by Lizette Nolasco
Hawaii is a large melting pot of cultures so it is understandable that much of one’s traditions, practices and beliefs can get lost through the generations.
However, some young Filipino immigrants take pride in their roots and encourage others to join and honor where they came from.
Three of them share how they are perpetuating their culture in various ways while living among many other cultures in Hawaii.
College culture clubs
Angelo Landao from Aiea is a 22-year-old psychology major at the University of Hawaii at Manoa who is perpetuating his culture by being involved in Katipunan, a club where students enrolled in Filipino courses come together to have a sense of community and explore their shared cultural identity.
Landao came to Hawaii from Kawit, Cavite in 2007 and recalled the difficulty transitioning to a new lifestyle. When he came, he didn’t speak English and had to enroll in classes to aid him in learning the language. He described how the club lets students feel more comfortable during the cultural shift.
“The way I see it, it [the club] makes them feel right at home and a sense of realization that they’re not the only ones struggling to try to adjust,” Landao said.
“There are others as well. And I think that’s an important one that is often overlooked when you move to a different place. It’s the self-realization that this is who I am. I can be proud of who I am, and there’s no shame in that.”
The lifestyle in Hawaii was also more independent than in the Philippines. Landao described that after school, students would typically keep to themselves rather than play outside together like in the Philippines.
However, he appreciated the newfound community on his college campus. The club allowed him to connect to his roots by being part of an organization that builds relationships and provides Filipinos in Hawaii with the communal feel they would have at home.
“I’m proud to be Filipino [because of] the concept of being interdependent, just overall grounded in helping the people around you and not just focusing on yourself,” Landao said.
Like Landao, Angel Navor joined a culture club in college. The 21-year-old from Waipahu is studying business administration with a marketing concentration at Chaminade University.
To perpetuate her culture, she reactivated and was the former president of the Filipino Club at the university during her first year of college.
She has participated in numerous events to highlight Filipino culture, including at the annual International Extravaganza, where members of the club performed Pandanggo sa Ilaw and Tinikling.
In addition to performing, Navor encourages her peers at the university to learn more by teaching them about Filipino food and language.
She emigrated from Mandaluyong when she was four years old and her first language is Tagalog, which she aims to teach those around her.
“I think it’s very important that people know how to speak it, because if you don’t pass it on to the next generation, that language might get lost,” Navor said.
“I’m glad that our generation is willing to learn, because if they’re willing to learn, then that means that it will stick for longer, and I don’t want it to disappear because then it’s this big part of history that would be lost.”
Navor suggested those who have grown distant from their culture and are looking for a connection to their roots should start with the culinary aspect.
“I think for those [who] have already lost that part of them, I think the first step is probably to start with food, because food brings everyone together,” Navor said.
“And so it gives you just a baby step of like, ‘Okay, I’m going to try this and be out of my comfort zone, but also at the same time, get back into the culture that I know I’m in.’ And they also need to accept, before that, they need to accept what kind of culture they’re in. They need to accept that they’re Filipino and be proud of it.”
Art and faith expressions
Another young Filipino from Liliha uses his talent and creativity to showcase his cultural pride by perpetuating it through art.
Darold Ramelb is a 32-year-old award-winning artist who features elements of Filipino culture in his art.
His paintings include depictions of Filipino textiles, his experiences growing up on a farm in the Philippines and his Catholic faith. His works have been featured in galleries such as the Hawaii State Art Museum and the Downtown Art Center.
“Most of my paintings of any Filipino depiction or culture was through experience through my family,” Ramelb said. “I try not to appropriate anything that I’m not familiar with. So anything that I paint is anything that happened in my past or things that I went through growing up there or being an immigrant here.”
His painting, “Our Lady of the Forgotten Fields,” is a blend of influences of his depiction of the Virgin Mary that includes traditional textile patterns and highlights an appreciation for his life on his family farm.
The painting won The Golden Callus Award for Best in Show in the 2022 Hawaii Watercolor Society Open Show.
“The Virgin Mary, to me, can represent different things for a lot of people,” Ramelb said. “For me, it’s motherhood and love for the land that I grew up in.”
Ramelb’s family originates from Batac, Bacarra and Laoag City. Ramelb came to Hawaii in 1994 and highlighted that, although many Filipinos come to Hawaii, much of the culture is lost in the transition.
His art with Filipino themes serves as an inspiration to showcase the culture as something to take pride in and inspire other Filipinos to connect with their roots.
“In the Philippines, there’s a very rich culture. A lot of people do a lot of the inabel (traditional handwoven fabric) and other craftsmanship that’s over there,” Ramelb said.
“But when it comes to Hawaii, a lot of that is lost. A lot of people here are very proud to be Filipino. But as a kid growing up, I did not find any Filipino person or group that I looked up to when I was smaller. So, I would like to see more diversity…I think it’s very important. We should be proud of who we are and also show it to the world.”
by Lizette Nolasco