Know your Pinoy candidates: Marjan Philhour


Q: Please tell us about yourself.

A: My life story is rooted in the Richmond District. I was born at the French Hospital on 6th Avenue and Geary Boulevard to parents who immigrated to the US from the Philippines and Iran and met at the TOEFL test at San Francisco State University. Today, I’m raising my three kids here with my husband and run a small art studio and gift shop with my sister, experiencing first-hand the devastating impact of the COVID pandemic on the local economy. I launched my 2020 campaign not with traditional fanfare but a series of acts of public service, using my organizational skills and knowledge of the structures of the Bay Area economy and government to bring relief to families who need it.

My mother, Alicia Payuran Tinitigan, immigrated from the Philippines to San Francisco in 1968 as a student at San Francisco State. It was there that she met my father at the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

My grandparents met during the height of World War II during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. After a short courtship, they married and had 11 children. They settled in Cavite City to raise their children and moved to Paranaque in 1969. They came from families of limited means and lacked formal education, but together worked to become entrepreneurs in business and early pioneers in real estate.

Q: Please explain your Filipino-Iranian background. Do you like nilagang baka over gormeh sabzi or are you more Filipino than Iranian and why? What values did you get from either or both cultures?

A: Filipinos have always blended many cultures together, and my household was no different. We took the different flavors, cultures, food from each and built something that was uniquely Filipino, American, and immigrant.

One of the values that I’ve gotten from both cultures is a deep respect for community and the importance of family. Both the Filipino-American and Persian-American communities are tight-knit, caring, and supportive. Being part of both communities taught me the importance of public service and caring for others. I think both cultures have also given me an incredibly outgoing and excitedspirit!

And for the record, I enjoy BOTH niligang baka and gormehsabzi!

Q: Tell us your professional background, including public service. What have been your major achievements so far?

A: In my time as a small business owner, community organizer, Senior Advisor to the Chief of Staff in the California Governor’s Office, Legislative Aide in the US Capitol, City Commissioner for the Status of Women, and Senior Advisor to the Mayor, I have worked to defend and expand protections for working people, families, women, people of color, educators, and the environment. I created dozens of jobs for San Francisco residents and worked to ensure women, particularly women of color, have a seat at the table in Bay Area politics. A volunteer and parent-group activist at my childrens’ school, I’m fighting for a future for Richmond District families, from

organizing the Balboa Village Merchants Association to creating the annual BalBOOa Fright Fest for local families, serving on local boards, and advocating for housing and transit policies that will ensure San Francisco remains livable for the next generation.

Q: Which district and position are you running for? Which areas does the district encompass and what are the common issues and problems there? Describe the demographics in the district by percentage, economy and jobs. Which ethnic group is dominant (how about Filipinos)?

A: I am running for San Francisco District 1 Supervisor which encompasses the entire Richmond District on the western side of the City. The Richmond is facing many of the same issues that the rest of the City is facing: an increase in homelessness, lack of affordable housing options, and residents feeling underserved by their elected representatives.

The Richmond has an incredible blend of ethnicities, cultures, and communities. There are Filipinos, Russians, Chinese, Latinos, Irish, Italians. The Richmond is the perfect example of the amazing diversity and inclusion of San Francisco.

Q: Who is the incumbent and what will you do differently from her that can win voters to your side and why?

A: The incumbent isn’t running this year, and I’m excited about running a positive campaign that focuses on the local issues that our community faces. One of the hallmarks of my campaign will be a neighborhood summit bringing together the voices of Richmond residents to discuss the issues that are most important to them. For too long, elected officials have ignored the concerns and voices of our Richmond residents. My campaign’s neighborhood summit is a critical first step in bringing together neighbors and give residents a voice in City Hall.

Q: Where do you stand on opening the economy? Do you agree with Gov. Newsom and why or why not? How do you propose to protect and sustain essential workers and front liners in the pandemic? How about opening schools?

A: I believe we need to listen to our public health professionals when it comes to reopening our City and State. The best way to protect our essential workers like our nurses and grocery store workers is to wear a mask and physically distance ourselves from others. Before opening schools, we need to consider the safety of our children and faculty, how we are going to keep distance learning equitable, what’s the process if a student or faculty tests positive for COVID, as well as many other factors. SFUSD recently announced that the new school year is going to start with distance learning. It’s important that as the school year progresses, the City includes families and faculty in discussion around when and how they decide to open schools.

Q: What do you propose to do about the rising anti-Asian hate crimes?

A: Early on in this pandemic, I condemned the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes that we saw. There were several Asian owned businesses in the Richmond District near my home that were vandalized. I organized neighbors to help raise over $6,000 to help for those businesses to help mitigate the repair costs.

We cannot let hate of any form continue unchecked. We need to come together as a community and make sure that we denounce all forms of racism and discrimination that we see.

Q: What priority measures will you make specifically for Filipinos in San Francisco?

A: First and foremost, we need to invest in Tagalog bilingual education. This is essential to ensuring equitable access to education for our immigrant families and their children. We must also address the growing income inequality in our city, as well as build more affordable housing. While many Filipino and Asian families live in multi-generational housing because of tradition and culture, many also live like this due to the lack of affordable housing options in our City. The average home price in

the Richmond is $1.7 million, and the average rent for a 2-bedroom apartment is over $4,000 per month. We must do better so our working class families can stay here.

Finally, being the first Filipino American on the Board of Supervisors would be a landmark achievement for our community. As the Filipino population continues to grow, it’s important that we have proper representation in leadership positions, especially in local government. Our community has never had the voice and advocacy it needs in city government.

Q: List some of the more prominent people who have endorsed you. Provide some links of your endorsements.

A: I have the honor of being endorsed by a wide variety of individuals and local organizations including Senator Dianne Feinstein, Mayor London Breed, State Treasurer Fiona Ma, State Board of Equalization Member Malia Cohen, Senator Scott Wiener, Assemblymember David Chiu, Assemblymember Rob Bonta, Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu, El Cerrito Councilmember Gabriel Quinto, Daly City Mayor Glenn Sylvester, Daly City Councilmember Ray Buenaventura, and Chair Emeritus of the Filipino American Caucus of the CA Democratic Party Genieve Jopanda. Some organizations that have endorsed me include the Filipino American Democratic Club, Friends of the Filipino American Community, Plumbers and Pipefitters, Local 38, LiUNA!, Local 261, and the Building Trades. A full list of endorsers can be found on my website at