By Teresita Bautista
When I first was hired at OPS (Oakland Public Schools), I was asked to review a publication that Nilo worked very hard to produce, ‘Unfinished Revolution’. It was not approved. A small note bookmarked a reviewer’s comment: “What about the roads and schools that the U.S. built?” I told my boss that the publication was good to go from my perspective. It never saw the light of day.
I met Nilo in 1971 at the International Institute of the East Bay (IIEB), where, as a UC Berkeley work-study student, I had the task of creating a New Arrivals Committee to meet new immigrants and identify resources for people entering Alameda County. He and other community representatives would attend monthly meetings, greet new immigrants from the homeland and provide leads to jobs, community resources, advice and support.
The efforts of this committee evolved into the Filipino Immigrant Services (FIS) Project, an agency beyond the walls of IIEB. FIS the agency had Vicky Santos as its first Executive Director and was housed in downtown Oakland near City Hall. Nilo, not only was a founding member of the non-profit Filipinos for Affirmative Action (FAA, now Filipino Advocates for Justice) that sponsored FIS, but he took on the arduous task of shepherding FAA’s incorporation papers. He typed and retyped them on his hard working electric typewrite in his small studio around the corner from the Oakland Museum, and he literally walked the papers through Sacramento, from department to department, in one day!
Nilo left OPS to open what seemed to be a fun business, making and selling leche flan. (I once saw and bought the tasty product in Piedmont Grocery.) I didn’t see him much over the next few decades until I happened to attend a program at Pusod in Berkeley in the early 2000s. By then, Nilo had been taken ill by a terminal disease, but was still endeavoring to edit a manuscript for David Martinez. ‘A Country of Our Own’ was published shortly after.
As I value pioneering efforts of Filipinos active in the 1970s, I salute Nilo for standing up to cronyism, colonial mentality, racism, and other beliefs that held back community building at the time.
His legacy, to me, continues to be that of the pioneers who came in the early 1900s, whose labor was spent on the side of justice and equality. I know his last couple of decades was difficult, poor health always is no guarantee of seeing the brighter side of things.
I do say, “Thank you for leading a life of service, Nilo.”