2019 OUR STORY*
ALLICE is the acronym for Alliance for Community Empowerment, a nonprofit all-volunteer organization dedicated to promoting healthier relationships, homes and communities through education.
The organization was born in the winter of 2003 when Cherie Querol Moreno took a sabbatical from her journalism career to join CORA, a private nonprofit agency in San Mateo County serving domestic violence survivors and their loved ones. As community outreach coordinator, she attended a rally on the steps of San Francisco City Hall seeking justice for Claire Joyce Tempongko, a single mother killed by her ex-boyfriend in front of her two children despite her efforts to protect herself and her family through legal means. While many attended the morning rally, only a handful Filipino Americans were present. To the journalist in Cherie, the absence of Filipinos spoke to the urgency of raising awareness about domestic violence – that it can happen to anyone, and in fact it has taken the life of a Filipina. To her inner activist, the experience fueled Cherie’s desire to organize to spread the word about resources to help heal abusive relationships.
Cherie reached out to four people who share her ideals: Marketing executive Bettina Santos Yap, journalist Nerissa Fernandez, community activist Teresa Guingona Ferrer, and Berkeley PD public safety dispatcher Yumi Querubin laid the foundation for a team that would go out in the community to talk about domestic violence and where to get help. Lawyer Amancio “Jojo” Liangco was the first male to come on board.
Bettina became founding president and remains a steadfast leader on the team as first members moved on to focus on personal and professional matters. In their place, people of diverse backgrounds have joined to fulfill the vision of a healthier and safer community built from healthier and safer relationships through education events, all staged through shared resources and open free to the public.
They called themselves Kumares and Kumpares, the Tagalog counterpart of “confidante” or “ally,” which they set out to be to families everywhere who needed help.
Community leader Alice Bulos and florist Lina Susbilla were members of the San Mateo County Commission on Status of Women when they joined the group in 2004. Paralegal and church advocate Nellie Hizon stepped in to give perspective from the faith community. Gerontologist Erlinda Galeon, county parenting educator Kristine Averilla, Jefferson Union High School District trustee and lawyer Rachel Puno, San Francisco Library Commissioner Helen Marte, psychologist Dr. Jei Africa and marriage and family therapist Jennifer Jimenez Wong followed in their steps.
Legislative aides Christine Padilla and Mark Nagales served briefly on the team. Nurse practitioner Lorraine Canaya dedicated several years. Event planner Sarah Jane Ilumin and Alameda county worker Edna Murray joined and stayed the course.
As if by fate, the Consul General in San Francisco in the middle 2000s was a woman and Cherie’s former schoolmate. Hon. Rowena Mendoza Sanchez embraced the Kumares and offered to host the group’s 2005 debut presentation at the Philippine Consulate.
No Filipino American had ever publicly disclosed personally experiencing domestic violence until the first “DV: Not in Our Community,” where survivor speaker Giovannie Espiritu shattered the myth that domestic violence does not happen in the Filipino community. Hearing her personal experience emboldened others to share their stories, freeing themselves from shame or self-blame.
Consul General Sanchez herself nominated the organization for the 2006 Philippine Presidential Award for Overseas Filipino Organizations and Individuals for their outstanding service in empowering women, which solidified the Kumares & Kumpares’ role as community educators.
Weng, as the diplomat liked to be called, endorsed the organization with the Archdiocese of San Francisco, whose then-Vicar for Filipinos, Monsignor Floro Arcamo, was tasked by new Archbishop George Niederauer to partner with a group to stage a presentation on healthy family relationships. The connection blossomed into the first “Pamilya Natin,” a faith-focused seminar enlightening the public on the Church’s stand on domestic abuse: that it is a sin and often a crime, and that the Church must provide resources to help families in trouble.
San Francisco Police Dept. Lt. Randy Caturay and Law Offices of Lien Uy partner Robert Uy attended that first seminar and decided to be part of the solution to a social problem, as did Kaiser Permanente RN Malou Aclan and nurse practitioner Elsa Agasid.
Colma Mayor Joanne del Rosario accepted her former classmate Cherie’s invitation to participate, finding safety in the organization’s familial warmth to disclose her own experience with domestic violence in a previous relationship. St. Isabella Pastor Mark Reburiano, accountant Susan Roxas and marriage and family therapist Paulita Lasola Malay soon joined the organization.
In 2011 public health nurse Jeannette Trajano and Union Bank Westlake manager Jose Antonio swore in. UC Berkeley law student Karina Layugan did the same. Lawyer Maria Segarra came on board in 2013.
