KAUAI PHILIPPINE CULTURAL
CENTER PUSHES TO RAISE
$500K TO FINISH WORK
As he surveyed the beehive of activity around him, Elesther Calipjo could not keep still. He stopped to talk to the foreman, inspected a trench that has just been dug, and then walked purposely to the end of the property to visually take in the construction progress that has been made. Calipjo is the President of the Kauai Philippine Cultural Center and since the building of the Center was announced in 2011, Calipjo had been its staunchest supporter. These days, he can often be found at the KPCC construction site located in a prime location in Lihue, close to the campuses of the Kauai Community College. To Calipjo, the Center is more than just a building. To him, it represents a hope for a united Kauai, hence the theme: “A Place for All”. Construction began in January of this year, and after the basic civil engineering groundwork and infrastructure had been completed, the foundations for the building havenow been put in place and construction progress has been steady. “I am happy to see the progress. Here it comes! But so much remains to be done, it’s overwhelming!” said Calipjo, who arrived in Kauai more than thirty years ago with a few dollars in his pocket and nothing more than a dream.
It was in 2011, during his installation as the President of the Kauai Filipino Chamber of Commerce when Calipjo first announced the creation of an exploratory committee for the Center and named banker Sonia Topenio as its Chairman. With the strong support from the KPCC dedicated board members, Lesther and Sonia, have worked together for the past seven years, to bring the elements that will ultimately make this vision into a reality. The idea for the gathering place for Kauai’s Filipino community had always been its dream for decades. The presidents of various Kauaibased organizations had, from time to time,articulated that dream but it was not until Calipjo spearheaded the campaign that the idea gained traction. Last year, the Center celebrated a major milestone with the groundbreaking at the site, which was attended by Governor Ige, Senate President Ron Kouchi and Kauai representative Jimmy Tokioka as well as local officials like Mayor Barnard Carvalho, Council Chair Mel Rapozo and others. Many lauded the progress that has been made because many felt that the Center would be a unifying force for Kauai’, especially amongst the Filipino organizations which have often operated independently of each other, despite alignment in culture or context.
So far, KPCC has raised $2 million dollars for the first phase of the project, including a grant from the State of Hawaii (through the efforts of Senator Kouchi, Representative Tokioka and Governor Abercrombie). The beautiful site upon which the Center is being built was made available on a 99-year license agreement with the Kauai county government through Mayor Bernard Carvalho. In addition, the Center also has been provided an adjoining 11+ acre parcel which will be used for overflow parking in the future. That 100 year licensing agreement is with developer Grove Farm. But according to Calipjo, the actual funds are not enough.
“We have been very careful with our expenses. Our contractors are donating so much of their services. But we absolutely need $500,000 to complete the project. Worrying about it keeps me awake most nights. I hope that when people witness the building rising, they will be inspired to donate. We cannot wait.”