by Lucy Peros
Fil-Am Observer October 2010 Issue
Sakada Feature, Page 8
Juan Agpoon was not deterred by anything in his desire to come to Hawaii, having learned from neighbors and other Hawaiianos that a life could be found here in the islands.
There was no dependable transportation in those years. And so he had to climb mountains—stretches of them—from his hometown in Vintar, in Ilocos Norte to La Union where there, together with other young men—like his friend Juan Agbayani— ablaze with the dream of the good life, boarded the S. S. President Wilson.
Born on March 18, 1908 in Vintar, a small, rural town east of Laoag, he came to Hawaii in 1927 when he as only 19. One month of rough journey in the open seas was long even for a young man like him. But he found himself in a new land, and he liked what he found.
Juan moved to Maui soon after landing and worked at the Wailuku Sugar for ten years. Then he transferred to HC&S and worked there for 33 years until his retirement in 1973.
While at HC&S, he lived at Camp I close to where the airport is now. He earned $1.25 per day by cutting sugar canes. His last job before he retired was with the irrigation department; that job paid him $1.25 per hour. Because of the big strikes that took place during his employment at HC&S, two years were deducted from his years of service.
In 1964, Juan, at 58, was determined to go back to the Philippines to find a wife. It so happened that the late Rosa and Felix Bumanglag, (Juan’s good friends) of Haliimaile had a beautiful young niece, Eliza Lucas, who was from Laoag. Rosa showed Juan a picture of Eliza. Since then, Eliza and Juan became pen pals and they got to know each other through letters. In November 1966, Juan finally decided to check Eliza out. It was love at first sight! Her parents approved of the marriage. Their wedding ceremony took place at the Philippine Independent Church in Laoag; a grand reception took place in December 1966.
Juan came back to Hawaii in February 1967. Eliza followed him in June 1967. They lived in Spanish B from 1967-1975. Spanish B was located in Puunene near the mill. At this camp, they were neighbors to the late Esteban Calaro and the late Cirilo Sinfuego, Sr. They enjoyed living in Spanish B. Eliza mentioned that it was like living with one big family. Everybody knew everybody. They shared things with each other.
Juan, who passed away on December 22, 1979, and Eliza, were active members of Saranay Maui.
Juan and Eliza were blessed with 6 children. Johnson works at Dorvin Leis and Allied Building Maintenance(ABM); Elizabeth (who has a son, RJ Hernandez) works at Old Navy and ABM; Sanders (who has a child, Shandi) works at HC&S and ABM; Rose Marie works at the ABM office; Roque Charles (married to Amanda and by whom he has two children, Kiara and Kayla) works at Hawaiian Tel Com; and Sava James, a teacher at Kamehameha School on Oahu.
Elizabeth shared her fond memories about her Dad: “He was a hardworking man. I have often thought about him. He always brought goodies for us children when he came home from work. He loved fishing and gardening. He was a talented fishnet maker. His friends counted on him to fix their nets when theirs needed to be fixed. He made his own lead by melting old ones to make new ones. He used to catch tilapia, crayfish, etc. He planted varieties of vegetables in his garden. He raised chickens, goats, rabbits and pigs. He even rolled his own tobacco (pinadis) with real dried tobacco leaves from his Kihei friends. He enjoyed drinking his Sunny Brook liquor every so often. I miss my Dad. I wish he’s still around today.”
Eliza’s advice to young people is to go to school, find a good job and be only good friends. Her advice to older people is to be patient with grandchildren and give them good advice. She also adds that it is necessary for the senior citizens not to forget to love God and attend church services, and to exercise everyday.
Thank you Manang Eliza and Elizabeth for sharing with us your story about Tata Juan.