By Lucy Peros
Sakada Corner, Fil-Am Observer April 2010 Issue
Sakada Feature, Page 8
In 1946, the last batch of prospective plantations hands from the Ilocos that would eventually take root in Hawaii, thousands of men came to this place in search of light, in search of a better, more prosperous life.
While Laoag, where Juan Tangonan Domingo came from, had much promise in those days, with its fields laden with rice and corn and garlic, and rivers teeming with fish, it had not looked that way for younger men in search for something more beyond the confines of the same rivers, the same sea, the same fallowed fields.
Born in Santa Rosa, a barrio of that town, now a city, on June 20, 1920, he had no doubt that the promise of a land with its bounty would be found in Hawaii.
So at 26, in 1946, he boarded the same ship from Port Salomague, the same ship that would bring many other young men like him to Hawaii, to the plantation and sugarcane fields that appeared so vast one could not measure them with just the bare eyes. At the prime of his youth, he did not feel any discomfort while on board the ship; he volunteered to feed those who were seasick.
Upon his arrival on Maui, he was transported to Puunene, at the McGerrow Camp, where he would reside. McGerrow Camp was located across the HC&S Mill.
His first job was as an irrigator. He made sure that the water ran smoothly on the flumes and made sure that there was enough water for each field especially the ones with the young sugar cane.
Next, he went into harvesting canes, a backbreaking job because. In those times, there was no machinery to help them lighten their harvesting work. Each cane stalk is cut with a cane knife. Then they had to carry these on their backs to the train cars or trucks to be delivered to the mill.
Then he was then transferred to brooming, where he swept the left over sugarcanes. His salary when he first started working was a dollar per day. As years went by, his salary got a bit better. He retired in 1982 at age 62.
At 37, Juan decided to go back to the Philippines to find a wife. There were many young ladies that he met but they were too young. His siblings encouraged him to find and marry a more mature young lady. It so happened that in Nangalisan, Laoag, there was a 24-year old very beautiful young lady by the name of Rosalina “Saling” Tamayo.
Rosalina’s cousin, Federico Martillano and Juan’s aunt were both salespersons for a sewing machine company. They were both instrumental in introducing Juan to Rosalina and her parents. Juan and his parents and other elders went to propose to Rosalina and asked for her hand in marriage, in the old Ilokano way of the danon.
Rosalina accepted the proposal and their wedding was arranged. On February 23, 1957, Monsignor Cordero married them at San Guillermo Catholic Church. They had a grand reception in Santa Rosa, Laoag, Juan’s barrio.
Juan came back to Hawaii in April 1957. Their two older daughters, Sandra and Leilani followed him in 1973. In 1975, Rosalina and their other children followed. They all lived in McGerrow Camp until they moved to Kahului in 1976.
Juan loved to play the accordion. He was one of the members of a band with the late Francisco Melchor and other Sakadas. He died in 1999.
Rosalina is a very industrious woman like her husband. She first worked at the papaya farm before joining HC&S. She tells of her work there: “I enjoyed working there especially with my co-workers. We had fun even though we worked hard in the hot sun. We had to protect ourselves from the sun and the dust. No one would recognize us because our whole body is covered except our eyes. There’s so much dust on our backs that one could easily plant plants on them.”
The third child is Lorie Domingo who is married to Frederick Balos, by whom they have two children: Mikalella and Malia. She is a realtor in Henderson, Nevada.
The youngest child is Leo, a firefighter for the County of Maui.
Rosalina says: “I really wish that we had more money to help our children attain higher education. I am proud of them because with the little money that my husband and I were able to afford, they supplemented it by working as they studied.”
Sandra, their eldest, says of her parents: “Mom and Dad worked very hard for us. I don’t think I could do what they have done, working in the field in the hot sun day in and day out. I really appreciate their sacrifices and their giving us all the opportunity to explore the possibilities. I really thank them for all of the things they have done for us.”
With his love to his family back home, Juan was instrumental in petitioning his siblings and their families to come to Hawaii: Mariano, married to Florentina; Zoilo; and Modesta.
Now that she has retired, Rosalina has more time tending her garden and smelling the flowers.
Her advice to the youth is to be good and go to school. Her advice to her contemporaries is to go walking and exercise, eat healthy foods like vegetables and fish.
Thank you Manang Saling for sharing your story and that of Tata Juan.