Dr. Angelica "Gel" Cortez
Founder & Executive Director

Dr. Angelica “Gel” Cortez is a cultural worker, community organizer, and nonprofit professional that works in behavioral health. She founded LEAD Filipino in 2015 to encourage civic participation through culturally responsive education with the Silicon Valley’s growing Filipina/x/o American (FilAm) community. Under her leadership, LEAD Filipino continues to expand its programs and partnerships, including launching a major study with Stanford Cancer Institute (SCI) and spearheading statewide public safety campaigns with the Justice for Angelo Quinto! Justice for All! and FIERCE Coalitions. Her background includes public policy and fundraising, where she has worked for legislators and with civil rights organizations in Sacramento, San Jose, and Los Angeles. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies and Sacred Heart Community Service. Gel frequently writes and speaks on issues of Queerness, social entrepreneurship, and AAPI political engagement. Her work has been recognized by the Silicon Valley Business Journal, NBC, and Asian American Recovery Services.

Camille Valerio
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 digital product and graphic 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.

Education Team

Jerred Cayabyab
Awareness in Action Program

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.

Celeste Francisco
Queermmittee & Lakbay Summit Director

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 Queermmittee activities. The Queermittee meets the 3rd Thursday/month from 4pm-5:30pm.

James Binauhan, MPA
Awareness in Action Program

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.

Karen Manalac
Educational Workshops

Originally from Union City, CA, Karen later moved to San Jose to pursue a degree in Public Health with a minor in Child and Adolescent Development from SJSU. Outside of school, she works as a behavioral specialist for children with autism in the South Bay region. Combining her longtime passion for helping people and learning more about her culture, Karen strives to educate a deeper cultural awareness in others while continuously learning more about herself along the way. Karen got involved with LEAD Filipino through Akbayan SJSU and joined the Awareness in Action program during her second year of college. Currently, Karen works as an organizer for both the Awareness in Action program and the Fly Pinays committee. Through these two programs, Karen hopes to share her passion with others by raising awareness about the Pilipinx culture, its history, and the importance of individual and collective identity. Upon graduating from SJSU, Karen hopes to learn more about the effects of representation in healthcare; more specifically towards the Filipino population. 

Jay Page, MSW
Awareness in Action Program

Jay is one of the founding directors for our Awareness in Action Program.  She played a key role in the curriculum development of our “Coalition Building & Student Led Movements” class this past summer, where she invited two seated Commissioners to speak to our students about Public Service.  Born in Pasay City and raised in Milpitas, Jessica has always been proud of belonging to two vibrant cultures.  Because her family comes from one of the least colonized parts of the Philippines (Kalinga), she has a love for learning about pre-colonial histories of the Philippines and other countries.  She likes to study how Pilipino culture interacts with the mental wellness of Pilipino-American youth and women.  From high school outreach to advising in state prison, she’s long been passionate about advancing her community. She holds her BA in Psychology from UC Davis and Master of Social Work (MSW) from the University of Hawaii.

Daniel Lazo
Mama Verang & Lola Remy Scholarship Fund

Daniel (he/they) has a profound love for his San José and Filipino community. Daniel is 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. In order to attend his high school, he was raffled into it as a magnet student in graphic design and entrepreneurship.

Daniel attended San José State University (SJSU) and graduated as summa cum laude in 2018. Daniel earned his BS in Advertising with a double minor in Asian American Studies and Event Planning and was a dean scholar for his last three years in college. While studying full-time, he worked part-time as a freelance graphic designer and recreation leader for the City of San José. On top of this workload, Daniel was Community & Political Chairs and then President for Akbayan, the Pilipinx American Organization at SJSU. At the time that he was president, Daniel led an organization of over 1,000 college students and over 40 other student leaders. Akbayan programs under his leadership included a leadership retention internship program; the Kuya Ate Mentorship Program; the Friendship Games; statewide picnic game competition; workshops on on culture and community issues; a conference for high school students to learn about college and their identities; and the Pilipino Cultural Night, a variety show with a cast of 200 students.

