Kauai hermit Alejandro Abuan

In 1922, Filipino immigrant Alejandro Abuan (1894-unknown) — shy by nature and already dissatisfied with society, but most immediately fearful of being forced to participate in an impending labor strike — quit work in Wailua Homesteads and began living in the mountains above Hanalei.

He took with him only the $187 in cash he’d saved, and a prayer book and a cane knife, and went on to spend the next 15 years as a hermit residing in the mountainous, uninhabited regions of Hanalei, Waialeale, Waimea, Kokee and the Na Pali.

His beard grew long, he wore clothes he made from burlap sacks abandoned in cane fields, ate wild goats and pigs he caught in snares and killed with his cane knife, and trained himself to catch fish by hand in forest streams, while supplementing his diet with wild fruit.

At night, after wrapping himself in burlap blankets for warmth, he would sleep in caves, or would climb a tree, tie himself to its branches with vines and sleep safely.

Wild dogs were his enemies, and more than once, after being chased and treed by them, he would wait for hours until they left, but there were also times he had to fight them off with the cane knife.

Abuan’s friends were the birds, with whom he would talk to, and would play with and they would sit on his shoulder or hand.

During his years as a hermit he never spoke with the rare hunters he encountered, but he did become friends with five Hawaiians — three men and two women, hermits like himself, dressed in bark clothing — that he once met living in a cave by a nearby taro patch.

When he was sick, he read from his prayer book.

Loneliness finally broke him though in April 1937 — albeit temporarily — when at age 43, he shaved and bought clothing, obtained a job with Lihue Plantation and settled for spell in Lihue Camp, where he told his story.

Yet, before the month was over, he’d returned to the mountains and vanished.


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