An Interview with Asian Pacific Islander Community Action’s (APICA) Kirin Macapugay

Asian Pacific Islander Community Actions (APICA) is our community sponsor for our March 2 performance at Skyline Hills library at 2pm. The discussion after the performance will focus on mental health. We asked APICA founder, Kirin Amiling Macapugay, to tell us more about herself and APICA.

Kirin Macapugay

Tell us about your background.  What inspired you to get involved in community work?

I grew up in Southeast San Diego during the rise of API (Asian Pacific Islander) gangs, and experienced these effects personally. Tired of losing many friends to violence, drugs, mental health issues, and prison, I came to learn not all communities were the same. Other neighborhood youth didn’t experience what my friends and I had. Since then, I have dedicated my energy to helping communities strengthen themselves, culminating in nearly two decades of nonprofit and public sector community based projects.  I now teach in the department of Human Services as the primary professor for social work classes at San Diego City College.

I previously served on the City of San Diego Arts and Culture Commission, was past Chairwoman of the Cultural Arts Commission for the City of Chula Vista, and was a former Commissioner for the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as an appointee of Governor Brown. I earned a Master of Social Work and Nonprofit Administration degree from San Diego State University and was a Certified Fundraising Executive via CFRE International. I served as advisor to the National Asian Pacific Women’s Forum San Diego and San Diego Gas and Electric. I was a founding board member for Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence and served as a Diversity Chair for the Association of Fundraising Professionals San Diego. I have  been featured by Voyager San Diego, This American Life, Yellow Ranger, Alliance for California Traditional Arts, Filipino Press, The Asian Journal,  and The National Association of Social Workers, and have been published in several books: Impower You by Leah Oviedo; The Pilipinx Radical Imagination Reader edited by Melissa Nievera-Lozano and Tony Santa Ana; Representation over Visibility by Alfred Oleano, and will be in a future edition of Reclaiming our Stories edited by Roberta Alexander. More importantly, I am a family woman–wife, and mother to two sons.

What is the mission of Asian Pacific Islander Community Actions (APICA)?

I founded APICA in response to requests for assistance with multiple projects to benefit API and other underrepresented communities. APICA provides a space for grassroots, community member led projects strengthening the lives and stories of API-Americans in California. (Learn more at

What can the Filipino community do to prevent and stop domestic violence?

I believe this is not a linear answer. I was trained to look at issues from the standpoint of how they affect individuals directly, and how they affect their families, community, and greater society. Domestic violence can be both cause and effect, and it is layers of issues and potential points of intervention. For the Filipino-American community in particular—and I stress the Filipino-AMERICAN part because we live here in the U.S., and being Filipino in the greater context of being immigrants in America does make a major difference–below are some of the ways we can help prevent and stop domestic violence:

  1. Recognize it does exist. That unless we address it, it will continue.
  2. Overcome cultural notions of shame, of not allowing people to “air out dirty laundry” for the sake of saving face. We have to see speaking up as a strength, not taboo.
  3. Continue to speak up about it.
  4. Educate our community on recognizing signs
  5. Learning personal boundary issues
  6. Learning appropriate discipline between parent and child, being mindful this takes re-learning decades, if not centuries, of parenting styles in a completely different country
  7. Encourage counseling, encourage therapy, so that people in relationships who are under strain can learn to better cope with their emotions and stressors
  8. Educate our community on appropriate responses to emotions –particularly males
  9. Normalize the benefits of speaking to counselors and therapists
  10. Recruit and encourage more Filipino counselors, therapists, and mental health aides
  11. Take a candid look at cultural notions of authority, filial piety, and reassess what these mean in today’s world living in America
  12. Educate our community on reporting incidents
  13. Forge more culturally competent safe spaces for people trying to escape these relationships
  14. Work with legal providers and financial advisors to offer support to victims and survivors
  15. Stress that healthy, whole relationships and families benefit the entire community

What can we do to promote Filipino mental health?

I would recommend all the same suggestions above, with added emphasis on destigmatizing mental illness and normalizing mental health care

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I think it’s important our community understands that the work all of us do to raise awareness of these uncomfortable issues is because we love and care deeply for our communities and we believe we can work on solutions together, but we need to be willing to do so first.

Fil-Am Mental Health Dialogue Participants

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