Dr. Angelica Cortez
Founder & Executive Director
Dr. Angelica “Gel” Cortez (she/her) is an activist and cultural worker with a background in public policy and racial equity. Voted as a Silicon Valley 40 Under 40, she founded LEAD Filipino in 2015 with the goal of increasing FilAm voter registration and civic representation in the San Jose Area. Since then, the organization has grown to serve thousands of students, adults and families through culturally responsive education and voter engagement programs across the region and state. For over a decade, Dr. Cortez worked on issue campaigns and ballot initiatives in San Jose and Los Angeles to advance civil rights, racial justice and health equity for all Californians. Most recently, she helped lead field outreach for Yes on Prop 16 (2020) and secured major corporate endorsements for AB 979, a landmark corporate board diversity bill. In addition to serving as LEAD Filipino’s Executive Director she also oversees justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion strategy at Pacific Clinics. Her contributions have been recognized by NBC Bay Area, ABC and Philippines and Malaysian news media. She holds her doctorate from the University of Southern California.
Program Manager & Lead Designer
Camille (she/her/hers) is a second-generation Pinay born and raised in the Bay Area. She graduated from San Jose State University last spring with a degree in Management Informational Systems. During her time at SJSU she was heavily involved with AkbayanSJSU, where she was introduced to L.E.A.D Filipino’s Annual Fly Pinays Leadership Summit. She later joined the Awareness in Action Program (AAP) in 2019 where she became motivated to be more involved with the organization and joined the Fly Pinays Planning Committee for the 3rd Annual Summit. Beyond her work with L.E.A.D Filipino, Camille is a visual designer. She hopes to combine her passion for community and design to create solutions that will help her address inequity, accessibility, and inclusivity. Camille supports our organizational calendar, partnerships, and collaborations in addition to leading our Redistricting and Stop Asian Hate listening sessions.
Mar (she/her) serves as LEAD Filipino’s Project Coordinator, supporting our major local initiatives and statewide coalitions. She is originally from the Bay Area and currently resides on unceded Ohlone Land. Her hobbies and interests include plants, mushrooms, reading, poetry , photography, hiking, baking, and cooking.
Jerred Cayabyab (he/him) graduated from San José State University with a BS in Civil Engineering, and is preparing to begin his new job in the Engineering Department for the City of Burlingame. During his time in college, Jerred was an active member of Akbayan SJSU where he served as a cultural director and liaison for their Pilipino Cultural Nights. Apart from work, he enjoys playing basketball and volleyball with his family and friends. This past summer, Jerred graduated from the Awareness in Action Program (AAP), which sparked his interest in civic engagement. As an AAP Apprentice, Jerred is looking forward to becoming more involved with LEAD Filipino, creating new friendships, and giving back to the community.
Queermittee & Education
Celeste (They/Them/Theirs) is a non-binary Pinay/x, born and raised in the Bay Area. Attending school at San Francisco State University, Celeste currently holds a B.A. in Communication Studies and an M.A. in Asian American Studies. During their time at SFSU, Celeste’s involvement in Pin@y Educational Partnerships (PEP) as an educator teaching middle school and college students, motivated them to seek community closer to their home of Fremont, CA. Their introduction to L.E.A.D was as a participant of the Spring Training Program in early 2018, and later joined L.E.A.D’s Education Team as an Organizer that same year. During summer of 2019, Celeste was a part of Awareness in Action’s expansion to the East Bay, teaching the first cohort in Union City, CA. In the near future Celeste wants to help launch programming centered on the Pilipinx LGBTQ+ community. Celeste leads our organization’s Queer Summit and Queermittee activities.
Lola Scholarship Fund
Daniel Lazo (he/they) was born, raised and educated in Eastside San José. He started his community organizing in high school through the Filipino Youth Coalition, a gang-prevention program for Filipino youth; and SMASH Academy, a STEM-intensive summer program for BIPOC students. He graduated as summa cum laude from San José State University (SJSU) in 2018 and earned his BS in Advertising with a double minor in Asian American Studies and Event Planning. In 2016, Daniel became one of the founding organizers for LEAD Filipino, a 501c3 nonprofit to increase Filipino American civic participation, grassroots leadership and community action. Daniel is currently LEAD Filipino’s Marketing Director and Scholarship Director. He also works on public relations and other communication projects for the Department of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services, where he started as a recreation leader. Each step of the way, Daniel’s vision holds true — to give back to his community that has given him so much.
