An Immigrant’s Dream is Realized

Frances Kakugawa
and Karleen Chinen

Editor’s note: As most of you know, Frances Kakugawa, The Hawai‘i Herald’s “Dear Frances” columnist, was born in Kapoho on Hawai‘i Island, where she spent her early childhood. The eruption of Kïlauea Volcano in 1955 forced her family to relocate to nearby Pähoa, where they began a new life and quickly became calabash ‘ohana to Alberto Aguinaldo, a young, hard-working immigrant from the Philippines. Shortly after Kïlauea Volcano began erupting in full force in May, Frances sent me a heartwarming story about her family’s ties to the Aguinaldo family.

I Googled the name of Alberto’s only child, Gilbert Aguinaldo, and found a West Hawaii Today news story about a village of 20 micro-units in Pähoa that Gilbert had played a major role in developing for people who had been forced to flee their homes. I recalled watching news stories about how that village had sprung to life in the span of a day and reflecting on what is possible when people put their hearts, minds and hands together for the good of the community.

So, Frances and I are sharing the byline for this story that begins with her family’s flight from Kapoho and transitions to this year’s eruption and the Aguinaldo family.

Over 600 homes were destroyed when Kïlauea Volcano roared back to life on the Big Island of Hawai‘i on May 3, putting on lava shows that were at times hauntingly beautiful and yet, at other times, unbelievably scary.

Frances has followed the volcano news from Sacramento where she now lives, wondering when it will all end. As she stared at the online photographs of perfectly paved roads that suddenly split open from the earthquakes and of Madame Pele engulfing homes in her path, memories of her own family’s escape from their home in Kapoho more than six decades earlier came to mind.

During the 1955 eruption, Frances’ Kapoho house came close to being swallowed up by a huge crack in the earth beneath the house. The Kakugawa family had their house lifted off its foundation and moved to Pähoa, where they settled after having rented a plantation home in Kea‘au for a year while the land Frances’ father had purchased in Pähoa was being cleared. Their old houselot in Kapoho, which had remained vacant all these years, was recently covered over by a heavy carpet of black lava.

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