LIHU‘E — The Kaua‘i Filipino Chamber of Commerce (KFCC) held their annual, yet first virtual meeting on Tuesday night to announce their newly installed officers and directors. The meeting ended on a savory note with keynote speaker Sen. Ronald Kouchi.
“This has been overused, as far as the unprecedented times,” Kouchi said. “In 1982, when I first ran for the county council, right after getting elected, but we didn’t take office until Jan. 2, a few weeks later Hurricane Ewa hit the island of Kaua‘i. As I walked from one end of Kekaha to the other with my brother, I asked him, ‘Are you able to quit before we start?’
“The devastation that I have seen in Kekaha without seeing the whole island seemed like a daunting task. But the winds came, and the winds went, we could identify the damage and we could start the rebuilding,” said Kouchi.
10 years later, Kouchi was the council chairmen when Hurricane Iniki hit Kaua‘i, and on Sept. 11, 2001, when 9/11 hit and all planes got grounded.
“Whether it was the United Airlines strike, the Gulf war recessions, we certainty faced other tough times,” Kouchi said. “Getting appointed to the Senate in 2010, the very first budget we were $1.2 billion in the red. But by 2011 the tourist numbers were so fantastic that we got into the black immediately.”
Kouchi said the state from 2011 continued to break records year after year until the pandemic started.
“The unseen enemy, it hasn’t gone away, I can’t identify it and it’s a really incredible challenge trying to identify it,” Kouchi said. “We shut down the state capitol when we had one of our members test positive. We have other employees who tested positive and we have tried to follow protocols that CDC and the Health Department has put out.”
Kouchi continued by letting the members know what has been done from the capital’s efforts to the community’s collaborations.
“We have been working for two years now on getting the farm to fresh meals on hospital plates, in our prisons and in our schools.” Kouchi said. “It was amazing on all of the distribution systems that we been working on and set up were in fact critically important to deliver food to our community as we started having all of these food giveaways.
“We had USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) money where we had the boxes where we could purchase food from our local farmers,” said Kouchi.
Kouchi went on to share his concerns regarding quarantine’s impact on the Department of Education.
“It was frustrating to me in watching the Department of Education,” Kouchi said. “It was clear they were not prepared if we are going to be in distance learning. We all prefer to have students in the classroom. There is so much other learning that occurs besides what you read in the books. Social skills and personal interactions and the ability of the teacher to read body laughed of who may need help.”
Kouchi said he worked with three state representatives, Bill Arakaki, Paul Zina, and the 15 principals to raise over $600,000 to assist the public school students on Kaua‘i to be better prepared to deal with distance learning.
“There are some people who think I raised the money so I am pushing for distance learning and I don’t want students back in the classroom,” Kouchi said. “That’s not further from the truth. The best learning would be if students could be in the classroom with their teachers, but we need to ensure that it occurs in a safe way.”
Also at the meeting giving the president’s report was Randall Francisco, president of KFCC, followed by Bobby Ayonon with the foundation’s report and moderator Laurie Yoshida with the scholarship report and the announcement of the newly installed officers.
Normally, KFCC would host a lavish and stylish annual meeting with ono food, laughter, and physical recognition embraced with hugs, but the pandemic changed things.
To lighten the mood and continue the annual festivities vibe, Senator Kouchi was asked a question from the audience, “What is your favorite Filipino dish?”
“You know I was a simple guy that would eat chicken or pork adobo,” Kouchi said. “And then I did go to the Philippines they had a fish sausage that was really good. “I tried the crispy Pata done right is pretty amazing and then you need the vinegar onion sauce to dip the meat in, Lechon, but not the blood meat, too adventurous.”
Stephanie Shinno, features, education, business, and community reporter can be reached at 245-0424 or email@example.com.