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2009 FWN Vagina Warriors

By Connie Zheng and Keesa Ocampo from the 2009 V-Diaries

Considered the “Godfather” of the Filipino community, Rodel Rodis is a true Vagina Warrior. He has and continues to devote countless pro bono hours in helping women and girls in domestic violence situations and low-income clients. A talented and dedicated attorney, Rodel has over 28 years of legal experience in immigration, family law, and civil litigation. His injunction against the U.S. government over the unjust and discriminatory firing of non-citizen airport screeners is just one of Rodel’s many instances of fighting for equality. But Rodel is more than an attorney.

He is an author, an educator, a performing artist, a community leader, a role model, and a powerful advocate for fairness, education, equity, and anti-domestic violence. Rodel has been a columnist for a Filipino community newspaper since 1987. He co-founded the National Rodel Rodis.jpgFederation of Filipino American Associations and founded the Global Filipino Networking Convention. In 2008, he captivated audiences performing in the monologues “The Closet” and “The Perfect Marriage” in the Filipina Women Network’s production of “A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and A Prayer” in San Francisco.

In 1987, Rodel was appointed by former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), becoming the first Filipino American to be appointed to a major commission in San Francisco. Within a year, Rodel was elected president of the commission in 1988 and re-elected in 1989. As president of the commission, Rodel sponsored a resolution that transferred 15 acres of land from the South Balboa Reservoir to the City College of San Francisco. As the most congested campus in California, the acres became City College’s future site of the new Performing Arts Center, the new Joint Use Facility, and the new Science and Technology Center.

Rodel has 18 years of service as a trustee to the San Francisco City College and two-time president. In 1991, Mayor Agnos appointed Rodel to a vacant post in the City College Board. Rodel ran for general elections the following year and won, becoming the first Filipino American to win elected office in San Francisco. Rodel continued to win re-elections in 1996, 2000, and 2004. During 1998 and 2002, he served as the President of the Board. Under Rodel’s many years of leadership and service, he helped secure over $700 million dollars in grants and city bonds to fund the largest infrastructure construction program in the history of City College. The funds enabled the construction of many new sites for City College, including the new Chinatown/North Beach campus expected to open in 2011. Politicians and community leaders from local, state, and national levels have lauded Rodel for his lifetime of service to education, to the Filipino community, and to the city of San Francisco. In recognition of Rodel’s many achievements, Mayor Gavin Newsom has declared January 27, 2009 as Rodel Rodis Day in San Francisco.

A role model, Rodel has enhanced the image of Filipino and Asian Americans in the U.S. He inspires Filipino Americans to run for office and to come together to better the community. Of his many contributions, Rodel considers his legacy to be his years of involvement with the community, but his proudest achievement is being the father of his three sons Carlo, Daniel, and Eric.

Genevieve Jopanda’s definition comes from her familiarity of different kinds of violence and the capable courage to communicate through the issues. What makes her stand out is her genuine compassion for people she meets and the energy with which she pulls them up and forward. Gen is the events coordinator for the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce, with previous experience with companies like Zipcar, Hertz, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Her peers know that the excellence she brings to the corporate world is equaled by the brilliance she holds in the community.GenevieveJopanda.jpg

Gen began as a volunteer for the Filipina Women’s Network and immediately got involved with the “The Vagina Monologues” and its board. The V-Diaries is her brainchild. Gen came up with the idea of a playbill that was also an attractive resource guide with an appealing cover backed by full content about anti-domestic violence. Since 2005, Gen has been directing the annual stage production of the “The Vagina Monologues.”

Gen is currently the President of the Young Filipino Professionals Association, a member of the San Francisco-Manila Sister City Committee, a member of the Filipino American Political Action Committee, and founding member of Citizen Hope. She works with the annual Filipino American Arts Exposition and Pistahan as its talent coordinator and executive producer for the Sine! Sine! Film Festival.
Clearly a jack of all trades, Gen’s motivation has always been to break the cycle of culturally ingrained myths and to help women communicate and handle internal frustrations. In all that she does, Gen works to connect people to elevate the community at large.

“You are your own cockblocker,” she said. “You have to believe in yourself first before anyone can believe in you.”

An emerging leader of the community, Gen’s youth and vitality have been undeniable assets as she betters the community with her passion and an unapologetic ferocity of standing up for those around her.

