LIHUE — When the Kauai Filipino Community Council was formed 55 years ago, the council probably celebrated Rizal Day back then, said Charlmaine Bulosan, the KFCC president, Sunday at the historic County Building.
“Today, and on Dec. 30, we celebrate the 119th anniversary of the death year of Dr. Jose Rizal, a Philippines national hero,” Bulosan said. “The tradition of celebrating Rizal Day was passed on to me by my father, Catalino Suero, and I will pass it on to my son, Dr. Addison Bulosan just as other leaders in the community have learned the tradition and will pass it on to the next generation.”
Bulosan said in partnership with the Kauai Filipino Women’s Club and other volunteer leaders, this year’s celebration was taken to the next level.
Dr. Antolin Apalla led an effort to refurbish the statue which was placed on the lawn of the Historic County Building to replace a bust of Rizal which was damaged by vandals. The effort of the volunteers who spearheaded the replacement and acquisition of the statue, including Bulosan’s father, was enhanced as the statue was given more than the customary “bath.”
Instead, the statue was given a new bronze coating, the floor of its enclosure was redone, and the outside landscaping saw the bougainvillea replaced with the sampaguita, the national flower of the Philippines which is known as the pikake in Hawaii. A new marker containing details of the national Philippines hero was installed and everything unveiled during the festive celebration. The dedication and unveiling of the makeover was enhanced by the colorful and elegant “Sampaguita” dance performed by the Bailes de Jose under the direction of Jose Bulatao and Alan Villaflor.
Norma Doctor Sparks said people who grow up in Hawaii may not be aware of Rizal’s significance to Filipinos.
“My father became a sakada, and my mother just supported him, meeting him at the Port Allen Harbor with four children,” Sparks said. “Rizal had a saying about people get ahead looking back from where they came from. I have been back to the Philippines many times, and I have learned the culture and continue to live it.”
Sparks said Rizal stood for peaceful disobedience and the equal treatment of the Filipino people while the Philippines was under Spanish rule. He was executed by firing squad on Dec. 30, 1896, at Bagumbayan which was later called Luneta, and eventually renamed Rizal Park in his honor, according to Philippine History.
“As a nationalist, Dr. Rizal remains an inspirational figure,” said Kaulana Finn, representing Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and repeating Spark’s quote from Rizal. “Continue to celebrate your cultural values so future generations can learn.”
Sparks said it was fitting of the celebration to have a poetry contest with a theme of heroes because writing poetry was among Rizal’s noted accomplishments.
“This was an amazing experience,” said Pearl Michel, a Kapaa High School student who earned first place with her piece, “Inside You,” submitted among the field of more than 20 entries from schools around the island. “I had to learn about him, and that was fascinating.”
Tori Refamonte, a student at St. Catherine’s School, finished with second-place honors, and Sophia Riley, an Island School student, pocketed the third prize from the KFCC.
Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. said he visited the Rizal Park on his trip to the Philippines where he came to realize the importance of Dr. Rizal to the Filipino people.
“If he were here today, he would be proud of the accomplishments of Filipino people in Hawaii,” Carvalho said. “At the forefront of recent accomplishments is the Filipino Cultural Center which will be built by the Filipino people, but for all of the community regardless of ethnic background.”
Senate President Ronald Kouchi said, “Dr. Rizal had a dream of a democratic Philippines. To everyone, live well — Dr. Rizal would be proud of the gift he has given each of you.”