NaFFAA Southern California Leadership Forum

Date: Saturday, December 1, 2018
Forum: 1:00PM-5:00PM
Reception: 5:00PM-7:00PM
Location: Carson Community Center – Dominguez Hall
Address: 801 E. Carson St., Carson, CA 90745

A livestream of the forum will be available on Balitang America’s Facebook page.  For Twitter, please follow @NaFFAA_National and #SoCalCLF.

The National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) is organizing a forum focused on civic leadership and empowerment within the Filipino American community. Sponsored by Civic Leadership USA, the forum will feature prominent leaders and elected officials who will discuss efforts to increase the community’s representation in government. Whether you’re looking to network, get more involved in the community, or even run for office, please join us on Saturday, December 1!



Agenda Overview

FORUM (1:00-5:00PM)

Opening Remarks
Emcee: Giselle Tongi
Mayor Albert Robles, City of Carson
Anthony Ng, Executive Director, Civic Leadership USA
Brendan Flores, National Chairman, NaFFAA

Filipino American Data Presentation
Karthick Ramakrishnan, Director, AAPI Data

Elected Officials Panel
Remarks: Elito Santarina, Council Member, City of Carson
Moderator: Jessica Caloza, Director of Scheduling, Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti
Rachelle Arizmendi, Council Member, City of Sierra Madre
Victor Manalo, Council Member, City of Artesia
Tzeitel Paras-Caracci, Council Member, City of Duarte
Mark Pulido, Mayor, City of Cerritos
Melissa Ramoso, Council Member-Elect, City of Artesia
Frank Aurelio Yokoyama, Council Member, City of Cerritos

Small Group Discussions

Closing Remarks
Adelio Angelito S. Cruz, Philippine Consul General to Los Angeles
Jason Tengco, Executive Director, NaFFAA


Performance: The Filharmonic

Biographies (in speaking order)

Giselle Töngi

Giselle Töngi, known to her fans simply as “G,” is a familiar and respected figure in the Filipino community. She has long been active in the entertainment industry with over two decades of television experience in both the Philippine and FilAm market. Primarily recognized for her acting in film, television and theater in the Philippines, winning several awards for her work, Töngi is also a producer.  Her past work includes the short film “Pinoy Grease,” “Pinoy Tango,” as well as “The Balikbayan Project: With the Bascos,” a 13-part travel series about a second generation Fil-Am family’s experience in the Philippines . Her most recent stint in Manila was the role of Social Media Producer for, where Töngi contributed for the lifestyle, theater and entertainment section. For three years, she was at the helm of the only daily talkshow in all of North America that specifically catered to the FilAm experience for LA18’s Kababayan Today. She is also a regular columnist for Asian Journal under her Global Kababayan section and occassional contributor for Philippine Star newspaper. 

Töngi is a college honors graduate of the University of California with a communications degree and double minor in film and theater. She is more recently defined by the many roles she plays off the stage. Töngi says that “to be able to bridge the gap between my own two cultures by creating content specifically for Fil-Ams such as myself is truly the focus of my professional career.  To be able to be a voice in my community and be given the chance to represent  the Fil-Am experience is also a way to define our culture and identity, which I take very seriously. This keeps me aligned with other people who are also working toward reuniting other fellow Fil-Ams together.

Mayor Albert Robles

Albert Robles grew up in Carson, where he played at our local parks and attended local public schools (Kindergarten through High School). On March 5, 2013, Albert was elected to the Carson City Council by almost 50% of the voters – an unparalleled achievement for someone running for Carson City Council the very first time. 

During his undergraduate studies, he studied abroad at foreign universities in both Latin America and Europe. Albert Robles received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Colorado, where he double-majored in Political Science and Latin American Studies, and minored in Economics. Mayor Robles also has a Master’s Degree from the University of Southern California, where he was a USC Merit Scholarship recipient. In addition, Albert has the distinction of having served as a United States Congressional Fellow in Washington, D.C., and receiving a Juris Doctorate Degree from the University of California at Berkeley – one of the best schools in the Country. 

His professional experience includes working at one of the country’s most prestigious law firms, teaching business law at a local community college, working as a Community Affairs Manager for a fortune 500 company, serving as the General Manager of a joint powers authority, serving as a consultant for local governments on business development, and working as a Staff Assistant to a United States Member of Congress. In addition, he has served on the board of directors of non-profit organizations and received numerous certificates of appreciation and recognition from civic, community, and business organizations for his involvement in the community. 

