Polo great John Solomon Malina of Kauai

Born at Huleia, Kauai, John Solomon Malina (1885-1940) was for many years the head cowboy at Kipu Ranch, Kauai — a job he’d inherited from his father, John Malina — and was famous throughout the Islands as a great polo goal scorer and the only player of Hawaiian ancestry playing on a polo team in Hawaii during the early 1900s.

He was the hardest hitting player on the outstanding Kauai polo teams of that era, which played inter-island matches at Kapiolani Park, Honolulu, and whose other players were James Spalding, Jay Gould, Charles Rice, Harold Rice, Arthur Rice and Philip Rice.

Malina trained polo ponies as well, and teammate Charles Rice noted that Hawaiians on Oahu turned out in great numbers to root for the Kauai polo team — particularly for John Solomon Malina.

Besides gaining fame as a polo player, he was renowned on Kauai as a talented musician, a first-class cowhand and a skilled rodeo competitor.

John Solomon Malina and his wife, Louisa (Kaaihue) Malina, had five children: Lovaina, John “Pili” Solomon Malina, Harry, Emma and Kila.

His father — one of the first Filipinos to make his home in Hawaii — came to Hawaii in the 1860s as a member of a Filipino band touring the islands and settled on Kauai, where he married Keokilele, a Kauai Hawaiian, in 1866, and went to work for Kipu Ranch owner William Hyde Rice.

Since the senior Malina’s actual Filipino name was unpronounceable to Hawaiians on Kauai, they called him John at first, and then added Malina, their version of Manila, since he was Filipino.

John “Pili” Solomon Malina (1906-1968) also worked as a cowboy at Kipu Ranch, entered local rodeos, rode horses in parades, trained horses, hunted wild pigs, was a good baseball player and made his own rawhide ropes and whips.

“Pili” Malina rode a horse every day of the week, including Sundays, when his family would ride with him — and like his father, he played polo well.

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