He maiʻa ke kanaka a ka lā e hua ai

Aloha! Iʻm Jess Manapul, the newest intern to join Purple Maiʻa. I was born in Guam, but I spent the first few years of my life in the Philippines before I moved to Hawaiʻi at the age of 6. Oʻahu has been my home since.

It was here that I “grew up” and developed my passions for digital media and community outreach–passions that I eventually carried into my career as a graphic and web designer. I now spend my time helping small businesses and nonprofits expand their community reach through technology. This is my manaʻo.

A man is like a banana tree on the day it bears its fruit.

I come from an extremely underdeveloped, impoverished community in the Philippines. I’m talking: lack of jobs, deteriorating houses, poor infrastructure, no government resources. To give you an idea of where on the spectrum of poverty my mother’s hometown was: a sign of wealth was having a toilet instead of a bucket.

Third-world countries are often looked down on for being “behind” somehow as a community, but to this day, this town remains one of the most innovative and most resilient communities I’ve known. No one had access to financial or public resources, or even the everyday opportunities that a lot of us are sort of born into today. People couldn’t just book a dentist appointment when they formed a cavity, place an UberEats delivery order when they were hungry, or even call for help when the floors of their living rooms disappeared under knee-high flood water. If something broke, people had to be resourceful with what was around them and resort to makeshift solutions because they had to, not because DIY was their hobby. And if someone got sick, families and neighbors took on the roles of doctors, therapists and emotional support.

These types of obstacles birthed an innovative group of people, but more importantly, they drew the community to find their strength in one another. Even with all of the hardships each family faced, they bonded through their struggles and became empowered in it. They put their focus on lifting people instead of becoming too fixated on the physical problems, building strong personal relationships that helped to keep spirits up even in times of crisis. In this town, you knew everyone’s names and you watched out for each other’s kids because your neighbors were just extended family. Although no one had the luxury of money or technology, nothing stopped them from taking care of each other. By doing so, these people didn’t just build a foundation for a strong community; they themselves were the foundation.

The story of my mother’s hometown is one of many that has inspired me to continue to support our families, neighbors and community. Through technology, I aim to help make public resources more accessible, improve the quality of life for underserved communities and preserve cultural values. I believe that when we combine community-centered values with culturally-grounded technology, we plant trees that will offer shade for centuries beyond our time. And with the amazing team at Purple Maiʻa, I hope to continue the mission our ancestors set to take care of one other.