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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 22, 2007

Peter Aduja, distinguished local Filipino

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer

Peter A. Aduja of Kane'ohe dedicated much of his life to a number of community organizations. He died suddenly Monday. He was 86.

Aduja family photo

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Peter A. Aduja was an attorney, patriot, politician and community volunteer who distinguished himself as a shinning example of an American dream come true for Filipino immigrants.

"He was one of the first-generation, bold, local Filipino boys who learned the value of education in the early plantation days, did well in school and fulfilled the dreams and hopes of his immigrant parents," retired educator Domingo Los Banos said of his friend of 63 years.

Aduja, a Kane'ohe resident, died Monday while vacationing in Las Vegas.

"It was sudden and unexpected because if you saw him, you would think he was 60 years old, not 86," said his daughter, Melodie Rebecca Aduja. "He did five miles a day on the stationary bike, swam laps in the pool and was very health conscious."

A native of Salindig, Vigon, Luzon, Illocos Sur in the Philippines, Aduja came to Hawai'i in 1928 at age 8 and grew up on the Big Island in Hakalau, where his father worked as a $1-a-day sugar plantation worker.

An only child, Aduja never forgot the hardships of his early life and the sacrifices of his parents.

He maintained steadfast commitments to The Salvation Army's adult rehabilitation center, Boys Scouts of America, Big Brothers of Hawai'i and more than 30 other community organizations.

"We came from nothing. ... We slept on plain wooden boards and cooked over an open fire," Aduja, an Eagle Scout, once said in describing his early years in Hawai'i.

Aduja graduated from Hilo High, majored in government and history at the University of Hawai'i, and was one of 50 local boys who volunteered in 1944 and served with the U.S. Army's 1st Filipino Infantry Regiment in the Philippines in 1945.

Los Banos, retired Department of Education Leeward District superintendent, and Benjamin Menor, who in 1962 became Hawai'i's first Filipino immigrant state senator, served in the same unit.

After his discharge from the military in 1946, Aduja taught briefly at Na'alehu Elementary & Intermediate School on the Big Island before earning his law degree from Boston University School of Law in 1951.

In 1954, Aduja became the first Filipino in Hawai'i (and the United States) to win a major elective post, claiming a seat in the Territorial House of Representatives as a Republican from Hilo. He served one two-year term and went to work for the Department of Attorney General before returning to politics as a state representative from 1966-74.

Aduja also was elected as a delegate to the 1968 Constitutional Convention.

Besides his daughter, Aduja is survived by his son, Jay Peter Aduja, and two grandchildren.

Services are pending.

Reach Rod Ohira at rohira@honoluluadvertiser.com.