The Molinas have lived on Maui for many generations. Many older locals will remember The Molina’s Orchestra and Molina’s Tavern in Wailuku. Beginning in the mid-1930s, the Molinas were Maui’s top dance band and some performed hula. From 1952 to 1976, they owned Club Rodeo, a restaurant in Makawao where Casanova Italian Restaurant & Deli is now located.
“Our family has also been deeply involved in community service, and is to this day,” Molina said.
Molina seems to be following in his family’s vision, action and musical footsteps. After graduating from Eastern Oregon University and University of Idaho with Bachelor of Arts degrees in forest management, history, and musical performance, he became a forester in the Rocky Mountains.
Eric Molina and Uncle Charlie Maxwell believe it is essential to respect the unique ecosystems and interconnected culture of Haleakalā and Maui.
“While working on the Mainland, I began to contemplate our beautiful island and its indigenous forest,” he said. His aloha ‘āina led him to ask himself if he could make a difference on Maui.
The answer to this question led him on the journey home to share his knowledge of forestry while working for the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).
“My vision is to bring back Maui’s native forests, and specifically, the ‘iliahi—the sandalwood trees. These trees have had a significant place in Hawai‘i’s history, as one of the first export trade goods with the Western world,” Molina said.
Maui was blessed with an abundance of sandalwood. The Hawaiian people called it “lā‘au ‘ala” or “sweet wood,” known for its aphrodisiacal, aromatic, herbal and medicinal properties.
“Sandalwood became a primary commodity in the islands and Hawai‘i was called ‘The Sandalwood Mountains,’” he said.
King Kamehameha I used sandalwood trade to bring in ships and increase his military power, while his nephew, Kamehameha II, bought luxury goods in trade for the precious scented wood. Sadly, the trees were harvested nearly to extinction, and their loss has come to represent one of the many ways that old Hawai‘i was lost to make way for the new.
Molina’s biggest focus in Natural Resource Management and Conservation has been to care for and restore the natural landscape of old Hawai’i here on Maui. He is involved with the Watershed Partnerships and native species propagation, as well as fire protection and illegal trespassing.
“I love my job with the DLNR because I feel tied to the land. Working with the Earth while protecting and restoring important, sacred, cultural areas is most rewarding,” he said.
Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr., Hawaiian kahu and cultural practitioner, shares Molina’s passion for the ‘āina. Maxwell has known the Molina family for many years and has a deep respect for Eric’s efforts to preserve the Hawaiian culture.
“The land is the basis of the culture with its streams, mountains, beaches and oceans,” said Maxwell. “It must be held in reverence and protected as it was in ancient times. Indigenous plants and trees found on Haleakalā mountain have been used for a variety of cultural purposes and still are.”
Both Molina and Maxwell have the desire to nurture and preserve the historical sites, the plants and forest, as well as the Hawaiian language and arts.
Molina has sung and acted for as long as he remembers. His love for entertaining led him to Maui Onstage at the ‘Ïao Theater, where he performs and is currently a board member.
“I enjoy working with actors and see the theater as a great way to support the community,” he said.
Just recently, Molina enjoyed working along with Barry and Stella Rivers at the Maui film Festival.
In 2002, Molina began working as a disc jockey at Mana‘o Radio. His show, “The Good Doctor,” airs every Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m.
Molina has also played with many musicians, orchestras and bands throughout the years.
“My current band is called The Beesides,” he said. “We play for different local events and at Charley’s Restaurant [in Pā‘ia] every second Saturday of the month.”
Molina continues to contribute to the community—and the world. He is the Maui coordinator and long-standing member of Amnesty International. The global mission of this organization is rooted in a fundamental commitment to the rights, dignity and well-being of every person on Earth.
“I truly believe we are all responsible to uphold the ideals enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” he said.
On Maui, Molina has been chair and vice chair of the Maui Arborist Committee, which is dedicated to landscape beautification. He is a member of the County of Maui Block Grant Program, a federally funded effort whose objective is to provide expanded economic opportunities for persons of low and moderate income. And, as a member of the Office of Elections, he urges everyone to “Please vote!”