Category: Hawai’i Things

“Why Would You Ever Leave Hawaii?”

Try not to get sand in your rice.

Ever since leaving home at 18, the one question I always get after telling people I’m from Hawaii is, “Why would you leave?!”

I smile politely as I prepare to repeat, for the thousandth time, my reasoning. The same reasoning that many other Hawaii residents spew when they decide to move away from home.

That’s the thing, too: Hawaii will always be home. No matter how long I’ve been away, albeit seven years or 20 years, I will always say “I’m going home!” whenever I visit.

So, reasons why I (personally) left Hawai’i.

  1. I wanted more for myself.
    When I was 18, I was at the top of my game (oh gosh, here’s me realizing I peaked in high school! Aack!) being President of the school, sporting a novel of an extracurricular resume, and one of maybe five kids of my 650-student graduating class going to college on the East Coast. I worked hard my four years of high school — nay, my entire grade school career, and in the end, I believed I could do better than staying at home for college, or staying in the same environment I grew up in. I wanted a challenge.
  2. I wanted to experience something new.
    Living in Hawaii means living in a slow-paced and consistent world. Our weather is the same all year round, rain comes and goes in minutes, no such thing as Fall or Winter. The island is so small that it’s impossible to not run into someone you know, even when you’re on the other side of the island. I’ve even run into people I met from Maui and Big Island hanging out in Oahu for a weekend. For once, I wanted something different. I wanted to know no one, to experience seasons, and to live in a city and walk or take cabs and trains wherever I needed to.
  3. I wanted to be different.
    People from Hawaii tended to stay home. It was safe, familiar, full of family. The culture in Hawaii is so different from the mainland, and I loved how I grew up as it shaped who I am today, but it there’s so much of the world I would’ve never known about if I never left. A lot of my graduating class stayed in Hawaii for college, and if you don’t take advantage of it right, they say it ends up feeling like extended high school. I wanted to separate myself from my life in Hawaii (it didn’t turn out the way I expected it to, but I really did become a different person).
  4. I wanted to travel.
    Of course, you can travel from wherever you are, but it’s easier in the mainland. In college, I went to New York, Massachusets, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Washington DC with no issue. Through my college’s study abroad program, I got to travel to England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium, and Holland. Since being here in California, we’ve done road trips to Arizona, Nevada, and so many places around California in general (it’s a big state). Flying to Colorado was cheaper from San Diego than it would be from Hawaii. It’s just so much easier to get around. In Hawaii, you’re stuck on an island. The closest place you can travel to is another island, which is a 20-minute plane ride. Otherwise, a trip to the West Coast takes at least 5 hours. Nothing shorter.
  5. I always knew Hawaii would be there if anything went wrong.
    Leaving is easy when you know you have a fallback. The challenge is committing to the idea. My Sophomore year of college, I wanted to transfer to a school back in Hawaii. I ended up hating my college (maybe a post on that later) and didn’t want to deal with the people, the cold, and who I became after transferring to my school. I got through it though, and I’m thankful I did. It was comforting to know that if all else failed, I could be back home. In some weird way it helped me to push through the days I hated in college. Now that I’m in California, although I’m lonely and lacking friends, being able to visit Hawaii at least once or twice a year since moving here makes it easier to be here. I am considering moving back, but for now, being here is worth it.

In the end, my reasons for leaving all came down to a craving for something different. Some people are happy staying in the same place, and in a way, I understand that. As a person who’s had to move every year the past seven years (either to a new dorm, a new apartment, or a new state) staying in the same place to finally put down some roots sounds like a dream.

I always tell the people who fight my reasonings that they don’t know what it’s like to be from Hawaii, to be from a place you simultaneously love and dread at the same time. A lot of people back home know the feeling. It’s always “I want to get off this rock” only to find that there’s no place like the rock, no place at all.



Last night, my cousin’s fiance had a bachelorette party back in Hawaii. I’m incredibly close to her and I know if I were back in Hawaii, I would’ve been there. They looked like they were having so much fun. I sat at home playing video games.

Then, the feeling washed over me: I miss Hawaii. I miss home. 

I get homesick a lot. Everyday. I know I made my choice by moving to the mainland, and I’m not going to lie, it’s been a good decision. The one thing I really miss from Hawaii is my family.

I grew up with a huge family. My mom one of 12, my dad one of six. My cousins were the older siblings I never had and the younger siblings I never wanted. My aunties and uncles were second parents. I loved the way I grew up.

