Dolores Dasalla Sibonga (she/her)

By Nico Simmons

A drawing of a newspaper labelled "NEWS" in all caps.
“Newspaper” by Anika Gopez.

Dolores Sibonga, a Seattle political pioneer, was the first Filipino American to serve on the Seattle City Council in 1978. Dolores Dasalla Sibonga was born in 1931 and achieved her journalism degree from the University of Washington in 1952. She served the Seattle City Council for 12 years. Sibonga’s reputation as a passionate public servant continues to inspire people who follow in her footsteps. From pushing for workers’ rights to defending affordable housing, Sibonga’s influence on Seattle’s political environment extended beyond her legislative achievements which still resonates today. Her ability to bring together different communities and form coalitions to achieve universal goals was influential. Her inclusive and collaborative leadership approach earned her colleagues’ and constituents’ affection and admiration. Her dedication to public service and social justice activism will continue to inspire and guide future generations of Filipino American leaders and activists.

As she served on the Seattle City Council she appeared at several conferences on the Seattle City Council regarding workers rights and employment needs. Sibonga attended the Pacific Northwest Asian/Pacific Women’s Employment Needs Conference. At that conference, it was stated that “Dolores Sibonga, Seattle City Council member, said myths and stereotypes of Asian/Pacific women affect their employment opportunities and status” Vendiola, S. (1980). She created an environment where Asian/Pacific women have opportunities for employment and education. Dolores Sibonga addressed drug usage as an important concern during her campaign for the city’s top office. Throughout her time on Seattle City Council, fought for better police-community relations and led a development project to preserve the downtown area’s importance as a vibrant regional and financial hub. Additionally, she also advocated for the protection of neighborhoods in land use problems.

She took inspiration from Velasco, the former editor and publisher of the Filipino Forum newspaper. He convinced Sibonga to pursue journalism at the University of Washington. Because of this influence and her determination to make a change, she became one of the first Filipino Americans to graduate from the university in journalism. Sibonga and her husband Martin bought the Filipino Forum from  Velasco in 1969 and began publishing their own work. She expresses her dedication to getting many groups of people from different bac grounds to participate in the newspaper. Wong, D. (1996).

Despite the fact that she ran for office and lost in 1989, that did not discourage her from making a change in our community. In this article, she describes herself as a caretaker. She is concerned with the development of the city, living costs, health care, and transportation. A significant quote regarding her beliefs around being a woman would be, “Being a Filipino shouldn’t decrease her chances, Sibonga believes… Being a woman, however, may help her chances, as there are only two women on the nine-person council today” Vu, C. N. (2006). She believes in amplifying women’s voices and increasing their participation in positions of power. She proved, by her actions and words, that gender should not be a barrier to change, but rather a catalyst for it.


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