By Jason Cruz
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Maria Batayola never gets tired of talking about her sister, Tessie.
“No, I don’t because we are really accomplished people,” she said as she also is a community advocate. “There are times that I am Teresita’s sister and there are times when she is my sister,” said Maria of her relationship.
“I love talking about her because it brings up memories of growing up together.”
Since Teresita retired from International Community Health Services (ICHS) this past December, there may be more time for the two.
“We can hang out more,” said Maria.
Teresita Batayola retired from her role as president and CEO of ICHS this past December. To honor her, ICHS dedicated its new clinic in her honor.
“Teresita was culturally set up to be a leader,” Maria stated about her sister in prepared remarks she gave at the AiPace Clinic Naming Fundraiser at the Wing Luke Museum this past April.
“My sister has a beauty mark on her forehead, and that beauty mark meant she was very intelligent. When she was baptized, her godmother made sure she ran out of the church after baptism. Third, culturally, nothing less is expected of her.”
The gathering in April was both to raise funds for the new clinic, which Teresita has been instrumental in working to establish over several years, and honoring her dedication to ICHS as she heads to retirement.
Driven by parents expecting excellence, Teresita grew up playing volleyball, trained in French cooking, and acted in a Shakespearean play.
“She had an innate curiosity and sense of responsibility,” explained Maria of their upbringing.
Gildas Cheung has known Batayola for over 10 years when he first joined the ICHS board.
“She was the one that I interviewed with,” Cheung recalled, as it was part of the onboarding process to be a board member. Cheung now serves as the president of the Board of Directors for ICHS. He was impressed by Batayola’s dedication to serving.
“It is fantastic. She has a big heart about working with the community.”
“Every time I talk to her, it’s always about how we serve the community better because without the community, the clinic would not be here.”
He noted three qualities that have made her such a great leader.
“One of her biggest strengths is strategic planning.” Cheung noted her ability of keeping track of trends on a city, state, and federal level to position ICHS to expand and be successful.
He also noted her perseverance and work ethic is unparalleled, highlighting the future opening of the AiPace Clinic, which took over 10 years to come to fruition.
Teresita retired from ICHS in December but remains as president emeritus.
At the end of June, staff will get to send off Batayola properly. While she is heading into retirement, she will remain busy.
“First, it’s flattering. It’s a very different kind of clinic because it’s focused on the frail and elderly,” said Teresita. AiPace stands for Aging In Pace, the program is for all-inclusive care for the elderly.
“In the regular world, they would end up in a nursing home, but with comprehensive services (medical, dental, specialists, etc.), they could have support in their homes.”
She added, “[T]his has been a project that I’ve been working on for a long, long time.”
The site and location of the clinic is close to being announced.
“The heart of it was when we were growing up, our parents were very oriented towards services toward the community and very devoted Catholics, so a lot of their services were oriented to the Catholic Church.”
Teresita said a lot of their volunteer work was dedicated to those in need such as the poor. She explained that it expanded to more political work as there was a lot of corruption in the Philippines when they lived there and her parents became politically aware and started to work at the neighborhood level to try and elect good candidates.
“It’s not unusual for children of parents like that to think that it’s the normal thing.”
“For me, my background was in local government, but it was always my connection and involvement to the community that kept me engaged with the issues.”
“When we were young and first came to the U.S., my parents became involved in serving the elderly,” she said about their involvement in services in the International District.
“Determination, stamina, and will” were attributes Teresita identified in being a strong advocate in the face of opposition. She cites the pandemic as an example of the need to stand up and “raise voices” to get the needs of the community.
“Issues of disparity, racism, and discrimination are not heard very well during a crisis and it just means that we push harder, align with the right people, and we do not let up.”
She stated that ICHS was very much at the forefront in ensuring that they had access to testing and vaccination. She cited the community for being strong and standing up in times of crises. “Part of it is our DNA that there are formal leaders but many that come out when the need arises.” She noted that small businesses and individuals came to ICHS to aid with whatever they could during the pandemic.
Teresita was appointed by President Biden to the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. She is on the health/equity subcommittee and attends meetings on these issues. The meetings are focused on preparing recommendations for the president.
She is also on the board of trustees for Seattle College. She was appointed by Governor Inslee and completed her first term and her latest stint will be until 2025. She is on the finance subcommittee for the college.
Teresita will maintain her commitments but will also try to travel more in retirement. However, she indicated that she wanted at least a year before she decides what’s next. She is still interested in working with the community and believes she has a lot of energy left.
Jason can be reached at email@example.com.