May 9, 2011

Way to go and more— Americans of Philippine descent in Hawaii

Jun Colmenares
Charlene Cuaresma

Mila Kaahanui
Ruth Mabanglo

Raymund Liongson

BY:  Fil-Am Observer Staff
The current crop of appointees to the Abercrombie administration, appointments that have been approved by the state’s Senate, is an indication of the commitment to give voice to the people of the Philippines who have come to Hawaii and the United States and call this country their own homeland.

It is also an act of recognition of what the people of Philippine descent in the state can to the various groups making up the state’s demographics. 

Two of the appointees are executive directors of two important offices, the Office of Language Access and the Office of Community Services, both under the 
Department of the Labor and Industrial Relations; both have come all the way from the Philippine homeland to establish a life in these islands. 

Mila Medallion Kaahanui has been serving as the executive director of the Office 
of Community Services early this year. A veteran of the political life of the state, she has retired but was asked to return to public service. 

Jun Colmenares resumed his post as executive director of the Office of Language Access, a job he has held since being appointed to the position by then Gov. Linda Lingle in 2007. 

Raymund Liongson has been appointed member—as a volunteer commissioner—of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission.

Ruth Elynia Mabanglo has been appointed member of the advisory council of the 
Office of Language Access.

Charlene Cuaresma has been appointed member of the Board of Education, a 
policy-making body of the Department of Education.
Both Liongson and Mabanglo will serve until 2015 while, while Cuaresma will 
serve until 2013.
This development in the political life of the state signals a new confidence in the capability and confidence of the state government of the people of Philippine descent in the state. 

While the immigrant Filipinos have produced a governor in the Ben Cayetano
their participation in the political process including their inclusion in the actual decision-making processes relative to governance has been uneven.
An improvement in this political participation is urgent. 

With at least five Filipinos in some of the crucial areas that have impact on 
the lives of the people of Philippine descent, the future looks bright to other 
ethnic groups in the state.

Of the five newly appointed professionals, four of them are naturalized; only 
Cuaresma is born in Hawaii.
Kaahanui came to Hawaii armed with a college degree from the University of the 
Philippines; she went on to the University of Hawaii to finish a master’s degree 
in social work, and from then on worked to improve the lives of health care 
workers and health care providers as a social worker. 

Before her appointment to the OCS, Kaahanui was president of the Filipino 
Coalition for Solidarity, a cause-oriented, non-government group of Filipinos 
engaged in social activism. 
Both Cuaresma and Liongson had been president of FCS at one time.

Cuaresma, who holds a master’s in public from the University of Hawaii, has been in the forefront of public health education; she has served in various capacities at the Asian-American Network for Cancer Awareness and Research, 
including her current position as community director.

Mabanglo, who holds a doctorate from the Manuel L. Quezon University in the 
Philippines, is a professor of the University of Hawaii’s Indo-Pacific Languages 
and Literatures Department; she has been in the forefront of Philippine heritage 
education in this state.
Liongson, also a professor of the University of Hawaii’s Leeward Community 
College, holds a doctorate in philosophy from the University of the Philippines
He has been in the forefront of various issues and concerns in Hawaii including 
labor union and economic development, domestic violence, and international and 
heritage education.
Colmenares holds a master’s and a doctor’s degree in political science from the 
University of Delhi, and a master’s in public health from the University of Hawaii. He has served OLA as its director since 2007. 

With these competence professionals of Philippine descent being involved more 
and more in policy-making and in the running of the everyday operations of their 
respective offices, we see here a better inclusion and representation of Filipinos in this state.

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