“With my bare hands I helped build Hawai‘i. I plowed the lands for the canefields with mules, I cut cane, I hapaiko, carried cane and watered sugarcane. Das how life was...” So begins the tale of Lilo Bonipasyo, a Filipino contract worker who came to Hawai‘i from the Philippines in 1925. Between 1906 and 1946, over one hundred twenty five thousand Filipino sakadas, or contract workers, left their homes and families in the Philippines and immigrated to the Hawaiian Islands to work on sugar plantations owned by the Big Five sugar companies. Over the course of the twentieth century, their stories, legends, language, culture, and rituals have become intricately woven into the fabric of Hawai‘i’s multicultural community.
This colorful talk-story history of Lilo Bonipasyo is taken from personal conversations and stories gathered by the author beginning in the 1970s. Peppered with spicy local language and slang, his story is woven from a multitude of vivid images, taking the reader from the Philippines in the early 1900s, to sugar-rich Kohala on the Big Island in the 1920s through WWII, then on to rural Waimanalo, O‘ahu to the 1970s when more sugar plantations closed down.