Cynthia Bonta

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Rob Bonta with Cynthia Bonta at a Filipina Women's Network gala

Cynthia Bonta was a member of the Union of Democratic Filipinos (KDP), which later amalgamated into the Line of March.[1] Cynthia Bonta was active in the Coalition Against the Marcos Dictatorship, a Union of Democratic Filipinos front group which was renamed from the Anti-Martial Law Coalition (AMLC).

Cynthia Bonta "helped organize Filipino and Mexican American farmworkers for the United Farm Workers."[2]

Cynthia Bonta and Warren Bonta are the parents of Rob Bonta, who serves as a Democrat in the California State Assembly, representing the 18th Assembly District, a daughter Lisa Ligaya Bonta Sumii, a psychotherapist in Oakland, California and their youngest son Jonathan Marcelo Bonta, who founded and directs the Center for Diversity and the Environment in Portland, Oregon.[3]

Cynthia Bonta and Warren Bonta are divorced.


"Cynthia Bonta was born in College, Los Banos, Laguna on October 9, 1937 to Marcelo Arnaldo and Rosalia Rodriguez. Father was with the faculty of University of the Philippines College of Agriculture, having graduated from the same. Mother met Marcelo as a high school teacher having studied at Philippine Normal College. Cynthia attended Maquiling Elementary School in College, Los Banos; then Silliman University in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental where her father was invited to join the Department of Business Administration, mother taught College level Spanish, and oldest sister taught Biology and Tagalog in Silliman High School. Cynthia graduated from the University of the Philippines, Diliman with a BS in Zoology in 1958."

Sacramento radicals

Celebrating Philippine National Day (PND) as a barrio fiesta was first piloted in 1975 at Sacramento City College. Lead organizers Maxi Villones, Vince Reyes and Dick Mazon wanted to organize an event that reflected the spirit of the times: rising political awareness, celebrating cultural heritage, and also celebrating histories of struggle. The first official event was held a year later at nearby Miller Park along the Sacramento River.

At that time in Sacramento, in addition to several regional and trade organizations, there were two activist organizations: the Union of Democratic Filipinos (KDP) and the Anti-Martial Law Coalition (AMLC).

Founded in 1973 in nearby Santa Cruz, The KDP was a nationwide collection of Fil-Ams and Filipino immigrants who were involved in community organizing around social justice issues in the US and democratic nationalism in the Philippines. They openly supported the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.

The AMLC was a more popular front for the KDP that focused on raising awareness about the economic plundering and human rights abuses being perpetrated by the dictatorial regime of Ferdinand Marcos.

The Sacramento community was very polarized at the time. There had long been divisions along regional, country of origin and class lines, but Martial Law created a more serious rift. Anti-Marcos people tended to be idealistic youth mixed with some progressive elder immigrants. However, these individuals were marginalized in the predominantly conservative community. Pro-Marcos people were pretty much everyone else: dogmatic anti-communists who tended to be older, Fil-Ams who had grown up patriotic, and conservative immigrants. In addition to the fact that Sacramento was a conservative town in general, there was also a large contingent of Ilocanos (Marcos was Ilocano) in the region. In an era where Marcos could push a button on his perceived enemies anywhere on the planet, openly criticizing Marcos took a lot of courage.

Dick Mazon had grown up in Sacramento, and was attending Sac State when Vince Reyes recruited him into KDP. Mazon was studying Social Welfare, and eventually got a Masters Degree in Social Work. He has since made a long career of community organizing in the Sacramento area, including the creation of a Filipino community center and successfully advocating for a culturally relevant free lunch program for Asian seniors. “I’m just a lucky guy who happened to be in the right place at the right time with the right people,” Mazon says about his role in organizing the PND events.

Officially, PND organizers had three objectives: to celebrate Philippine National Day, which Mazon considered to be “the high point in Filipino history”; to celebrate the rich cultural heritage of the Philippines, and; to celebrate the contributions of Filipinos in the United States.

Prior to the PNDs, Fil-Am cultural events were limited to dinner dances and beauty pageants, both of which were typically held in the evening. Also, both of those types of events were celebrations of western culture and aesthetics, so KDP promoted the barrio fiesta model because it was more authentically “Filipino.” In contrast to trying to prove assimilation, the PNDs were daytime events that attempted to rally the progressives and bring together other community organizations as well.

