Some of the first Filipinos to come to Hawai‘i were the sakadas or contract laborers who arrived in 1906 to work on the sugar plantations. Since then, Filipinos became the state’s fastest growing ethnic minority. The primary reasons for the Filipinos’ rapid growth are “continuous immigration from the Philippines and high birth rates in the Filipino community.” Annually, about 3,500 immigrants come to Hawai‘i from the Philippines, most of whom are children (“A Brief History”). About 25.1% of the state of Hawai‘i’s population, which is about 342,095 people, are of Filipino descent (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). The three most significant groups of Filipinos in Hawai‘i are Ilokanos (also spelled “Ilocano”) who come from Northern Luzon in the Philippines, Visayans who come from the southern Philippines, and Tagalogs. Of these three groups, Ilokanos are the most numerous making up at least 85% of Filipinos in Hawai‘i (“A Brief History”).
With a large number of Filipinos in Hawai‘i, it is important to know how to communicate with them. One of the national languages of the Philippines is Filipino, which is based on Tagalog. However, Ilokano speakers are the majority of Hawai‘i’s Filipinos (“A Brief History”). Ilokano language courses are offered in some of the University of Hawai‘i campuses, and the only public school in the United States that offers Ilokano courses is Farrington High School on O‘ahu (U.H. Mānoa 10). Ilokano language courses should be made available in public schools in Hawai‘i so all students can have an opportunity to learn Ilokano. Offering Ilokano language courses in Hawai‘i’s public schools will teach students a skill that will be useful in Hawaiian society, help increase academic interest and success of Filipino students, and contribute to awareness and appreciation of the Filipino cultures.
Due to the prevalence of Filipinos in Hawai‘i, mostly Ilokano-speaking, it would be useful to learn Ilokano. The Center for Philippine Studies at U.H. Mānoa describes the Filipino community in Hawai‘i as “largely working class.” Hawai‘i’s Filipino work force are in areas such as health, education, and the hotel industry. Many Filipino professionals are medical doctors or work in other health-related professions. Another significant group of the Filipino work force is public school teachers. However, many are assigned temporary jobs in special education or with students whose English is limited. Filipinos also account for about 95% of the owners and operators of Hawai‘i’s care homes (“A Brief History”).
Hawai‘i’s youth may plan to stay in the state and work after finishing high school and college. Those who do stay in Hawai‘i may find jobs in the areas where Filipinos also work in large numbers. If this is the case, then learning Ilokano would be useful to communicate with co-workers or employers who are Filipino.
Not only is there a large number of Filipinos in Hawai‘i’s work industry, but in the public schools as...