported food because of scale of economy. There needs to be larger output.

These are only a few of the challenges Filipino Gen Xers, now very much a part of the state’s leadership, are tasked with.

It will be interesting to see how this generation’s legacy will be interpreted by local historians and by our own Filipino community 20 years from now.

The mantle has been passed from Baby boom to Gen X. We are hoping that our Gen X leaders will build on the previous generations and make our community proud of their contributions.

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