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Philippines, U.S. kick off year-long celebration marking in Hawaii

A celebration marking the contributions and historical legacy of 15 industrious men who were the…

A celebration marking the contributions and historical legacy of 15 industrious men who were the first Filipinos to migrate to Hawaii 100 years ago, commences in December 2005. The opening centennial ceremonies, with top governmental dignitaries from both the U.S. and the Philippines, will kick off with special events on Dec.10, 2005 in Honolulu, followed by festivities taking place on the “Big Island” of Hawaii on Dec. 17. The Honorable Joseph H. Durano, Secretary of Tourism of the Philippines will represent President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at all ceremonies.

The initial group of agricultural workers (sakadas), recruited by the Hawaii Sugar Planters Association, reached Oahu on Dec. 20, 1906 aboard the SS Doric. Today, the “Aloha State” boasts a strong Filipino-American community and presence, and according to census figures in 2000, more than 170,000 Filipinos make up roughly 14 percent of the population. Planned activities throughout 2006 in Hawaii and the Philippines will draw attention to the start of the migrations and their subsequent cultural and economic impact. A Filipino Centennial Celebration Commission has been established in Hawaii for its year-long schedule of events.

On Dec. 10, 2005, the formal opening program at the Hawaii Convention Center will include official proclamations by top Philippine and Hawaiian representatives, a cultural tableau depicting arrivals of the first Filipino sakada; and recognition of Filipino immigrant waves that came later. In the evening, a Commemorative Dinner will be held at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel and will feature a speech by the President of the Philippines to be delivered by Philippine Tourism Secretary Joseph H. Durano; recognition of surviving sakadas and relatives of sakadas; and entertainment by a top performing artist from the Philippines. The program will also see the island launch of the first volume of a Filipino Centennial Celebration commemorative book.

On Dec. 17, 2005, the observances shift to the “Big Island,” specifically to Mile 8.5, leading to Ke`eau Town, south of Hilo, the site of the former Ola`a Sugar Plantation – where the first Filipino sakadas were assigned. Highlights include the unveiling of a sakada marker, formal speeches, recognition of surviving or relatives of sakadas, and a special luncheon. A sakada exhibit at the island’s Lyman Museum will commence later that same day.

Throughout 2006, Hawaii will see the visit of prominent entertainers from the Philippines at scheduled festivals and musical presentations held in connection with the milestone year. Similarly, special events linked to the centennial will also be held in the Philippines.

“The centennial observances fit well into our 2006 tourism year and provide added interest for residents and tourists alike, not only in our country, but in Hawaii thanks to our shared involvement,” notes Joseph “Ace” H. Durano, Secretary of Tourism of the Philippines.

Closing two-day ceremonies in Honolulu will include a major trade exposition and conference, parades, fireworks and more.

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