[UPDATED] 3 Fil-Ams seek local posts in Orange County

[Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect the candidacy of Donna Varona Sipl in Buena Park]

THREE Filipino Americans are vying for local posts in Orange County in the upcoming general election on November 3.

Jose Paolo Magcalas | Photo courtesy of
Anaheim Elementary School District

Jose Paolo Magcalas  is seeking re-election for the Anaheim Elementary School District Board of Education after serving a four-year term representing Trustee Area 3. He faces Lucille Kring, a councilmember who has represented District 4 in central-south Anaheim.

In the final days, Magcalas has been clad in PPE to go door-to-door in the precinct as well as connecting with voters online. He recently appeared at a candidate forum hosted by a local parent group, while his opponent did not show up.

“Since I’ve lived here for 30 years, taught here for 14, and have served four years on the local school board, I am highly invested in this neighborhood,” Magcalas told the Asian Journal. “It’s been a grassroots community effort, relying on friends, family and students. I haven’t taken any corporate PAC money.”

Magcalas is an assistant professor of education at California State University, Los Angeles, and previously taught ethnic studies and United States history at Loara High School.
The Anaheim Elementary School District serves over 17,300 students at 24 schools. During the 2018-19 school year, 1.4% of students in the district identified as Filipino, according to data from the California Department of Education.

A resident of Anaheim for three decades, his personal involvement in local groups caught the attention of several residents who encouraged him to run for a vacant seat on the school district’s board, as previously reported by the Asian Journal. Magcalas was elected to the board in November 2016 to represent Trustee Area 3, which covers five schools in the southwest region of the city.

As a board trustee, the Fil-Am educator has pushed for a resolution to offer dual language immersion — giving students the opportunity to learn two languages — during the current school year as well as putting copies of “Journey for Justice: The Life of Larry Itliong” by the late historian Dawn Bohulano Mabalon and writer Gayle Romasanta in all 23 elementary schools in the district.

In February, the board voted 5-0 to include ethnic studies in school curriculum starting this school year.

“I am proud that we understand the importance of including everyone’s contributions in the U.S. history curriculum. I wish I learned about Filipino-American history as well as many untold histories as a child,” Magcalas previously told the Asian Journal.

If re-elected to another term, Magcalas and the board would be faced with how to help reopen schools safely. The board recently voted to resume in-person instruction on Jan. 19, 2021, which Magcalas voted against.

“I will look at the numbers closely, but at the same time, I firmly believe that we have systems in place that will ensure the health, safety and protection of all of our teachers, staff and students” he said, noting the district’s investments in HVAC systems and plexiglass for student desks. “So really, that is my biggest challenge right now as a board member is ensuring the safety of all of our students, open or not open.”

Donna Varona Sipl

In Buena Park, Donna Varona Sipl is seeking a City Council Seat for District 4.

Sipl, a global compliance manager who hails from Tondo in Manila, comes from a family of public service.

“From a very young age I witnessed my grandfather, father, and younger sister dedicate their energy as elected City Council members in Manila, Philippines. My great grandfather collaborated with Cesar Chavez to form what eventually became the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee in 1966.  I am grateful to be taught how to work with people and businesses to get things done in order to benefit many,” she writes on her website.

A resident of Buena Park with her family, is seeking to usher in new leadership in the area as the current representative has been in office for nearly 30 years.

“I ran because I want to amplify the voices of District 4 residents to ensure inclusiveness in policies that are implemented and promote a city council that maintains a high standard of local government, transparency and accountability,” Sipl told the Asian Journal in an email.

While talking to constituents, Sipl has heard concerns about creating a greener and pedestrian/biking-friendly Buena Park, as well as more affordable housing, finishing construction projects and the faster releasing of permits.

April Bautista, a candidate for La Palma City Council | Photo by Randy Bautista

Meanwhile, in La Palma, April Bautista is gunning for one of three available seats in city council. She faces five other candidates.

Bautista, a political science graduate from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, has over 10 years of experience working in government, nonprofit organizations, and customer service, according to her biography.

The millennial Pinay was living in Hawaii but returned to her hometown of La Palma to care for her aging parents. Among the top issues concerning the city’s residents are maintaining neighborhood safety and support during the pandemic.

“Running for office as a woman of color is not easy and navigating campaigning is also not easy; however, the city staff have been so helpful by offering advice and words of encouragement,” Bautista told the Asian Journal.

In 2013, the city of some 15,000 residents ranked 31st in the “Best places to live” among small cities (50,000 or less) in the United States by CNN’s Money magazine.

Though COVID-19 has limited door-to-door and in-person campaign efforts, Bautista is continuing to get out of the vote ahead of Election Day by engaging voters on social media and attending virtual events.

“Even though national politics make people turn away from engaging in politics, it has also been a beacon of light seeing so many BIPOC be empowered enough to act through activism, voting, and/or community organizing,” she said.

Christina M. Oriel

Christina M. Oriel is an award-winning editor and communications strategist based in Los Angeles with experience in content, strategy and branding for media ecosystems, inclusive fintech startups, small businesses and direct-to-consumer products.

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