So. SF City Council names rec center in honor of Alice Bulos
SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, California – Community leader Alice Bulos received a posthumous gift March 24 from the city where she lived from 1980 until she died in 2016.
The City Council of South San Francisco at its last meeting during Women’s History Month voted unanimously to rename Westborough Recreation Center after Bulos, who dedicated herself to empowering Filipino Americans through community engagement.
What will be known as Alice Peña Bulos Recreation Center is a facility on Galway Drive here, a few steps west of Liberty Court, the street where Bulos lived and held court as “Godmother of Filipino American Empowerment.”
The house on 2444 Liberty Court was the site of meetings to strategize social and political activities, and its doors were open especially on March 31, birthday of the FilAm matriarch. She would have turned 91 this year.
The honor is the first bestowed on a Filipino American by the city of about 68,000 predominantly Asian residents. Bulos was a pioneer resident of the city now governed by 5 City Council members including two Filipino Americans Mark Nagales and Flor Nicolas, the first-ever elected from their ethnic sector in 2018 to the City Council.
Longtime Bulos ally and former SSF Council Member and Assembly Member Gene Mullin had first recommended renaming the center for his constant collaborator. Ad hoc City Council naming committee member Flor Nicolas concurred, citing the “long list of accomplishments… working tirelessly for equal rights in employment, housing, crime prevention, and service for our youth” that merits Bulos’ memorialization by the town.
“She was a staunch champion of women’s issues and women in the workplace,” Nicolas praised her “Tita Alice,” whom she further called an “extraordinary woman whose life strongly committed to service and community involvement” deserved “appropriate acknowledgment.”‘
“If it wasn’t for Tita Alice, Flor and I would not be here,” Nagales reminded at the meeting prior to the affirmative vote.
The commendation befits her grandmother, Charity Ramilo, told Inquirer.net.
Her “Mami” and Alice’s sister Ludy Peña Reyes encouraged their progeny to “exercise and de-stress” at the center that will now carry her name, Ramilo said in response to Council passage of the motion. That site’s new name “symbolizes the two things that meant the most to her – family (her home nearby) and the center (the community) that she passionately advocated for.”
“Honoring a strong Filipina American is so important to our cultural history,” Ramilo continued. “I hope this encourages more to use their voice and be active within our community as she would always urge politically activity with the reminder that ‘No one is an island and we need to be involved and help each other out.’ This is more meaningful in these trying times of the pandemic.”
Like her grandmother the former chair of the department of sociology at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Charity Ramilo is a teacher of Filipino FLES (foreign language in the elementary school) at the historic Filipino Education Center. She is also active with SOMA Pilipinas, recognized as the heart of the Filipino American community in San Francisco.
Charity’s brother Charles Ramilo sees his engagement in community as a consequence of witnessing their grandmother’s work.
“It is important for Filipinos to see ourselves reflected in our community, and having ‘Mami’ Alice memorialized at the rec center will ensure that her contributions to our community will always be remembered,” the community health worker shared with Inquirer.net. “It would keep us inspired to empower ourselves and make meaningful changes in our society.”
Charles would tell his own children that their great grandmother “had a big heart for the community, spending over four decades dedicating her life helping others and encouraging those including myself to do the same.”
“These values that Mami Alice passed on are important to me, and I work to continue her legacy through my advocacy work with the Filipino Community Center in SF,” said Ramilo. Memories of his “Mami Alice and Lola Ludy” preparing and enjoying a good meal together and sharing our culture and history with others brings his comfort in their absence,” he added.
“Our family is so grateful for this recognition of her impact and dedication to all,” Bulos’ only child Elizabeth Ramilo shared her appreciation with Inquirer.net.
“She would want us to remember community members and families in need. And to help make positive changes to support issues such as affordable housing, veterans’ benefits, women’s rights, financial aid because of our pandemic, and affordable healthcare for all,” the medical assistant told Inquirer.net. “She encouraged everyone to be involved with a smile and a caring heart.”
Bulos is among three South San Francisco women “trailblazers” to receive permanent official honors from their hometown.
Also to be “etched in the walls of South San Francisco history,” according to the City Council Naming Committee, are Robert Cerri Teglia and Karyl Matsumoto.
Mayor Mark Addiego announced the Magnolia Center will be named after Cerri Teglia, a “South City” native who broke many barriers as the first female member of the City Council and four-time Mayor between 1978-1995. As a passionate advocate for older adults, she led efforts to plan, fund and build what was earlier known as the Magnolia Senior Center.
Nicolas lauded recently retired Council Member Karyl Matsumoto as the spearhead for the Catrain station in progress that will bear the latter’s name. Having represented South San Francisco on the board of the Transportation Authority and San Mateo County Transit District or SamTrans, Matsumoto “incorporated her vision of a community plaza with art, landscaping, and accessibility features” and “persevered” throughout her City Council tenure from 1997-2020 in ensuring “getting the funding needed to make this project a reality.”
In 2019 South San Francisco took a first step to honor Bulos’ contributions with a campaign to exhibit photographs and documents of her life at the Grand Library of the South San Francisco Public Libraries.
Nicolas and librarian Eva Martinez collaborated on “Filipino American Empowerment: Celebrating the Legacy of Alice Pena Bulos,” drawing residents and friends whose lives Bulos touched. Martinez noted the dearth of representation from the Fil-Am community and took steps to fill the void.