Editor’s note: This is the second of two stories on Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste’s trip to the Philippines.
While in the Philippines, Baptiste said he got a glimpse of possible solutions to Kaua’i’s solid waste problem.
He said he visited a town called Bangued that has a population similar to that of Kaua’i County.
The town’s population generates only one ton of garbage a day, as compared with 240 tons of garbage generated daily on Kaua’i.
The major difference between the two places, Baptiste said, is that on Kaua’i, a lot of packaging is thrown out, whereas in the Philippines, paper goods are not used extensively.
While in Bangued, he said he also met with leaders of the local government and discussed their solid waste management plans, which include the opening of a new solid waste site.
“Their situation differs from ours in that they’re dealing mostly with compost,” he said, “although they intend to harvest methane gas and use it for power, which is something being examined here.”
Baptiste said he was greeted warmly everywhere he went.
He was presented keys to the city in Cebu, Manila and Urdaneta and resolutions were drawn up in his honor in Sinait and Urdaneta.
During the first leg of his journey, while he was part of Lingle’s delegation, hundreds of people turned out to celebrate their arrival in each town they visited.
“They treat dignitaries with huge fanfare,” Baptiste said. “It’s not like when their leaders come here. We only schedule short meetings with them.”
But having spent time in the Philippines has inspired him to focus more on fostering Kaua’i’s sister-city relationships, Baptiste said.
“I now understand the connectivity of sister-cities — the hearts of people and what they value — and I’d like to enhance these relationships,” he said. “We have a lot that we can share with them, e.g. medicine, infrastructure and education. It gives us the ability to reflect on what we have.”
While in Manila, Baptiste was introduced to the mayor of that city, Lito Atienza.
That mayor has a love for Hawai’i, he said. Atienza mentioned he lived in Honolulu for a few years and performed as a dancer in a troupe called Pearl of the Orient, Baptiste said.
“I think Mayor Atienza enjoyed living here and has fond memories of Hawai’i,” Baptiste said. “He wears an aloha shirt every day and gave all of his children Hawaiian names.”
Baptiste said he was impressed by how Atienza transformed a “slum-like” beachfront community in Manila into an “exotic, visitor-oriented district much like Waikiki.”
Baptiste said it was his impression that Filipinos never lose their love for the Mother-land.
Many Filipinos who emigrated to other countries are also quietly giving back to the communities they left behind, he said.
It is estimated that as much as $12 billion has been contributed to Filipino communities by those living abroad, a custom called “balikbayan,” Baptiste said.
“They’re heroes in their hometowns because of their generosity, and it wouldn’t have been possible if they didn’t move here (Kaua’i),” Baptiste said.
After living out of a suitcase for 16 days, Baptiste said he is glad to be home. “There’s no place like Kaua’i,” he said.
Visits to outlying areas in the Philippines reminded him of what Kaua’i was like 40 years ago, Baptiste said.
He said, “It is very rural there and people are so polite.
They address you as sir or ma’am.”
Visiting schools in the Philippines was heartwarming because of the cheerfulness of the children, but was heart-wrenching at the same time because of the conditions they have to endure, Baptiste said. “There’s no running water in the schools,” he noted.
Traveling to the Philippines and seeing first-hand what living conditions are like there, particularly in the outskirts, has helped him understand why so many people have made tremendous sacrifices and immigrated to Hawai’i, starting with the “sakadas” (field workers) over 100 years ago, Baptiste said. “They had a hard life,” he said.
Among the highlights of his trip, he said, was the opening of the photo and philatelic exhibit and award ceremony for the Hawai’i Centennial Stamp Design Competition in Manila.
Over 175 entries were submitted in two categories — student and professional — and at least one in each category will be reproduced and utilized as Philippine stamps, Baptiste said.
In December, the photo and philatelic exhibit will be sent to Hawai’i for a showing.
As a member of Lingle’s contingent for nine days, Baptiste traveled by bus to eight cities: Cabugao, Cebu, Dagupan, Laoag City, Manila, Makati, San Fernando and Vigan.
Baptiste said that part of the trip was “protocol-based,” making stops with dignitaries.
For the remainder of his trip, Baptiste visited leaders of Kaua’i’s sister cities: including Santa Municipality in the Province of Ilocos Sur, Banqued Municipality in the Province of Abra and Urdaneta Municipality in the Province of Pangasinan.
Baptiste said he liked this part of the trip better because he was able to meet the common folks and to talk story.
Baptiste was accompanied to the Philippines by Executive Assistant Kaui Tanaka, Soncy Tamashiro, an administration officer, and Domi Bucasas, who works in the Kaua’i County Finance Real Property Division.
A total of $12, 842 was used to cover the travel costs of the Kaua’i contingent.
- Lester Chang, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and lchang@ kauaipubco.com.