Grandma Mercy - Visit Hawaii - Visit Kauai - Kapaa Kauai - Island life

During my last trip to Oahu, I stayed with my aunt, uncle, and great Aunt Mercedes (we call her Grandma Mercy). I grew up hearing from my parents that my Grandma Mercy was born on a plantation in Hawaii. So I decided to finally ask my aunt how my Grandma Mercy got to Hawaii and this is the story she shared with me:  

Grandma Mercy - Visit Hawaii - Visit Kauai - Kapaa Kauai - Island life

My Grandma Mercy was born on a sugar cane plantation in Kapa’a, Kauai in 1928.

Her mother Flora (my great, great Aunt) and her uncle (her mother’s brother) were recruited by the Hawaiian Sugar Cane Planters Association (HSPA). Apparently large ships came to the Philippines to recruit Filipino workers to meet the labor demands of the sugar field industry. The sugar cane industry promised a better life to the Filipinos. When the ships came, Flora and her brother didn’t have time to tell their parents they were going to journey to Hawaii. They saw the ship and boarded it together. Flora was only 14-15 years old at the time.

Grandma Mercy - Visit Hawaii - Visit Kauai - Kapaa Kauai - Island life

A Quick History on How Filipinos Made their way to Hawaii…

Between 1900- 1930, over 100,000 Filipinos immigrated to Hawaii to work the fields. Thousands of Filipinos left the Philippines seeking a better life. Many left their homeland in hopes of saving up and returning home to build their lives.

Several things contributed to this incredible migration. First the Chinese Exclusionary Act of 1882 banned Chinese and Japanese workers from immigrating to the United States. Since the Philippines was a US territory (1898-1946), it was technical legal to hire Filipinos to work the fields.

Additionally, Filipinos were the cheapest form of labor, even with the free boat ride the HSPA provided to Hawaii. The HSPA preferred to hire uneducated workers who weren’t aware they could ask for better working conditions and legal rights. These Filipino workers worked at 10-12 hours a day, 6 days a week, and only took home 90 cents a day. It wasn’t until 1920 until the Filipinos and Japanese laborers banded together to demand higher wages and remove wage discrimination based on ethnicity. (Source A)

Lastly, since the Philippines was an agrarian society, the sugar cane industry thought they would make great field hand workers.

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When my Grandma Mercy was a year or two old, her father died.

My aunt who was telling me the story doesn’t exactly know what happened to him. My great, great Aunt Flora was left with three children under the age 4. She decided that she couldn’t raise her children on a sugar cane plantation. Especially since in the 1920s, men out numbered women 7 to 1. She made the decision to take her three children on the several month long boat ride back to the Philippines.

My Grandma Mercy, her sister, and brother grew up in the Philippines. And years later when she started her own family, her mother told her that she was an American citizen since she was born on US territory and Hawaii became a state. (Hawaii became a US territory in 1898 and an official state in 1959).

Grandma Mercy - Filipino Hawaii History - hawaii sugar cane plantation - how filipinos got to hawaii - labor migration to hawaii

Her mother encouraged her to go back to Hawaii and bring her family over to the United States.

So in 1970s, my Grandma Mercy journeyed back to Hawaii. She got her papers straightened out and brought her family over. A decade later, she convinced my grandpa (my father’s dad) to also come to Hawaii. Since my grandpa had fought in WW2 with the Americans against Japanese forces, he also had the opportunity to fight for his US citizenship. My grandpa immigrated to Hawaii and went to live with my Grandma Mercy and her family (my aunt who was telling me the story).

My grandpa went on to work with Senator Daniel Inouye and petitioned his children (my dad and his brothers) to receive US citizenship. Since my dad was the youngest and the only minor, he immigrated to Hawaii first at 17 years old. My uncles and aunt came shortly after. But my dad, grandpa, and all his brothers and sister lived with my Grandma Mercy’s family.

My Grandma Mercy and Hawaii served as the the pathway from the Pacific to the United States for my family.

Grandma Mercy - Filipino Hawaii History - hawaii sugar cane plantation - how filipinos got to hawaii

Grandma Mercy - Filipino Hawaii History - hawaii sugar cane plantation - how filipinos got to hawaii

I was blown away when my aunt shared with me my Grandma Mercy’s story and her efforts to bring our family over to the United States. I knew I had to record and publish a piece of my family’s history. So when I become the great, great aunt or grandmother one day, my great, great grandkids will know how our family came over from the Philippines, to Hawaii, to the mainland.

Today, my grandma Mercy is 90 years old.

She still lives on Oahu with my Aunt and Uncle and we visit her when go back to the island! Thank you Grandma Mercy for everything you’ve done for our family! We love you!

Grandma Mercy - Filipino Hawaii History - hawaii sugar cane plantation - how filipinos got to hawaii

Grandma Mercy - Filipino Hawaii History - hawaii sugar cane plantation - how filipinos got to hawaii

Coming Full Circle – and back to Kauai

This past December/January, I traveled to Kauai for the first time. I got to visit Kapa’a – the town where Grandma Mercy was born. (All of these photos in these post were taken in Kapa’a!) Seeing Kauai meant so much more to me knowing my Grandma Mercy’s story.

