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Filipinos In Education

Pioneers In Education

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Educations is highly valued by our Filipino American community. Throughout the South Bay community, FILAMEDA and CTFLC historically contributed to SUHSD and SWC by providing teachers, counselors, and administrators as role models for our students. Pagkakaisa, a student organization spearheaded the establishment of the first Filipino American Studies and Filipino Language courses at SWC. 


A wave of Filipinos made the South Bay (San Diego) their home. Many families settled here because of the military. Areas include Imperial Beach, South San Diego, Chula Vista, and National City


Felix Tuyay and Sal Flor (college graduates) were major influencers to high school students who gave inspiration  and encouragement to pursue post-secondary options. They gave presentations to Filipino students at various high schools to stress the importance of a college education. Their presentations informed them the opportunities of attending SDSU and how to apply for admission through EOP. They realized that many families were unfamiliar with the educational system and were unable to help navigate their sons/daughters.

Filipino Language Classes

Montgomery High School was the first high school to offer Tagalog in San Diego County in the mid 1970’s.  The initial class was taught by Margarita Quizon at Montgomery Junior High School as an after school enrichment class and evolved to offering it as a class at Montgomery High School. The Tagalog class was then passed to Cora Hawkins who teamed with Lina Lopez from the San Diego Unified School District to develop lesson plans.  As the classes grew to other schools, the teachers came together and organized their own summer institutes for their professional growth and develop district curriculum materials. With the surge in growth the next step was to establish Filipino as an approved World Language by UC Doorways.


Robert Ricasa was the pioneer counselor who was the first to be hired.  He then encouraged other Filipinos to pursue their Masters degree in Counseling at SDSU. He paved the way for Elaine Elefante-Leano, Nancy Castro-Nieto, Dario Villa, Nestor Vallar and Lee Romero to join the counseling ranks. They were able to build strong relationships with Filipino students and their families. Most became Asian club advisors. Their camaraderie led to taking students on retreats, volleyball friendship games, having culture nights and assemblies at their respective schools.

Robert Ricasa

Elaine Elefante-Leano

Nancy Castro-Nieto

Dario Villa

Nestor Vallar

Lee Romero

Assembly Bill 420

In 2005 led by FILAMEDA President Eleonor Castillo and the help of Assemblywoman Shirley and Senator Denise Ducheny,, this historic legislation ensured the preservation of the teaching of Filipino Language and Culture classes in California K-12 public schools. The existing law required the adequacy of subject matter preparation and the basis of assignment of certificated personnel in public schools to be determined by the successful passage of subject matter examination (none existed for Filipino). The bill authorized the commission to establish guidelines for alternative assessments by organizations to determine the adequacy of that preparation in languages for which there are no adequate examination.  This bill required the commission to submit an expenditure plan for the development of a subject matter examination in the Filipino Language to be administered no later than September 1, 2008.


Council For Teaching Filipino Language and Culture

San Diego Filipino language teachers began working together in the late 1980s. In 2001 a group of Sweetwater Union High School District teachers organized the Filipino Language Association of Teachers at Sweetwater (FLATS). Later, colleagues from San Diego Unified School District joined. FLATS stood for Filipino Language Association of Teachers at San Diego.  In 2005, FLATS became the Council for Teaching Filipino Language and Culture (CTFLC). No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 threatened the demise of Filipino Language classes because there was no protocol to meet the NCLB requirements – no California Subject Matter Examination for teachers (CSET Filipino) or formal course offerings at a university. In 2006, 4 CTFLC members were invited by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing to write, grade, and standardize the CSET Filipino. By December 2006 the CSET was approved and Filipino language met the NCLB requirements.  In 2013, CTFLC received the Asian Heritage Award.

Lita David

First Filipina Board Member, Sweetwater Union High School District


Terri Valladolid

Southwestern Community College Board of Trustees for 16 years

Volleyball Friendship Games

The Friendship games started when two Filipino students (who are at the right)at Palomar High School asked if there could be an opportunity for them to participate in a sports activity. Elaine and Robert decided to form the Volleyball Friendship games with Palomar, Sweetwater, Southwest, and Montgomery in 1987. Robert was the MC and Dario Villa arranged the tournament games. The friendship games became so popular students carried the games to the college level.

Asian Clubs

Early on with Robert Ricasa leading the way, many Filipino counselors and teachers became advisors to the Asian clubs. The clubs served to unite students and build leadership skills.  Many of the clubs hosted Culture Nights, Culture Assemblies, and formal dances.

