New kauka opio (young doctors) at the Annual Kīhei Ceremony

Despite the underrepresentation of both Native Hawaiian and Filipinos in higher education, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa had a record-year in graduating minority medical students. The UH Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) graduated 12 Native Hawaiian and 12 Filipino medical doctors. These individuals participated in cultural recognition commencement ceremonies.

Kīhei ceremony

The newest kauka opio (young doctors) of Native Hawaiian ancestry were each presented with a ceremonial cloak or kīhei, which the young doctors previously designed using traditional Native Hawaiian techniques, sponsored by ʻAhahui o nā Kauka and the Native Hawaiian Center of Excellence at JABSOM. This year, there was a highly visible uniting theme on each kīhei: a rusty red color, made from the leaves and fruit of the ʻaʻaliʻi bush.

“Most importantly, we chose the ʻaʻaliʻi as our theme for its known strength and resilience. Despite wind, rain and the elements, ʻaʻaliʻi wood is said to be naturally termite resistant and can withstand extreme droughts, making it the hardiest of plants,” said Jayden Galamgam.

Galamgam explained that like the ʻaʻaliʻi bush, his class will continue to be resilient as the challenges of medical residency await them.

In addition to the dark red hems, each kīhei was printed with unique designs to parallel the separate journeys of each doctor into medicine.

“These 12 rows don’t just represent the Native Hawaiian students graduating but also symbolize 12 years directly serving the fire department in my community and the colors black and red symbolize the lava on the Big Island,” said Michael Brigoli of Hawaiʻi Island.

3rd annual Filgrad

Both Brigoli and Galamgam are also Filipino and, shortly after the kīhei ceremony at the UH Mānoa Kakaʻako campus, they rushed over to represent the other half of their cultural identities at the UH Mānoa 3rd Annual Filgrad.

From 24 participants at the inaugural Filipino graduation recognition ceremony in 2017, the UH Filgrad more than tripled this year with 84 participants.

JABSOM medical students of Filipino ancestry wore stoles that were designed to imitate the flag of the Philippines, draped over their shoulders as they proudly walked into the East-West Center, followed by their fellow graduates from UH Mānoa.

Celina Macadangdang Hayashi was one of the graduate speakers and spoke about the importance of remembering one’s roots. Hayashi had tears in her eyes as she thought of her late grandparents, who emigrated from Ilocos Norte in the Philippines to Maui in 1946.

“My grandparents are my reason why I’m able to stand before you today as a doctor,” she said. “They will continue to help me become an effective family physician as they have taught me the importance of treating everyone I encounter with compassion.” Hayashi said.

All students received a certificate onstage. The Filgrad is a student-led event made possible through the collaboration of various UH Mānoa Filipino organizations and with community support.

—By Deborah Manog Dimaya

New doctors of Filipino ancestry at the 3rd Annual Filgrad.