During Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month I would like to honor and pay respect to two Keikos. Both were born in Japan and both have given many years of service to the Pacific Islands.
U.S. Sen. Mazie Keiko Hirono from Hawaii, whose Japanese name is Hirono Keiko, was born in Japan in November 1947 and served in the Hawaii House of Representatives from 1981 to 1995.
She was the 9th lieutenant governor of Hawaii from 1994 to 2002. She became a U.S. senator in 2013 and was sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden.
She is loved by Hawaiians and is a great leader and inspirational spokesperson for the Pacific region. Readers can find her biographical information online where they can read about her and her family’s struggles growing up in Japan and Hawaii.
The second Keiko I would like to honor and pay respect to is Sensei Keiko Manglona, whose Japanese name is Yoshimoto Keiko. She is a resident of Tinian.
Sensei, as she is known by her students and teaching colleagues, retired in February this year, after 38 years of service in the CNMI Public School System.
Despite personal tragedy—with the loss of her husband, George Manglona, in a tragic boating accident—Keiko persevered and persisted. She continued teaching on Saipan and Tinian and raised four young children at home. She taught at Marianas High School from 1980 to 1988 and started teaching at the Tinian High School in 1989. For the next 30 years she taught Japanese language, art, and culture to two generations on Tinian. Among her former students are current CNMI Sen. Jude U. Hofschneider, former CNMI House representative and current Tinian Mayor Edwin Aldan, and former attorney general and Tinian mayor Joey P. San Nicolas.
Aside from her teaching career, Sensei has initiated and coordinated many cultural activities with her THS Japanese Club. She led students many times to visit Hiroshima, Japan, which was bombed from Tinian. She has worked for years coordinating visits to Tinian from survivors, families, and relatives of Okinawans and other Japanese who lived and passed away here in World War II.
In my opinion (this is an Opinion page) Sensei should be commended and honored for her more than three decades of service (38 years) to education and the Japanese Pacific community. Honor and respect should come from the Marianas Visitors Authority, the CNMI Legislature, the Office of the Governor, and the Japanese Consulate.
In a recent chat with Keiko, she said, “To be a teacher, the most important thing is to love students.” I can assure the readers of this letter that love for her is reciprocated by her students and former colleagues. With all due respect and sincerity, I am proud to have worked with such a great colleague and friend, Sensei Keiko Manglona.
Joey “Pepe Batbon” Connolly
San Jose, Tinian