Hawaii is a culture of its own. Most non-islanders consider Hawaii as a vacation destination where they can enjoy the tropical climate, learn how to surf or go to luaus. Indeed we have that and more. Hawaii is all about community. The Hawaiian word for family is Ohana and we acknowledge everyone here as Ohana; our friends, their parents, and even their friend's friend. My Ohana taught me about the Aloha spirit. Things like saying "please" and "thank you", holding the door for people behind you, respecting my elders and being considerate for those around me became part of my daily life. Diversity is what makes Hawaii so special as well. The different ethnic groups like the Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Portuguese that came here for work during the plantation days developed a common language along with the native Hawaiians so they can communicate with each other and this became known as Pidgin English which it's presently used today. They brought along their food, culture, and music. Without diversity, I would never have learned how to play the ukulele or use chopsticks; I wouldn't become the person I am today.
Growing up in a Filipino household and having parents with an accent was a constant reminder for me of where my parents came from and how hard it was for them living in the Philippines. My parents worked hard for my brother and me to have a better life than they did. My dad used to always remind me to follow your heart, live your dreams and don't allow failure to hold you down. As I watch my parents work hard, I likewise continue to work hard. At the same time I try to stay focused and determined so I can achieve my dreams in life. And my most important dream has been to become an architect.
This dream began at an early age. My father bought my brother and me Mega Bloks or LEGO pieces and I would spend hours building structures or spaceships. After I was done playing with them, I'd neatly place them in a storage box to play with the next day. I used to cry when either my brother dismantled what I had built or my mom accidentally broke off a piece because I had spent my entire mornings or afternoons working on it. When I have an idea and build something from that idea, I look forward to seeing the idea evolve into something real.
In addition to my "hands-on" experience in construction, I would watch my dad work on drafting projects and I became intrigued by his sketches. He drew everything by hand and had beautiful calligraphy. His work appealed to me and deepened my interest in architecture. My father worked in construction and did surveying work. Drafting was his hobby; as I would watch him draw plans, I too would go through them, envisioning the layout of my own future home. When my dad or mom took me to the grocery store, I would pick up those free booklets listing local houses for sale. I was fascinated by the way the houses were built or how they functioned. And I would see houses from all over the island ranging from the low end to the high end of the spectrum. I noticed that the houses of different cities or region had a unique design to them. Some were big and lavish with swimming pools, a big backyard and a panoramic view of the beach. Others were very simple yet still very effective. Hawaii uses a unique style of architecture. A good example is the Hawaii State Capitol. It uses columns resembling palm trees; (representing the ocean) water surrounding the building, and the house and senate chambers that were designed to resemble volcanoes. It was built to reflect the environment and such symbolism makes me appreciate the architecture we have here.
When teachers asked the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I would go back to the memory of playing with the LEGO pieces or Mega Bloks. Intuitively, I thought, "I can do something like that." So in my senior year in high school, I took a drafting class. This prepared me for the Architectural, Engineering, and CAD Technologies program at Honolulu Community College. Starting at a community college gave me an opportunity to grow and helped me find the specific career path I would purse. Coming right out of high school, I was still naive and thought I had everything figured out but once I got into college I realized that it was a totally different ballpark.
I struggled through my first year in the program but I picked myself up and applied myself at every opportunity by learning from my mistakes. I understood that if you want something in life, you have to work for it. I realized quickly that failure is necessary but focus is everything. In the last year in the program, we read the book Architecture: Form, Space, and Order by Francis D.K. Ching. That book opened my eyes and I discovered that Architecture wasn't just about building homes or buildings. Ching talked about the basics of architectural theory and wrote, "Fundamentally, the physical manifestations of architecture accommodate human activity. However, the arrangement and ordering of forms and spaces also determine how architecture might promote endeavors, elicit responses, and communicate meaning." Even in my community activities I stayed close to my field by being involved with Habitat to Humanity and I was an AEC club member. Additionally, I had the chance to field shadow a Chief in CADD/Production at Belt Collins Hawaii Ltd, where I got to see how an architecture firm works and manages projects.
As my last year in Honolulu Community College approaches its end, I can say that I've grown from this experience. I will be graduating with an Associate's Degree in the spring of 2013. While I was learning about the basics of design, I was figuring out who I was as a person. The more time I spent in the program the more I was certain I'd want to pursue this career. I've chosen to go to the University of Washington as my first choice to pursue architecture and begin a new chapter in my life. The architecture program has a great curriculum and their research library would allow a great opportunity to become successful in the field. I love their emphasis on sustainability, community design and international programs. I believe success is doing something worthwhile and I'm convinced that the University of Washington can help me earn a B.S. degree in Architectural Studies while helping me to understand how architecture works and how to better adapt it to our daily lives. While I'm eager to see more of the world I'll never forget the values I've learned in Hawaii and hopefully will bring some "Aloha Spirit" with me.