The Kaua‘i Filipino Rizal Day celebrations of 1936

On Jan 1 and 2, 1936, hundreds of Filipinos participated in a two-day Rizal Day celebration on Kaua‘i in honor of Dr. José Rizal (1861-1896), a Filipino nationalist during the later years of Spain’s 333-year rule in the Philippines and a hero of the Filipino people.

Moreover, Rizal was a renaissance man — well-educated, sophisticated and talented, with expertise in many different fields of study.

He painted, sketched, made sculptures and woodcarvings, and was a prolific poet, essayist and novelist.

Through his writings, Rizal advocated political reforms, which inspired the Philippine Revolution of 1896 through 1898 and ultimately led to his execution by the Spanish colonial government for the crime of rebellion.

The Kaua‘i Rizal Day festivities of 1936 featured a parade, a bicycle race, amateur boxing, a military drill competition and the coronation of the Rizal Day queen.

Presogono Tumimbang of Kipu led a field of seven and covered the eight-mile distance between Kapa‘a and Lihu‘e in 32 minutes in winning the cross-country bicycle race.

Miss Esperanza Zabala of Kekaha was crowned the Rizal Day Queen and was honored with an elaborate ceremony consisting of songs, speeches and musical selections by orchestras and bands on the evening of Jan. 1 at the Lihu‘e Park Athletic Field, which was then located approximately in the locale now occupied by the Lihue Civic Center Pi‘ikoi Building and adjacent parking areas.

Boxing was also held at the Lihu‘e Park, as well as a drill competition between the Kekaha and Lihue “armies,” with the Kekaha group winning a prize of $50.

A parade through Lihu‘e took place on the morning Jan. 2, with two floats taking part, and with the Mana Band attracting the attention of everyone with its elegant uniforms and excellent music.

In 1979, a bust of Rizal, intended to honor Filipino immigrants to Hawai‘i and donated by Imelda Marcos, wife of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, was unveiled on the lawn of the Historic County Building.

It was vandalized and toppled in 1982 and was replaced by the statue standing in its place today.

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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 hssgms@gmail.com

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