Sep 4, 2009
CARLOS C. DEGRACIA
A Santa Maria Boy Comes to Hawai'i
By Lucy Peros
Sakada Corner, Page 8
Fil-Am Observer September 2009 Issue
Carlos C. Degracia was a young boy of thirteen when he came to Hawaii from Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur, Philippines in 1925.
His uncle, Anselmo Adarna, an “old timer” who came to Hawaii in the early 1920’s to work in Pahoa Sugar Plantation on the Big Island of Hawaii, petitioned for him to come and join him. Anselmo, likewise, was Carlos’ brother-in-law: Anselmo was married to Carlos’ sister.
As soon as he arrived, Carlos started to work in the Pahoa Sugar Plantation in Hilo, Hawaii. It was a difficult job for him. Anselmo knew this difficulty, a knowledge that would lead him to an idea of putting up a business for Carlos to tend.
Anselmo moved his family including young Carlos to Lahaina, Maui; there, he older man opened a general merchandise store. That merchandise store, located on Front Street, was called Nita’s Store. They were one of the first Filipino business owners on Maui. They sold vegetables, meats, even watches, and beds. Carlos worked with his brother-in-law and sister at the store. His job was to deliver goods to people’s homes at the plantation. In those days, people may place an order of the things they need and Carlos would deliver these to their homes.
In 1952, Carlos decided to visit his family in the Philippines. At about the same time, there was a beautiful young student nurse by the name of Eleuteria “Ella” Antonio. She was about to pass her nursing board exam and civil service exam at that time. As a student under a work-study program of the University of Santo Tomas, Ella was also experienced as a nurse.
Fate came into play in Carlos and Ella’s lives. She neither knew Carlos nor met him before. Ella was a goal-oriented person and she knew what she wanted to do in life. After graduation, she wanted to get out of the Philippines and find a better life abroad. Carlos’ eldest sister was the wife of the uncle of Ella. When Carlos visited his sister’s family, he saw a picture of Ella. At that instant, he fell in love with Ella even though he never met her yet. After finding more about her, he resolved to marry her. He had the elders talk to her to persuade her to marry him.
To Ella, she thought that this could be the answer to her prayer of going abroad. She wanted to bring her family to Hawaii.
She accepted the Carlos’ marriage proposal. The elders planned the wedding celebration. On May 19, 1952, at Espiritu Santo Catholic Church in Rizal Avenue, Manila, they were married. Carlos came back to Hawaii in June 1952. Ella followed him on November 2, 1952.
Upon arriving in Maui, Ella and Carlos lived behind Nita’s Store where Carlos worked. Ella worker at the Pioneer Mill Company Hospital in Lahaina, the first Filipino nurses to do so. She worked there until 1955.
After that, she worked at the Maui Memorial Hospital as private duty nurse. She even took care of the late Eddie Tam. She even took a job at the Crafts Drug in the Lahaina Shopping Center. In 1968, she became the late Dr. Jose Romero’s nurse until 1996 when Dr. Romero died.
Carlos and Ella had a great life together. Unfortunately, Carlos passed away in 1979 on his birthday.
Carlos and Ella Degracia were blessed with two daughters. Their first daughter is Joanna Lynn, who is married to Harris Chang. They have two children, Thadd Carl and Kerstie Lynn. Joanna works for a Computer System Company in Honolulu.
Shelley Grace Degracia-Hoyer is their second daughter. She was married to the late Richard Hoyer. They have one daughter, Melissa Elizabeth Hoyer. Shelley works for American Express as travel coordinator.
Ella’s advice to her contemporaries: forget what happened in the past and live in the present. Love one another and be friends with one another, as God loves us. Forgive each other for life is too short.
Her advice to the younger generation: to the girls, wear modest clothing. Don’t flirt with the boys too much. To both sexes, use your freedom wisely especially with the opposite sex.
Both Carlos and Ella Degracia were active members of the Kahului Community Association, Saranay Maui, and USDIR (United Sons and Daughters of Ilocano Region). In 2007, Ella was an outstanding older American Nominee for volunteerism.
Nana Ella, thank you for sharing with us your stories and that of Tata Carlos.