#BalikBayan: Farewell to 'big sister'

Erlinda Tiongco-Galeon defined courage and commitment

Cherie M. Querol Moreno

Published: 12:0 PM July 11, 2016

Updated: 8:49 AM July 11, 2016

CALIFORNIA, USA – The "who's who" among Filipino Americans last month lined up to praise Erlinda Tiongco Galeon, the popular community leader who passed away on June 13, 2016 at her home in Daly City where she lived for over 40 years. She was 75.

Mrs. Galeon had become a pillar in Daly City in the 15 years she dedicated to public service.  

She was current president of the Daly City Libraries Commission, last year's president of the Filipino American Democratic Club of San Mateo County and the Pilipino Bayanihan Resource Center, multi-term president of the Philippine Association of University Women and California Federation of Women's Clubs – Golden Gate District, 2008 president of ALLICE Alliance for Community Empowerment Kumares and Kumpares, and member of the board of numerous organizations often nonprofit or political, domestic and overseas, including the US Pinoys for Good Government. 

Her brand of leadership defined commitment and generosity, urging others – in her unapologetic frankness – to fulfill their civic duty. 

"Tita Erlinda made sure to remind me in her direct style that it was my turn to be president of the FilAm Democratic Club," said congressional aide Mark Nagales, drawing approval from attendees familiar with Mrs. Galeon's candor at the memorial following Mass June 17 at the St. Veronica Parish Center here.

Nagales, constituent services director for U.S Rep. Jackie Speier, presented the Tiongco - Galeon family a flag he said was flown over Capitol Hill in honor of the departed Filipino American leader.

Philippine Consul General Henry Bensurto Jr. paid last respects with his wife Mariza, a niece to Mrs. Galeon.

California Assembly member Phil Ting, Daly City Vice Mayor David Canepa and Council Member Ray Buenaventura led officials and their representatives in hailing Mrs. Galeon.  She had donated to their campaigns and rallied allies to do the same. 

It was pioneer community advocate and South San Francisco resident Alice Bulos who encouraged Mrs. Galeon to get involved after the latter's husband suddenly died in the early 2000s and mentored her in political empowerment, shared Buenaventura.  

In recent years Mrs. Galeon joined fellow Daly City resident, PBRC board chair Perla Ibarrientos, in coordinating city projects and developing local leadership, Ibarrientos said in her tearful eulogy.

Tributes echoed Mrs. Galeon's tirelessness and generosity for campaigns and causes she embraced. A Music graduate of Centro Escolar University, which was co-founded by her grandmother, she was passionate about education, culture and the arts.  She studied Early Childhood Education at Skyline College in San Bruno and eventually earned a master’s in Gerontology from Notre Dame University in Belmont, Calif.  

She kept an exhaustive calendar, driving up and down San Mateo County even after she was diagnosed with cancer after a routine mammogram a few years ago.

PAUW stalwart and Holy Child & St. Martin Episcopal Church congregant Marietta Carmona-Flores got the news straight from her best friend.

"Linda bravely fought the cancer and stayed positive," said Flores, who grew up with Mrs. Galeon in Pandacan, Manila. They loved the month of May, when they made traditional floral offerings to the Blessed Virgin Mary and afterwards played all day long.  As teens they double-dated, the only way their parents allowed them to go out with the opposite gender, she said.

Separated when Mrs. Galeon in the 1960s sought new horizons in California, they reunited when Mrs. Flores traveled the same route and began shadowing her chum at community engagements.

They were inseparable at events where Flores was happy to keep to the sidelines while her friend stood in the spotlight.

Ever attuned to current events, Mrs. Galeon called her on June 7 to check if she had voted.  By then Mrs. Galeon was in hospice care, having declined treatments upon learning she had a brain tumor.

Mrs. Galeon had carried on with typical energy that news of her new health setback came as a surprise even to confidantes.

On April 30, she and her ALLICE Kumares and Kumpares staged their 10th annual presentation and health fair on elder care and abuse prevention, said ALLICE Kumare Elsa Agasid. 

"Ate Erlinda made sure we were well fed and brought a big platter of pancit at the final rehearsal" just as she did at all gatherings, Agasid noted about the all-volunteer team's "big sister."

Mrs. Galeon gave profusely and was not one to ask for favors, except from her best friend.

"She called to say she wanted my pancit sotanghon, so I cooked it and brought it to her and we enjoyed it together," Flores lovingly recalled their last encounter.  Flores regretted her inability to deliver the next request, Pancit Malabon and Lumpiang Hubad, because she was caring for her ailing son.

Flores got a call the day she purchased ingredients for her friend's meal and found out she was too late.

Daly City's 2013 Outstanding Citizen and 2012 Woman of Excellence had died peacefully, surrounded by her family, before noon that Monday.

Mrs. Galeon was born Erlinda Tiongco on March 1, 1941, in the Philippines.  She was predeceased by her husband George Galeon.  

She is survived by her son Andy Galeon and daughter Audrey Galeon-Tabuso, their spouses and children; her sisters Rosie T. Cabrera and Marie T. Sands of California, brother Joey and sister Cora Tiongco of Manila; relatives, friends and allies. – Rappler.com

Cherie M. Querol Moreno is editor at large of Philippine News and a columnist for Philippines Today, weekly news organizations based in the San Francisco Bay Area.  She is founder and executive director of all-volunteer nonprofit ALLICE Alliance for Community Empowerment and a Commissioner with the San Mateo Commission on Aging