Founder & Director
Francis has spent the past 30 years working as a community organizer, trainer, administrator, and writer. He worked at the Center for Third World Organizing (CTWO) from 1984 to 1999, and currently serves as Chair of the Board. He is also a founding member of the National Organizers’ Alliance (NOA), Californians for Justice, and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network. He has received numerous recognitions for his work, including the Bannerman Senior Fellowship, Gerbode Foundation Fellowship, Fellow at the California Wellness Foundation, a Koshland Fellow from the San Francisco Foundation, an “Effective Social Changer” by the Intercommunity Peace & Justice Center, and as a “Leading Innovator” by ColorLines Magazine.
Leo is the lead organizer for the national GABAYAN Program and in the Bay Area, organizing with newly arrived Filipino immigrants and recruiting socially responsible business. Since 2006, Leo has been on a quest to strengthen immigrant communities as the Environmental Justice Coordinator with MQVN Community Development Corporation in New Orleans and as a small business counselor with Hope Community Development Agency in Biloxi, Mississippi, after Hurricane Katrina and the BP Oil Spill. After witnessing powerful stories of community building in the Gulf, and knowing at one point more Vietnamese than Tagalog, Leo sought to “reign in” his Filipino-American identity & organize with the global Filipino diaspora with TIGRA. He recently graduated with a Masters of Social Work from the University of Michigan with a focus on multi-racial community organizing, sustainable community development and social enterprise.
For almost a decade, Lisa has worked alongside immigrant families in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood tackling issues of displacement and community preservation. She worked as a Community Development Intern through the Local Initiatives Support Corporation Americorps Program, Manager of the Bayanihan Community Center – Filipino American Development Foundation and Community Service Worker for the Veterans Equity Center. Lisa is a Board Member of the Filipino American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity and currently leads TIGRA’s ICLAP Arts & Culture Project. In addition to her position at TIGRA, Lisa works with a torch and hammer, crafting small objects and jewelry inspired by the confluence (and tension) of Philippine indigenous and modern design aesthetics.
Ivonne is the newest member to both the TIGRA team and the organizing world. A product of the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon, Ivonne first started organizing on her university campus against the tuition hikes and cutting of classes with Occupy Colleges. Finding a love for organizing people within her community of students, she applied and was accepted to the Movement Activist Apprenticeship Program (MAAP) offered through the Center for Third World Organizing (CTWO) after graduating in May of 2012 from San Francisco State University. MAAP sent her to Denver, CO to learn to organize around foreclosure issues in Denver and the surrounding suburban cities. Coming back from Denver with an ignited flame to continue to organize communities against injustice, she was offered a position at TIGRA where she now works with DREAMers who are applying for Deferred Action.
New York and New Jersey
Born and raised in Iloilo, Philippines, Cita has been organizing with immigrant and migrant workers for over five years. She is a migrant worker herself, since right after graduating college. She was the Gender Rights Organizer for Damayan Migrant Workers Association in New York from 2009-2011 with a focus on the Peer-to-Peer empowerment program. She worked closely with workers who had a Labor Trafficking and/or DV case. She was the Chair and Board Member of Damayan from 2009-2012 and was very involved in the campaign for the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights locally and nationally. As the TIGRA NY/NJ organizer, Cita works closely with the Oakland Office for the GABAYAN program, helping newly arrived Filipino immigrant in the region and connecting them to socially responsible businesses. Aside from organizing, Cita has a passion for real food, trying to piece together the many ways that food connects us all.
Coordinator of Business Development
Likely the least experienced in organizing of the TIGRA Tigers, Rovaira took a leap of faith, breaking free from the corporate world, throwing herself into, to her, the hazy and uncharted territories of social entrepreneurship, social enterprise and alternative impact investing … and landed on the doorstep of TIGRA. Thankfully, she knows a thing or two about media, the Internet and organizing people online. And being Filipina-American, she knows quite a bit about both. Rovaira studied economics at Wellesley College in Wellesley, MA. Her academic interest was primarily in economic development, which she had a chance to further explore at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, England. What she lacked in a formal Filipino community growing up, she has since made up for by moving to Manila. Now she spends a lot of time thinking about and organizing around the enormous potential of the children of Filipino immigrants, such as herself, in impacting the development and progress of the Philippines through collaboration and exchange as well as in strengthening the Filipino diaspora.
Director, TIGRA Philippines
Melissa Gibson is a Filipino-Canadian with a passion for economic justice and a penchant for academic theory. She recently finished a Masters in Geography from the University of Toronto wherein she focused on the interconnections between the current remittance phenomenon and the history of financial liberalization in the Philippines. She has been an activist for immigrant rights since 2004 with groups such as Solidarity Across Borders in Montreal and Damayan Migrant Workers Association in New York City. Apart from cultivating migrant solidarities, she is also a scholar of the Solidarity Economy and hopes that this framework can be put into good use in the Philippines as an alternative to economic migration. She worked with TIGRA in New York City in 2010 where she helped pilot the Remit4Change program. She is now based in the Philippines where she has the good fortune to be able to learn her mother’s tongue, eat sinigang na bangus, and help re-frame the Migration and Development Nexus through Participatory Action Research.