Americas Columns

UPSIDE: Council Member Buenaventura resigns, hailed for raising FilAm visibility, pride

By Cherie M. Querol Moreno

DALY CITY, Calif. – Seniormost Daly City Council member Ray Buenaventura has resigned from the City Council, abruptly ending a 13-year service highlighted by four terms as Mayor, the one best known for empowering Filipino Americans.

The lone Philippine-born among the four FilAms of five sitting Council Members turned in his resignation with the City Clerk, making his decision official, City Manager Tom Piccolotti told author of what had been the subject of speculation since September, when the Lake County Board of Supervisors appointed Buenaventura Chief Public Defender.  City Clerk Annette Hipona confirmed that she received the resignation by email on Friday, Feb. 2.

“I enjoyed every minute of my service on the Council but always understood that my term was not indefinite.  That time has now come,” Buenaventura told Inquirer.netUSA about his exit to focus on a new mandate.  “I will be creating a new Office of the Public Defender and am excited to build an office from the ground up.  It is a challenge I am eager to meet.”

He aims to “establish a premier indigent defense,” he had written in a post-installation letter published October on the Lake County website, where he invited “anyone and everyone willing to meet” with him to bring forth a “community-focused holistic public defense.”

“IN GOOD HANDS”

The county seat of Lakeport is over a hundred miles or three hours away from his home in the Westlake District of Daly City, a logistical hurdle if he were to hold both appointed and elected offices.  But something else swayed his decision.

“I believe I am leaving the office in a better position than when I first arrived in 2011.  I gave the city all that I have to give, and I have no regrets,” he pointed to the scenario that had brought him to the City Council in the first place.

“As I told some of my mentees, ‘I have nothing more to teach you.  You have grown into becoming a great leader in your own right,” he named Piccolotti, Mayor Juslyn Manalo and Vice Mayor Rod Daus Magbual whose political careers he helped nurture.  “I’m leaving knowing the city will be in good hands under your leadership.  I wouldn’t leave otherwise.”

He dismissed the notion that the City Council was a mere stepping stone to a career in higher office, an early critique of Buenaventura in 2014 when he ran and lost a campaign for San Mateo County Superior Court.

For some, maybe, but not for him, he demurred.  He considers himself an “accidental” politician, having been appointed to fill the seat vacated by a Council member later convicted of insurance fraud.

Buenaventura retained the seat the following election, joining now San Mateo County Community College Board Trustee Mike Guingona, in 1993 the first FilAm elected in Daly City.

He raised the visibility of the area’s largest population of color by initiating successful efforts to identify and guide prospective residents to follow in his political footsteps.  Reflecting political savvy, he collaborated with state and private entities to gain approval to raise funds to name part of a state highway after the beloved late leader Alice Pena Bulos, a first in the nation.  He also led the renaming of a Daly City park after the late Erlinda Tiongco Galeon, among earliest Daly City residents and a dedicated volunteer until her passing in 2016.

His decision to retire from the City Council came midway into the second year of his fourth term, prompting colleagues and allies to ponder his legacy with Inquirer.netUSA.

TRUE MENTOR

“Ray is one of a kind, a really great mentor to me in my public service career in Daly City and also in life,” offered Manalo.  “He is one of the kindest people I’ve met and respect him for lifting others towards empowerment for the community.”

She noted how he “defines” humility as “one who does not want accolades because he works from his heart and passion to serve.”

“I wish him nothing but the utmost best as he serves” the people of Lake County,” she said, adding that he will be “missed dearly on the City Council” and has advised former colleagues they could “reach out,” proving he is “a servant leader to the core.”

Daus Magbual admitted he is sad Buenaventura is leaving, “but I understand that when opportunities open up, you take it.”

“His impact on our City Council is his mentorship,” emphasized the Skyline College Ethnic Studies professor.

“My relationship with Ray is a true mentor-mentee relationship,” admitted Daus Magbual, like his wife Dr. Arlene Daus Magbual dedicated to cultivating a community of critical educators and curriculum through their nonprofit Pin@y Educational Partnerships. They are among FilAms Buenaventura first appointed to serve on commissions, volunteer advisory bodies to the City Council that are a gateway to elected office.

Daus Magbual learned the inner workings of local government, politics and life itself, he said.

“I never thought I would be in the position I am in today,” said the former mayor and now two-time vice mayor.  “He served as an example to honor Filipino American leadership of the past and the importance to take on the baton.”

While conceding his mentor’s departure as “a big blow,” he sees it as motivation “for new leadership and for me and my colleagues to step up my game to serve and guide our community into the future.”

Outspoken community advocate for Filipino American empowerment particularly in his home city, Ray Satorre credits Buenaventura for palpable FilAm presence in leadership roles.  He counted the “reunification of FilAms in Daly City, appointments of FilAms to the boards and commissions, reactivation of Daly City sisterhood with Quezon City” thereby resuming City educational and exchange programs, and staging of the Kasayahan Festival to commemorate October Filipino History month among “highlights” of his confidante’s service.

The entrepreneur praised Buenaventura for “delineation of budgetary allocation for the social needs of youth and older adults” and the redevelopment of Serramonte and Westlake Centers, two of the city’s landmarks.

“I call Ray Buenaventura the Honorable Mayor and Debonair Wingman of Daly City,” said Satorre, who is known to have his friend’s ear.

Longtime Daly City resident Perla Ibarrientos felt like she was losing a son given her closeness to Buenaventura.

