Hawaii Filipino Chronicle Supplement - April 20, 2024

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A Tribute to Dr. Belinda Aquino

Renowned Author, Educator, Philanthropist, and Civil Rights


On Sunday April 21, the University of the Philippines Alumni Association of Hawaii will be hosting an intimate “Salu-salo with Lindy” lunch party at 3660 On The Rise, Honolulu to celebrate the incredible journey and legacy of Dr. Belinda “Lindy” Aquino.

Dr. Aquino is a civil rights activist, renowned author, and esteemed educator in both the Philippines and Hawaii. Her legacy has had a huge impact on generations of Filipinos in Hawaii, the Philippines, and the world.

She is a professor emeritus at the University of Hawaii at Ma noa (UHM) where she served as a professor of political science and Asian studies for nearly 40 years before retiring.

She is the founding director of UHM’s Center for Philippine Studies, which was originally established as an educational pro gram in 1975 by an Act of the Hawai’i State Legislature to recog nize the contributions of Filipinos to the history of Hawai’i and to highlight the academic expertise on the Philippines at UHM.

Now, the Center plays an important role in promoting inter est in the Philippines and Filipinos in the diaspora by honing stu dents under its undergraduate and graduate studies. Through the Center, UHM is the first of its kind in the United States to offer a bachelor’s degree in Philippines Language and Literature.

Even after retirement, she continues her activism and promotion of a deeper understanding of Filipinos’ histori cal and cultural legacies. For so many in the community, Dr. Aquino is a brave Filipino warrior for human rights, justice and education.

Dr. Aquino is a long-time columnist and contributor to the Hawaii Filipino Chronicle (HFC). In her latest September 2023 contribution titled “A Life Between,” she shared a look into her life as a migrant and community activist in the Philip pines, Hawaii, and the mainland United States. To read the article, visit https://thefilipinochronicle.com/2023/09/16/a-life-between/.

In this HFC supplement issue, we honor and celebrate Dr. Aquino through a heartwarming cover story written by UPAAH’s Divina Telan Robillard, a feature by Dr. Raymund Liongson and a Chronicle Pulse featuring the community’s memories of Dr. Aquino.

www.thefilipinochronicle.com APRIL 20, 2024

Dr. Belinda “Lindy” Aquino is a respected author, educator, philanthropist, and civil rights activist who has left an indelible mark on the history of the Philippines and Hawaii. She has been a staunch advocate for women’s rights and empowerment and has bravely stood up against the Marcos regime.

Dr. Aquino is the founder and first director of the Center for Philippine Studies at the University of Hawaii in Manoa (UHM) and is widely recognized as one of the foremost experts in Philippine politics, history, and culture in the United States. One of her career highlights includes being the first female faculty member to receive tenure in the Department of Political Science at UHM and being one of only two female faculty members to be promoted to full professor in a department predominantly composed of male professors.

Working with Lindy was a pleasure; I discovered she has a


great sense of humor. She is a prolific writer and has been our Contributing Editor since 2009. Working with her has been an enriching experience that I will always cherish in the years to come!

We wish to express our gratitude to Dr. Aquino for dedicating her life to empowering Filipinos in both the homeland and the United States. Her tireless efforts to advocate for freedom and democracy, as well as her efforts to advance the cause of Filipinos in the United States and around the world, have inspired us all. We are immensely proud of her and honored to continue her legacy through the Hawaii Filipino Chronicle!

We are honored to dedicate this HFC supplement to Dr. Belinda Aquino, as a heartfelt expression of our gratitude for her invaluable contributions to our paper and the Filipino community.

Thank you for being an integral part of our team, Lindy! Your contributions will always be remembered!

Mabuhay and Maraming Salamat!

Thank you, Dr. Benilda Aquino, for Your Lifetime’s Body of Work Advocating for Our Community

There is a special white fire that burns in the hearts and minds of people who dream of changing the world. These unique individuals are often called social activists.

