Americas Columns

UPSIDE: Celebrating 60 years in love and service

DALY CITY, California– Top San Francisco Bay Area officials and this city’s core leadership rose to the occasion hailing a Filipino American couple for their devotion to each other and to their community.

Daly City’s favorite “Ninang,” the former Perla Gange and her husband Emidgio “Mig” Ibarrientos prove love simply sweetens over time and grows when seasoned with trust and respect, support and understanding, and a common passion to serve together.  Recently they vowed anew to honor their wedding vows on their 60th anniversary, before 300 closest relatives, friends and acquaintances led by their allies in politics and public service.

San Mateo County Board of Supervisors District 5 representative David Canepa spelled it out in presenting his proclamation on behalf of the Board: “Mig and Perla model how a healthy relationship looks like,” he described his decades-long observation of the celebrants at Daly City’s Pacelli Event Center, noting how they strengthen each other by embracing each one’s individual aspirations while fulfilling their joint responsibilities as spouses and parents.

Canepa then proclaimed March 23 “Mig & Perla Ibarrientos Day” throughout the 25-city county in honor of the couple’s diamond anniversary.

By then Daly City Mayor Juslyn Manalo, for whom Perla is a real-life “ninang” or godmother, having stood as sponsor at her wedding to Eluid Palamo, had already proclaimed the same in her city, where the Ibarrientoses have lived and dedicated themselves while raising their children Glenn, a retired major with the US Air Force and Director of Public Health Nurses of San Mateo County; Joy Ann Daffern, executive vice president with John Wells Production – Hollywood, and Gladys Smith, Assistant CEO with San Mateo County Employees Retirement Association..

In fact it was in their children’s Garden Village Elementary School, where Perla first poured her energies as a new American by serving with gusto on the PTA.

PUBLIC SERVICE

Volunteering replaced pharmacy as Perla’s passion and her way of watching over her brood.  Her lifetime of community service began when she and her children followed Mig to California, where he had immigrated two years earlier in 1971.

In the late 1980s, Perla joined a group of Filipino Americans seeking to empower themselves and their own.  Attending the San Mateo Organizing Project inspired them to launch the Daly City Organizing Project, which in turn spawned the Pilipino Bayanihan Resource Center, better known as PBRC.  The nonprofit organization is now located in a residential area near the Westlake Center here.

Today Perla oversees PBRC as chair of the board of directors, just one of her countless activities.  In 1992, she was appointed to the DC Public Libraries Board of Trustees, its first FilAm member.  For her efforts to engage North County FilAms in civic work, she received the Assembly 19 Woman of the Year award.  

In 2019 she completed the brain trust that earned accreditation of her city as an Age-Friendly community.  Last month she was commended among Daly City’s Women of Excellence recognizing her constant clamor to advance FilAm socio-political issues – from smoking cessation and legal clinics to voter registration and leadership development – and responding vigorously to humanitarian causes across the Pacific such as relief efforts in the wake of natural calamities in their birth country.

The grandmother to five and great grandmother to two can outlast younger peers on the Daly City Personnel Commission, her current appointed role in city governance advising the City Council on matters related to Human Resources.  Her term ends in 2025, and she shows no sign of slowing down.

At 89 she is probably the most powerful Filipino American never elected – yet.

Perla admits that her accomplishments couldn’t be possible without the support and encouragement of her biggest fan and first adviser.

Early on Mig, now 91, focused on his engineering career as a project manager in design and construction with Pacific Bell.  Though he retired in 1991, he consulted for a few years in the City of Los Angeles and later established his private consulting. – Adapted from original reprinted with permission from INQUIRER.NET.USA

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