Sharing memories; her ministry of ‘ono cooking; her faith; and love for people.
Aunty Espy Garcia is 83 years old, but you can’t tell by the way she serves, moves, jokes, cooks, prays or teaches. Everything she does, she does with a spirit of excellence, and a youthful energy that anyone will admire. Her devout faith in God permeates through her words and actions. She credits His love, grace and mercy for her abundant, joyful life. Aunty Espy’s smile lights up a room, warms your heart, and cools you of on a bad day. She’s one of the most popular volunteer docents at the Hawaii Plantation Village in Waipahu–not only because of her vibrant, feisty, and comical nature, but also because of the ‘ono dishes like maki sushi, pinakbet, pancit and bread pudding which she prepares for all of her tour guests, every Monday morning.
Aunty Espy’s ministry is to share love through cooking. She also loves sharing her first hand experiences and knowledge of the plantation era, which occupied the space in time in Hawaii from 1850 circa 1950. Aunty Espy shared that the plantation era is the reason Hawaii is known as the melting pot of the Pacific Ocean. Aunty Espy shared that because Hawaiian workers didn’t like to work the fields, the managers of the plantation asked the government permission to bring in immigrants. “he Hawaiian people were mischievous, and playful. hey would only work when the luna (boss) was around, but as soon as the luna left, they would play,” she giggled. he Chinese immigrants were the first to be hired, and the first to come to work the fields. hey were paid $3.00 per month, for a contract of 5 years. he Portuguese immigrants came next. hey were hired in Portugal and brought here. he next comers were from Japan, then from Okinawa, then Puerto Rico, and then Korea. he last immigrants to come were the Filipinos. By the time they came, the wages were up to $1.00 a day. Aunty Espy is Filipino. Her papa (father) came to Hawaii in 1926, from the Philippines. Her, her mama, and her siblings waited in the Philippines for 2 years before they could come. While they waited, 4 of her 9 other siblings contracted dysentery and passed away. Aunty Espy shared that the loss of her 4 siblings almost killed her mama. Hers eyes watered as she spoke of how their neighbors saved her Mama from drowning. Her despair was so great she almost took her own life. Aunty Espy shares personal moments with her tour guests so they can know first hand what life was like during those times.
While there were definitely difficult moments, life on the plantation for Aunty Espy were the “good ol’ days when it was safe to leave doors open, and when every single neighbor knew one another.” “hat’s why I do what I do,” Aunty Espy shared. “I do what I can to help Hawaii bring back the true community that Hawaii was built upon.” Aunty Espy recollected, “as a plantation laborer’s daughter, I saw how hard people worked and how hard they played too. Every so often we would have parties. Everyone would get together and share their different cultures with one another.” She said the Puerto Rican people were the partiers of the bunch. “hey would bring the maracas and party until they were forced to go home. All you would have to do for them to leave is tell them there would be no more parties, and fast they would be gone!”
Aunty Espy shared so much about the times when she was a young girl, and in every memory she shared you knew it was bringing back wonderful memories for her. You could also see that she loved hearing the life stories of her visitors as well. he entire 2 hour tour was an exchange of love and aloha, and a celebration of the differences that make people unique. It was exactly what the plantation era brought to Hawaii so many years ago. The plantation era, and it’s impact on Hawaii life, had so much more meaning after being on Aunty Espy’s tour. Aunty Espy is a wonderful woman of Waipahu, and we thank her for all she does to love our community back to life! In case you’re interested in taking her tour, give the plantation a call at (808) 677-0110, or check them out on the web at www.hawaiiplantationvillage.org.