So I encourage you today to ask your parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and great aunts/uncles, their stories. How did they get to where they live today? What major moves did your family take? Why did they move? Hopefully you learn something new or where your family was in specific periods of history!

Thank you for reading!

Love,

Emma

Photos: Mallory Francks

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Happy Galentine’s Day to the girl boss!

This Galentine’s Day I wanted to give a special out to any girl boss out there. My girlfriends/girl bosses(both in real life and on Instagram) are incredible. Some of them are bloggers, lawyers, engineers, and project managers. Some of them are going back to school to further their education and careers and some of them balance being a mom with careers. I’m thankful that the women in my life are smart, creative, and incredibly supportive. 

My friend Ribicca from Amro Menor is the definition of a girl boss.

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Not only does she work full time as a merchandise analyst, but she takes incredible trips and blogs about travel and fashion. She recently completed a coding program and is looking into graduate programs to further her coding/UX design skills. I’m so thankful that I met Ribicca in college because she’s the first blogger friend I ever made. I’ve looked up to her for both her creative and technical skills.

I’m also aspiring to be a girl boss one day too.

At night, I’m enrolled full time and working towards my Masters of Communication in Digital Media degree. And during the day, I work full time as a project manager at the Boeing Company. And in between, I’m taking photos and constantly writing for my blog Emma’s Edition. (Here’s how I find balance in my life if you’re curious.)

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I get questioned a lot about what I’m planning to do with my future as a blogger, business women, and graduate student.  I get questioned why I am even putting myself through graduate school when I already have a stable job. I get questioned about why I didn’t choose to pursue fashion as a career. And I get questioned whether I want a family one day.

So here is my answer: I have dreams of both planning Boeing’s international air shows, running my own marketing/social media business one day, while still blogging, and having a family. It’s my future and I can dream and create the reality I want to live. And honestly, we only have one life so I intend to live and maximize my time here. I hope to leave a beautiful mark on our world and hopefully help others along the way.

These are just a few of my dreams as an aspiring girl boss. So this upcoming Galentines’ Day, I wanted to share:

4 pieces of advice for all the aspiring girl bosses out there

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#1. You set your limits and you define your success

I’ve shared this before but I’ll say it again because I truly am a firm believer that we create our own reality. If you think you can do it, you can. And if you think you can’t, than you can’t.

I think the biggest hurdle I’ve faced in blogging is believing that I even belonged in this space. Seeing and embracing myself as a writer, a model, and a creative were all pieces of me that I had to give myself permission to embrace.

Sometimes the biggest roadblocks we face in our lives are ourselves. Sometimes it’s our self doubt or lack of confidence that prevents us from believing we can.  Please give yourself permission to pursue whatever your heart is calling you to do.  Remember you are a girl boss; you define your limits and you can set yourself up for success.

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#2. Support our fellow lady bosses

Ladies it’s already a tough world out there. It doesn’t make it any easier if we bring each other down. Whether you choose to buy a product that a girlfriend is selling or choose to schedule a coffee date to someone who reached out to you, these little acts of collaboration and kindness build our communities up. 

Support can even be as simple as reaching out to someone who you think has been killing it their careers, their businesses or their blogs, and letting them know they’re doing a great job.

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#3 Challenge the Status Quo

Just because things are the way they are today doesn’t mean they have to be this way in the future. Why can’t we challenge the status quo? Why can’t we question the gender pay gap? Why can’t we envision a future where 50% of our fortune 500 companies are led by women? Why can’t we both technical and creative? Why can’t Filipino-Americans, Pacific Islanders, Asian-American, and other women of color walk run ways or be in front of magazine covers?

Challenging the status quo starts with you.  Being a girl boss means you have to believe the world will be a little bit better with the content, products, or ideas you put out there. When you challenge the status quo, you push yourself and your world around you to question and envision the world differently. Remember that just because change doesn’t happen overnight doesn’t mean it can’t happen. So keep pushing ladies, you can change this world.

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#4. Be brave, be bold, and be you.

I don’t know about you, but I deal with my fears of failure and rejection everyday as a content creator and a business woman. I know and you know that we can’t let our fears define our lives.

If you fail, you learn. If you never try, you’ll never know. We don’t grow in life if we don’t try, fail, learn and succeed. The journey in creating ourselves, our futures, and exploring our passions doesn’t happen without intention, alignment, and action.

Whether it’s your education, a new job, or even pursuing love, be brave, be bold, and be you in your next step in life.

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Are you an aspiring girl boss? Want to share you one piece of advice for aspiring girl bosses out there and be featured on Emma’s Edition?

Subscribe to Emma’s Edition here and I’ll send you a form to share your one piece of advice to the girl boss community! I’ll be collecting your advice up until Galentine’s Day February 13th!

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Shop my look:

Thank you for reading!

Love,

Emma

Photos: Holly Phan (Holly also an incredible girl boss. My friend and photographer Holly Phan already completed her bachelors degree and is working towards her graphic design degree full time, while still working part time and shooting for Emma’s Edition).

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