When the Japanese Army invaded the Philippines in December 1941, Napoleon Comisap (1916-2000) — then residing in Laoag City with his wife, Dionisia, and infant daughter, Esmeralda — was called up by the 3rd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment, Philippine Army.
And when the war ended in 1945 he found himself with a wife and three small children to support, but no job in his war-torn homeland.
So, when he learned that Hawaii wanted 6,000 Filipino sakadas (Ilocano for “Filipino immigrant laborers”) for its sugar plantations, he signed up immediately.
“I had to find a prosperous living for my family. I knew I could not do it in the Philippines. We would have enough to eat, but that would be all. My wife did not want me to leave. She cried. But, I told her this is the best way,” he said.
He arrived in Hawaii on June 11, 1946, with 699 of his fellow compatriots after a 17-day voyage aboard the Matson ship Maunawili, and joined Lihue Plantation, where he eventually became a hana-wai man responsible for irrigating sugarcane fields.
Instead of returning home when his original three-year contract was up, he stayed on at Lihue Plantation with the goal in mind of saving money for his family in the Philippines until he reached the minimum plantation retirement-pay age of 55, when he planned to take his pension and retire to the Philippines.
During the 25 years he worked at Lihue Plantation, he sent thousands of dollars home to his wife, and with that money she built one of the finest houses in Laoag and purchased two parcels of land.
Comisap also helped his son, Ferdinand, and his wife, Erlinda, to come to Kauai, and his other son, Napoleon, Jr., also immigrated there.
Meanwhile, he continued to live frugally in an old plantation house at Hanamaulu Camp, the site of today’s Kalepa Village.
Finally, in 1971, he returned to the Philippines with his pension and savings, received his Social Security payments in due time, and lived there contentedly for the remainder of his life.
Hank Soboleski has been a resident of Kauai since the 1960s. Hank’s love of the island and its history has inspired him, in conjunction with The Garden Island Newspaper, to share the island’s history weekly. The collection of these articles can be found here: https://bit.ly/2IfbxL9 and here https://bit.ly/2STw9gi Hank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org