Anthony Ng

Currently serves as the Executive Director of the Civic Leadership USA (, Anthony also served as Vice President of the Life Transformation Foundation. Anthony brings over 30 years of experience in working with an array of institutions ranging from state government, arts and culture, education, and social services to community development and private foundations, including the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Prince Music Theater, African American Museum, Pew Charitable Trusts, and Barnes Foundation. He is the former VP & COO of Nueva Esperanza/Esperanza USA, President and CEO of the Latin American Economic Development Association, and Executive Director of the Chinese Newcomers Service Center.

Brendan Flores

As National Chairman of NaFFAA, Brendan is responsible for leading the largest national affiliation of Filipino American institutions, organizations and individuals. Throughout his time as an officer of NaFFAA, Brendan has served as State Youth Coordinator, State Youth Chair and Regional Youth Chair for Region 11 (NV, AZ and UT) based out of Las Vegas, Nevada. He was also the last person to be elected as NaFFAA’s National Youth Chair as well as the National Treasurer. Brendan holds a position as Senior Vice President and Consumer Banking Performance Manager at Bank of America. He was previously a Regional Banking District Manager and Vice President at Wells Fargo in Florida and was one of the youngest promoted to Community Banking District Manager role. Brendan has held numerous leadership positions, specifically within the Wells Fargo team member diverse networks, and is also the President of United Way Emerging Leaders United of Saint Johns County.

Karthick Ramakrishnan

Karthick Ramakrishnan is associate dean of the UC Riverside School of Public Policy, and professor of public policy and political science. He is also a Board Member of The California Endowment, Chair of the California Commission on APIA Affairs, and adjunct fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).  He received his Ph.D. in politics from Princeton University, and has held fellowships at the Russell Sage Foundation and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. 

Ramakrishnan’s research focuses on civic participation, immigration policy, and the politics of race, ethnicity, and immigration in the United States. He directs the National Asian American Survey and is founder and director of, which features demographic data and policy research on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. He has published many articles and 6 books, including most recently, Framing Immigrants (Russell Sage, 2016) and The New Immigration Federalism (Cambridge, 2015). 

Ramakrishnan has provided consultation to public officials at the federal and local levels, and has written dozens of opeds and appeared in over 1,000 news stories, many in major news outlets such as the New York Times, Economist, Los Angeles Times, National Public RadioPBS Newshour, MSNBC, CBS Evening News, and CNN.

Elito Santarina

Elito Macapagal Santarina currently serves as a Council Member in the Carson City Council. Long before being elected into public office, he has been an active member of the City family and the Carson community through his service on many of the City’s commissions and boards, and as a volunteer for various city projects. Santarina is a retired educator, whose teaching career spanned for more than four decades. He currently works at Lynwood Unified School District as a Certified “As Needed” Teacher. 

He has served on the City of Carson’s Planning, Parks and Recreation, Senior Citizens Advisory, Citywide Advisory commissions and briefly on the Economic Development Commission. He is responsible in creating an appropriate name for the Fine Arts Commission to Cultural Arts Commission. He also served as co-chair of the City of Carson’s 30th anniversary celebrations, and assisted in the City’s summer youth jobs selection process. He likewise served as commissioner of the Asian/Pacific American Education Commission. Santarina has either held leadership positions or has been actively involved in many local organizations such as the Gardena-Carson YMCA, Carson Sister Cities Association, Knights of Columbus, The Order of the Knights of Rizal, Torrance University Lodge No. 394, St. Philomena Parish Lectors and Commentators Group, Kayumanggi Lions Club, Kiwanis International, Filipino Community of Carson, Philippine Independence Day Foundation, Martin Luther King, Jr. Democratic Club, Progressive Democratic Club, Mexican American Democratic Club, Gardena Valley Democratic Club, and en elected delegate to the Los Angeles County Democratic Club. 

He is a recipient of numerous recognitions as an outstanding educator and a community leader. These include the Mayor Tom Bradley Cultural Award, the California Department of Education Exceptional Leadership PTSA in Public Schools Awards, the LAUSD Asian Pacific Educators Commission Leadership Award, the Asian Pacific Islander Educators Association “Torch of Service” Award, the Lions Club International’s Outstanding Educator Award, the Kiwanis Club’s Outstanding Educator Award, Outstanding Awards from the Community Interethnic Association, the Historic Filipinotown Lifetime Achievement Award in Government Service, the Carson Sheriff’s Station Support Foundation’s Humanitarian Award, Gawad Amerika Lakandula Award, to name a few. He was also awarded the Outstanding Cabanatueño title by his hometown, Cabanatuan City, Philippines. 

