COLMA, Calif. – Before a hundred attendees of an event commemorating October Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Clara and Julia Tempongko recounted the day they lost a daughter and a sister 18 years ago in the ultimate act of intimate partner violence.
“We felt unbearable grief when my eldest daughter died and her killer disappeared,” Clara Tempongko told her rapt listeners of the slaying of the young mother by her ex-boyfriend in San Francisco. “With the support of caring people and organizations, we demanded justice. It took 7 years to find and arrest him at last.”
Julia Tempongko broke down recalling her sister and “role model,” who taught her to “be strong, be hopeful even when things go wrong,” as her nephew Justin Nguyen, Claire Joyce’s son who had run for help from a neighbor as his mother was beaten, repeatedly stabbed and left to die, opted to listen in support of his grandmother and aunt.
Through the years, Tempongkos poured their grief into advocacy, turning up at rallies for violence victims and their families, fleshing out the impact of intimate partner abuse on the entire family.
Sharing their story and the support they’ve received have emboldened other survivors to find their voices and free themselves from self-blame.
BREAKING THE CYCLE
Inspired by the Tempongkos’ candor and the empathy permeating Colma Community Center Oct. 12 at the ALLICE 14th Annual Free from Violence Presentation and Resource Fair, frequent volunteer emcee Frances Dinglasan Hall disclosed for the first time her personal experience.
“As a child I was abused by my mother, who was in turn abused by her father,” the KGO-Channel 7 News reporter explained what to her was the significance of the all-volunteer organization’s yearly events drawing attention to all forms of relationship abuse. “One of the steps to ending abuse is breaking the cycle.”
Dinglasan Hall, her longtime ALLICE co-emcee and retired colleague Lloyd LaCuesta, Program Director Anastacio “Junior” Flores Jr. and his nonprofit agency Asian American Recovery Services – Healthright 360 received recognition for their outstanding contribution to the movement to prevent abuse through education.
In his acceptance remarks, LaCuesta cited his appreciation for the organization’s late honorary chair Alice Bulos who was his “source” for news on Filipino Americans, along with incidences of domestic violence he had covered during his 40-year career culminated at KTVU Channel 2 News, as motivation for his involvement with ALLICE.
Now a sworn Kumpare or team volunteer, Flores thanked his late mother for teaching him community service, his family and staff for enabling him to fulfill his mission to “help others be their better selves.”
“We need to hear these stories to learn from them,” San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa said in his keynote address where he challenged his peers to pass policies to broaden family services.
Canepa proclaimed Oct. 12 ALLICE Day in the County after Daly City Mayor Juslyn Manalo presented a proclamation declaring the same in Daly City, citing the group’s 15 years of staging education events free and open to the public.
HOW TO HELP
In her welcome address Colma Mayor Rae Gonzalez related how listening to the testimony of her fellow Colma Council member Joanne Del Rosario at an ALLICE event 5 years ago opened her eyes to the pervasiveness of intimate partner violence.
“I was moved to tears to learn that a colleague, a woman who stands alongside me as a leader in our community and a woman of style and grace had been a victim of domestic violence,” said Gonzalez. “My view of her did not change; instead I admired and respected her more for taking a stand and sharing her story. Not only did she seek help to make a change in her life, but she found the courage to publicly share her story, in hopes of helping others.”
Domestic violence crosses cultural and racial lines, Consul Gen. Henry Bensurto Jr. reiterated a fact prior to leading the Pledge to Help End Domestic Violence. He invoked the Filipino “bayanihan” or “community” spirit that rises inherently in support of those in need.
That’s precisely the point behind the yearly gatherings, said founding president Bettina Santos Yap, noting many don’t seek help for fear of being ridiculed and revictimized in the process.
Dr. Jei Africa, ALLICE clinical director, echoed the sentiment. “Knowing that there are individuals and organizations that believe in them and care to guide them through the healing process makes each day more hopeful. Empowerment starts with empathy. Saying the words: ‘I hear you, I believe you,’ can truly help save lives.”
Over 20 resource providers including the County DA Office and CORA, the only domestic violence agency in the county, attended to consult about their programs.
The Philippine Consulate General and AARS-Healthright 360 sponsored the free event with donations from Philippine News, Philippines Today, Positively Filipino, Inquirer.net, Holy Child & St. Martin Episcopal Church, Lucky Chances, Moonstar, Cafe Savini, Noah’s Bagels, Hapag Filipino, Kuya’s Asian Cuisine, Guy Guerrero, Francis Espiritu, Kumare Elsa Agasid, Baby & Boy Pastries, Kumare Ofie Albrecht, Philippine Association of University Women, Bernard Simon Jr., Becca Schatz, Joaquin and Matias Moreno.
Cherie Querol Moreno is founder-executive director of ALLICE.