State Policy & FIERCE Coalition
From San Jose, California, Gabriel Young, is a fourth-year Philippine-American undergraduate honors student at The George Washington University, studying Political Science — focusing on Public Policy — and International Affairs. Gabriel strives to be a man for and with others through serving the AAPI community through multiple ventures. Currently, Gabriel interns for the White House Initiative on Asian-Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, organizes with LEAD Filipino and the FIERCE Coalition as its Local and Statewide Policy Director, and organizes with the National Federation for Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA) EPYC program as an administrator. At GW, Gabriel serves as a student government senator and the President of the Philippine Cultural Society. Gabriel plans to serve others as a Public Interest Attorney to fight against social-injustice and eventually hold higher office where he can serve the wider AAPI community by developing and advocating for socio-economically equitable policies and laws. Gabriel is a Star Wars fanatic who loves to chat, eat, watch movies, read, and play video games. Isang Bagsak!!!
Regular Guest Speaker
“The Dishonorable” Lendyll Capitulo is a regular guest facilitator at our Policy, Politics, and Puto (PPP) Roundtable Talks. Our PPP is a safe space for conversations around Fil Am involvement in policy organizing, cultural identity, economic justice work, and political ideology. Lendyll earned his BA from New York University (NYU) and MBA from Stern.
Michelle was born and raised in Union City, CA. She educates the youth and community members in the Bay Area through the Awareness in Action Program. Michelle is currently a B.S. Candidate in Health Sciences, Community Health at Cal State East Bay with the aspiration of blending her interests in advocating for health equity, social justice, and education. From being active in PASA CSUEB and later beginning her involvement with LEAD Filipino through the Spring Training Program, Michelle had soon found a loving and growing passion for serving the Fil-Am/Filipinx community. Previously, Michelle had served as NCPASA’s (Northern California Pilipinx Student Alliance) Human Resources Chair and now serves as the Internal Chairperson, where she is able to spread resources and mentorship while bringing unity between Fil-Am collegiate organizations across Northern California. Through LEAD, Michelle assists in other organizers’ projects while focusing on keeping Filipinx hxstory alive and emphasizing the importance of Ethnic Studies.
Jenn Cayanan graduated with a BS in Public Health and a minor in Asian American Studies from San Jose State University in the Fall of 2019. Jenn currently works at Heluna Health for the California Department of Public Health. Jenn has been organizing with LEAD Filipino since 2017, primarily through Fly Pinays and Awareness in Action, Lola’s Scholarship, and is excited to be a director for the Community Health Initiatives. Her passion and love are deeply rooted in serving the Filipinx/a/o American community through organizing with LEAD Filipino, Fil-CHA, and as co-founder of the Pilipinx American Public Health Conference.
Community Health Outreach Intern
Maleina Aguinaldo (she/her/hers) was born and raised in San Jose, California. She attended high school at Evergreen Valley High School and is currently pursuing a BS in Biology at the University of San Francisco. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her big family and playing volleyball. She hopes to one day become a physician and serve her Filipino community through her passion for public health, advocacy, and the sciences.
Community Health Outreach Intern
Residing from the East Bay, Peter John “PJ” Ligutan(he/him) is a first-generation third-year student who is majoring in public health at San Jose State University. He was raised by Filipino immigrant parents who are both deaf and is formally known as a CODA(Child of Deaf Adults). While being raised in the Deaf community and primarily living in Deaf culture, Peter has combated discrimination, language barriers, and a struggle with identity. His adverse childhood experiences have taught him leadership, advocacy, and an understanding of the need for equity in his community. Furthermore, this motivated Peter to uptake the field of community health and strives to reach equitable access to necessary resources in his community. Peter is deeply involved in Akbayan, a Pilipinx-American organization at SJSU, where he was reintroduced to his culture and uncovered more of his Filipino roots. Akbayan also opened other pathways and organizations such as LEAD Filipino to where he is today. As Peter learns more about his community, his culture, and himself, he continues to rapidly grow and flourish as an individual and a leader.