Activists will see the injustice of a person unfairly subjected to suffering as a thirst that needs quenching. And while activists may have no personal connection to that person burdened, these rare individuals will act on their inner moral compass, fight for the downtrodden and work earnestly – often with risk to themselves -- to provide some help to raise that one person.

As the years go by, they notice a trend. That one person under duress becomes two, three, a hundred, thousands, millions even, and their collective challenges become a cause for the activist to champion.

As even more years go by, the activist notices a connectivity, a pattern that people who are disadvantaged are in many ways riding on the same boat treading rough waters in deep seas. And, in fact, there are many causes, many classes of groups in need to advocate for – it could be the politically persecuted who were suffering during President Ferdinand

Marcos Sr.’s corrupt violent regime during martial law, or it could be a diaspora group of Filipino immigrants working hard to be noticed and desiring a seat in the proverbial table of power in the state of Hawaii.

In just these two examples alone – of Filipinos in the Philippines and their ethnic brethren in Hawaii -- we know of a special woman activist Dr. Belinda “Lindy” Aquino whose lifetime’s work advocating for both, have made their world a better place.

In the early 1990s, the associate editor of the Hawaii Filipino Chronicle, Edwin Quinabo, recalls how he would see Dr. Aquino at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She was then the director of the Center for Philippine Studies at the University and its founder. He heard her lecture twice, once as a sit-in one-time lecturer for a class taught by Dr. Ricardo Trimillos, and on another occasion when she gave a talk as part of a panel in front of the Campus Center.

Dr. Aquino was a pioneer back then, one of the very few Filipino professors teaching at the University. He said she was brilliant, and it was refreshing to see and hear her. She

possessed a sharp intellect, a commanding persona and self-assuredness. And that she inspired him and many other Generation X Filipinos who saw her on campus, going through the university system, to get involved in Hawaii’s Filipino community. Many years later their paths would cross once again as he would read the many insightful and analytical articles Dr. Aquino has written for the Hawaii Filipino Chronicle as the newspaper’s contributing editor.

For the newspaper she’s written on Filipino political empowerment, underrepresentation of Filipinos in higher education. She’s been called upon by the Chronicle to comment on American foreign policy, war, local Hawaii politics, Philippine elections, Social Security and Medicare and range of other important topics.

As a pioneering author and educator, generations of Filipinos have either worked with her in some capacity or know of her work. Scores of Hawaii legislators through decades have seen her walk through the halls of the Hawaii State Capitol and heard her lobby on behalf of multitudes of causes – on behalf of the Filipino community, the

University of Hawaii, women and other underrepresented groups.

Many of these politicians and other professionals and influencers in the community are her friends, which can be a powerful networking tool if one’s heart is in the right place to affect needed change.

It’s not easy to be a community leader like Dr. Aquino. Frequently leaders come across cynicism and detractors. Leaders must often say things that ruffle feathers, be an ally to someone and be an opponent to that same person on occasion when important issues dictate it.

But in the space of political power jockeying, as a leader and political scientist, Dr. Aquino knows that’s the nature of politics. It’s easy to turn away and avoid this space that’s tainted with degrees of toxicity. Most want nothing of it. But many in our Filipino and greater Hawaii community have expressed gratitude that Dr. Aquino continued to do the hard work with steady resolve.

Dr. Aquino made her mark not just at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She’s an international scholar who taught at the University of the Philippines Diliman (UP), the

Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, the Singapore Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Bangkok Thammasat University, and four universities in Indonesia. She earned her doctorate from the prestigious Cornell University.

Besides the Hawaii Filipino Chronicle, she’s written articles published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asian Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Newsday, and Philippine Inquirer.

In the newspaper business, the Chronicle publishers and editors have met a plethora of good people with sound values doing great work. Then on rare occasions, there is yet a smaller group of individuals we come across who we know will be talked about for generations. Dr. Aquino is one of them. She has been a friend and supporter in the Hawaii Filipino community, a fixture at many functions. She is our friend and colleague at the Filipino Chronicle.

A big mahalo and thank you, Dr. Aquino, for your endless contributions to the newspaper and our community. We are pleased to dedicate this special HFC supplement to you for all that you’ve done to uplift our communities here and in the Philippines.

