Thank you, Dr. Benilda Aquino, for Your Lifetime’s Body of Work Advocating for Our Community

There is a special white fire that burns in the hearts and minds of people who dream of changing the world. These unique individuals are often called social activists.

Activists will see the injustice of a person unfairly subjected to suffering as a thirst that needs quenching.  And while activists may have no personal connection to that person burdened, these rare individuals will act on their inner moral compass, fight for the downtrodden and work earnestly – often with risk to themselves — to provide some help to raise that one person.

As the years go by, they notice a trend. That one person under duress becomes two, three, a hundred, thousands, millions even, and their collective challenges become a cause for the activist to champion.

As even more years go by, the activist notices a connectivity, a pattern that people who are disadvantaged are in many ways riding on the same boat treading rough waters in deep seas. And, in fact, there are many causes, many classes of groups in need to advocate for – it could be the politically persecuted who were suffering during President Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s corrupt violent regime during martial law, or it could be a diaspora group of Filipino immigrants working hard to be noticed and desiring a seat in the proverbial table of power in the state of Hawaii.

In just these two examples alone – of Filipinos in the Philippines and their ethnic brethren in Hawaii — we know of a special woman activist Dr. Belinda “Lindy” Aquino whose lifetime’s work advocating for both, have made their world a better place.

In the early 1990s, the associate editor of the Hawaii Filipino Chronicle, Edwin Quinabo, recalls how he would see Dr. Aquino at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She was then the director of the Center for Philippine Studies at the University and its founder. He heard her lecture twice, once as a sit-in one-time lecturer for a class taught by Dr. Ricardo Trimillos, and on another occasion when she gave a talk as part of a panel in front of the Campus Center.

Dr. Aquino was a pioneer back then, one of the very few Filipino professors teaching at the University. He said she was brilliant, and it was refreshing to see and hear her. She possessed a sharp intellect, a commanding persona and self-assuredness. And that she inspired him and many other Generation X Filipinos who saw her on campus, going through the university system, to get involved in Hawaii’s Filipino community. Many years later their paths would cross once again as he would read the many insightful and analytical articles Dr. Aquino has written for the Hawaii Filipino Chronicle as the newspaper’s contributing editor.

For the newspaper she’s written on Filipino political empowerment, underrepresentation of Filipinos in higher education. She’s been called upon by the Chronicle to comment on American foreign policy, war, local Hawaii politics, Philippine elections, Social Security and Medicare and range of other important topics.

As a pioneering author and educator, generations of Filipinos have either worked with her in some capacity or know of her work. Scores of Hawaii legislators through decades have seen her walk through the halls of the Hawaii State Capitol and heard her lobby on behalf of multitudes of causes – on behalf of the Filipino community, the University of Hawaii, women and other underrepresented groups.

Many of these politicians and other professionals and influencers in the community are her friends, which can be a powerful networking tool if one’s heart is in the right place to affect needed change.

It’s not easy to be a community leader like Dr. Aquino. Frequently leaders come across cynicism and detractors. Leaders must often say things that ruffle feathers, be an ally to someone and be an opponent to that same person on occasion when important issues dictate it.

But in the space of political power jockeying, as a leader and political scientist, Dr. Aquino knows that’s the nature of politics. It’s easy to turn away and avoid this space that’s tainted with degrees of toxicity. Most want nothing of it. But many in our Filipino and greater Hawaii community have expressed gratitude that Dr. Aquino continued to do the hard work with steady resolve.

Dr. Aquino made her mark not just at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She’s an international scholar who taught at the University of the Philippines Diliman (UP), the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, the Singapore Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Bangkok Thammasat University, and four universities in Indonesia. She earned her doctorate from the prestigious Cornell University.

Besides the Hawaii Filipino Chronicle, she’s written articles published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asian Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Newsday, and Philippine Inquirer.

In the newspaper business, the Chronicle publishers and editors have met a plethora of good people with sound values doing great work. Then on rare occasions, there is yet a smaller group of individuals we come across who we know will be talked about for generations. Dr. Aquino is one of them. She has been a friend and supporter in the Hawaii Filipino community, a fixture at many functions. She is our friend and colleague at the Filipino Chronicle.

A big mahalo and thank you, Dr. Aquino, for your endless contributions to the newspaper and our community. We are pleased to dedicate this special HFC supplement to you for all that you’ve done to uplift our communities here and in the Philippines.

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