Amy Agbayani

From KeyWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Amy Agbayani

Amefil "Amy" Agbayani has been honored nationally and statewide as a strong voice for women, civil rights, immigrant rights, workers rights, Filipinos and equity and diversity in higher education. Born in the Philippines, Amy received her degree in political science from the University of the Philippines and her PhD from UH. [1]




  • Student Equity Excellence and Diversity at University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • Former Director at Operation Manong UH


Amy Agbayani was married first to her professor, Bob Cahill.

He’s very progressive, liberal and he got me involved in my first campaign for Tom Gill, who ran for lieutenant governor. I have a partner; his name is Gus Gustavson. He’s haole. Swedish American, I think, from [Boston]. And he’s retired from the Department of Health. I was married before, and I felt that a relationship should be—you should be there, if you want to be there.[2]

Amy Agbayani got a degree in political science, and planned to go to the University of the Philippines Law School. But met a professor from the University of Hawaii visiting the Philippines, Bob Stouffer. And that’s where she heard about the University of Hawaii, and the East West Center, and "that’s how I got to Hawaii, as a East West Center scholar".

Well, I was twenty-six when I got my PhD, and my first job was to work in Kalihi- Palama on a model cities program. And then, the 1965 immigration law was passed, and that brought along a lot of new immigrant Filipinos trickling into Hawaii. And so people like myself noticed that Filipino immigrants were really, really being picked on in the public schools, there was no bilingual education for them, they couldn’t be understood, and there were big fights. And so a group of us started Operation Manong. But I think the reason we were able to do that is because most of us were highly educated. All of us, Sheila Forman, Melinda Kerkvliet, we were PhD candidates, and we had haole last names, and with faculty husbands. And so I think we had a lot of self-confidence to just try anything out. And so, we did start that, and it was really simple. We asked Filipino students, Will you help tutor in the public schools, ‘cause the Filipino children need your help. And the day that week that we got there, we noticed there were Koreans, and there were Chinese, and others. And so we expanded Operation Manong from just Filipino to every immigrant community.
Well, we didn’t even have any organization at the time. It was sort of just a group. And then, later on, we got some church money, and then we were able to get a very large federal grant to hire our tutors to work in the public schools. I’m extremely proud of the students that we got. The first two included Robin Campaniano, and Emme Tomimbang. Both of them represent the kind of student that we wanted, who was good at getting through college, but at the same time, getting into a profession, and being community oriented.[3]

Bakke Decision


Late 1970s Amy Agbayani addressing students in front of banner of the National Committee to Overturn the Bakke Decision.

Justice and Peace Commission on the Philippines

Ang Katipunan, July 2, 1985
Ang Katipunan, July 2, 1985

On May 6 1985 the Catholic Church in Hawaii convened the first Justice and Peace Commission of the Philippines meeting in St Theresa's Rectory Hall.

Commission members were Tom Dinell, Fr. John Doherty, Amy Agbayani of Operation Manong and , and

Dean Alegado of the Union of Democratic Filipinos was there, and commended the Church for getting involved. Helen Toribio, co-chair of the Coalition to Defend Immigrant Rights said that her organization was looking forward to working with the Church on immigration issues.

Rollie Smith, Executive Director of the Office of Social Ministry also attended.

Helping Patsy Mink

Amy Agbayani worked to elect Patsy Mink;

Everyone thinks of Patsy Mink only of the successes she’s had, but I’ve helped Patsy Mink when she lost three to one, think, against Sparky Matsunaga. So I’ve been on the losing side on a number of issues. But I keep coming back to the Legislature.

Supporting Hirono


Amy Agbayani joined Mazie Hirono's gubernatorial campaign in 2002.

The Abercrombie connection


Amy Agbayani is close to Nancie Caraway, and her husband Neil Abercrombie;

Well, she sees me as a mentor. Because I did introduce her to her husband, and actually, got her to uh, finish her college degree when she was a nontraditional student. And you’re right that there are very few Filipinos in a lot of places, and that’s one of the reasons why I am active in politics. It’s because I think that that is a venue for Filipinos to improve their status in the State of Hawaii. And, like, Neil Abercrombie and I do go back a long way, and he is a strong friend of Ben Cayetano also. And so I used to ask Neil Abercrombie to help us on Filipino immigrant issues. So he would.
And so, how did it come to be that you introduced Nancie Caraway to Neil Abercrombie, and they’ve been married for decades?

Well, she was a nontraditional student. She didn’t have a BA. I, at the time, had already gotten a PhD. And she attended a workshop for women returning to college, and I suggested that she interview Neil Abercrombie for her term paper. And they got to meet each other, and that’s history. And as I always tell everyone, I also helped them get their first apartment, which is even harder.

Abercrombie for Governor

In 2010, Amy Agbayani was Honorary co-chair of Abercrombie for Governor.

Amy Agbayani introduced Neil Abercrombie to his wife, Nancie Caraway , and has worked on every campaign for Abercrombie. [4]

Women for Tulsi


April 13th, 2012, a coalition of Hawaii women, including first lady Nancie Caraway, announced their support for Tulsi Gabbard in the race for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District.

“The person who holds the seat of our beloved Patsy Mink in Congress needs to be of the highest integrity and intelligence,” Caraway said Wednesday at a news conference on the state Capitol lawn to announce the launch of Women for Tulsi.

“I have seen Tulsi in action. I’ve seen her with people. She works beautifully with people. She listens to them. She thinks on her feet and she’s a genuinely reciprocal human being,” Caraway said.

Others declaring their support for Gabbard included City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi and prominent diversity advocate Amy Agbayani.[5]


  1. [1] Abercrombie for Governor website, accessed July 10, 2010
  2. STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX Amy Agbayani Posted on September 15, 2014
  3. [2] Abercrombie for Governor website, accessed July 10, 2010
  4. [3] Abercrombie for Governor website, accessed July 10, 2010
  5. AdvertizerFirst lady for Tulsi, April 13th, 2012 By B.J. Reyes

[[Category:[Women for Tulsi]]