DALY CITY, Calif. – A dramatic shift is inevitable in Daly City, where two longtime incumbents have opted out of the November 6 race, opening 3 vacancies on the City Council of the town with the highest concentration of Filipinos on the United States mainland.
The exit of Mike Guingona, the first Filipino American elected in the northernmost town in San Mateo County, along with Judith Christensen, his ally on the city council, leaves three FilAms – current Mayor Juslyn Manalo, Vice Mayor Ray Buenaventura and immediate past Mayor Glenn Sylvester – in governance with Buenaventura defending his seat this year.
Backed by Buenaventura, Manalo and Sylvester successfully ran for the first time together in 2016. This time private defender Buenaventura is in the race with first-time candidates community volunteer Pamela DiGiovanni and educator Rod Daus-Magbual, both his allies, and businesswoman Gabriella Makstman, who ran for the same office in the last election.
For many reasons and by choice, FilAm aspirant Daus-Magbual has been the least visible in traditional political and social events.
Where he looms large is the academe.
The 39-year-old has been a professor at Skyline College for 14 years, is husband to fellow educator and San Francisco State University Ethnic Studies Director Dr. Arlene Daus-Magbual and co-parent to their two school-age children. Together they direct [email protected] Educational Partnerships, the nonprofit founded in 2001 by Dr. Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales to develop a coalition of volunteers to nurture “critical educators” who will implement ”transformative decolonizing curriculum and pedagogy.”
Public service is not uncharted territory: He sat on the Library Commission and is currently vice chair of the Planning Commission.
His 2014 appointment by Buenaventura to the Library Commission was part of his education continuum to bridge what he saw as “a gap between the experiences of my students and their families and a voice that needed representation in local government.”
Daus-Magbual’s quest for elected office has pushed him toward mainstream visibility. Last week he sat with Buenaventura at the ALLICE 14th annual Free from Violence, listening to public officials, advocates and the family of a woman slain by her ex-boyfriend in the abuse prevention event presented every year by a team of volunteer community educators.
“I loved the event,” he evaluated the work that like his, challenges assumptions and promotes critical thinking.
Why he has decided to take the plunge into politics goes back to the one event that blindsided the electorate and, depending on one’s perspective, reverses the socio-political strides of the eight years prior.
Anyone who cares has to take a stand. Those with the opportunity have to make the move.
“My decision to run for public office stemmed from the 2016 election and how the political climate specifically targeted the communities that I serve: the immigrants, the undocumented, people of color, queer communities, etc. The 2016 election is indicative of what is happening at a global scale that ‘otherizes’ people who look like me and punishes those who are most oppressed. I come with a mindset that in order to change the world globally, we have to change locally,” Daus-Magbual explained, invoking the counsel of a confidante. “In the words of my close friend, mentor, and famed Filipina American historian, the late Dr. Dawn Mabalon, ‘Don’t try to be part of the process in times of protest.’ I took these words to heart because when we get to times of protest the decision has been made and it’s too late to change minds.
“One of the motivations behind this campaign is to inspire young people to get involved, understand the political process, and become community engaged,” he emphasized.
For the sake of his focus constituency, he sought the bigger stage, bypassing the School Board route often taken by many seeking a city council seat.
“If you look at the issues that affect students and their families such as affordable housing (and) the attacks on immigrant communities, making change at the local level is significantly more impactful at city council level than at the school board. The platform is larger and one of my goals is to have young people to see someone who looks like them in places of leadership,” he opined, citing his own journey.
“…In my Filipino American family, the narrative is to go into the medical field. I want to expand this narrative to show young people that it is important to get involved in politics, leadership, and provide a voice for those who have been excluded.”
A nurse’s son, Daus-Magbual was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where his parents moved from southern California to fulfill their intention to work, send “money back to the Philippines to support the education endeavors of family.”
He admires what he calls the Filipino “collectivity…the sense of family, belonging, and security that we provide each other is essential to who we are.”
What Filipinos need is to “learn our history,” he recommended. His life has been dedicated to probing that past to pave the way for parity wherever Filipinos choose to live.
“Centuries of being under colonialism that have shaped the way we think, see, and behave in the world has divided us. The colonial mentality that has exuded self-hate and the crab mentality that prevents us from working together is real. To understand our history, culture, and identity is important for our future generations to understand where their people has come from and where are we going is important to fight for.”
Which is why on March 21 he filed his candidate intention statement.
If elected, Daus-Magbual would be the fifth FilAm on the City Council of Daly City since 1993. He would be the first educator where his FilAm predecessors are lawyers, a retired police sergeant and a community service worker. He would be among 554 active and retired educators running for office on Nov. 6, per a National Education Association analysis.
A victorious Daus-Magbual would preserve the 80 percent FilAm majority on the 5-member City Council that was elusive to Filipinos for 82 years until California-born Guingona challenged the Filipino establishment, proving his then-untested political savvy.
Daus-Magbual represents a new generation of Filipino leadership and sensibility aiming
to address decades-old issues facing Filipino Americans.
As Council member, he would prioritize “affordable housing, maintain public safety, community and economic development.”
“Like many families in the Bay Area, we are struggling to stay rooted in communities where they grew up. We need to look at all options to maintain our families to be in Daly City from rent control, work force housing, and mixed low- and high-income housing developments,” he told this writer. “As the largest city in San Mateo county, we need to find ways to sustain our public safety, so they can serve our community well and not be under staffed. Community and economic development is important because Daly City is a vibrant and diverse city where we can attract businesses and serve our people. We have the potential to transform our narrative that highlights our cultural strengths and take advantage of what we can offer to the Bay Area community.”
Not far from his sights is the “need to support the creation of cultural relative and community responsive centers that serve workers, the elderly, and our youth.”
His background and vision appeal to endorsers Supervisor David Canepa and Daly City Mayor Juslyn Manalo.
“His experience working with students and his deep understanding of contemporary issues will make Daly City stronger,” praised Canepa, Daly City Council member from 2008 to 2016.
Manalo hailed the candidate’s “commitment to public service as Library and Planning Commissioner” whose “wisdom and intelligence we can rely upon.”