Chona A. Montesines-Sonido

Our BFF, Belinda “Lindy” Aquino

“If you think she’s sprouted wings and gone to heaven, you’ve got another thing coming. She is alive, walks with a cane, and can still kick butt, but she prefers not to.”

After retirement, it is unusual to be the star of, yet another party held in your honor.

At the retirement party held pau hana, you pick up your gifts while the young get drunk, and the person who replaces you in your position sends you to pasture singing praises.

After that, the next gig in your name is when you’re flying out of your old body with new angel wings, and your grandson is reading your eulogy.

Not quite, our Lindy.

Professor Belinda “Lindy” Aquino is one of those exceptional humans destined to have people continually admiring her, way past retirement because of what she is and has truly become—one of the community’s most reliably admirable people.

Lindy, as she is fondly called, was born the youngest of twelve siblings.

Dad Aquino was hoping for a son but got Lindy instead, naming her Billy. This might explain why she has a fondness for the male get-up.

For any other reason, we don’t really care. She is just one heck of a person to know and have as a friend. This privilege, I didn’t have until she was just retired.

Before that, she was a colleague of my late husband, Britt, at the University of Hawaii College of Social Sciences where he was a Sociology Professor and she was the founding Director of the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Center for Philippine Studies, among many other remarkable academic feats.

Even though we were both members of the Univer-

sity of the Philippines Alumni Association, she was a brilliant star in the firmament and I was a mere earthling.

But we eventually grew close as we started going out socially as the divas alongside UPAAH friends Nieva Elizaga, Melody Calisay, and Bea Ramos-Razon.

I don’t know how the five of us were named divas but we certainly don’t act like prima donnas. In fact, we’re like old faithful and reliables in UPAAH. We are there to support every project, and oftentimes, we lead, coordinate, and become foot-soldier.

We all love to eat and talk stories. We dine out regularly, often laughing boisterously. Lindy has never driven a car, so Melody or I would pick her up.

Our long dinners (and lately, lunches) would be punctuated by a lot of teasing, laughing, and Marites-ing.

One day while having lunch, Lindy brought out a folded Time magazine from her purse and declared: “It’s time to talk about more serious topics.”

And because she is Lindy, we knew she was not joking. We all threw our unchewed lettuce and leftover fishbones at her.

“My God, Lindy!” we exclaimed. “We are together because we want to forget those things!”

But that is our Lindy. She loves to talk about why things are the way they are in the world. She likes to debate the merits of local and national issues. In many ways, she is the female Don Quixote who took down a nasty windmill or two.

It’s probably hard to take on a light-hearted attitude when you have seen what she has in her lifetime and felt

you could do more. Even if it is merely by pinning down your friends when they are flighty and flibbertigibbet.

No, she didn’t get us to talk Time magazine stuff that day, and she understood it was neither the time nor place.

The Lindy, the public persona, speaks with a mighty pen, as in her book, “Politics of Plunder: The Philippines Under Marcos,” the definitive read about the ill-gotten wealth of the dictator based on the items retrieved from the plane the Marcoses flew into exile in Hawaii.

The book was written under the aegis of the Philippine Commission on Good Government (PCGG), created by then-Philippine President Corazon Aquino in February 1986 established shortly after she was sworn in as President to investigate and recover monies stolen from the Filipino people by Ferdinand Marcos, whether the wealth is in the Philippines or abroad.

Aside from this task, the PCGG also has the power to investigate other graft and

corruption cases. Thus, when Lindy speaks ex Cathedra, we listen; well, most of the time.

BFF Lindy sometimes manages to pull rank (and age) but when you are among UP alums, you have to fight for your time on stage with the other so-called starirays.

She also speaks with her checkbook, supporting causes outside political science such as the PBS documentary series titled Nature which airs every Wednesday night in Hawaii.

How did I find out? One party night, she was rushing me to take her home. Nature was on TV and she was eager to watch!

I shook my head in despair because the night was young, and I hadn’t had my fill of a good time. “Next time, take an Uber!” I joked.