Hey y’all! I’m John Perez, a soon-to-be graduate of San Jose State University. I’m currently studying English with a focus on creative writing while also taking professional and technical writing classes. I love language and I find joy in most forms of art. I tend to spread myself wide because I love experiencing and appreciating the many different forms of expression.
I am very excited to be LEAD’s newest intern and have the opportunity to tune in and serve the Pilipinx and other “minority” (underrepresented) communities. As a first generation immigrant, moving into a new and impressive country without any connections, I became victim to the toxicity of independence and this idea of having to build yourself on your own. I recently learned that it really does take a village, a community, to raise a person and I value LEAD’s efforts in supporting and building the communities that will raise the future generations well.
Asian American Voter Empowerment Project Team (Los Angeles)
Janice Andrade O’Neal
LA Voter Engagement & Outreach Director
Janice Andrade O’Neal (she/her) is a 1.5 generation immigration who arrived in the United States with her Nanay and little brother in 1995 from La Paz, Leyte Philippines. They reunited in Oakland, California with the rest of my older siblings who arrived in the United States a few years prior with my Tatay. She is one of 7 children, and they all speak our Waray-Waray dialect.
For Janice’s undergrad, she graduated from UCLA with a bachelors in Sociology and minor in Urban Education Studies. She also graduated from CSULA with a master’s in education. She is currently finishing up her doctoral degree at USC in Organizational Change & Leadership. Her expertise is focused on education, housing justice, and nonprofit management. Although Oakland is her home, she has been living in Los Angeles for over 15 years.
Ian grew up in East San Jose, CA. He was raised by a single mom. After being bullied in high school, Ian grew a passion for helping others. He did not exactly know how to pursue his passion at first, but after volunteering on his first campaign, Ian realized that he wanted to help people through politics. Ian has worked on local campaigns, non-profits, and other government institutions. He also has been involved in the democratic party through being an officer of local democratic clubs as well as being a state delegate. The issues he has worked on over the years include the environment, housing, education, immigration etc. Through scholarships, Ian studied political science and eventually graduated from the George Washington University in 2015. Also having a passion for business, Ian was able to receive investments for his first company, which he started before graduating from college. On his free time, Ian likes to read philosophy, volunteer in the community, and simply getting to know others.
Jazmyne Aquino (she/her) is a Filipina-American born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. She attends the University of Southern California, pursuing both Public Relations and Theatre. She is involved in the Asian Pacific Cinema Association as their Assistant Programming Director, SCene Magazine with a focus on multimedia, and the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center as an intern. Jazmyne plans to support rising Gen Z in all realms of media and entertainment. Working as an AAVEP Canvasser Intern, she is thrilled to advise Asian Americans of different backgrounds and cultures to understand the importance of their vote and its impact on our community.
My pronouns are she, her, hers. I am born and raised in Los Angeles. I was a first generation college student and obtained my Bachelor’s in Child, Adolescent, and Family Studies from CSUB. I am very family oriented, and I am recently a first time mom. I am kind and I aspire to maximize election awareness and encourage minority groups to utilize their right to vote.
Hello! My name is Jeisy Arellano. I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I love listening and singing to music, taking my dogs to the park, and going to the beach at night. One of my passions include helping my community and the communities around me through supporting grassroots movements, small businesses, and sharing my knowledge with others. I am excited to join the LEAD team and roll out this initiative in the Los Angeles area. With the team, I hope to educate and encourage Asian Americans about voting registration and the voting process. The power to vote at local and national levels is not always practiced due to a lack of information or misconceptions, so I am looking forward to having conversations and ultimately register new voters!
Darren is an artist based in in Los Angeles. He excited to LEAD Filipino which is an exciting organization that promotes the lives of marginalized communities while celebrating the richness of Filipino culture.
