Aug 7, 2009

SESINANDO SAGAYAGA: He came to Hawai'i to live to the full

By Lucy Peros
Fil-Am Observer August 2009 Issue
Sakada Feature, Page 11

To talk stories with one of the few surviving sakadas of 1946 is a rare privilege. Apart from the joy and delight this experience brings is that chance to go down the memory lane, and together with the sakada recollecting, you get to experience what it was like to live in the plantations in the 50s and onwards.

Of late, I had this rare chance with Sesinando Sagayaga who came to Hawai’i on that last boat that would take him to the islands to work and find a life.

Born in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte on July 12, 1925, he left the Philippines on April 9, 1946 aboard the S.S. Maunawili, at Port Salomague in Cabugao, Ilocos Sur, the Philippines. He and the other prospective workers climbed a ladder made out of rope to get on the boat.

Upon arrival at the Kahului Harbor on April 27, 1946, Sesinando and the other sakadas were transported to Spanish B Camp in Puunene, by the old Holy Family Catholic Church. Hawaii Commercial and Sugar Co. (HC&S) provided all of their basic needs. Sesinando lived with several Sakadas in one house. Life at

Sesinando remembers this camp fondly. He says it was a very closed knit community where they shared many things with one another like a big family. They shared such things as vegetables that they gathered from the fields or from their backyard gardens. They slaughtered pigs or cows and shared the meat with everyone, when slaughtering was still a permissible backyard activity.

After six months at Spanish B Camp, Sesinando moved to Young Hee Camp, near the Hongwanji Church. He lived there until 1960 when the camps were being phased out.

While at HC&S, Sesinando first cut grass, joined the poison gang (that poisoned the weeds) and harvesting gang (that collected and piled up the sugar cane stalks to be picked up by the harvesting machine.)

Then he joined the replant gang—agsusuot, in the Ilokano language (that replaced the dead sugar canes). Finally, he joined the irrigation gang--the “agpadpadanum” (that directed the water flow to the fields).

His main area to work was where the Assembly of God Church and Home Depot are today. That area used to be all sugarcane fields. Julian Cabalo, his buddy, was with him with the irrigation gang. They were paid 43 cents per hour. If they worked more than 25 working days a month, then they would receive 7 cents bonus. He stayed in the irrigation department until his retirement in 1987.

At the camp, a store boy would go around and take orders from the sakadas. Their groceries would be charged from their paychecks.

With a big smile on his face, he remembers the past happily. He narrates of the social activities at the camp, and says: “There were lots of dancing, social boxes in which the men could make a bid. We would also pay for each dance. The money that’s produced from these social dances was given to the queen contestant—the candidata—of their choice. Some men got carried away in dancing too much that at the end of the month, they would have just a little or nothing at all on their paychecks.”

In October 1951, Sesinando decided to go back to the Philippines to marry a beautiful young lady, Dominga Dolores Yanos.

Yanos, a childhood acquaintance, was from Bacarra. That was also the first time that he set foot in Manila; as a child, he didn’t have the chance to go there.

With a twinkle in his eyes and with pride in his voice, he says that Dominga was so beautiful, loyal, and faithful that even though several young men in Bacarra wanted to court and marry her, she waited for him.

Upon arrival in Bacarra, “Nando” as he was fondly called, visited Dominga right away. Dominga and Sesinando were writing to each other when he was in Hawaii. They respected their tradition of “danon” or betrothal where the parents of the bride and groom got together, propose and arrange the wedding. It was a very happy time in Sesinando’s life. The wedding ceremony was held in a church in Bacarra and a grand reception was held at his house.

Sesinando came back to Hawaii on March 1952. Dominga followed him in 1955. They lived in Young Hee Camp until 1960.

Dominga and Sesinando were blessed with four very caring children. Their first child is Anita Fernandez, married to Clayton Fernandez. She works at the County of Maui. They have two children, Christina Parilla and Chad Fernandez.

Their 2nd child is Charles, married to Rose Sagayaga. He works for Arisumi Brothers. They have two children, Chris and Kaci.

Nancy Tanji is their 3rd child, married to Michael Tanji. She works at the County of Maui. Their 4th child is Shirley Carlisle, married to Jack Carlisle. She works at a dentist’s office in Indiana. They have three children, Mitchell, Meagan, and Matthew.

Sesinando’s advice to older folks is to enjoy their grandchildren.

His advice to young people is to get a good education; he believes that education will make the young people find a better job and that it is also the best inheritance parents could give to their children.

After more than half a century of blissful marriage, Dominga passed away in 2004.

Tata Sesinando, thank you for sharing with us your stories and that of Nana Dominga.

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