Imagine this octogenarian in her pajamas on the couch, a spoon in a bowl of Ben and Jerry’s, her mouth agape over turtles cavorting in the sand. I say octogenarian because that’s what I believe; she neither confirms nor denies. She has to be as

old as the mountains!

Before Lindy retired, she created an Endowment Fund named after her mother, Teresa, at the University of the Philippines College of Nursing.

Teresa was aiming to be one of the first nurse graduates of the Philippine General Hospital School of Nursing when the war broke out. Thus, she never finished her degree and got married instead.

That’s probably why Lindy has a soft heart for nurses like Bea Ramos-Razon and me. She supports our causes; Bea’s Hawaii Nurses and Mentors, Inc. (HiNAMI) and my ALS Foundation of Hawaii (ALSFH).

HiNAMI provides free RN-NCLEX reviews to immigrants in Hawaii. While ALSFH supports creating a smart home for patients with ALS in Hawaii who cannot be cared for at home.

But do beware when you think of approaching her with a proposal, she still has a sharp mind, and always comes up with good reasons to say no.

Lindy would say: “How can a spinster like me make money as a mere professor? In Hawaii, no less? Have you ever met a rich social scientist? Maybe if I were a computer scientist from MIT, ala wen! Hay, sus Apo!”

While she is generous to a fault, she could also be outraged by overspending. Like that one birthday night, the divas were having dinner at Roy’s Hawaii Kai. Lindy complained of having had a bad tummy the past few days, so Nieva ordered soup for her that evening, and no more.

When it came to divvying up the cost of the dinner, Lindy made no noise but every dinner after that, she would never let us forget the issue of her $50 soup! Which nev-

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The Power of Brilliance and Courage: Dr. Belinda Aquino In The Eyes Of A Kasama

Dutch American poet, academic, and diplomat Henry Van Dyke once wrote: “Genius is talent set on fire by courage.”

This insightful statement is a fitting description of a woman gifted with a sharp probing mind and an unbending courage – Dr. Belinda A. Aquino.

An internationally acclaimed academic and political scientist, she authored Politics of Plunder: The Philippines Under Marcos (first published in 1987 by the University of the Philippines), a work that examined government corruption in the Philippines during the 20-year Marcos, Sr. regime.

She also has presented and contributed numerous analytical papers in various conferences and publications, which have broadened the perspectives of her audience.

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Lindy, as she is fondly called by her colleagues and friends, would emphatically say she’s not related to the late Sen. Benigno Aquino and proudly claims to be a full-blooded Ilocano who hails from La Union.

Her progressive and liberal political views, however, appear to be more aligned with those of the martyred Senator from Tarlac than the autocratic ruler from Ilocos.

An uncompromising activist, she critically opposed the dictatorial martial law years of Ferdinand Marcos and the murderous presidency of Rodrigo Duterte.

A staunch advocate of social justice and human rights, she wields her mighty pen exposing and denouncing corruption and human indignities.

Dr. Aquino is synonymous to the Center for Philippine Studies of the Uni-

versity of Hawai’i at Mānoa having been its founding Director. Next year, the Center, which was established in 1975, will mark its Golden Anniversary.

Revered from the high academic pedestal, Dr. Lindy weaves herself with the common tao and was visibly present in the midst of the Pink Movement that emerged in the early 2020s.

She is one of the brains behind the Hawaii Filipinos for Truth, Justice and Democracy (HFTJD) that aims to promote civic engagement and the use of democratic principles, ensure that truth prevails in the retelling of history, and seek justice for all human rights victims and


Dr. Aquino’s contribution to Filipino consciousness, both in the Philippines and abroad, cannot be overstated. She remains to be an unambiguous and fearless voice that speaks truth to power.

We take pride in honoring her with this simple but wholeheartedly grateful special edition of the Hawaii Filipino Chronicle.

RAYMUND LIONGSON, PH.D. is a Retired professor of Philippine Studies at University of Hawaii’s Leeward Community College. er fails to start a round of hysterical laughter.