Every October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the group stages its fall seminar with officials endorsing the movement, survivors giving testimony, and community providers giving responses. Every spring, the “K/K” stage education events in faith communities to promote enlightenment and healing. Each event is mounted purely on donation, for love of the community, in the name of the family.
In the summer of 2009, the Kumares & Kumpares went independent and chose to name themselves after their honorary chair, Alice Bulos, whose life defined community service. They renamed their October event “Free from Violence,” and their spring presentation “Our Family, Our Future.”
Their resource-provider allies have grown to over 20 community-based nonprofits sharing their philosophy that the community is its responsibility.
The year 2013 marked ALLICE’s first decade of service. At a formal reception attended by 300 invitees at Colma Community Center, the Kumares & Kumpares thanked their honorary members and allies who have boosted their campaign with their participation: Clara Tempongko, Janine Bersabe and the Tempongko family, Giovannie Espiritu, Nenette Flores Vencio, Maria Josephson, Perla de Jesus, Marlene Caballero, Vangie Buell, Lloyd LaCuesta, Frances Dinglasan, Renee M. Salud, Jim Comstock, Tina Ahn, Don Veridiano, Guy Guerrero and FilAm Chamber of Commerce SMC, Vince Agbayani, Rene, Roel and Rommell Medina of Lucky Chances, Daisy Li of Moonstar Restaurant, Oscar Quiambao of Forex Cargo, Francis Espiritu and Margarita Argente of Philippine News, Thelma Cruz and Marilyn King of Philippines Today, Jun Ilagan of FilAm Star, Willy Carandang and Bambi Fernando of Tastebuds, Nerissa Fernandez of ABS-CBNI, Mona Lisa Yuchengco and Gemma Nemenzo of Positively Filipino, Filipina Women’s Network, Philippine Association of University Women, Pilipino Bayanihan Resource Center, Filipino Mental Health Initiative, Kaiser Permanente Filipino Association, Victim Center, FilAm Law Enforcement Officers Organization, Union Bank, Health Plan of San Mateo, San Mateo County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, the Philippine Consulate General, very first principal sponsor Seton Medical Center which continues to support ALLICE under new ownership as part of Verity Health System, Thomasians USA, and principal sponsor of the 10th anniversary gala Lucky Group of Companies.
TRANSITIONS are a part of life.
The team forged new partnerships with community-based organizations and nonprofit service providers HICAP Health Insurance Counseling & Advocacy Program, Center for Independence of the Disabled, Always Best Care-Peninsula, parishes in the Archdiocese of San Francisco and Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in South San Francisco.
Some Kumares and Kumpares had to say goodbye to walk other paths. Meanwhile the team attracted new members ready to contribute their gifts to the movement.
Seasoned corporate executive assistant Allen Capalla, president of Daly City’s Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church Legion of Mary in Daly City, stepped in after helping her parish twice stage ALLICE’s spring elder care and elder abuse prevention event.
Similarly Rev. Leonard Oakes, Pastor of Holy Child & St. Martin Episcopal Church in Daly City, opted to model advocacy by taking his oath as Kumpare after hosting two presentations, broadening ALLICE’s faith-based outreach.
Founding member Teresa Guingona Ferrer returned to rally behind a cause she has always espoused.
In a landmark gesture of solidarity, Cecile Gregorio Ascalon swore in as a Kumare following a handful years supporting her husband, Deputy Consul General in San Francisco Jaime Ramon Ascalon, honorary Kumpare who heightened the diplomatic office’s partnership with ALLICE already reinforced by the arrival of Consul General Henry S. Bensurto Jr. and his wife Mariza.
In 2017, ALLICE welcomed Ofelia Albrecht, Filipino American outreach coordinator of Peninsula Family Service, a San Mateo nonprofit that has been among the regular resource providers participating at ALLICE resource fairs.
The team also opened its arms to Nan Santiago, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Kaiser Permanente, a consistent ALLICE partner, like Holy Child & St. Martin Episcopal Church Pastor Rev. Leonard Oakes, who followed suit. So did Anastacio “Junior” Flores, Program director of Asian – American Recovery Services Healthright 360, who locked arms with ALLICE as a full-fledged Kumpare.
Their arrival brought a silver lining in the months that plunged the team in mourning with the passing of longtime Kumares: In June 2016, Erlinda Galeon lost her valiant fight with cancer days after headlining the year’s spring presentation. In October 2016, honorary chair Alice Bulos’ heart stopped after years of physical challenges through which she issued counsel to the team.
For them and the community they served to their last days, ALLICE lovingly dedicates this directory.
*UPDATED in March 2019 from September 2017 story adapted from original published October 2013.