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Remembering Hawaiʻi's first Filipino plantation workers on Sakada Day

122022 Sakada monument Romel Dela Cruz
Romel Dela Cruz

It was over a century ago that 15 Filipino plantation laborers, called sakadas, arrived in Honolulu on Dec. 20, 1906. Over the next four decades, the Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association heavily recruited Ilocanos from the Philippines to work in pineapple and sugar plantations throughout the islands.

Paʻauilo resident Romel Dela Cruz, a descendant of sakadas, shared family stories with The Conversation on Sakada Day. His maternal grandfather was the first to arrive in 1918, followed by six uncles. His father finally arrived in 1946 with the last wave of sakadas.

Hawaiʻi’s last two remaining sakadas are in their late 90s and live on the Big Island in Pepe’ekeo and Mountain View.

Maribel Apuya’s documentary "The Sakada Series" captures the struggles and successes of the sakadas, and the second-generation Filipino-American experience.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Dec. 20, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Lillian Tsang is the senior producer of The Conversation. She has been part of the talk show team since it first aired in 2011. Contact her at
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