Our Lindy – it’s too bad I didn’t approach her earlier in life as we were both crazy busy. I was a caregiver to my husband, and she was the academic bigwig. I would have sat longer at her feet.

At least now, we have built a solid friendship that’s strongly sailing through our Third Act of life.

Nowadays, she is more frail and less astute in her pronouncements, yet she remains steadfast in the values that she fought for when she was young and strong.

Our youth look to her presence in every meeting of the Hawaii Filipinos for Justice, Truth, and Democracy, an organization formed after former-Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo’s losing 2022 presidential campaign to keep our eyes on the ball and the values worth fighting for.

More importantly, the organization aims to have our young people focus on what is eternally good for, not only Filipinos but for all citizens of the world: truth, justice, and democracy.

There she would stand, swaying in the wind, a chair behind, ready to catch her if she swayed any further. Her voice is soft and gentle but resolute, as she rallies the young to do their part in the long, hard road to justice for all.

She meanders in her message (she loves to talk), then one of us, would put an arm around her shoulders, take the mic away from her hold, and lead her to sit.

She understands, she smiles wanly one more time, yields the floor to a young man, and watches proudly over her brood.

We are telling her now, while she is here among us that we admire and appreciate her.

We love you, Lindy!

The writer with Dr. Belinda Aquino

Community Shares Dr. Lindy Aquino’s Most Important Contributions to the Philippines, Hawaii and Beyond

Hawaii Filipino Chronicle celebrates and honors the astounding achievements and contributions of Dr. Belinda “Lindy” Aquino in this special Chronicle Pulse in which we asked the community: What do you think are Dr. Lindy’s most important accomplishments for the Filipino community?

Responses have been edited for space and clarity.

Teresita Bernales, Ed.D.

Contract IVLP Liaison, Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs, U.S. Dept. of State

It feels like her life mission is to make the Philippines a country that can proudly stand side by side with all the nations of the world! Her greatest accomplishments are too numerous to mention. It’s like a puzzle with each piece contributing to make her one of the most unique personalities shaping the Filipino identity and diaspora. Writing a book is a daunting task and she wrote two major books covering the politics and dynamics of the Marcos administration and the family’s plunders. She demonstrated enormous courage to make her nationalistic voice be heard, reflecting the sentiments of the Filipino people in the “Marcos country” in Hawaii. Fighting for our country is a very lofty mission and along with other activists, she was able to help return democracy to our country. I always tell Lindy in jest: “You are so precious like gold; you should be bronzed.” A bronze statue should commemorate her unparalleled achievement for our country.

Rose Cruz Churma Community Advocate

When the Marcos family was sent in exile to Hawaii in 1986, then-President Cory Aquino’s first executive order was to create the Philippine Commission on Good Governance (PCGG). Lindy was one of the four representatives in the United States as part of this commission. She had full access to the “Marcos Papers” and a frontrow seat to the aftermath of the Marcos exile. Soon after, Lindy authored the books “Politics of Plunder” and its sequel “The Transnational Dynamics of the Marcos Plunder.” The books are now out-of-print but her Hawaii colleagues have converted them into a digital format so the books can be easily shared with scholars, academics, and researchers all over the world. The books are just one of her many contributions — not only to the Filipino community in Hawaii—but also to the global community that value truth, justice, and a democratic society

Serafin Colmenares, Ph.D.

Retired Public Health Administrator

Dr. Lindy Aquino, an academician par excellence, a scholar and an activist, has accomplished much for the Filipino community, not only in Hawaii, but around the world. As founder and first director of the Center for Philippine Studies at the University of Hawaii, she was instrumental in institutionalizing and putting Philippine Studies on the international scene, giving impetus to the

expansion of research and studies on Philippine history, politics and culture. A scholar and a prolific writer, her writings serve as a running commentary on the Philippine political, economic and social situation. She has been a much sought after resource in various academic and community events. An activist, she used her pen to fight against the [Marcos] dictatorship and expose what she termed as its “politics of plunder,” and has remained a champion of civil and women’s rights. She has done much more and she should be considered as a Filipino icon.

