UPSIDE: FilAm women mayors make double history

FILIPINA power surged in the northernmost towns of San Mateo County with two City Council members making double history.

The same evening Joanne del Rosario swore in for the unprecendented  fifth time for a FilAm woman as Mayor of Colma, Flor Nicolas took her oath as the first-ever Filipino American woman Mayor of South San Francisco.  Both have broken racial and gender barriers in cities as disparate as the two leaders are suited to govern each.

Veteran executive administrator Del Rosario’s background emerges in her city’s efficiency and approachability, prompt and professional attention to detail implemented by the office of the City Manager.

Nicolas’ career in pharmacology vigilance enhances her interaction with the bulk of entrepreneurs in her city.  She speaks their language, so to speak, understands their concerns.

Del Rosario shared lessons from experience after taking her oath before husband Rene Malimban at the Dec.  13 intimate reorganization at Colma City Hall.


“The future of the economy is still very uncertain,” she told Upside.  “We withstood the economic downturn in the 2008-2009 period and were able to keep our town whole. During the pandemic, we moved quickly to ensure that the safety of our residents, businesses and staff were met.  The initiatives and prudent economic decisions that this Council put in place over the years were key in furthering the growth and stability of our town and will continue to do so.

The entry of new faces in her administration augurs well for the city, she said.

“We will be working with two new council members this year, and I look forward with great optimism to their ideas and unique perspectives. As the saying goes, ‘It’s great to be alive in Colma, or better yet it’s great to live in Colma.’ Where else can you still enjoy the benefits of a small town and yet have all the amenities of living right next door to a big city.”

With a population of 1,577 according to July 2021 Census estimates , Colma has the smallest population among 20 incorporated towns in the county.  It is one of the most resident-focused and business-savvy, a two-mile municipality, where folks come from all over the Bay Area to its popular summer Community Fair.  Residents are treated to yearly picnics at the town park.  Two shopping centers, an expansive auto dealership and a cardroom drive the economy of the town that does not shy from its necropolis beginnings and dubs itself the “City of Souls.”


Nicolas was sworn in by her grandson Iggy at a grand ceremony at the South San Francisco Conference Center.

“Now more than ever, we must all come together,” she told Upside. “There is much work to be accomplished in this City, and I’m excited to take on this challenge with my City Council colleagues, City staff, and residents.”

She vows to “further improve our diverse city and make it more racially and socially inclusive and equitable.”

“We will continue our work on making our city age, youth, and all ability-friendly,” she said, noting that South San Francisco was “chosen by the National League of Cities as one of only 10 cities nationwide to participate in the inaugural Race, Equity, and Leadership Academy because of the accomplishments of the Commission on Racial and Social Equity that I chaired.”

As vice mayor she was instrumental in helping update the city’s general plan to factor in climate change in housing development.

“I want to ensure that South City will be better than how we found it for the sake of future South San Franciscans,” she summed up her vision.

The sign “The Industrial City” proclaims its original identity, but South San Francisco has given itself the title of “Biotechnology Capital of the World” for housing 16 R&D campuses and 250 biotech companies including industry pioneer Genentech.  The business boom fueled multimillion-dollar investments in public improvements to raise quality of life.  Housing palpably is on the rise, free shuttle service conveys residents to key sites for its 66,185 residents, per the city website.


The two Mayors share a common advocacy for families and the community, endorsing efforts to promote healthy relationships in and out of the home.

Nicolas is current Vice President of ALLICE Alliance for Community Empowerment, an all-volunteer nonprofit founded in 2003 in the County to prevent intimate partner and family abuse through free education events.  Del Rosario, who was president of the organization in 2009.

“I couldn’t be more proud to have Flor as our first women mayor,” said ALLICE founding president Bettina Santos Yap, a South San Francisco resident. “She cares deeply about our city.  I’ve personally seen her in action in many community advocacies.  I’m excited to see South City flourish under her leadership.”

“Mayor Del Rosario represents the best of Filipino Americans,” said Colma resident and retired San Mateo County Commissioner on Aging Aurea Ocampo Cruz Cruz.  “Hopefully she will give special consideration to our vulnerable and disadvantaged populations especially older adults and prioritize programs for their health and safety.

Del Rosario and Nicolas are officially “Kumares,” or Tagalog for “confidante,” as female members of ALLICE call themselves.  They’re bonded by their common desire to advance sisterhood, Filipino American empowerment while providing resources, protecting the rights and ensuring the wellness of their respective town’s residents.


(Cherie M. Querol Moreno is Executive Editor of Philippine News Today and founder-executive director of ALLICE.)