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Our History



Salamat sa iyong oras.  We appreciate your time, thank you for visiting our website. We are Leadership.  Education.  Activism.  & Dialogue [Filipino].  Or simply, LEAD Filipino.  Our community work is dedicated to creating spaces that show what it means to “Lead Filipino” through action, information, and grace.  We focus our programs on developing the social and cultural lenses of Filipinas/xs/os while addressing how we can be change agents from within.  Bound by the charge of growing Filipina/x/o leadership, our small and mighty vessel is run by a group of committed volunteers.  Our programs and core services are based in San Jose, California, but we’re pleased to share that members in Los Angeles and Portland continue to remain engaged and active leaders within our organization.

To give context on LEAD Filipino’s beginnings and mission, I’d like to share a bit about what influenced me to form this budding organization.

In late-2015, I asked close friends and colleagues to consider joining LEAD Filipino’s Organizing and Advisory Teams.

In each individual meeting, I asked how they envisioned building a continuum of cultural pride, personal success, and civic representation for Filipinas/xs/os in our community.  As the largest Asian subgroup in California, and the second largest — and growing — Asian subgroup in the United States, I was driven to challenge the perception that Filipinas/xs/os are marked as “passive” and “unseen” across professional sectors and key decision-making tables.  For these reasons, we have set out to disprove our historic and current naysayers.  With histories stretching back to 1587, at the landing of Morro Rock, Filipinas/xs/os have deep roots in America’s rich tapestry.  We are among some of America’s first innovators, inventors, and entrepreneurs.  We have faced ridicule, subversion, and violence.  We have also laid our footprints in the sprawling fields of the West.  We represent some of the first waves of the Asian diasporic experience in America and continue to leave indelible marks in our shared history.

LEAD Filipino wants to create change.  In doing so, we are thoughtfully bringing programs and services that reflect our experiences, narratives, and triumphs, while also turning our focus on future movement, action-based research, and strategic coalitions.  Through our work, we strive to incite individuals in their localities to take a stand and get involved in larger causes.  We focus on developing the social awareness, civic engagement, and local exposure of Filipinas/xs/os in San Jose and beyond (thanks to today’s tech tools).

We each hold our own destiny.  We define our own paths.  As leaders, we take this journey, we strive to support and equip Filipinas/xs/os with a stronger sense of cultural pride, greater awareness in how our community can interact with public policy change, a deeper understanding of the history of our diaspora in the United States. We base all of our programs in the three centering Ethnic Studies questions, promulgated by the late Dr. Dawn Mabalon: Who are you? What’s your family’s story? What positive social change can you make?

We are grateful for your support and belief in LEAD Filipino.

Lubos na gumagalang (Respectfully yours),

Dr. Angelica “Gel” Cortez


Sometimes the most poignant of stories might be the most simple.

Our logo was created by Daniel Lazo and Gel Cortez one rainy afternoon at a Jamba Juice in early 2016.  More so, Daniel sat and created, and Gel talked, offering the often understated but appreciated “moral support.” 😉

With rousing interest in our work, including increased requests to lead workshops in our community, we knew that developing our organizational identity would be integral to our continued growth.

By that point, our informal group had met a dozen times at various community spots, including folks’ office space, Panera Bread, and the like, around San Jose.

During these sessions, where streams of consciousness and ideas were flowing, we understood that our purpose and dedication of our time in those spaces were uplifted in two ways: Leadership in the Fil community and dialogue…open, unrestricted, and unabashed Dialogue.  We shared values and raised our collective work in two additional areas: Education and Activism.  Education, because we all recognize the invaluable gift that access to Education has given us, with respect to competing in a material world, but more specifically, herald Education in the sphere of Ethnic Studies, or understanding who we are and our community’s contributions to America’s tapestry.  Activism, to not cancel out or admonish engaging in our country’s social spheres, but rather, to normalize and familiarize our members with electoral systems that we helped create, but are underrepresented in.

Our founding group of organizers: Daniel, James, Jay, Angelo, and Gel, #1., Didn’t want anyone to ever second-guess or question what “LEAD Filipino” was about and #2., Strongly believed in the transformative and evolutionary powers of “dialogue” in the context of understanding and learning about our stories, engaging in community work, and reaching new heights of elevated consciousness with others.

For these guiding reasons, and shared values, you’ll see that our logo is a dialogue bubble, meant to evoke expression, thoughts, ideas, feelings, attitudes and more. 

LEAD Filipino, an acronym/initialism for Leadership, Education, Activism, and Dialogue is depicted front and center in the dialogue bubble to personify and verbalize “Leading Filipino!” while the three stars, representing the three largest islands in the Philippines – Luzon, Visaya, and Mindanao – serve as punctuations in our organization’s initialism.  We intentionally omitted a fourth punctuation to leave the dialogue perpetually open (ooo aaah).

The eight rays represent the eight provinces of Luzon that were the first to strike against Spain, hence catalyzing the Philippines’ Revolution against a 300+ year regime.  We recognize the notable leaders and martyrs that stood for Philippines sovereignty and self-determination from an oppressive force.  These revolutionaries include Andres Bonifacio, Tandang Sora, Gabriela Silang, Dr. Jose Rizal, and Apolinario Mabini, to name only a few.

The color Yellow is intentionally accented in our logo, not least to punctuate the mark of the Filipino sun, but that the color signifies democracy, freedom, unity, and sovereignty.  We lift these values in the name of our community and base building work in San Jose and across California.

Symbolism and semiotics are everything, and for these reasons, we share our poignantly simple story of the creation and intentions of our logo!