I find myself daydreaming of moving back. I imagine C and I finding a house, regardless of how expensive it is there. I see my future kids running around with my cousin’s kids. I see family parties sitting around with my cousins, just talking story. I see my mom and dad coming to visit, cooking dinner at my place, babysitting my kids…

My parents tell me not to come back because Hawaii just isn’t what it was before. It’s too expensive, the traffic is horrible, what is there to do? I could find cheaper housing up here. They could come move up here with me when I have kids. I don’t think they understand what kind of effect raising me in Hawaii had on me. I want my future kids to have the culture I grew up with, I want them surrounded by family every holiday and birthday, I want them to have what I had.

Here, they’ll be alone, the way we are. C and I don’t mind having just each other. I don’t want that for my future kids.

Home will always be Hawaii. It’ll always be a 7-11 musubi down the road, or Foodland Ahi Limu Poke, or laulau from L&L’s. It’ll always be a beach, a hike, an endless view of the ocean. It’ll always be family parties with homemade lumpia and puto-flan, plastic chairs sitting in rows in a garage, bedrooms filled to the brim with teenage cousins, houses with children running around and screaming.

Home will always be where my family is.

Hawai’i Graduations


My husband and my brother posing for a photo.

I just recently got back from a very short trip back home to Hawai’i in honor of my younger brother’s graduation from University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. Big hopes for my future architect brother!

love graduation season in Hawai’i. It’s nothing you’ve ever seen. People are weighed down by their weight in leis, struggling to breathe, sweating from the heat, and yet the only feeling they have is being overwhelmed with love and excitement for their accomplishment.

Granted, high school graduations are the ones people get serious for, and it gets a lot of heat for doing so. “Why should you be so happy that they graduated high school? Doesn’t everyone graduate high school?!” For one thing, it’s a pretty big accomplishment in Hawai’i to graduate high school (sad, but true), and for another thing, can’t we just have any excuse to celebrate and give someone a lei? Any reason to party, right?


Throwback to my high school graduation, and this wasn’t even the end of the night yet.

Another thing I love about graduation leis is that in Hawai’i, it doesn’t have to be flowers. As you can see in the photos, some other popular items of decoration are money leis, candy leis, floaties, hakus (flower crowns, essentially), and then the most creative things you can think of. Trust me, you can turn anything into “leis” (for the most part). I’ve seen mini alcohol bottles wrapped in netting, tied together, and draped around people. I’ve been given diaper hats. I’ve even seen cans of spam tied to some strong rope, with the poor recipients lugging around their gift. In Hawai’i, this is so normal. It’s expected. The goal at the end of the night is to not be able to breathe.

When it does come time to take everything off, it feels amazing. Literally 10-20 pounds lifted off your shoulders.

When I graduated college in New York, I had several family members fly up to see me graduate. They came with gifts from my other family members who couldn’t make it. I wasn’t expecting it, and when the ceremony was over, I stuck out like the sorest thumb in the world.


My then-boyfriend/now husband and I at my college graduation. 

It’s not as much as I had in high school, but it was more than enough to bring attention to me. People stared. People took photos. People stopped me on my way back to my dorm to ask me if they could take a picture of me and send it to their friends because they’ve never seen it before. They asked me what “all this” was. I was actually pretty thrown off by their curiosity, but I should have expected it.

I love being from Hawai’i. I loved that what we do is so different from the mainland. I love this tradition full of love, support, happiness, and fun that’s so specific to us. Being from Hawai’i is definitely being from a different culture, and I only wish more people could experience it!

The Muddled Blood Of A Pinoy

Some of my family — brother, cousins, aunty and uncle — in Philippines.

I’m saving up for a DNA test. It seems 23andMe and AncestryDNA are the two most popular ones to try, but I’m worried about how it will read my muddled Filipino blood.

Why do I say muddled? It’s common knowledge that we don’t have a “base” ethnicity. We have the term Mestizo for those who know definitely they have Spanish ancestry, or Mestizo da Sangley for those with Chinese ancestry.

My mom’s maiden name is “Garcia,” but I don’t know if we’re Spanish. My last name is “Bulan,” which is Malaysian in origin, but I don’t know if we’re Malaysian. I’ve been mistaken for Chinese several times. I have no idea if there could be Chinese blood in me, but it’s possible. The only thing I know is I’m Filipino, but I’ve always wondered what exactly that meant for me (I’ll probably get more in-depth on this later, or you could look it up. Our make-up is really interesting).

Going back to the DNA tests, it’s been something I’ve always wanted to try. I could finally know what my specific Filipino blood is made up of! People would say to me, “You look Chinese,” and I could say “Yup, because I am! Even if it’s just five percent!”

I’m all about family and lineage. My mom is one of 12, my dad is one of six. I love looking at my family tree and being amazed at how many relatives I have. Some of my first cousins are the closest friends I have and practically my siblings. Because of this, I’ve checked out to see what I can find out about my family.

