Filipino man from Keaau to be honored for efforts to help immigrants

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Santiago Gose of Keaau will be awarded the Daughters of the American Revolution Americanism Medal. He was nominated for his community service work, particularly in helping immigrants in the Filipino community achieve citizenship and become registered voters.

For decades now, Santiago Gose of Keaau has helped his fellow Filipino immigrants.

Working as an immigration service specialist first with the Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council and later with Hawaii County, Gose worked with individuals to find work, apply for citizenship and encouraged those who could to exercise their right to vote.

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Gose will be awarded the Daughters of the American Revolution Americanism Medal at a meeting of the organization’s Hawaii Loa chapter at 9:30 a.m. July 20 at the Aupuni Conference Center in Hilo.

The chapter nominated Gose, who became a naturalized citizen on July 4, 1976, for his community service work — particularly his efforts to help immigrants in the Filipino community achieve citizenship and become registered voters.

The DAR Americanism Medal is awarded to naturalized citizens for exceptional community volunteer work with an emphasis on the foreign-born community, as well as for outstanding leadership, trustworthiness and love of their adopted country.

Gose, 78 this month, is originally from Santa, Ilocos Sur, Philliipines, and said he came to Hawaii in July 1970, at the age of 29.

“My dad filed petition for me, that’s how I came.”

After arriving in Hawaii, Gose, who moved to the Big Island in 1973, worked in the Firestone division of Von Hamm Young, and later worked at the Puna Sugar Company from 1974 until the plantation closed in 1984.

When the plantation closed, Gose said he was hired at the Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council as an immigrant service provider, and in 1993, he was appointed as an immigrant service provider for the county by former Mayor Steve Yamashiro, a role he held until 2000.

Gose said he would seek companies looking for employees and would go with individuals to the interviews and interpret for them. He would help individuals file petitions for family members to come over.

And when they were eligible, Gose would help them apply for citizenship.

“Once they become a U.S. citizen, I encouraged them to register to vote, and I encouraged them to vote because that’s their right,” he said.

Gose also previously worked a crossing guard at Keaau Elementary School, had previously served as an interpreter for Filipino individuals seeking their driver’s permit and at present is a court interpreter.

“I’m so excited, I’m so happy,” Gose said of the DAR recognition.

Patricia Nakamoto, elections program manager for the county who wrote one of three letters of recommendation for the DAR award, said she first met Gose when he was working for the county.

According to Nakamoto, Gose, whom she has known for 19 years, also has served as a precinct official, became part of the election staff, and has assisted at the county’s early voting site.

“It means a lot to the election’s office to have someone like Mr. Gose, who is committed to the process and really believes and recognizes the importance of every citizen having that opportunity to participate in the election process,” she said. “His patriotism shows by his commitment to the voting process, by registering voters and being there to serve them on election day. … He’s very committed, and for us here in the elections office, we feel like Mr. Gose is an American treasure.”

Former University of Hawaii at Hilo administrator Gerald De Mello, who wrote another recommendation letter for the DAR award, has known Gose for 30 years and said he is deserving of the recognition. He said Gose’s work is “an embrace of the American spirit, the American ethos.”

“He was known as someone trustworthy to provide you with guidance in the steps necessary to take to become a U.S. citizen,” De Mello wrote in his letter. “Mr. Santiago’s work in the community was outstanding. He demonstrated leadership in community affairs and became a respected leader in the immigrant community.

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“He touched many lives with lasting impacts by helping immigrants navigate the necessary and legal steps to becoming legal U.S. citizens,” De Mello’s letter continued. “Furthermore, he would help to place new citizens in programs that would teach skill sets, so they could be eligible for employment opportunities. In my view, Mr. Gose demonstrated dedication to American values and was committed to the fundamental premise of Americanism that a contributing American citizen is one who ‘works.’”

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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