Batanes reunion a first for Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i

Descendants of Filipinos from Batan Islands in the northern Philippines are holding a reunion on Kaua‘i this weekend.

The group began immigrating to Hawai‘i nearly 100 years ago to work on sugar plantations.

The Batanes were a lesser known and smaller group of Filipinos who came for a new life in Hawai‘i in the 20th century.

Most Filipino immigrants who came to Kaua‘i beginning in 1906 came from Ilocos Norte in Northern Luzon island, and from the Visayan Islands area in the south central area of the Philippines.

The Batanes trace their roots to pre-historic Taiwan immigrants and Spanish conquerors in the Pacific area. The Batanes islands are located about midway between the southern tip of Taiwan and the northern tip of Luzon.

Descendants of Batanes, who were also known as Ivatans, who settled on Kaua‘i have scheduled a social gathering at the Lihu‘e Neighborhood Center on the evening of July 18. A family picnic is scheduled to be held at Lydgate Park on Sunday, July 19.

The reunion is part of a string of reunions to being held this summer to recognize immigrants who came to Hawai‘i for agricultural work and to find a new home.

The Batanes reunion is the first attempt to reunite all the Hawai‘i Batanes who immigrated to Hawai‘i. More than 60 Batanes expected to attend the festivities.

The beginnings of the connection of the Batanes with Hawai‘i began when representatives for the Hawaii Sugar Planters Association recruited laborers in the Philippines to work in the sugar industry in Hawai‘i.

The first known laborers from the Philippines at large came to Hawai‘i on Dec. 10,1906.

It is not known how people from the Batan Islands, the most northernmost islands in the Philippine Islands, came to be recruited.

However, records show a few workers from the Batan Islands came to Hawai‘i in the initial wave of immigration. From 1916 to 1927, 275 Ivatan immigrants came to the islands.

Other Filipino groups mistakenly thought the Batanes were from Bataan, a peninsula located in the southwest district of Luzon Island, near Manila.

Although small in numbers, the Batanes remained in close contact with each other.

The Batanes who made Kaua‘i their new home settled in Koloa and Makaweli, with some eventually moving to Kaumakani.

Most worked for McBryde Sugar Company in Koloa, and for Gay and Robinson at Makaweli.

In addition to working for sugar companies, some Batan families worked in the pineapple industry on O‘ahu and Lana‘i. Other families moved to the Big Island to work in the coffee industry.

A few more Batanes arrived in Hawai‘i 1929. That wave of immigration ended by 1934, Johnny Rabasa, an organizer of the reunion, said.

For more information on the reunion, contact Johnny Rabasa at 245-1625 or Jo Nunes at 822-1910.

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