Dignitaries, students honor Jose Rizal

LIHUE — Members of the Waimea High School Bayanihan Club made their first appearance at this weekend’s Rizal Day and Holiday Party celebration at the Jose Rizal statue on the lawn of the historic County Building.

“Our teacher saw the article in the newspaper and suggested we attend,” said Erika Esposo, the Bayanihan Club president. “We made lei Friday night, using items we got from asking neighbors for donations to present during this celebration.”

More than 50 people, including dignitaries representing the Mayor’s Office, the Kauai County Council and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, took time Saturday to pay tribute to Jose Rizal, a Philippines national hero, for his life and works.

Sheena Juliano, the 2016 Miss Kauai Filipina, said Rizal was arrested after publishing his second novel because government officials believed his words would incite revolution.

“Being born and raised in Hawaii, learning about Rizal was not required,” said Charlmaine Bulosan, the president of the Kauai Filipino Community Council. “To us, he was just a statue on the lawn of the historic County Building. It was not until we took a trip to Philippines where we saw, in Luzon, many statues and buildings in his honor. This led us to research this man and learn that despite adversity, he gave people hope for the future.”

Bulosan acknowledged the volunteer effort of Dr. Antolin Apalla, his son A.J., and Adams Bulosan for maintaining the statue.

Kaulana Finn, noting her Filipino lineage, delivered Gabbard’s remarks which included an anecdote on Rizal’s childhood.

“He felt overshadowed by his sisters,” Finn said. “One day, while they were molding statues, his sisters made fun of him and started teasing him. ‘All right,’ Rizal said. ‘Laugh at me now. One day, we’ll see if people make statues of you.’”

Hawaii Senate President Ron Kouchi echoed the sentiments of Barbara Green, president of the Kauai Filipino Women’s Club, host of the Rizal Day ceremony.

“As Barbara said, the best path to peace is to understand each other,” Kouchi said. “It is important that we understand other cultures. We look to Rizal as an example in these times of turmoil and hate that is in the media. We seem to have forgotten how to be civil to each other.”

Derek Kawakami, representing the Kauai County Council, said Rizal used peace and culture to fight injustice — a true hero to the world, and peace.

“He was a good person,” said Loea Keana‘aina, a fourth-grade student who sat quietly in the back during the Rizal Day observance. “I just came on my own.”

The event was co-hosted by the Kauai Filipino Women’s Club and the Kauai Filipino Community Council.

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