The Center for Philippine Studies (CPS) was originally established as a Program in 1975 by an Act of the Hawai’i State Legislature to recognize the contributions of Filipinos to the history of Hawai’i , and to highlight the academic expertise on the Philippines at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. It was subsequently established at the University of Hawaii as a Philippine Studies Program under the Asian Studies Program, which later became the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies.

Looking back, the Steering Committee responsible for the preparation of the Philippine Studies Program Feasibility Study was composed of the following members:

  • Prof. Walter F. Vella, Prof. of History and Director, Southeast Asian Studies (chairman)
  • Prof. Michael L. Forman, Assoc. Prof. of Linguistics (co-chairman)
  • Prof. Robert B. Stauffer, Prof. of Political Science
  • Prof. Benedict Kerkvliet, Asst. Prof. of Political Science
  • Prof. Ricardo D. Trimillos, Assoc. Prof. of Music
  • Prof. Virgie Chattergy, Asst. Prof. of Education
  • Prof. Teresita V. Ramos, Asst. Prof. of Indo-Pacific Languages
  • Dr. Amy Agbayani, Director, Operation Manong
  • Mrs. Estrella Sybinsky, Lecturer, Ethnic Studies, Leeward C.C.
  • Miss Evelyn Hernandez, Lecturer, Ethnic Studies, U.H. in Manoa
  • Miss Sharon Matutino, Student in Liberal Studies
  • Mr. Toy Arre, Jr., Deputy Finance Director, City & County, Honolulu
  • Mrs. Ethel A. Ward, TESOL Teacher, Farrington High School
  • Mr. James Tuyay, Student in Sociology
  • Dr. Ramon de la Pena, Director of Economic Planning, Kauai
  • Mr. Shiro Saito, Bibliographer, Hamilton Library
  • Dr. Belinda A. Aquino, Coordinator, Operation Manong

Dr. Belinda Aquino, Dr. Benedict Kerkvliet, and Dr. Amy Agbayani wrote and submitted the final report. Dr. Aquino served as the first director of the Center, then a program, when it opened in 1975.

In 1988 the Program became the Center for Philippine Studies and was put under the School of Hawaiian, Asian and Pacific Studies (now School of Pacific and Asian Studies, or SPAS) for administrative reasons.

Today, the Center is one of the established area studies centers of SPAS and part of the larger Asian Studies Program in the same School.

The Center has undertaken various outreach activities in the large Filipino community over the years. The first director of the Center, Dr. Belinda Aquino was named a member of the statewide Filipino Centennial Celebration Commission that hosted the 100th anniversary of Filipino immigration to Hawai’i in 2006. The Center lobbied the State Legislature for funding for the Commission which set $150,000 as “seed money.” Dr. Aquino retired in 2009, and was succeeded by Dr. Ricardo D. Trimillos as Interim Director until July 2011.  Then, Dr. Vina Lanzona replaced Dr. Trimillos and stayed in office until July 2015. Dr. Patricio N. Abinales succeeded Dr. Lanzona, and a new election of the next director was held in April 2018.

The current Director of the Center for Philippine Studies is Dr. Pia Arboleda.  She was renewed for another three years, ending in July 2024.