Andrea's Gardens - A Tale of 3 Generations of Artists

Dr. Rodney Chang *
May 9, 2013

     "Andrea's Gardens" is a tale of 3 generations of artists, a story about family that can uplift the spirit and provide hope for families around the world.  "How so?," you may be asking. This story starts in the Philippines.

    Andrea Cabico, 77, decades ago, like so many other immigrants to America, decided to give up what she had in her native land, in order to secure better opportunity for her children.  She sold her acres of rice and tobacco fields in Ilocos Sur province. There she had the most beautiful residential garden, unlike her neighboring farmers' parcels.  She was disappointed that her neighbors could not comprehend why she wasted time and resources, just to make her land pretty.  "They were all blind to beauty."  

   She moved with her husband Pio, now 74, and their 4 young daughters from spacious farmland into a cramped rented apartment on McNeil Street in Kalihi of Honolulu.  They had to make due with what Pio made working construction and herself working in a chicken butchery and packing warehouse on Dillingham Blvd.  She was depressed but thankful to be in Hawaii and "America.”  Eventually the family saved enough to make the down payment for a modest house in Waipahu.  It didn't take long before the property's front yard was the most beautiful on the street.  Andrea now had about 1,000 feet of frontage to do her first Hawaii flower garden.  She loved her days off from the poultry slaughterhouse, nurturing her colorful flower garden.

   Sadly, she and Pio sold their residence in order to move to Las Vegas to help with a daughter's startup family.  Back then, Vegas was the boomtown for jobs. Long story short, like for so many island families that gambled on Las Vegas for better employment than could be had on Oahu, the economy sunk and boom turned into personal bust for the Cabico's families in Nevada.  Long story short, her daughter's family moved back to Hawaii as renters with just enough room for the immediate family.  Andrea and her husband now retired, were homeless.

   This leads to my own story.  You may know of me if you are a Baby Boomer.  I'm the dentist that you saw on national television, the “disco dentist” who converted his Kalihi waiting room into a discotheque décor.  Judging from the times folks saw me dancing in commercials, I was one of the most popular eccentrics featured on the then most popular TV program entitled Real People.  Back then there were only 3 "stations."  No seemingly infinite choices of cable channels like today. NBC's Real People presentation of nutty people was rated as the most viewed program of the 3 networks in 1979-1980.  In the 1980 reruns, I again anchored the nationally televised commercials, dancing away in my dental clinic.  I must have been, back then during the Disco Mania era, America's most famous dentist.  That's history, my true story, my "15 minutes of fame," as described by the late Andy Warhol.

  Now how does this relate to "Andrea's Gardens?"  OK, time to get more to the point.

  Turning 60, I did my last public dance performance.  I rented out Rumors for my 60th birthday party bash.  Celebrity disco diva, Yvonne Elliman, famous for the dance hit "If I Can't Have You," graced the disco birthday dance party with her presence.  My birthday dance is still viewable on Utube.

  Since I no longer would be dancing, I felt I'd better find some other way to exercise regularly entering my senior years.  So I got the idea to run multiple 26 mile marathons through my 60's, to prepare for my 70's when I expect to become more sedentary.  I had run 13 Honolulu Marathons from age 30 to age 59 and figured I'd better step it up moving forward in age. I'm now 67 and next month's Kona marathon will be my 47th finish line.  I'm trying to complete 50 marathons before I hang up my running shoes, like I did my dance shoes.  

   One of the marathons I participated in was the Volcano Marathon.  And that's how I discovered, as a Honolulu city boy, the magnificent beauty of the giant fern trees that had enchantment to the rain forests at that elevation of Kilauea crater and the Volcano National Park.  It was magical running within the national park, struggling over the 26.2 miles of barren lava fields of the now defunct Volcano Marathon.  Vog and liability I guess put and end to that annual run, promoted as "the toughest marathon to complete in the world."  I believe I was the oldest, at 62, of the 220 runners that took on the challenging course.  Most were in their 20s and 30s, many military.

   So this is how I discovered the property on which Andrea's Gardens are now taking root.  I got title to 3 acres of rain forest with an existing cottage. A large room was modeled into a dance room.  A neon sign, blazing "Volcano Disco," lights up the dance parties in the rain forest.  Like a time capsule, Disco Doc now boogies to all the old dance hits of the 70s and 80s.  Donna Summers, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston seem still alive on the big video screen above the dance floor.  Every party starts with Whitney’s  "The Greatest Love of All."  I shed a tear every time when I watched the video and hear her sing that song. Her poster, as well as one of Michael and also of Donna, hang on the walls of the dance floor, like a personal hall of fame.  I'm still in love with Whitney.  My wife, Erlinda, the eldest daughter of Andrea, lets it pass. In fact, she knows she looked like a Filipino version of Whitney when she was younger, and that's what attracted me when I discovered her in the dental chair, resulting in our marriage.  I can prove this is no exaggeration by showing a photo of Erlinda when she was 27.  

   Our marriage brought Rochelle into the world, Andrea's granddaughter.  When Rochelle was just 3, she out-discoed her father, the Disco Doc.  I then knew she was a chip off the old block, that dance was in her blood.  I realized then that dancing would continue into the next generation.  Long story short, Rochelle, today 22, just graduated from the most prestigious college program for classical ballet.  The Jacobs School of Music at Big Ten Indiana University.  After coming home to visit, she's off to Colorado for a summer gig then will attempt to use her talent in New York City.  To the disappointment of her grandmother Andrea!

   Andrea and Pio, about to be homeless in Vegas, was offered lodging at my Volcano "spiritual retreat" in the rain forest.  They would take care of the property, I would support them.  Just minimal housekeeping and providing security would be enough.  But then Andrea spotted all that land.  She heard that the private disco was only temporary before it would be converted into Rochelle's ballet studio.  There's a Charter school in Volcano Village where kids don't have any access to ballet lessons.  So Andrea, possessed already for her need to express her passion for gardening, told me, 

  "I will create my ‘garden masterpiece’ so that when Rochelle's future students come for class, they will walking through beautiful flower gardens, inspiring their dancing."  

  So that's the story of Andrea's Gardens.  Grandma labors with passion 7 days a week, rain or shine - usually rain, in preparation of her granddaughter's eventual coming.  Meanwhile, her son-in-law can keep on disco dancing when he vacations from Honolulu with his wife, who eagerly comes to visit her parents.  Being that I am a lifelong artist (MA, painting, Chicago; Ph.D., Aesthetic Psychology, Cincinnati), the gardens inspire my abstract digital art.  Meanwhile, Andrea pursues her goal to do her life's garden masterpiece with 3 acres of rain forested canvas.  And Rochelle, budding ballet starlet off to the East Coast, will eventually come to roost and share her talent with Big Islanders who seek to learn from the best.  There you have it, Volcano gardens that serve 3 generations of artists - of Hawaii.


* Some may be asking, “What ever happen to the Disco Dentist?  Disco Doc transformed himself to Pygoya, Web artist and co-founder of Webism, an art movement of global artists, now hundreds strong, dedicated to making digital art FOR the Internet instead of physical galleries. Pygoya is also founder and director of a virtual art museum at  Search Google with “internet art museum” and Truly Virtual Web Art Museum is listed lst among over 185 million link results.  A big victory for a Hawaii-based Web site! The brick n’ mortar New York City museums, like MOMA and the Whitney, are listed below Py’s virtual museum.