Apr 14, 2009

Loreto Sistoza Solanzo: "Living and Loving, Cabugao-Style"


By Lucy Peros
Sakada Corner, April 2009 Issue
Fil-Am Observer, Sakada Feature, Page 9





A young man from Cabugao, Ilocos Sur, Philippines came to Hawaii to find a better life for himself and for his family. This young man was Loreto Solanzo.

Born on October 24, 1922 and eldest of three siblings, he became the head of his family and its breadwinner when during World War II, the invading Japanese in the Philippines killed his father.

When recruiters from the Hawaii Sugar Planters Association arrived in the Philippines to enlist strong young men to come and work in the pineapple and sugarcane plantations here in Hawaii, Loreto considered it as an opportunity to find a better life. He signed up promptly.

On January 31, 1946, Loreto, together with many other sakadas, left Port Salomague in Cabugao, Ilocos Sur, Philippines, aboard the S.S. Maunawili. The sea voyage took them 16 days.

They landed in Hilo first where some of the men were assigned to work in the plantations there. Then S.S. Maunawili proceeded to Maui. Loreto Solanzo and his friend, Ernesto Guerrero, who is still living today, were among the hundreds of men that were stationed on Maui, specifically in Lahaina, to work for Pioneer Mill. They lived in Pu’ukoli’i Camp located across the Royal Lahaina Hotel.

Loreto’s first job involved the preparation of the field for sugarcane planting. Next, he was promoted to truck driving that involved his picking up of the workers and then dropping them off to their workstations. He stayed in that job until several years after, he was promoted to haul cane truck driving until his retirement in 1982.

As a sakada recruit and as part of his contract, he was given a free six-month vacation to the Philippines so that in 1956, Loreto decided to go back to the Philippines, with the intention of finding a wife, a soulmate.

It so happened that there was a beautiful, intelligent young teacher from Cabugao, his neighbor, who graduated from Ilocos Norte Normal School (now called Mariano Marcos University), named Commemoracion “Cion” Sabio. But the only problem was that Cion was teaching in Davao, Philippines, a thousand miles and a sea away. Cion had been a teaching there for thirteen years.

But fate or coincidence came into play in the life of Cion and Loreto.
Cion’s oldest sister’s husband and Loreto’s father are brothers. That oldest sister has a daughter named Irene, Cion’s niece, and Loreto’s cousin. What made it even more exciting was that Irene was also Cion’s co-teacher in Davao. Apparently, Irene had been corresponding with her cousin Loreto who was then vacationing from Hawaii. Cion took a vacation to Cabugao and when she went to her oldest sister’s house to visit, Loreto was also there.

Loreto must have fallen in love with Cion the minute he saw her. Soon after that first meeting, he and his mother went to Cion’s house to ask her father and mother for her hand in marriage. It so happened that Cion’s brother, then Vice Mayor Santos Sabio was present at the time Loreto proposed to marry Cion. He told Loreto to go back after three years to marry his sister Cion.

In actuality, Cion’s parents liked Loreto to marry their daughter because they felt that he came from a good family background. Besides, they did not want Cion to go back to Davao if possible.

But Cion wanted to go back to Davao to teach; there she had many admirers. Her parents managed to convince her to marry Loreto. Her brother Santos also approved of the marriage. In fact with Cion’s sufficient teaching certification, he was able to help her find a teaching position in Cabugao.

On April 22, 1957, Loreto and Cion had a grand wedding reception in Cabugao. After two months, Loreto’s vacation was expiring. He needed to come back to Hawaii. Cion remained in Cabugao to teach. In 1960, Loreto went back to the Philippines to visit.

Cion followed Loreto to Hawaii in June 1963. They lived in Pu’ukoli’i Camp. They shared a house with another family. They shared a kitchen and an outhouse. They raised their own vegetables. Every Sunday, they slaughtered a pig to be shared with the neighbors. In those days, it was okay to slaughter animals in the backyard. In Pu’ukoli’i Camp, they were able to have chicken fights with no problems. In those days, the fights were part of social gathering. It was also comparable to our open markets today, only smaller with people selling cooked foods, desserts, vegetables, etc. After the cockfight, the men and their wives often brought the losing roosters to Cion and Loreto’s home to be cooked. They all enjoyed the roosters for dinner.
Cion held a variety of jobs. She worked as a room maid at Sheration Hotel for only a day. At Ben Franklin, she was in sales, a teacher’s aide at Kamehameha III School, H & R Block as a tax Preparer, and at Royal Lahaina Hotel in retail sales where she retired in 1993.

In the 1970’s, Pu’ukoli’i Camp was being phased out. Loreto and Cion Solanzo moved to Upper Kelawea Mauka, Lahaina. Unfortunately, Loreto passed away on December 12, 1982 after a brief illness.

Loreto and Cion were blessed with three lovely daughters. All three daughters graduated from the University of Hawai’i, Manoa Campus. Single-handedly, financially, physically, and spiritually, Cion supported her three daughters. These three bright girls were able to receive numerous scholarships and grants to help them with their college finances.

Janet Lendio, the oldest and married to Terence Lendio, have two children. Janet manages the ABC Store at the Lahaina Cannery Mall.
Lorna Dotomain, the middle daughter and married to Walter Dotomain, is a Supervisor at the Bank of Alaska in Soldotna, Alaska. She and Walter have two children.

Lorelle Peros, the youngest, and married to Gregory “Jay” Peros, is an assistant professor of Maui Community College. Lorelle received her Masters Degree in Business Administration from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. She and Jay have two children.

Cion has been an active member of the Lahaina-Honolua Senior Citizens’ Club, Kaunoa’s Senior Services, and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program. She also attends the Nutrition Program at the West Maui Senior Center. She is an active member of the Sacred Heart Society and the Filipino Catholic Club and attends the Maria Lanakila Church where she serves as Eucharistic minister and choir member. She has traveled throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and the Holy Land.

Cion’s advice to older people: Be active and join the Senior Citizens Club to meet old friends and make new ones. Get involved in church activities. Enjoy life to the fullest.

Her advice to the younger generation: Respect and honor your parents. Go to school, set goals, and work hard. Find a way to give back to your community. Refrain from taking drugs, drinking alcohol, and smoking. Be an asset to the community and not a liability.

Nana Cion, thank you for sharing with us your story and that of Tata Loreto.***

[imposte ni Rudy Ram. Rumbaoa/4.14.09]
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