Elizabeth “Liz” Aguilar-Tarchi has been an Assistant District Attorney in San Francisco for over 22 years. Currently assigned to the general litigation unit, she serves as the unit’s hate crimes specialist. Previously, Liz served as the domestic violence unit’s managing attorney for two administrations and head of the narcotics unit. Before her career at the district attorney’s office, Liz worked at a civil rights firm and as chief aide to former San Francisco supervisor Jim Gonzalez. She found her passion in public service where she put herself in the frontlines of fighting domestic violence.

Liz Tarchi.pngA gifted attorney, Liz holds the record in San Francisco for obtaining the longest sentence, 100 years to life, in a case. Despite her success in all the various units she’s worked in, Liz found her niche in fighting domestic violence. Liz brought an emotional end to an infamous case that lasted nearly a decade, shaking up San Francisco law enforcement. She successfully prosecuted Tari Ramirez for the murder of Claire Joyce Tempongko, a 28-year-old Filipina, in front of her two young children.

“I want to dedicate this award to the children of domestic violence,” Liz said. “Often times, they are the silent victims.”

Liz has worked tirelessly for years to influence and shape law enforcement’s tools against domestic violence in California. A former board member of the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, Liz is considered an expert in the area of domestic violence prosecution and trial litigation strategies. She has trained attorneys, paralegals, police officers and law students throughout the country in domestic violence, stalking and trial litigation strategies. She has also trained hundreds of police officers at the San Francisco Police Academy in the investigation and collection of evidence in domestic violence cases.

Of all her achievements, Liz regards two to be her most significant contributions. She is proudest of creating the specialized mandatory police report that is now used by the city police department for all cases involving domestic violence. Previously, police officers had been using a generic form. Liz also established a vertical prosecution court for all misdemeanor domestic violence cases – a critical component in establishing trust and cooperation – in which there is only one key initial contact person for all witnesses and victims.

Liz grew up in the Los Angeles city proper as a So-Cal girl and one of six children in a large family. After graduating from UCLA in 1979, she moved north to pursue her law degree at the Hastings College of Law in San Francisco where she fell in love with the Bay Area. After obtaining her J.D. in 1982, she decided to make the Bay Area her home where she now lives with her husband and two teenage kids.

With counseling experience that spans over 30 years, fPaulita Malay.jpgor the longest time, Paulita Lasola Malay has provided comfort to countless Filipina women in domestic violence situations with her expertise as a marriage and family therapist. She is the only Filipina psychotherapist and the only Asian in the field of domestic violence treatment and prevention in San Mateo County. Through her work, Paulita strives to enable others to create better lives and to help them transform their relationships into happy, healthy ones. Through the years, Paulita has given to the community over 880 hours of workshops on education, prevention and intervention of domestic violence and on providing culturally sensitive services.

In 1998, Paulita began her solo private practice where she sees individuals, couples and families. Men and women seek her expertise in cross-cultural and interracial relationships, anger management and in attaining healthy relationships.

Previously, from 1997 to 2002, Paulita worked as a Filipino outreach coordinator and bilingual community educator at the Center for Domestic Violence Prevention (now called C.O.R.A.) in San Mateo. During those five years, she focused her efforts on helping victims of violence and in educating the community about domestic violence and its prevention. Along with founding the agency’s Filipino Outreach Program, Paulita also established and facilitated a support group in Daly City for women in abusive relationships.

Although Paulita is a foremost expert in domestic violence treatment, she acknowledged she fell into the field by a touch of serendipity. She didn’t start concentrating in the field until 1995 when she began facilitating intervention groups for Filipinos charged with domestic violence misdemeanors. Since 1990, Paulita has served as a therapist at Pyramid Alternatives, a non-profit organization in Pacifica. She leads three board-certified batterers’ intervention and treatment groups. Two of these groups are for Filipino men who are mandated by the courts to go to counseling after having been arrested for domestic violence misdemeanors. Paulita has changed and transformed countless lives working to teach offenders alternatives to violence. One such past offender, Philip, accompanied Paulita when she received her Vagina Warrior award on April 25 and stood as a testament to the lives she’s transformed. Since working with Paulita, he transformed his life and graduated summa cum laude from the San Francisco State University with a degree in nursing. (Read his story on page 15 of the 2009 V-Diaries).
Recognition ceremony held during
"The Vagina Monologues"
Herbst Theatre, San Francisco
April 2009

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