Fil Am Mayor Says Mentoring Is A Key To Her Success

by Joseph G. Lariosa

Milpitas City, CA (jGLi) — A Filipino American woman mayor of California has Facebook to thank for for reuniting her with her long-lost ancestors.

Mayor Myrna Lardizabal De Vera of Hercules, California, a Bay area suburb of 25,000, was born, bred and grew up in Cebu in the Philippines. She completed her B.S. in Architecture degree at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.

When she turned 25, Ms. De Vera immigrated to the United States in 1985 armed with an HIB visa, a non-immigrant visa, which allows a US company to employ a foreign individual for up to six years. It would become her ticket to obtain a Green Card.

During her inspirational talk at the annual Christmas Party and Induction of Officers of Northern California Tagudians of Ilocos Sur headed by Evangeline Valdez Kelly at the Sheraton Hotel in Milpitas, California last Dec. 17, Mayor De Vera told the group’s members and guests that “I’ve been so excited to meet all of you since one of your Board Directors, Roy Lardizabal, called me after his son, “JR,” found me on Facebook.” She was also the inducting officer of the group.

The junior mayor said she was surprised to learn that “my ancestry of the Lardizabals originate from Tagudin, Ilocos Sur. I grew up in Cebu, but my late father, Jose Lardizabal, was from Sariaya, Quezon. They were the only Lardizabals in Sariaya, so I believe his family originated from Tagudin.

“Tonight, I feel like, I am coming home and reuniting with my long-lost family.”

She hailed the group’s “mission of providing humanitarian services and financial assistance to the needy and underprivileged, especially children in Tagudin, Ilocos Sur, Philippines. Your banding together for a greater purpose is a commendable thing.”


Meanwhile, another speaker at the event, Dr. Jennifer Ong, an optometrist, from Hayward, California, is campaigning for an open seat which was previously California’s 18th and redistricted to the new 20th State Assembly District for the June 5, 2012 Open Primaries election followed by the Nov. 6, 2012 General Elections for the top two candidates from June. Dr. Ong, who has a combined 20 years of professional, volunteer and legislative experience, promises to “improve the quality of life for all Californians.” An Assembly representative is elected to a two-year term and the term limit is three.

“Having experienced first-hand what decent union jobs can do for families with fair wages, health benefits and a pension- Jennifer’s mother worked at the concession stands in the Oakland Coliseum and her father was a produce man at Lucky’s grocery store,” Dr. Ong said, she wants to impart on her fellow Californians how her three siblings and herself were able to become “successful products of local public school education, who earned their college degrees through their parents’ union benefits and accessible student loans.”

She appealed to her fellow town mates from Tagudin, Ilocos Sur to band together and rally behind Filipino American candidates, like herself, who want to replicate the accomplishments of other Asian Americans in California, like her mentor Speaker Pro Tem Assemblymember Fiona Ma, Mayor Edwin Lee of San Francisco and her fellow Filipino American, Mayor De Vera of Hercules.

Dr. Ong is appealing to her fellow Filipino Americans to tell their kababayans (countrymen) to support her in the coming elections in the 20th Assembly District that is comprised of Castro Valley, Fairview, North Fremont, Hayward, Sunol, San Lorenzo, Ashland, Cherryland and Union City. The new district 20 is composed of 32.5% Asians, 28.8% Latino, 25.8% White, 8.2% Blacks and 4.7% other ethnicities. Dr. Ong is the only female candidate and, once elected, would become the first Filipina American, the daughter of Tagudinians, ever to be elected to CA State Assembly.

She said, volunteers, who would like to campaign for her or donate to her campaign, are urged to access her website:


Prior to Mayor De Vera’s inspirational talk, Rev. Jojo Page delivered the invocation while Evangeline Valdez Kelly, president for 2011-2013, welcomed the guests.

The group’s board member Roy Lardizabal’s friend, Ronnie M. Estrada of neighboring San Jose, provided spice to the event with his inimitable voice impersonations and antics.

Ms. De Vera told the crowd of her sudden and improbable rise to become mayor of Hercules in less than a year although under her city’s “traditional rotation of council members,” her turn to become mayor will still kick in 2014.

Saying that she was “at the right place and at the right time,” De Vera said that just a month after she won a council seat, she was “promoted to Vice Mayor, and five months later, on June, I became the Mayor of Hercules.”

When Mayor Ed Balico resigned in January while two council members were recalled last June because of scandal and controversy, it paved the way for her rise as mayor.

For a Fil Am to become a mayor in her city is not really new. With 27 percent of the city’s population of Filipino descent, and many of whom getting out of their way to register and vote, it had paid dividends for Fil Am candidates to win a council seat.

In fact, there have already been five Fil Am mayors before her – Goni Solidum, Andy Paras, Ed Manuel, Ed Balico and Frank Batara. She also gives credit to past leaders for mentoring new leaders thru commission appointments, citing herself as a beneficiary of such mentoring legacy.

A live Christmas Nativity Scene with Christmas Carols was also the other highlight of the evening with the participation of NORCAL Tagudians children and grandchildren David Kelly on the keyboard and Christine Kelly on the saxophone and guitar. (with Ronnie M. Estrada contributing)


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