Jessica Caloza

Jessica Caloza currently serves as the Director of Scheduling for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Prior to joining the Mayor’s Office, she was a political appointee at the U.S. Department of Education, where she worked on higher education, youth, and immigration policy issues. Before joining the President’s Administration, she helped fundraise for the re-election campaigns of several Members of Congress including Rep. Xavier Becerra and Rep. Mike Honda. Jessica also previously opened and led the first field office in Palmyra, Virginia for President Obama’s re-election campaign. Before joining the campaign, she was an intern for President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

Outside of her passion for government and politics, Jessica is active in various Filipino American organizations and causes. In 2015, Jessica was chosen as one of ten Filipino American youth for the Filipino Young Leaders Program (FYLPRO), an immersive leadership program led by the Ambassador of the Philippines and the Ayala Foundation. She also served on the Executive Committee for FYLPRO, helping to continue the leadership program for other Filipino Americans. Currently, Jessica is part of the CAUSE Leadership Network, a group of young Asian American leaders who are looking to advance more opportunities for the Asian American community.

Jessica is a first generation immigrant from the Philippines and earned her B.A. with dual degrees in Political Science: International Relations and Ethnic Studies from the University of California, San Diego.

Rachelle Arizmendi

In 2014, Rachelle Arizmendi, was the first person of color to be elected to the City of Sierra Madre City Council. She was selected by her colleagues to serve as Mayor in 2017 and was recently re-elected to the City Council. Rachelle is also the Vice President/Chief Operating Officer at a community development organization, Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment that annually serves over 50,000 people a year.

She was appointed by the California Governor to serve on the California State Board of Food and Agriculture and is the Board President of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council. Rachelle also serves on the National Coalition for Asian Pacific Community Development, and the CA League of Cities’ Women’s Caucus Board.

This past September, she was recognized as one of the Top 100 Influential Filipinas in the World by the Filipina Women’s Network.

Dr. Victor Manalo

Dr. Manalo was first elected to the Artesia City Council in a special election in 2007, and he was re-elected in 2009 and 2013.  He has served the city twice as Mayor in 2010 and 2016. He is the Regional Council Representative on the Southern California Association of Governments, Board Member of the South East Los Angeles County Workforce Development Board, and a Past President of the California Contract Cities Association.  

Dr. Manalo earned his Ph.D. in Social Work from the University of Southern California (USC).  He is a retired Associate Professor in Social Work at California State University, Los Angeles, where he taught graduate and undergraduate social work courses for over 16 years.  He is a member of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), and he has served the association at the local, state, and national levels.

This book teaches the principles, methods, and fundamentals of exegeting the New Testament. It also has examples of textual exegesis that clearly and helpfully show the value of exegeting a text well. Any serious student of Scripture would benefit from utilizing this book in the study of the Bible.

Tzeitel Russel M. Paras

Tzeitel Russel M. Paras was born in 1972. She was named after the eldest daughter in “Fiddler on the Roof”, a Broadway musical. On November 6, 2001, Tzeitel became the first Duarte High School (DHS) alumni and the youngest woman elected to the Duarte City Council. Her family moved to Duarte in 1985. Tzeitel (DHS ’89) has two younger brothers: Bertrand Russell (DHS ’92) and John Paul George (DHS ’96).

As a public servant, Tzeitel Paras-Caracci has served as Mayor in 2006, 2011 and 2015. She continues to participate in many facets of government and civic engagement. She has continued to be an active member various organizations and committees. To name a few, she has served as President for APAMO (Asian Pacific American Municipal Officials), Chair of the City Futures Panel of Democratic Governance, member of Duarte Community Education Council and Duarte Community Service Council, Director of Sanitation District and was appointed to serve a two-year term on the Board of Directors of the National League of Cities and the League of California Cities.

Mayor Mark Pulido

A proud Cerritos resident since 1972, Mayor Mark E. Pulido has an extensive history of local community service and professional work experience in local, state and federal government. He was elected to the ABC Unified School District Board in 2001 and was re-elected in 2005 and 2009. He served as Board President in 2007-2008 and concluded his service in March 2011. Mayor Pulido also served as the Board Liaison for the ABC Federal Head Start and State Preschool programs for seven years. In 2009, the Los Angeles County Office of Education honored Mayor Pulido with its “Board Member of the Year” award. He served on the CaliforniaVolunteers Commission from 2013 to 2017. In 2017, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. appointed Mayor Pulido to the California Science Center Board of Directors and to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission.

Mayor Pulido is the Deputy Chief of Staff for Congressman Alan Lowenthal. He previously worked for the California Legislature for more than a decade, serving as District Director to State Senator Alan Lowenthal. Prior to that, he served as a legislative consultant with the California State Assembly in the Los Angeles offices of Assembly Speakers Robert M. Hertzberg, Herb J. Wesson Jr. and Fabian Núñez. In the 1990s, Mayor Pulido worked for the City of Long Beach in the City Manager’s Office, the Long Beach Redevelopment Agency, the Budget Bureau, the Parks, Recreation and Marine Department and the Gang Intervention/Prevention Program.