“I hate to see him leave,” said one of the first outside Buenaventura’s family to hear of his departure.  “He personifies the ‘public servant’ because he always listens, finds solutions to problems, particularly vital services and safety issues.  He stands for his beliefs even if he gets kind of criticized for it, maybe that’s why some think he has changed. He’s just doing his job based on experience and expertise.” – Adapted from original reprinted with permission from INQUIRER.NETUSA

_____________

(Second of Two Parts)

DALY CITY, Calif. –  City Council Member Ray Buenaventura’s resignation February 2 amid his appointment as Chief Public Defender of Lake County surprised longtime allies and saddened mentees, especially Daly City residents (see last week’s issue).  Elected in 2011, he was voted mayor four times by his fellow Council Members.

His decision to retire as Council Member of Daly City was based on the current leadership and their readiness, he told author on January 31.

“I believe I am leaving the office in a better position than when I first arrived in 2011.  I gave the city all that I have to give, and I have no regrets.  I’m honored to have served.    I believe that City Manager Tom Piccolotti will continue to do a great job in managing the city under the leadership of Mayor Juslyn Manalo and Vice Mayor Dr. Roderick Daus-Magbual.  I never had a definite timeline to leave the City Council, I just knew that someday I would, when it was my time to go.”

He reflected on how the 13 years changed him.

“Being on the City Council has humbled me.  It has taught me that it’s not about great ideas, but about making ideas happen.  It’s one thing to have a great idea, but it’s another to see it through implementation.  No one can do it alone.  Working together and building coalitions is the key to success.”

Buenaventura is also a volunteer command pilot with Angel Flight West, a nonprofit founded in 2013 to transport ailing people for free across hundreds of air miles for medical assistance.   He does it, he says, “because it’s good for my soul.”

He added: “As a seaplane pilot, I’ll be able to enjoy flying around the lakes and beautiful scenery of Lake County and the surrounding regions.  Flying is my passion and living and working in an area so picturesque makes life even more wonderful.”

He is a captain with the Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary of the US Air Force.  Until September he had a private practice as an attorney and certified criminal law specialist.

In September the Lake County Board of Supervisors appointed him Chief Public Defender and he swore into office the following month, triggering the probability of his departure from City Council.

After the New Year, he informed confidantes that he had come to a decision.

“Leaving my position as a member of the Daly City Council was bittersweet.  I am both sad and happy to start a new chapter in my life.  I enjoyed every minute of my service on the council but always understood that my term was not indefinite,” he said.  “That time has now come.  I have been given a great opportunity to as the Chief Public Defender of Lake County.  I will be creating a new Office of the Public Defender and am excited to build an office from the ground up.  It is a challenge I am eager to meet,” he told author on January 31.

On Feb. 2, he informed city of Daly City Clerk Annette Hipona received Buenaventura’s resignation, which made his decision official.

He shared his hopes for his home city to this writer:

“It is my hope that the Doelger Center can be redeveloped into something special for our seniors and children.  I know the City Manager and the City Council are working on a plan to develop the site.  I can’t wait to see the day the plans are completed.

“I also hope that the city can continue to build more affordable housing.  Prices never seem to go down and I’m worried that people are getting priced out of the community.  The city council has made affordable housing a priority and I hope they continue to succeed.

“Being on the City Council has humbled me.  It has taught me that it’s not about great ideas, but about making ideas happen.  It’s one thing to have a great idea, but it’s another to see it through implementation.  No one can do it alone.  Working together and building coalitions is the key to success.”

RESPECT AND GRATITUDE

Some may see City Council Member Ray Buenaventura in a less than heroic lens but declined to be quoted or identified.

On the contrary Mark Nagales, who with fellow FilAm Flor Nicolas broke the racial barrier to become the first FilAms elected in 2018 to the South San Francisco City Council, said he has “nothing but respect and admiration” for Buenaventura.

“When I first started in politics, he was one of the first people to show me the ropes,” the former congressional aide expressed gratitude.  “He really wanted to help Filipinos become involved in politics, help them become leaders in our community. His impact will be felt for generations to come.”

Community advocate and former student activist Charles Ramilo called Buenaventura “inspiring,” having had the opportunity to closely observe the former Los Angeles deputy public defender at meetings in the South San Francisco home of Alice Bulos, Ramilo’s grandmother, and at events to where Buenaventura drove and escorted the “godmother of Filipino American empowerment.”

“I know Mommy Alice was glad to see some of Ray’s contributions in the legal field, being involved in city council, and (as) a loving family member,” said Ramilo, a constant participant at community events in San Mateo and San Francisco. “It is also great to see that the younger generations have been inspired by his success and how he has mentored FilAms to join him in public service, dedicating their time in

helping address the needs and advance ideas from the community.”

Buenaventura’s professional and political star rose rapidly upon his residence in Daly City, drawing the attention of community organizers throughout the Bay Area.

Across the Bay, Alameda County-based progressive leader Cynthia Bonta, board member of the Central Valley Center for Empowerment whose work goes back to the campaign for unionization of farm workers, said Buenaventura’s “presence of wisdom and stability in the Daly City Council will be missed, but his absence will only create space for someone else to take up that role.”

“His practice has been clear and strong enough to show the way for others to step into that role,” she bared optimism in urging political aspirants to build on Buenaventura’s success and carry on.  “The community should be more so engaged to actively support their voice in deliberations and the city council members who represent their views and situation.” – Adapted from original reprinted with permission from INQUIRER.NETUSA

###

(Cherie M. Querol Moreno is Executive Editor of Philippines Today and correspondent for Inquirer.netUSA and Positively Filipino.O