Sakadas in Hawaii

Dad's Cane Cutter 

Remembering things in my house left from mydad growing up in the Silicon Valley. I remember a very large knife hanging in the backyard tool shed. I always thought it was a butcher knife cause I always seen my dad using it to butcher pigs and goats with it. I didn’t realize until much later that it was a cane cutter he used to harvest sugarcane for the sugar plantations in Hawaii. 

All this time when I was a kid I thought that huge knife hanging in my dad's toolshed was a butcherknife. Everytime I seen him using it he was butchering some kind of meat for BBQ in the backyard. I didn't realize until much later when I finally took the initiative to learn about my Fil-Am roots that it was a sugarcane cutter used when he worked as a sugar plantation worker on the island of Kauai.


The Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association had recruiting offices in the Ilocos region and in Manila Philippines. The majority of the Filipino workers were Ilocano and Visayan. My dad was one of them at the age of 16 when he came to Kauai in 1922. The Philippines was still a commonwealth of the United States and Hawaii did not have statehood yet. My dad was on a 3 year employment contract with the sugar plantation company.

These Filipino workers were refered to as "Sakadas" which translates into "Laborer" in Tagalog. The main reason these workers were recruited was to pay them lower wages.

My father was with his older brother Pablo. working in the sugarcane fields. They were both teenagers 16 and 18 years old. Imagine yourself at that age coming to a new country enthusiastic with promise of a better life eager to work hard to become successful and naive to the harsh reality of the world awaiting them.
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There were many other new Filipino arrivals some were Ilokanos, some were Visayans, and some were Tagalog and niether of them could understand each other. Camps were seggregated from Japanese, Chinese, and Portuguese. In the Filipino camp imagine being further seggregated by dialect. So for a labor leader to organize the Filipino camp must have been a frustrating challenge because of the language barrier and mistrust of each group as they were all eager to work for their fair share of the labor.

....manipulation......cheaper wages.......strike in 1924

Pablo Manlapit

"It is one of the cherished American ideals that each generation shall stand in advance of the preceding one: better physically, mentally, spiritually. And America demands for her workers this opportunity for development."

-Manlapit was a migrant worker, lawyer, and President of the Filipino Federation of Labor