PABA’s 2023 Year in Review
As 2023 draws to a close, it is a time for reflection and celebration. With the support of its members and community sponsors in 2023, PABA continued to fulfill its mission to foster the professional growth of its members, sponsor and encourage service to the Filipino American community, develop and sustain cooperation with other legal and community organizations, and provide a unified voice for its members regarding social, economic, and legal matters affecting the Filipino American community.
PABA looks forward to serving not only the Filipino American community, but the greater Asian American Pacific Islander community, both locally and nationally, by encouraging and sponsoring public service in 2024!
PABA’s Efforts in Serving and Supporting the Community
- January 6, 2023: PABA Board Members traveled to Sacramento to stand in support of and witness the historic inauguration ceremony of Attorney General Rob Bonta, the first Filipino American Attorney General for the State of California. PABA was honored to attend this landmark occasion.
- March 5, 2023: PABA was proud to be in attendance again for Attorney General Rob Bonta’s Southern California Community Inauguration Ceremony.
- May 17, 2023: PABA co-sponsored the 2023 AAPI Unity Night, a panel discussion on the future of DACA and its impact on AAPI Communities after the Fifth Circuit ruled the DACA program violates the Administrative Procedure Act.
- May 24, 2023: In recognition of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, PABA co-hosted a CLE and happy hour. The event focused on LA Civil and Human Rights Law and included a discussion by the AAPI Equity Alliance on the current status of AAPI hate incidents and hate crimes.
- December 7, 2023: PABA proudly co-sponsored, volunteered for, and attended the Annual APA Community Holiday Toy Drive & Reception, a non-profit event to provide toys to over 2000 children from low-income families in the LA area
PABA’s Advocacy Efforts
- January 2023 – PABA joined its sister California Filipino American Bar Associations, as well as local, state, and national Asian American Bar Associations in issuing statements regarding the loss of innocent lives as a result of the mass shootings in Monterey Park on January 21, 2023 and Half Moon Bay on January 23, 2023.
- January 2023 – PABA issued a joint statement with its sister California Filipino American Bar Associations, advocating for change, peace, and reform after the heinous beating and killing of Tyree Nichols by the Memphis Police Department.
- February 29, 2023 – PABA joined the California Asian Pacific American Bar Association and its sister bar associations in issuing a statement condemning the racist comments made by Rep. Lance Gooden about AAPI Rep. Judy Chu.
- April 2023 – PABA, Filipino Lawyers of Orange County (FLOC) and Thurgood Marshall Bar Association stood in solidarity in issuing a statement denouncing the racist treatment of Tennessee Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson.
PABA’s Professional Growth, Mentorship & Pipeline Efforts, and Networking Events
- On June 19, 2023, PABA held its 36th Annual Installation and Awards Gala at the Biltmore Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. Hosting the Gala on Juneteenth was of special significance to PABA President Mercedes Cook, who is the first Black and Filipino American president of PABA, and any Filipino American bar association nationwide. There are many struggles commonly shared by the Filipino American and Black communities throughout history. Juneteenth is the oldest known holiday that commemorates the end of slavery. It is a day that celebrates the liberation, perseverance, and resilience of Black people. The Gala was not only a celebration of Filipino Americans but a recognition of this history.
- With a sold-out crowd of 350 attendees and dozens of judges, including Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye (retired), the Gala was a resounding success! Attorney General Rob Bonta provided opening remarks. Assemblymember Evan Low delivered the keynote address. PABA recognized the following individuals for their accomplishments and contributions to the legal and Filipino American communities: Judge Samantha P. Jessner – PABA’s Distinguished Jurist, Melvin N.A. Avanzado – PABA’s Distinguished Leadership Award recipient, and Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA) – PABA’s Community Champion. ABC7’s Tony Cabrera served as emcee for the evening.
Gala Photos can be found here.
This year, PABA and the PABA Foundation awarded an astounding $36,000 in scholarships to 24 deserving law students and recent graduates!
With over 300 current members, including over 100 lifetime members, as well as hundreds of non-members who subscribe to PABA’s newsletter, PABA has continued to foster the growth of its members through programming, mentorship, and networking.
- PABA continued its strong mentorship program with UCLA Pilipinx Pre-Law Pipeline (3P), an undergraduate organization aimed at “strengthen[ing] this sense of kapwa to combat the inequalities within the legal field and to highlight the importance of increasing Pilipinx representation in legal professions.”
- February 23, 2023: PABA held its New Year Kickoff where lawyers, law students, pre-law undergraduates, and other professionals gathered to connect, engage with one another, and network.
- February 2023: PABA Past President Abigail Tapang Zelenski represented PABA while in the Philippines in an official meeting with Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo of the Supreme Court of the Philippines.
