I was born in the Philippines where I spent the first 10 years of my life until my family and I immigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area. Similar to many immigrants’ experiences, I faced many challenges associated with acculturation and issues related to poverty. Navigating and adapting to a new environment and its cultural mainstream norms was a daily struggle. Fortunately, through the support, life teachings and guidance of my family, I was able to endure and overcome many of the obstacles that confronted me as a young person.
As a young adult, I pursued a career in Social Work by obtaining my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at San Francisco State University. I was very clear early on in life that I wanted to be of service to disenfranchised people and communities, and the field of Social Work became the vehicle that enabled me to live out my childhood dream.
During the course of my studies, I was also privileged to have received another set of education, training and skills in multicultural/social justice education from the TODOS Institute. Inspired and mentored by many brilliant people in the social justice arena in the Bay Area, I began to co-lead, conduct and facilitate workshops, seminars and trainings on the subjects of race, class and gender-based discrimination and inequities. Over time, I used this body of knowledge and fused it in my work as a therapist, community organizer, educator and activist, as well as in my personal life as a father, life partner, brother, friend and ally.
Upon receiving my Master’s Degree, I decided to become a foster parent. I specialized in caring for, and raising, teenage youth from diverse cultural and familial backgrounds who have been removed from their families of origin due to abuse and/or neglect. This experience, along with raising my two other biological children, further strengthened my understanding, skills and competence in working with youth. After sixteen years and fourteen youth whom I fostered, I re-dedicated my life to co-create a blended family with my life partner, Liz, and her two daughters.
In addition, I had been a Mental Health Practitioner for the County of Marin’s Health and Human Services Department for the past 13 years (since 1999), specializing in working with youth and their families who are involved in the criminal justice system. In this capacity, I provided individual, family and group therapy, and parenting consultation. I worked collaboratively with a multi-disciplinary team of professionals that included teachers, school administrators, probation officers, attorneys, judges, police officers and non-profit service agency providers. I also provided clinical supervision to graduate-level clinical interns and provided ongoing in-house trainings on issues related to youth street gangs and community violence, chemical dependency and aspects of multicultural psychotherapy.