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Maui boy recalls wen life wuz good
Staff Writer

   Louis Baldovi's little memoir is loaded with nuggets of information about life in the pine village of Kuiaha. It also contains the basic ingredients of a dramatic story, although he did not choose to develop "Holoholo to Wen I Wuz" in that direction.
Baldovi's parents came to Hawaii from the Philippines just after the collapse of the Filipino labor movement in the early 1920s, but theirs was  more personal drama.
   His mother, Flavia Lacno, was a sort of reverse picture bride. She had been compelled into an unwelcome arranged  marriage in Cebu, then she and her husband emigrated to Hawaii.
    Able to earn her own way here, she soon left him and met Leocadio Baldovi, from the Batan islands, a successful amateur boxer. With money from Baldovi, Lacno obtained an annulment and they married. They had 11 children, but only seven lived to adulthood.
Notice the boxing. For tough immigrants everywhere, boxing offered a fast way up out of the ruck. Boxing is at the center of the two best-known plantation novels set on Maui, Milton Murayama's "All I Asking for is My Body" and Jon Sirota's "Lucky Come Hawaii." In those novels, though, it is
the second generation that boxes.
    In the Baldovis' real-life case, as in the novels, there was also the family struggle to obtain education. In the Baldovi family, one daughter, Jane, was sent to Iowa State Teachers College, which ate up all the available money, and the other brothers and sisters had to find another way. Louis went into the Army.
In the end, two others, James and Louis, also managed to obtain degrees, and the three all became teachers.
However, these bits are just scattered through the tale, which is mostly about small-kid time. It is arranged by subject: food, games, school, working in the fields during the summer, fishing, the war years, chores, clothes, death.
Baldovi, who apparently really was a kolohe (rascal) boy, casually drops off anecdotes that would curl the hair of a 21st century parent:
Bus trips over the old pali road to Lahainaluna where the hairpins turns were so sharp the bus couldn't make it in one go; the driver hung the rear perilously over the cliff.
    Free diving and opihi picking. Parents of Baldovi and his friends "rarely worried about us although fishing was considered quite dangerous."
    And one his parents never knew about. Baldovi used to hang around Camp Maui, and in a dump he found a new M1 Garand rifle, still in cosmoline. Since he and his buddies earned pocket money by cleaning weapons for the Marines, he knew how to set it up. Live ammunition was available for picking up. Baldovi was about 13 or 14 during this adventure.
"    Holoholo to Wen I Wuz" is full of insights into  the good and bad old days, of interest of born-and-raiseds and newcomers alike.
To the end of her long life, Flavia Baldovi used to tell her children, "Lucky come Hawaii." Hawaii was lucky to get her.

 Harry Eagar can be reached at heagar@mauinews.com

Star Bulletin  2/18/07
Haleakala Times  11/20/06
Maui News  8/12/06