- April 20, 2023: PABA proudly co-sponsored and attended the California ChangeLawyers Next Gen Scholarship Reception, where PABA awarded $5,000 to one Filipino American law student.
- April 15, 2023, July 8, 2023, and November 4, 2023: PABA continued its tradition of Adobo Nights with three PABA Past Presidents and Lifetime Members hosting each of the events this year. Abigail Tapang Zelenski kicked off its Adobo Night Series in the Spring. John De La Merced hosted in the Summer. Millicent Sanchez (also a current PABA Foundation Board Member) hosted in the Fall. They graciously opened their homes to PABA lawyers, law students, and undergraduate students to create a fun, welcoming space to meet, catch up, and enjoy delicious Filipino food.
- August 2023: When devastating wildfires struck Hawaii, PABA joined its sister bar associations to raise money for the Hawaii Community Foundation’s Maui Strong Fund to provide resources that could be deployed quickly, with a focus on rapid response and recovery for the people who were affected.
- August 17, 2023: PABA co-sponsored and attended the Multicultural Bar Alliance (MCBA) 2023 Summer Reception that welcomed judges, lawyers, and law students.
- September 28, 2023: PABA embarked on an exciting diversity pathway project with the California Lawyers Foundation and Cabrillo High School in Long Beach called Cabrillo Academy of Law and Justice (CALJ). “CALJ provides high school students with the opportunity to explore the fields of legal studies, criminal justice, or law enforcement through a series of rigorous and thematic classes focused on topics and issues relevant to the pathway.” PABA was honored to be invited to serve on CALJ’s Advisory Council by Past PABA Trailblazer Ruthe Catolico Ashley, who is renowned for creating and supporting pipelines to diversify the legal profession.
- October 20, 2023: In celebration of Filipino American History Month, PABA proudly co-sponsored and attended the City of Los Angeles Filipino American History Month Lighting Ceremony and Celebration. The event recognized and honored the contributions of the Filipino American community.
- October 20, 2023: PABA was privileged to support the inaugural Inter-AP(X)LSA Night Market hosted by Loyola Law School APALSA, in collaboration with Chapman, UCI, UCLA, USC, and Southwestern. It was a fun-filled evening of community-building, comradery, and cooperation.
- October 25, 2023: PABA held its Annual Career Night and Networking Event featuring a panel of practitioners who were eager to share their diverse backgrounds and experiences as a solo practitioner, in-house counsel, government attorney, and mid-sized law firm associate. The esteemed panel included JR Calobo (Founder of JRC Law), PABA Board Member Jessica Gillette (L.A. Care Health Plan), PABA Board Member Cristina Legaspi (Office of the County Counsel), and Jose Meneses (Stubbs, Alderton & Markiles, LLP). PABA Board Member Karen Maala served as the moderator. This event was sponsored and hosted by Allen Matkins.
- November 11, 2023: PABA Board Member and Lifetime Member Jonathan Cruz received the inaugural NAPABA Public Sector Leadership Award. This award is given to individuals who work in government, public interest, or the public sector, and demonstrate outstanding achievements in their field, professionalism in the practice of law, and commitment and service to the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI) community. Jonathan’s commitment to public service spans over 17 years as a public defender. He was selected as the Chief Deputy Public Defender in Santa Cruz County, a groundbreaking achievement as the first Filipino-American executive in the county government and the highest-ranking Filipino-American in any public defender office nationwide. Presently, he serves as a Deputy Attorney General at the California Department of Justice, spearheading the establishment of their newly-formed Post Conviction Justice Unit. Outside of work, he actively promotes diversity through empowerment, leadership, and mentorship. He has been a PABA Member for 20 years and Board Member for six. PABA proudly submitted a letter of support on Jonathan’s behalf.
- November 18, 2023: PABA hosted its inaugural USC/UCLA Football Tailgate, inviting lawyers and students to gather for friendly rivalry and a traditional Filipino breakfast with garlic rice, eggs, and longanisa.
- December 7, 2023: Governor Gavin Newsom appointed PABA Past President and Lifetime Member, the Honorable Christine Gonong, to serve as Judge in the Los Angeles Superior Court. PABA proudly submitted a letter of support for Judge Gonong’s appointment.
- December 9, 2023: PABA held its Lifetime Member Appreciation and Holiday Event. PABA Past President and Lifetime Member Darren Manibog and Maria Manibog generously hosted the event and warmly welcomed guests to their home. Over 80 people attended, including judges, dozens of lifetime members, PABA past presidents, PABA members, and their families. The Filipino feast included lechon (sponsored by Forensis Group), pancit, palabok, mechado, adobo, beef steak, empanadas, turon, ube cake, bibingka, and more!