The first PNDs were essentially potlucks with an entertainment stage, vendors, and booths for local organizations to do outreach. Participating organizations included KDP, AMLC, Asian Legal Services Outreach, Filipino Community of Sacramento & Vicinity (FCSV), Filipino Women’s Club, Pilipino Law Students Association, Visayan Association, Mabuhay Lions Club, and Mga Kapatid.

Liz Fenkell, Maxi’s sister, joined the organizing committee in 1976, in time for the first official PND at Miller Park. A member of both KDP and AMLC, she had been born in Sacramento and had grown up with Maxi in nearby Isleton, where they experienced first-hand the plight of migrant farmworkers. Although she considered herself an activist and worked hard to raise awareness about the Marcos Dictatorship, Fenkell maintains the following about the first PNDs: “It wasn’t a protest. The agenda was to work together, not to argue about Martial Law.”

At a time when identity politics were first coming into being, the organizers wanted simply “to celebrate who we are.” As officially stated in the 1979 PND program, the organizers sought “To overlook and go beyond the surface differences such as regional, educational, age, or even religious beliefs.”

Sonny Alforque moved to Sacramento from the Bay Area in 1978, and Cynthia Bonta recruited him into the Coalition Against the Marcos Dictatorship (formerly AMLC) since both were University of the Philippines (UP) alumni. Sonny had worked at the UP radio station as a student hosting music and educational shows. With a background in drama and theater arts, Alforque elevated the committee’s ability to celebrate Filipino arts and Filipino artists. He was so good at it, that he made it his life mission, and eventually created the Sinag-tala Filipino Theater and Performing Arts Association.[4]

Coalition Against the Marcos Dictatorship

In 1978, Cynthia Bonta recruited Sonny Alforque into the Coalition Against the Marcos Dictatorship (formerly AMLC) since both were University of the Philippines (UP) alumni.[5]

Radical Christianity

"Cynthia was the only delegate from the Philippines to the American Friends Service Committee International Work Camp and Seminar in Tokyo and Kobe, Japan in 1958 organized as an effort to reconcile the younger generations of South East Asian youth with Japanese youth after the war. Served as National Youth Director for the United Church of Christ in the Philippines. But before that, conducted the youth projects for the Philippine Federation of Christian Churches as the Interim Youth Director. Also served as the Office Manager for the Youth Secretary of the East Asian Christian Conference while she traveled extensively. Was a youth member of the Organizing Committee of the Asian Christian Youth Conference in 1965 held in Silliman University.

Was an Ecumenical Scholar of the World Council of Churches in 1965 receiving a Masters Degree in Religious Education in 1968 at Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley. While in seminary, was active in the civil rights, anti-Vietnam War, and farmworker movements. Much influenced by Liberation Theology at this time. Married Warren Bonta in 1967 in Berkeley California. Warren was born at a hospital in Oxnard, California, but went home to Moorpark, California in Ventura County. His parents are Robert Stallard Bonta and Elizabeth Curd. Together, Warren and Cynthia had three children, Lisa Ligaya born 1969; Robert Andres Bonta born 1971, and Jonathan Marcelo Bonta born 1973. Currently divorced and single.

Short Term Missionaries with husband, (3-years) in the Philippines with the United Methodist Church Global Ministries (1969 – 1971). Served with the National Farmworker Ministry assigned to the LA Boycott and UFW headquarters in La Paz (1972 – 1975)."

Praise for Lillian Galedo

Cynthia Bonta on Lillian Galedo:

"While I was building my nonprofit organization in Sacramento, Lillian was building Filipino Advocates for Justice formerly Filipinos for Affirmative Action (FAA) and empowering the Filipino American community in the East Bay and the SF-Bay Area to make their voices heard on issues that affected their civil rights in the areas of education, immigration, employment, housing, etc. In 2007, Philippine National Day Association (PNDA), vested her with the Title of Lakandiwa, awarded to an outstanding Filipino American leader. The Lakandiwa translates to the highest regard, whose life achievements are to be emulated; and who is held up, as a role model to the young. The Lakandiwa has a deep understanding of man, arising from knowledge of one’s own history and culture. From such enlightenment comes compassion and service to others."[6]

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