MARKHAM, Ontario — Marlene Mogado, who won in last October’s municipal election, is on an impressive third term as York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) Trustee for Markham’s Wards 4, 5, 6 and 7. She has plenty of achievements to buttress the voters’ thumbs-up of her performance.
“The term is for another four years,” Trustee Mogado says, “I consider that a huge vote of approval for my work.”
She is most proud of the San Lorenzo Ruiz Elementary School, which she lobbied for and named in honor of the first Filipino saint. “This school is now a landmark in York Region as a leading progressive multicultural learning center, while at the same time proclaiming our Filipino presence in these parts,” she adds.
Mogado also introduced the popular French Immersion programs in two of her elementary schools, and in September 2014 a new four-year music program for elementary schools began implementation.
A particular feather in Mogado’s cap is bringing the highly sought-after International Baccalaureate program into one of the high schools in her area.
This program is not only academically rigorous for high school students handpicked on the basis of overall excellence, but it is also touted as an assured path to acceptance at a university of the student’s choice.
When asked what made her decide to run for public office, Mogado says, “Since we moved to Markham in 1980, we (Marlene and her husband Mogi) were among the few face-and-voice representatives of the Filipinos in York Region.”
When she took early retirement, she considered taking her passion for community service to the next level. “All our years in Canada (they arrived in 1972), while working full time and raising a family, Mogi and I did community volunteerism in our spare time, in an effort to help kababayans integrate better and more successfully. We were active with Filipino service groups, as well as mainstream agencies,” she adds.
“Being elected as Catholic school trustee proved to be a blessing,” says Mogado. “Although it is a political office, it is more of a quasi-political or half-political and half-community volunteer service, a part time position, and most of my motivation is my love serving the community now through education of my most valuable constituents–the kids,” she explains.
Mogado credits her professors at the University of the Philippines, where she earned her BSHE degree, for her social activism. “Before leaving for Canada in 1972 we saw the Oblation to mean escalating student activism, nationalist political turmoil, social conscience restructuring, serving the people, finally martial law. They closed the airport. The day it reopened we took the first flight out, landed in Toronto,” she says.
York Catholic School Board Trustee Marlene Mogado speaking at Outstanding Student Awards in Toronto. PHOTO BY MARISA ROQUE
The Mogados shared the same politics in the Philippines. “Settling in Toronto, racism was a new reality,” she recounts. “We had to balance home life, anti-Marcos activities and social activism.
Our only child, Linelle, was born and raised in Canada and grew up under these influences. She became a frontline activist in social justice causes in the Filipino community in the mid-‘90s and was recognized with the Governor General Lincoln Alexander anti-racism award,” she adds.
Linelle, now a lawyer, worked in California for five years with labor groups, then four years with a federal union in Ottawa, and then with another union in Vancouver.
Asked about her future plans, Mogado says, “I want to continue serving my constituents as much as I am able. It gives me so much affirmation as a Catholic that my work is done in praise of God, and as a Filipino, I am able to showcase what is good in us as a people to our fellow Canadians.”
Mogado gives this advice to other Filipinos who may want to seek public office: “Given the sad state of politics in the home country at the moment, our Pinoy wannabe politicians are viewed against that frame, unfortunately. Unless you have integrity and credibility and build that good reputation beforehand. Normally it will be hard slogging ahead in an even field,” she explains.
“But it is politics–it is only in trying that one will know, or in the odd case, can (one) get lucky. Same thing with Filipino voters–most are infected and conflicted. This is now Canada and we need to reeducate ourselves with the realities here.
Most importantly, we need to do our part in sustaining our democracy, the very fabric that holds our adopted country together, and we do that by participating and being discerning voters,” she says.
Trustee Mogado’s leadership was further recognized when she was chosen by her board members to be the vice chair of the YCDSB at their inaugural meeting on December 2. This historic move makes her the first vice chair of the institution to come from a cultural minority
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