UPSIDE: South San Francisco champions healthy, safe homes, communities

SOUTH San Francisco’s Philippine-born Mayor Flor Nicolas exemplifies residents’ quest for quality of life in her personal life and her elected role.

This spring her city joins San Mateo County cities Colma and Daly City as champions of safe communities by hosting ALLICE Alliance for Community Empowerment’s 14th annual Our Family, Our Future, a free event 2-4 pm, Saturday, June 17 to promote elder care, prevent elder abuse and stop AAPI hate.

Mayor Nicolas, a 25-year leader in biotechnology, is vice president and head of global safety and pharmacovigilance at Rain Oncology.  Just a few days ago, she received the Outstanding Mapuan, the highest award from her alma mater Mapua Institute of Technology, where she earned her bachelors in Chemical Engineering before gaining her masters of Public Health at University of Massachusetts Amherst.


South San Francisco is multicultural with a booming economy instantly recognizable by skyscrapers piercing the skies over its massive sprawl.

Hard to imagine its beef packing beginnings now that “South City,” for decades self-identified on its mountainside as the “Industrial City,” has become the Biotech Capital of the World, its current sobriquet for the largest industries pumping greens into its coffers: healthcare and social assistance, retail trade, hospitality and food service, professional, scientific and tech, and more.

Lucky are some 68,000, per the 2020 Census, who come home to the municipality at the foot of San Bruno Mountain, that, by the city’s own admission, “has an unusually high number of residents working in Law Enforcement Supervisors; Life, Physical, & Social Science; and Architecture & Engineering.”  In fact the “highest paid jobs held by residents of South San Francisco, by median earnings, are Computer & Mathematical; Fire Fighting Supervisors; and Health Practitioners,” according to its website.

The first FilAm woman elected in her city where she is currently the lone female on the City Council, Nicolas combines wisdom from her education, optimism from her immigrant beginnings when a fire broke out while her family was on vacation and the community showered Flor, husband Nenar and their children with support, and compassion for those still finding their footing as newcomers.

Since 2019, Nicolas has called herself a Kumare, as female members of the all-volunteer organization ALLICE Alliance for Community Empowerment call themselves.  The team has been educating the public about the dynamics of healthy and unhealthy relationships and how to distinguish between the two.  They stayed united through the pandemic, pivoting to virtual presentations and activities to provide individuals, couples and families a lifeline to safety precautions and how to access helping resources.


As this year’s co-president, Nicolas is leading South San Francisco in advancing ALLICE’s movement mission as host of their traditional spring at the city’s Municipal Services Building on 33 Arroyo Drive.

Free and open to the public, the event is sponsored by Philippine News Today, Positively Filipino and San Mateo County Behavioral Health & Recovery Services with support from allies Lucky Chances, Moonstar, Duggan’s Serra Mortuary, Classic Bowl, Serramonte Center, FilAm Cuisine and many more.

“As Mayor and longtime community volunteer, I have assisted families facing all kinds of challenges,” explains the now grandmother of three.  “Many often are uncomfortable reaching out at first, whether to friends, professionals or our faith community.  We elected officials are duty-bound to earn their confidence, so we may gently guide them through the healing process.”

To mark March 8 International Women’s Day, Nicolas invited ALLICE to give a mini presentation at a City Council meeting as a re-introduction for the organization that has collaborated with South City faith-based and health entities in their twice-yearly presentations.  Majority of people surviving and working to prevent relationship abuse are women, after all.  ALLICE believes that education is the greatest weapon for empowerment, and South San Francisco concurs.

The June 17 event features San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa as keynote speaker.  Former Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo, founder of Angat Buhay – a PH-based nonprofit volunteer movement to uplift Filipinos, will deliver a message encouraging the “bayanihan” system ALLICE espouses.

Dr. Jei Africa, Director of San Mateo County Behavioral Health & Recovery Services, will present safety tips for people witnessing or directly experiencing hate attacks against Asian Americans.  Tessie Madrinan, coordinator of Peninsula Family Service Filipino Peer Counseling program, will present the 9 Acts of Kindness to Empower Older Adults.

Twenty-five family resource providers will attend to discuss their programs and services.   ALLICE’s “A-List,” a resource guide vetted for cultural and linguistic competence underwritten by the Town of Colma, will be distributed.  Refreshments will be served.  A free raffle will be drawn immediately at the end of the program.


“At this gathering we can learn how our organizations may earn public trust to help participants recognize and learn to distinguish between healthy and abusive behaviors. Knowing the subtle but impactful differences in the way we interact can help us make adjustments toward healthy interaction with our family, our friends, clients – even strangers,” said the mayor.

 The event reinforces South San Francisco’s efforts to foster diversity and inclusion.

“I’m proud to say that South San Francisco formally established a Commission on Equity and Public Safety.  It is the result of a yearlong initiative called the Commission on Racial and Social Equity to identify issues of racial and social injustice, investigate their causes, and to create systems for positive change in policies and processes. The Executive Summary, Action Plan, and full Final Report are available in Spanish, Tagalog, and Traditional Chinese as well,” Nicolas shared.

The Commission on Equity and Public Safety bolsters community participation and decision making and increases transparency and accountability. It focuses on a holistic approach to community safety and applies an equity lens to advance equitable practices in housing, social services, policing, and other areas.

For more information, visit  See public service announcement in this issue.