Members of the United Filipino Council of Hawaii recently recognized 16 Outstanding Filipinos of the Year at a gathering at the Renaissance Ilikai Hotel in Waikiki.
The Progress Award is a recognition of the many and varied achievements and talents of people of Filipino ancestry in Hawai‘i.
Three of those honorees are from Kaua‘i: Elesther “Lester” Calipjo, entrepreneur; Dr. Ramon de la Pena, government service; and Jose E. Bulatao Jr. humanitarian.
The United Filipino Council of Hawaii is an umbrella organization of all the Filipino community councils in the state, including the Kauai Filipino Community Council.
The purpose of this statewide council is to unite people from different regions of the Philippines, promote pride in their cultural differences, assist each other in solving common problems, and stimulate activities that would enhance productive membership in a diverse society.
The annual Progress Award is a recognition of notable activities of different individuals and their significant contributions to Hawai‘i.
This year, awards were given also in the areas of healthcare and medicine, community service, travel and hospitality, law and jurisprudence, labor and construction, media and communication, science and technology, and sports.
Outstanding high school and college youth were also recognized.
De la Pena was born and raised in San Jacinto, Pangasinan, Philippines. He worked his way through college and graduate school, working as a student laborer when he was at the University of the Philippines-Los Banos, working for his bachelor’s degree.
He came to the University of Hawai‘i as a part-time graduate research assistant, and finished his master’s degree work in plant physiology in 1964, and his doctorate in agronomy and soil science in 1967.
He published over 80 scientific papers on crop production, including fertilizer requirements, irrigation, weed control, mechanization, variety evaluation, and improvement through breeding of taro.
Aside from his research works, he has served as consultant to the World Bank, USAID, and other organizations on tropical-crop production all over the tropics. He has worked with farmers in Asia, Latin America, and the South Pacific, helping them improve their crop production.
An avid advocate of education, he continues to encourage young students to pursue higher education. He served on the scholarship committees of the Kauai Pangasinan Association and the Kauai Filipino Chamber of Commerce.
Currently, he is the Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau member of the University of Hawai‘i board of regents, Wilcox Memorial Hospital board of directors, and Kaua‘i County Charter Review Commission. He is also a member of the Kauai Filipino Centennial Celebration Committee.
Calipjo is a young entrepreneur who epitomizes the qualities that one needs to become a successful individual. He is dedicated, responsible, and one who possesses high business ethics.
He is the president of GK’s Janitorial & Landscaping, Inc., owns Calipjo Trucking Company, and is president and trustee of Calipjo Properties.
He was born and raised in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, Philippines, and attended Northwestern University in the Philippines, majoring in mechanical engineering.
As a young man, he worked in his father’s retail sawmill store. He migrated to Kaua‘i in 1985 to marry his fiancee.
That year, he started working as a landscaper and a houseman at Coco Palms Hotel. He moved to the Westin Hotel (now the Kaua‘i Marriott Resort & Beach Club) as a lead storekeeper.
Believing that success can only be achieved through hard work and perseverance, he opened his own landscaping and janitorial services company in 1991.
The following year, he started his plumbing business.
In 1998, he established a trucking company. Calipjo Properties, founded in 2000, now owns the Pumehana Commercial Building on Hardy Street in Lihu‘e. A self-made man, Calipjo lives with his wife Mila and their four children in Lihu‘e.
He is a recipient of the Kauai Filipino Chamber of Commerce’s Entrepreneur of the Year and Distinguished Service Award.
Bulatao is a graduate of the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, with a bachelor’s degree in education. He was an educator for 31 years, teaching in public schools and at Kaua‘i Community College, retiring in 1990 to take care of his ailing mother.
He became involved in many community and cultural activities, and founded, directed and choreographed the Bailes de Jose Troupe, and established Bailes de Oro Troupe for senior citizens.
Perhaps the contributions of Bulatao can best be measured by the longevity of his commitments and involvement: as a composer, he continually comes up with new compositions with songs of love and loving, perpetually inspiring fresh lyrics and melodies for his choir members; as a community advocate, he is the spokesperson for boaters and fishermen lobbying for the restoration of state small-boat harbors, and acts as mediator seeking solutions for various issues that affect them; as a choreographer, director and producer, he has directed plays and musicals, and coordinated pageants and concerts for local and national organizations, as their creative guru; as a citizen, he has involved himself with health concerns, stewardship responsibilities, planning, implementing and coordinating events, with diligence, credibility, compassion, faith and trust for those with whom he had the privilege to work in pursuit of the goals they hope to attain.
Rudy Sina is an active member of the Kaua‘i Filipino community, and lives in Lihu‘e.