Thursday, January 12, 2012


They are the “power sisters” from Maryland, two rising Filipino-American women whose feats herald a nearly limitless potential for the future.

“Though many people expect greatness because of her, I’m willing to rise to her level of excellence,” gushed Angela Lagdameo, one of the recipients of this year’s Dakila Awards in Virginia. She was talking of course about her elder sister Cristina, deputy director for the White House Initiative for Asian-Americans.

Angela is a senior analyst at Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s office of policy where is mainly involved in education.

“Our state is numbr 1 in education and I have the privilege of being able to work on education policy and yes, it’s a big responsibility,” she tells the Manila Mail.

“I’m looking at students’ trajectory from pre-school all the way up to the first 5 years of the work force,” she explained.

Both Angela and Cristina were campus activists at the University of Maryland. They were the moving force for the establishment of the school’s Asian American Studies program in the late 1990s while they were both students.

“She was the forerunner who passed on the torch when I came in as a freshman in 1998,” recalls Angela, “and it was an automatic understanding, whether I liked it or not.”

The University of Maryland’s Asian American Studies program is considered one of the best in the United States, focusing on the identities and experiences of Asian Americans that today comprise about 15 percent of the school’s undergraduate population.

Her role was to “ensure that the entire community held to its word to the establishment of the certificate program and hiring new tenured professors.”

The university officially launched the Asian American Studies program in January 2000 by appointing a part-time director, instructors and student staff. In the winter of 2001, they had enough to hire 2 full-time professors, paving the way for expanding courses and research. In 2006, the school finally hired its first permanent director, Dr. Larry Shinagawa and approved the minor in Asian American Studies soon after.

Angela’s proud of what she and her sister have done for the university that remains a big part of their lives. “I’m proud Terrapin alum and I support in many different ways to contribute back to the university,” Angela declared.

“They’re very much involved in activism but I don’t really know where they got that from,” the girls’ father Bobby says amusedly.

“They got the beauty from me,” chimes in their mother Fe, laughing.

“I think that was an initiative on their part because they saw a lot of things needed to be done,” their dad explained. Cristina would become involved in fighting for women abused and victimized in the sex trade even as Angela devoted herself to the Asian American Studies program, he said.

But activism is in their DNA, it turns out. Fe’s father was a student leader together with Manuel L. Quezon who would later be the Philippine Commonwealth’s wartime president (1935 to his death in 1944). She is also related on her mother’s side to former Philippine Supreme Court Chief Justice Fred Ruiz Castro (noted Filipino broadcaster and former ABS-CBN News executive Angelo Castro Jr. is a cousin).

“They really had a free hand and our support was primarily in the background. We just okay go ahead and we’ll be here to support it,” Bobby averred.

He came here as a student in 1963 and never left. When he met Fe, who stopped over in Washington DC with her mother and a sister bound for studies in Spain, he didn’t let go. They got married and settled in Boie, MD where Fe has relatives.

Cristina and Angela are the only girls in their brood of 5, but their parents stressed that they are very proud of all their children.

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