Civic Engagement Team
Angela (she/her/siya) is a second-generation Filipina-American residing in the East Bay, holding a BS in Biology from UCLA. With her healthcare background, she is a strong proponent of environmental and housing justice as a means of improving health outcomes in her community. Witnessing health disparities unfold in her immediate family and the broader Filipino community has inspired her unwavering commitment to advocate for underserved communities, like the one she came from. Currently, she serves as a Council Policy and Legislative Analyst for San José Councilmember David Cohen, who represents District 4, which includes heavily populated Asian neighborhoods, including thriving Filipino communities. She recently helped coordinate LEAD Filipino’s 7th annual Fly Pinays Leadership Summit and the FIERCE Coalition Policy Symposium. As a dedicated advocate for the Filipino-American community, her mission is to empower and uplift Fil-Am voices by raising awareness of their unique cultural heritage and addressing the challenges they face.
Civic Engagement Team
Vanessa Carr currently serves as Governor Gavin Newsom’s Senior Regional Coordinator for External Affairs in the Los Angeles Regional Office. Growing up in an interracial family and among other communities of color, she found her passion on issues related to equity, social justice, and economic opportunity. Her dedication to community driven leadership and advocacy has led her to work with organizations like LEAD Filipino and elected officials like Rep. Ro Khanna and Asm. Adrin Nazarian. A Santa Clara University graduate, Vanessa was born and raised in the Silicon Valley and resides in Los Angeles today.
Civic Engagement Team
Kevin Suarez is a San Jose native, attended De Anza College, and San Jose State University, earning his Bachelor of Science in Economics in December 2018. Since 2017, Kevin was heavily involved with civically engaging Filipino American community. He has worked with organizations such as the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA); as a member of their youth program’s inaugural EPYC class and as the 2018 – 2019 Finance Chair for NCPASA: the Northern California Pilipinx Student Alliance.
Kevin currently serves as a member of LEAD Filipino’s Civic Engagement Team. Kevin helped assist with the planning and execution of LEAD Filipino’s 2018 Voter Guide, the 1st Filipino Policy Symposium in coordination with the Bulosan Center and in 2018, served as a team captain during the 2019 Filipinx Advocacy Day in Sacramento. Kevin hopes to further leverage his career and interests in Economics, Finance and Public Policy in the service of Fil Am community.
Civic Engagement Team
From San Leandro, CA, Alan stands as a proud graduate from San José State University, with a B.S. in Business Management and Administration (Class of 2019). Upon graduation, Alan deepened his community work by engaging in various Filipinx/API serving organizations. In recent years, he joined LEAD Filipino as a Civic Engagement Organizer, worked as a Public Policy and Advocacy Intern with UC Davis’ Bulosan Center for Filipinx Studies, and most recently, stood as an EPYC Ambassador with the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA). True to his heart, Alan loves looking for new ways to strengthen the pipeline of Filipinx Americans into the world of civic engagement. Additionally, Alan enjoys serving his local community through his role on the Transportation Equity Task Force for the City of San Jose, as well as serving on the Board of Directors for the South University Neighborhood (SUN) Association. Outside of work, Alan is also a proud boba aficionado, news junkie, and AMC A-list Stubs Member.
James remotely oversees our Linguistics and Philippine centered material which empowers our leadership programs and workshops. Through L.E.A.D, he has led workshops on the influences of Spanish Colonization in the Philippines and Regional & Colonial Mentalities in the PI. He received his B.A., Asian Studies and Masters of Public Affairs from USF. James’ interaction with the Filipino-American community includes: interning at the Philippine Consulate General, Bayanihan Center, and West Bay. He also worked as an outreach coordinator at the Pilipino Senior Resource Center. In 2013, James was given the opportunity to engage with Filam community leaders and orgs in Socal with his involvement with APIEquality-LA. During his tenure at USF, James conducted societal and cultural studies in the Philippines as a Fulbright scholar. His volunteer experience in the Philippines galvanized him to embody social justice. Currently, James works at Salesforce and resides in Oregon. James has also helped in establishing a Filipino/Filipino American employee resource group at Salesforce. His goal is to incorporate the value of social justice and social awareness with his career in tech, by working to bridge corporation entities with communities members.