Problem is, my parents are from the Philippines. I’m part of the first generation of Garcias and Bulans who were born and raised and America. If you try to look my family up on Ancestry, almost nothing relevant shows up outside of the ones born in the continental US (yeah, it’s hard to even find records on the ones living in Hawai’i, how crazy is that!?).

That fact made me wary about a DNA test today. White people can easily get their German/Polish/French DNA tracked. Oh, you’re 1% Native American too? That’s awesome that you get to know the specific percentage of your DNA makeup. Now, where are all the Asians getting their DNA tested? It says you’re East Asian. Is that Japanese? Korean? Chinese? They don’t have enough information outside of Europe to say, and that ultimately is my problem.

Here’s an example of AncestryDNA and 23andMe’s regions that they can track.

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 5.56.54 PM
Let’s say I go with AncestryDNA. If I am a little bit of Chinese, it will just read “Asia East.” Philippines is considered “Asia South,” but so is Malaysia and India. I could be either of those and wouldn’t know. Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 5.58.28 PM23andMe is a little better, but not really. I would know if I’m Chinese, but not Spanish. Still wouldn’t know if I was Malaysian, or something else in Southeast Asia. They have just a slightly more specific range that I appreciate, but right now isn’t enough for me.

I’ve tried to look up other Filipinos who have tried the tests, and there aren’t many of them. I’ve read that “Pacific Islander” shows up in the results, and that would confuse me as someone who is from Hawai’i but not Hawaiian (more on that in another post, maybe).

I’m wondering if it’ll get better if I wait a few more years, or if this is the best it will get. I’m not exactly sure what needs to be done to get more accurate information, and I’m not sure if there’s anything I can do about it, but if there is I’d love to know.

Link: 29 Shameful Things Pinoys Who Who Weren’t Born In The Philippines Understand

29 Shameful Things Pinoys Who Weren’t Born In The Philippines Understand

I looked forward to going through this list. My family is hella Filipino and I knew I would be able to relate and laugh at everything.

I definitely did relate to some of these, but some of them were just so unheard of to me, and I knew it was because living in Hawai’i made things different.

Here are some examples:

3) You keep your shoes on while in the house, much to your nanay’s dismay.
Nope. In Hawai’i, that’s what you do. Why would you track all that dirt into your home? Even living in the mainland now I still leave my footwear at the door.

13) You dare to eat meals without rice.
Hell to the no. I mean, to be honest, since leaving Hawai’i I haven’t had as much rice as I did growing up, but I made that decision for health reasons. My whole life was filled with rice multiple times and not just from Filipino food — Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Hawaiian plate lunches…rice for days.

18) You don’t like Filipino Food.

20) You just can’t get used to the taste of ube ice cream.
Hawai’i has a pretty good amount of Filipino food areas, so getting some halo-halo is not a hard thing to do. Grew up with ube and all the Filipino goodies even if I’m not from Philippines, thanks to Hawai’i’s amazing diverse culture.

23) You use a Swiffer rather than a walis tambo.
Always have a walis tambo on us. My extended family who aren’t Filipino love to use them as well. They’ve seen them in markets all over the state and use it themselves. They’re just amazing brooms, OK?

28) And you don’t even like going to the beach.
Nope, not true at all. Hawai’i born and raised, I always have to be near an ocean.

Some other things I couldn’t relate to, for my own personal reasons not related to being from Hawai’i:

5) You don’t say “po” at the end of your sentences when you’re talking to elders.
I think this might be a Tagalog thing. My parents have never told me to do this. They did, however, always made sure I said, “Yes, Aunty/Uncle” or “No, Aunty/Uncle” whenever I talked to an elder.

7) And you don’t change into your pang-bahay clothes after going out.
My husband, who is also Filipino-American, doesn’t change into “house clothes” when he comes home. It makes me uncomfortable for him. My mom always made sure we did this, and to this day, I cannot be home in jeans or nice blouses because they are not my comfortable “house clothes.”

9) You rooted for Floyd Mayweather, not Manny Pacquiao, during the “Fight of the Century.”
I am ALL about representation of our people, and until my death I will root for the Pac-Man!

Actually, I couldn’t relate to a lot of this list, and it’s so off-putting to think that there are so many FilAms across the country that do relate to this. In a way, I’m lucky that I my parents decided that Hawai’i was going to be their new home. Hawai’i was basically another Philippines for them. Yes, I know it’s a huge difference, but Hawai’i already had a large Filipino population that allowed them to continue their normal way of raising a family. There’s a fairly large Filipino population here in California (and other states) but a lot of the FilAms I know here relate to this list more than I do. It’s a pretty interesting phenomenon, and I’m glad I can be a little more connected to my ethnicity because of where I grew up.