AIA - All the Way

Club Leadership Retreats

With Robert Ricasa’s vision, he stressed the importance of taking our Filipino youth on weekend retreats. Many of the retreats were combined with other schools. Interaction amongst the students from the different schools encouraged camaraderie, validation of their struggles and most importantly a safe place to talk. Topics of Filipino and Filipino American identity, leadership, preparing for college, generational and cultural conflicts, empowering and disempowering relationships, family dynamics, and racism were covered and processed in small groups.

Culture Nights

Many of the schools sponsored Culture Nights which became an annual event to celebrate the diversity at the schools. It was also a way to build leadership skills with the members in planning the event.

Montgomery High 1992

With the guidance of the club advisors, the culture nights were a huge success and often included a dance after the performances.  Some years, schools partnered together – Southwest and Montgomery.

Sweetwater High 1996

1st Annual Statewide Filipino American Educators’ Conference October, 1988

The conference was a brainstorm of a core group of Filipino educators in the Sweetwater Union High District with FILAMEDA President Robert Ricasa the conference came to fruition to bring together teachers, administrators, professionals, paraprofessionals and community-based organizations and to build an understanding of working with Filipino students and their families across the state of California.


1st Annual Filipino American Parent-Student High School Conference

The conference was the brainchild of Dinnah Donato-Palmore who saw the need to engage students and parents of Filipino heritage and provide support as they go through the educational system. The conference over the years has stressed the importance of school and home as partners in education. Also giving tools for parents and students to explore post-secondary options.

Filipino American Advisory Council

The council was formed in the early 1990’s, to advise the superintendent, board of trustees on improving the success of Filipino Americans; identify, recruit, and retain educators of Filipino heritage; and to establish a leadership pipeline for administrators of Filipino heritage. Dr. Rey Monzon (graduate of Montgomery High School) chaired the council, JoAnn Fields was a parent and community member, and Mary Rose Peralta was a Filipino Language teacher.  The council is now called the Filipino American Advisory  Committee. The committee members has expanded to include administrators, counselors, students, parents, retired SUHSD educators and Filipino community members.

KARANGALAN Scholarship

The Karangalan Scholarship, sponsored by the friends and family of the Filipino educators of the Sweetwater Union High School District began in 2000.  Scholarships are awarded each year to outstanding Filipino American senior students in the Sweetwater Union High School District who have demonstrated excellence in academics and community involvement.
  1. Books from Filipino American History Course, Southwestern College (SWC)
  2. Retirement of SWC Professor Felix Tuyay, Filipino Press. (2019)
  3. “Know History, Know Self” T-Shirt, Little Manila Center, Stockton, CA.
  4. Pilipino Studies Class Announcement Flyer
  5. Cultural Week Actvities Flyer, Pagakakaisa, Student Organization, SWC
  6. Pilipino History and Language Studies Classes Flyer, SWC
  7. “Pagkakaisa” Student Organization Members – Photo
  8. “Letters in Exile”, Early Filipino American History Book
  9. “The Bridge Generation”, History of 2nd Generation Filipino Americans by Dr. Dario Villa
  10. Volleyball – represents SUHSD’s Volleyball Friendship Tournament
  11. Filipino Graduation stole made by Mrs. Villa
  12. Filipino American Educators (FILAMEDA) 1st Statewide Conference Program (1988)
  13. SUHSD’s Magkaisa 1st Student/Parent Conference Program (2002)
  14. Council for Teaching Filipino Language and Culture (CTFLC) Conference Program
  15. Filipino Language Movement – Document and Photo
  16. Asian Pacific Student Alliance at SWC – Photo
  17. SUHSD’s Asian International Association (AIA) – Photo
  18. SUHSD’s AIA Retreat – Photo
  19. FILAMEDA 1976 Installation Dinner – Photo
  20. SUHSD’s Magkaisa 4th Annual Student/Parent Conference – T-shirt
  21. SUHSD’s Karangalan Scholars – Photo

Courtesy of:

  1. Felix Tuyay
  2. Felix Tuyay
  3. Felix Tuyay
  4. Felix Tuyay
  5. Felix Tuyay
  6. Felix Tuyay
  7. Felix Tuyay
  8. Felix Tuyay
  9. Felix Tuyay
  10. Elaine Elefante-Leano
  11. Nancy Castro-Nieto
  12. Elaine Elefante-Leano
  13. Elaine Elefante-Leano
  14. Rizalyn Cruz Guro
  15. Eleonar Castillo
  16. Reynila Calderon Magbuhat
  17. Elaine Elefante-Leano
  18. Elaine Elefante-Leano
  19. Fel Moscoso
  20. Jason Josafat
  21. Elaine Elefante-Leano

Want to Learn More About This Exhibit?

Check out our presentation slide show to get an in-depth look at the history of Filipinos in the military.

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