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UPSIDE (Cherie M. Querol Moreno): Attorney General at ALLICE 20th: ‘I got your back”

COLMA, California – Caring Filipino Americans and allies got together this week to honor Claire Joyce Tempongko, thank Giovannie Espiritu and reiterate their commitment to take part in stopping family and intimate partner violence.

In a private gathering Oct. 24 at Colma Community Center to mark all-volunteer ALLICE Alliance for Community Empowerment’s 20th anniversary of promoting safe and healthy relationships, California Attorney General Rob Bonta assured abuse survivors of support from his office through the Dept. Of Justice Community Awareness Response and Engagement or CARE.

“I have your back,” vowed the state’s highest ranking elected FilAm official as his mother, longtime social justice advocate Cynthia Bonta, smiled in approval.  He commended ALLICE for its legacy of providing free and open to the public abuse prevention education as well as its key partners: Philippine International Aid, Philippine News Today and San Mateo County Behavioral Health & Recovery Services, which the team had earlier elevated to its Platinum Year Hall of Fame for their vital contribution to the movement.

Consul General in San Francisco Neil Frank Ferrer affirmed the consulate’s founding partnership with ALLICE as he urged the team to turn its sights on the ancestral homeland and help beleaguered women and families there.  He attended the reception with his wife Miriam Ferrer, Consuls Vanessa Bago-Llona and Rowena Pangilinan-Daquipil, Vice Consul Adrian Audrey Baccay, consular Baylene Jaro and the consul general’s secretary Michelle Raiz

With typical verve, San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa led the ALLICE Pledge crafted 20 years ago by the team. In a spontaneous move, he invited Daly City resident Liezl Chan-Lucero to join the Kumares & Kumpares onstage to receive the Board of Supervisors proclamation of the occasion and underscore the importance of education as primary prevention.  Chan-Lucero’s daughter Frances Kendra was fatally shot in March allegedly by her estranged partner in front of their children, a tragedy that mirrors the story of Claire Joyce Tempongko.

Claire Joyce Tempongko died of multiple stab wounds in the hands of the man who was supposed to love, respect and protect her 23 years ago on October 22.  Her fate woke and inspired our all-volunteer team to educate the community about the dynamics of family and intimate partner abuse.

BEGINNINGS

It’s been two decades since I invited my friends – from church, Bettina Santos Yap; from journalism, Yumi Querubin and Nerissa Fernandez; and from community service, lawyer Jojo Liangco and health advocate Teresa Ferrer Guingona, to form a project task force for CORA, the San Mateo County domestic violence service agency that hired me as bilingual educator/outreach coordinator during my sabbatical from journalism.  Little did I know how tight our bond would hold and where it would take us.

After the project concluded, we preserved the team to seek opportunities to conduct education activities in Filipino and underserved areas.  Our work prospered due to thirst for knowledge about the issue and despite the stigma attached to it.  Our task was to unpack the matter and challenge assumptions.  All of us had some kind of experience with abuse as witnesses, survivors or as clinicians working with parties on either side of the dynamic.

Managing the editorial department of Philippine News taught me the importance of diversity of voices behind a unity of purpose in building a vibrant and productive team.  Hence my invitation to CORA co-workers psychologist Dr. Jei Africa and LMFT Jennifer Jimenez Wong, lawyer and JUHSD trustee Rachel Puno – Juliana, health educator Kristine Zafrani Averilla, paralegal Nellie Hizon, congressional aide Christine Padilla, florist Lina Susbilla and her co-San Mateo County Commissioner on Status of Women Alice Bulos, who brought in Daly City library trustee Erlinda Galeon.

Our vision:  A community sharing resources to prevent abuse through education.

Our mission:  To provide abuse-prevention education – at twice-yearly presentations and resource fairs on family and intimate partner violence, on our website and on our resource guide.

Our core belief: Education, the greatest weapon against oppression, should be accessible.  Thus all of our activities are free and open to the public.

When Filipina Women’s Network CEO Marily Mondejar gifted us a grant from a performance of their Vagina Monologues, we drew the interest of FWN members businesswoman Sarah Jane Ilumin and Alameda County worker Edna Murray.  Our sisterhood blossomed when TVM director Giovannie Espiritu agreed to give testimony of her experience with abuse at the premier event we staged as CORA Kumares & Kumpares in 2005 at the Philippine consulate, with support from then-Consul General Rowena Mendoza Sanchez.

SFPD Lt. Randy Caturay, Colma City Council Member Joanne del Rosario, lawyers Robert Uy, Maria Segarra and law student Karina Layugan, congressional aide Mark Nagales, nurses Malou Aclan, LorrainCanaya, Elsa Agasid and Jeannette Trajano, and LMFT Paulita Lasola Malay joined us soon after.

In 2009 we became an independent organization sponsored by Thomasians USA.  We named ourselves after Alice Bulos, whom we elevated as honorary chair for modeling Community collaboration and service.

We stayed solid and celebrated our 10th anniversary at Colma Community Center with a gala reception to honor our survivor speakers.  Lt. Gov. Mona Pasquil gave a riveting keynote pointing to empowerment as first emanating from the home.  With Monica Yap, daughter of our founding president Santos Yap, we produced a video tribute to the brave women who have shared their stories to give hope to people suffering in the shadows.  Without their testimony, family and intimate partner violence would remain a persistent myth.

ALLICE Kumares and Kumpares, as we call ourselves, have come and gone since then, some staying longer than others.  Accountants Susan Roxas and Blessy Valera and older adults counselor Ofie Albrecht came aboard. Catholic Rev. Mark Reburiano and Episcopal Rev. Leonard Oakes brought faith-based perspective. Banker Jose Antonio linked us to the corporate world and is our fiscal director today.  Pharmacovigilance executive Flor Nicolas, the first FilAm woman elected to the South San Francisco City Council, joined us, welcoming ALLICE as a partner in fulfilling her city’s family-focused agenda, as co-president this year.

POWERING THROUGH

In nationwide crises and the pandemic, we pivoted to virtual activities under the leadership of venture capital EA Allen Capalla (2020), LMFT Nan Santiago (2021) and recovery service program director Junior Flores (2022).

In June 2021 we staged our first virtual elder care and abuse prevention presentation “Our Family, Our Future” made possible by Dr. Africa during his stint as Marin County BHRS director.  Over 150 joined the call from four continents.  That same year, longtime friend and Philippine International Aid founder Mona Lisa Yuchengco offered to be our fiscal sponsor, a natural collaboration for our two organizations dedicated to education and healing toward empowerment.

As 2013 president, Rob Uy had launched us into the digital era with, giving access to resources and vital information to survivors and their loved ones.  Before the end of the year we are ushering in www.ALLICE kk.org to keep us connected to succeeding generations.

In 2014 we introduced our ALLICE directory of services familiarly called the “A List,” of agencies vetted for cultural and linguistic capacity to help immigrant and LGBTQIA populations.  This no-cost A-List is accessible on our website and at community fairs.

(To be continued)