While in college in 2016, Daniel also 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. After the passing of his grandmother on his mom’s side and saw the immense impact of the pandemic to incoming college students, Daniel healed part of his grief through community work by starting the Mama Verang & Lola Remi Scholarship Fund. The Lola Scholarship Fund awarded four Filipino American college students from the Bay Area with a total of $3,500 to financially assist them in school. Each student is looking to make an impact in the world from immigration law reform to ethnic studies to molecular biology.

After college, Daniel found his passion in communications. For a year in the City of San José Environmental Service Department, he ran public awareness of environmental programs, stewardship and sustainability. Daniel now 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.

Civic Engagement Team

Gabe Young
State & Local Policy

Raised in San Jose’s Berryessa community and a Bellarmine College Preparatory alumnus, Gabriel Young is an undergraduate honors student at the George Washington University in Washington D.C. where he studies Political Science and International Affairs with focuses in Public Policy and International Politics. Although being raised by a single mom and hardships of many sorts, Gabriel led an active student and music life due to the monumental Fil-Am representation in the 2010s music industry. Through the San Jose Fil-Am community, Gabriel was able to find his voice and develop a passion for serving the Filipino & Fil-Am community that raised him. At Bellarmine, Gabriel’s focuses shifted when he was exposed to Ignatian Theology which ignited a burning desire to be a “Man for and with others” and improve Bellarmine’s diversity, equity, and inclusion programs through his multicultural work. Through Bellarmine, Gabriel gained a newfound understanding of the social injustices present within our society and now seeks to change it through his education and civic engagement in our nation’s capital–specifically towards Asian-American representation. With this education and passion, Gabriel’s past work derived itself from representative, congressional, and presidential campaigns; Asian-American Advocacy coalitions; diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in his respective communities.

When COVID-19 struck, Gabriel returned to San Jose and through a fellow Civic Engagement Team member, he joined LEAD in September of 2019. Ever since, Gabriel supports LEAD’s Civic Engagement efforts, especially its partnership with the FIERCE Coalition in developing the annual policy symposium and advocacy day. Gabriel dreams to become a Public Interest Attorney and eventually hold elected office to represent his communities and create and advocate for socio-economic equitably just policies, specifically in housing, education, and civil rights. 

The FIERCE Coalition meets the 3rd Thursday/month from 6pm-7:30pm.

Vanessa Carr
State Policy

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.

Ian Crueldad

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.

Kevin Suarez
Federal Policy

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.

Alan Gouig
Local Policy & Outreach

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.

Katie Mendoza, MPA

Katie, originally from Carson, CA, attended San Jose State University and received her B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Child and Adolescent Development. She is a sister of Kappa Psi Epsilon where she found her interest in learning more about her culture and found a love for working with the Filipino Community as well as advocating for womxn empowerment. After attending the 2nd annual Fly Pinays Leadership Summit as a workshop facilitator, it inspired Katie to get more involved with the Fil-Am community and eventually drew her to intern with LEAD Filipino in 2018. She served as the Co-Mentee Director for L.E.A.D’s 2019 Fly Pinays Conference and now serves as an organizer on the Civic Engagement Team. Katie also works with Filipino Advocates for Justice in Oakland assisting with their immigration work. Because of her work through LEAD, Katie decided on pursuing a Master’s in Public Administration at San Francisco State in hopes of promoting diversity and inclusion through her community work.

Community Health Team

Michelle Nelmida

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

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.

Abby Adziz
Outreach Intern

Abigail Adiz (she/her/hers), born and raised in the Bay Area, graduated from San José State University with a BS in Public Health and a minor in Business. She believes being a second generation Pinay influenced her passion to advocate for equity, accessibility, and representation. Abigail is grateful and excited to have this opportunity at LEAD Filipino as a Community Health Research Intern. She also serves as an intern for the CARE Registry at UCSF, where she assists in addressing the gap in research participation among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). Outside of work, Abigail enjoys playing at the arcade and completing brain teaser puzzles.