Dr. Nancy Atmospera-Walch, CEO and CNO

Adjunct Professor of UHM Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing & President & CEO - ADVANTAGE Health Care

Dr. Aquino has made significant contributions through philanthropy, creating lasting legacies that benefit Filipino students and advance education in the Philippines and Hawaii. Her endowments, such as “The Teresa Ancheta Aquino Centennial Professorial Chair” at the University of the Philippines and “The Belinda A. Aquino International Philippine Studies Endowment” at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, demonstrate her commitment to supporting academic pursuits related to Philippine society and culture. Dr. Aquino’s philanthropic endeavors not only honor her mother and herself but also serve as a testament to her belief in the importance of education and giving back to the community. Her legacy philanthropy ensures that her impact will be felt long after she is gone, leaving behind a lasting memory of her generosity and dedication to advancing knowledge and understanding of the Philippines.

Carolyn Weygan-Hildebrand

Senior Planner, Adult Mental Health Division, Hawaii Department of Health

Lindy’s most important accomplishments are her term as Director of UHM’s Center for Philippine Studies, as an Adviser and Mentor to PhD political science students at the East-West Center, and her endowments as a legacy. The 2006 Sakada Centennial Conference showcases the breadth, depth, and inclusivity that CPS encouraged during her term as Director. As a testament to her exceptional mentorship, Lindy mentored notable East-West Center grantees such as local government leader Alex Brillantes, Mindanao State University president Macapado Muslim, principal author of environmental laws Neric Acosta, and Ideacorp CEO Emmanuel Lallana. Lindy is among the pacesetters in the local Filipino community as she set up an endowment fund to support Filipino students and Philippine studies. On a

Dr. Belinda Aquino (center), flanked by publishers of the Hawaii Filipino Chronicle Dr. Charlie and Chona Montesines-Sonido.
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lighter note, Lindy’s unique personal style manifested in other things such as wearing Filipiniana to work, choosing fabric from the South Philippines and a lady barong style that she felt most comfortable in. When most Filipinos wore Filipiniana at galas and cultural events, her fashion choices added a touch of elegance and cultural pride to her work environment.

Dr. Lindy Aquino is an icon and a walking encyclopedia of Philippine studies. I am so grateful for her support of our program, the Hawaii Nursing Advocates & Mentor Inc. Our program provides support, free review classes, and mentorship to potential registered nurses.

I’ve known Lindy for a very long time. When you are out with her, you get mini-lessons in history and contemporary issues. The Filipino community is fortunate that she landed here in Hawaii as she was the prime mover in the establishment of the Philippine studies program which is now known as the Center for Philippine Studies at UHM. It has attracted more students to enroll at UH and explore their Filipino heritage. It also has created more employment prospects.

The divas’ birthday treat to Lindy at El Cielo, Waikiki in January 2024. Seated from left to right are Bea Ramos Razon, Melody Calisay, Divina Telan Robillard, the honoree Lindy Aquino, and Nieva Elizaga. Lindy Aquino posing with FAUW members at a PASKO event at the Honolulu Museum of Arts. At a reunion of old friends—Lindy is flanked by Buddy Gomez and Patty Lyons (left) and Ethel Ward and Vicky Ramil (right). Lindy (right) at the Philippine Consulate Independence Day celebration with Elizabeth Frilles and Araceli Jimeno, wife of Philippine Consul General Joselito Jimeno. Ethel Ward with Lindy Aquino On June 2022, Lindy joined Filipino legislators and community activists in Hawaii to present an honorary certificate to Maria Ressa, CEO and President of Rappler Philippines and awardee of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, for her efforts to safeguard freedom of expression. Young Filipino community members along with Lindy shout “Never Again to Martial Law!” during the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of martial law in the Philippines. On October 5, 2019, the FilCom Center held its 17th Bayanihan Fundraiser and Awards Gala where Dr. Lindy Aquino was pictured with Dr. Jun Colmenares and Dr. Raymund Liongson, who received an award for Education. Divina and Lindy at the Oahu caravan campaign for thenVice President Leni Robredo’s 2022 Philippine presidential bid.
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