Helen Rosete Nagtalon-Miller was born in Waipahu, Hawaii, on June 27, 1928. Helen was raised on a sugar cane plantation and attended Waipahu public schools, the University of Hawaii, Ohio State University and the Sorbonne (Paris, France). Throughout her teaching career, Helen infused her classes on language and education with critical perspectives gained from her humble plantation upbringing and various experiences in higher education. An advocate and activist for affirmative action, bilingual education, and civil and women's rights, Helen has influenced and inspired countless students and colleagues to keep working for the disadvantaged and disenfranchised in our society regardless of rewards or recognition. Helen passed away on March 2, 2014.
A former public school teacher, university instructor and coordinator for UHM's Operation Manong (currently, the Office of Multicultural Student Services), Helen was a founding member and past president of the Filipino-American Historical Society of Hawaii and had last served on its Board of Advisors. She had also served as a chairperson or board member for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (Hawaii Advisory Committee), Hawaii Committee on the Status of Women, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission, Filipino Community Center, Japanese-American Citizens League (Hawaii chapter) and the Hawaii Committee for the Humanities.
Among many recognitions received for her public service, Helen received the Honolulu County Committee on the Status of Women's "Women of Distinction" award (1982), National Education Association's "Award for Leadership in Asian and Pacific Island Affairs" (1985), ACLU's "Alan F. Saunders Civil Liberties Award" (1986), and University of Hawaii's "Distinguished Alumni Award" (1994).
The following essays by Helen Nagtalon-Miller were being edited for publication in another format by Clement Bautista. Editor's introduction to essays:
Helen Nagtalon-Miller hired me, in 1984, to work as an Operation Manong (OM) tutor based at UH-Manoa. Although most of our work involved off-campus assignments, whenever I had the occasion to report to the OM office I would often pass Helen's office. Without failure, this inevitably meant striking up a conversation. Also without failure, these spontaneous and seemingly inconsequential conversations would morph into a lengthy and intense discussion on topics as diverse as ethnicity, Bach, civil rights, language, education, and mass media.
Although not every passerby fully appreciated this detour in his or her daily routine, I learned early on that with a little patience and slight disregard for any pending appointments, I was going to be enlightened, in some unexpected way, with each encounter with Helen. The following writings were collected and prepared to provide others with the same type of detour.
Immediately, these essays relate the experiences of a Hawaii-born Filipina, informed by ethnicity, the plantation experience, strong family ties, civil rights, and higher education. More than this, however, are the subtle insights Helen often makes into the many things we thought we knew, understood, or took for granted. These always occur as little asides, detours within detours.
Except for minor formatting and reference corrections, essays are not altered from original sources. Added editorial footnotes appear in brackets .
Growing Up Filipino on an American Plantation (1984) (PDF, 236KB)
The views and opinions contained in each essay solely those of the author and not necessarily those of eFIL, FAHSOH, FilCom, OMSS, HCH or the University of Hawaii.
Historical Society of Hawaii