Mayor Pulido graduated with honors from Whitney High School in the ABC Unified School District. He received his bachelor’s degree in History and Asian American Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles, where he served as UCLA Student Body President. He received his Master of Public Policy degree from The University of Chicago as a Woodrow Wilson National Fellow. Additionally, during his graduate studies, he served as a graduate fellow of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Institute at the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau for Justice Assistance in Washington, D.C.

Melissa Ramoso

Melissa Ramoso is a proud Filipino American born to parents who worked hard in government jobs helping others and served in the military. Over the past decade, she served and advised federal and state legislators. She continued her family’s legacy of public service as a Deputy District Director for State Senator Ted W. Lieu, advising on healthcare, military affairs, education, civil liberties and older adult issues.

Melissa also previously worked in the legal field and various levels of government, but always had an interest in the political side of how government works, the empowerment of the Asian Pacific Islander community and most especially the Filipino American community.

Melissa’s involvement in the California Democratic Party led to her appointment as a Democratic National Committee (DNC) Party Leader Elected Official (PLEO) Delegate for 2012 DNC Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was one of a handful Filipino American delegates that was featured on ABS-CBN’s Balitang America. Melissa was also in sixteen different global and national media outlets for her role as delegate and spokesperson for Filipinos for Obama and Asian American and Pacific Islanders for Obama in California. Previously, she served as State Chair of the California Democratic Party (CDP) Filipino American Democratic Caucus and Southern Vice Chair of the CDP Asian Pacific Islander Caucus.

Just recently, she was elected as a Council Member of the Artesia City Council, making her the only woman serving on the council.

Frank Aurelio Yokoyama

Councilmember Frank Aurelio Yokoyama was elected to the Cerritos City Council in 2017. A Cerritos resident since 1976, Councilmember Yokoyama previously served as a Cerritos Planning Commissioner from 2011 to 2013.

Councilmember Yokoyama is a Council liaison to the ABC Unified School District and a member of the City Council’s Performing Arts, Personnel, Auto Mall, County Health Department/Health Insurance and Legislative committees. He serves as the Council’s delegate to the League of California Cities and Southern California Association of Governments. Councilmember Yokoyama is the alternate delegate to the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority, Los Angeles County City Selection Committee and Sanitation Districts 2, 3, 18 & 19/Waste Management.

Councilmember Yokoyama is a local businessman, attorney and a youth sports coach. He graduated from UC Berkeley Business School and Harvard Law School. He and his wife, Wendy, are parents to daughter Makenna and son Maddox.

Adelio Angelito S. Cruz

Consul General Adelio Angelito S. Cruz is a career officer of the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs. Prior to his arrival in Los Angeles on 28 July 2016, Mr. Cruz served as Vice Consul then Consul at the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago from 1997 to 2003; in the United Arab Emirates as First Secretary and Consul from March 2007 to December 2009; First Secretary and Consul General from December 2009 to November 2010; Minister and Consul General from December 2010 to April 2011 at the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi; in the People’s Republic of China as Consul General from April 2011 to November 2013 at the Philippine Consulate General, Xiamen; and, as Charge d’ Affaires, en pied from June 2014 to June 2016 at the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli, Libya.

In the Philippines, he previously served in the Department of Foreign Affairs in various capacities, such as Acting Director in the Office of Protocol and State Visits; Acting Director in the Office of American Affairs, and Executive Director of the Office of Protocol and State Visits. Consul General Cruz holds a B.A. in Political Science degree from the University of the Philippines and units in law from the Ateneo de Manila. He is married to Catherine Amon Cruz and father to Christian Nathan, Aaron Mathew and Angeline Nicole.

Jason Tengco

Jason Tengco serves as the Executive Director of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), the largest national affiliation to represent the 4 million Filipinos throughout the United States. Over the past decade, Jason has worked for a presidential campaign, the White House, Obama Administration, Congress, and numerous non-profit and campus organizations. Jason previously served as the National Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Outreach Director for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, as Deputy Director of the White House Initiative on AAPIs, and as an Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) Fellow in the office of former Congressman Mike Honda. Throughout his career, Jason has participated in fellowships with the New Leaders Council, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Center for Progressive Leadership, and Public Policy and International Affairs Program. He has also served as a delegate to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Young Leaders Summit in Malaysia, and the Filipino American Youth Leadership Program (FYLPro) in the Philippines. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jason graduated from UCLA with honors with a B.A. in Political Science.