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Vanessa Gomez Brake
Board President

LEADERSHIP SPOTLIGHT

Vanessa Gomez Brake

When I moved to the Bay Area a decade ago, I immediately enrolled in a Filipino dance workshop. I had grown up on the Westside of Phoenix, where very few Filipinos lived in the 1980s. As a young child, my parents would drive my sister and I across town to the Philippine Community Center. There I would learn to play the bandurria and gitara, as well as learn traditional folk dances. After moving to Guam and then the East Coast, my new home in California afforded me the chance to reconnect with Philippine community. Luckily for me, Parangal Dance Company was offering such a workshop in November of 2009. I found my first lesson to be both challenging and rewarding.

As a member of PDC since that time, I was afforded the opportunity to perform at several San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festivals 2010 - 2017.  I recall in early 2012, performing at the inauguration of Mayor Ed Lee at San Francisco City Hall, and the Miss Asian America Pageant at the Palace of Fine Arts. Other noteworthy performances include Carnegie Hall NY (2015), the Filipino American History Month performances at the White House (2016), and the Merrie Monarch Festival in Hawaii (2017).  Some of the most memorable performances, however, were at the games of the SF Giants and Oakland Raiders on their Filipino Heritage Nights. 

I consider folk artistry an extension of my professional interfaith work, as PDC's performances showcase the diverse traditions, rituals, and beliefs of Muslim, Christian, and indigenous peoples of the Philippines. Currently, I serve as the Associate Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California. In this role, I support and promote university religious and spiritual life broadly conceived and help oversee more than 90 student religious groups and 50 religious directors on campus. Prior to this, I worked at Stanford University's Office for Religious Life, similarly overseeing student groups and providing oversight for worship and rituals on campus. 

Since leaving the Bay Area in 2017, I have stayed involved with PDC by serving on the Board of Directors as BOD President, and traveling with group leaders for research and immersion with Philippine Indigenous Peoples. It has been an honor to bring PDC's mission to life, even if from afar. Whenever possible, I use knowledge gained from PDC, of Philippine culture and traditions, to inform my work. Most recently, I spoke at the 2020 Democratic National Convention, and used that platform to speak of kapwa. I spoke of the 'togetherness' and the community effort needed to bring about change in the world. I believe PDC is doing its part to honor our ancestors and inspire the next generation of leaders in Filipino arts & culture.

Vanessa Gomez Brake
Parangal, BOD President

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Vanessa received dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in Religious Studies and Psychology from Arizona State University. She received her Master of Science degree in Conflict Analysis and Resolution, with an emphasis in religion and peacemaking from the Carter School for Peace & Conflict Resolution at George Mason University. This Fall, she will graduate from Chicago Theological Seminary, with her Masters of Divinity.