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May Day - An interconnected story of my Asian American & Pacific Islander culture

Today is May 1st…

  • The first day of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

  • Lei Day in Hawaii, a celebration of Aloha, Hawaiian culture, and history.

  • International Worker’s Day, a celebration of labor workers across multiple countries.

  • The date of my grandfather’s passing.

To celebrate and honor all of these May 1st significant events, I want to share the memories of Alipio Felipe Ladon (November 15, 1921 - May 1, 1964) through my mother’s voice.

“Today, I spent the day in remembrance of my Dad. He passed away 59 years ago, after spending the morning taking movie pictures of the May Day Program. I was 10 years old. But, how lucky for me and my siblings to have had a father to leave us with a deep sense of respect, adventure, and a loving and nurturing family style.

Dad always spent time at our school functions. He always took movie pictures of our outings and particularly the May Day programs. He took us on family picnics at Haleiwa Beach Park where we could still go to the concession stand to get shaved ice. We stopped at Yama’s for 25 cents hamburgers on weekend adventures. Dad took us to a Chinese restaurant in Kalihi to get the mushroom with black bean dish. I remember the restaurant sign had an Alaskan crab on it. We had family dancing at home once a week. Every night we listened to the Nat King Cole record. The sisters had to cook rice by 10 years of age. Yes, there was an episode when we burnt the rice and had to scrub the black smoke off the ceiling before Dad got home. My sister and I would spend summers with my Dad’s Hanai family on Maui. We actually helped with butchering a pig and cleaning it. Do you know what is the Filipino dish siling siling? Today, it’s called Chitlins. I remember packing vegetables and Filipino string beans, then selling them to neighboring communities from the back of the truck. I believe it was Dad’s way for us to learn to work hard.

Dad was very involved with sports entertainment and the Filipino Television Station in Honolulu. He was a lightweight boxer. He also played the saxophone. He definitely looked spiffy in his Zoot suit. He loved to go dancing with my Mom which is how they met.

Dad, you are still missed to this day! We love you today and you remain in our hearts always! Thank you, God for Dad!” - My mother, Estrellita Ladon Myers

I never met my grandfather, but I know I’ve met his spirit through my mother and my aunties and uncle. I’ve seen his smile through my Uncle Leonard, my brother Brian, and my cousins. I’ve seen his eyes through my mother and my aunties. Most importantly, I’ve felt his love for family through the carrying of his teaching of quality family time while still working hard to provide through hard labor.

Like I have never met my grandfather, I have also never met the Philippine Islands. The place and land of my ancestors. The land of my birth was the island of Oahu, Hawai’i. I grew up participating in the May Day events my mother is referencing, celebrating, and learning Hawaiian songs, language, dance, history, and the spirit of Aloha. When I left Hawai’i, I was 9 years old. Today, I can proudly say that I am deeply connected to both Hawaii and the Philippines. It is through the lives of my ancestors, past and present, that have shared stories and culture with me. It has not always been easy to identify myself as AAPI, because well, that’s for another post or you can watch my video, Am I Filipino Enough? It’s complicated. It’s political. It’s historical. Both places and cultures, have shaped me.

I invite you to learn the history of your people through your living ancestors. I also invite you to learn more about Asian American and Pacific Islander history within the context of your place. Next post, I’m going to share more about my experience on a walking tour of the Wing Luke Museum where I learned the history of just a few blocks of the City of Seattle, International District. Hope you check it out!

A quick thank you to my mother for allowing me to share her reflections today on her daddy! Mahalo and Salamat mama!

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