Esther Alinsug flew from the Phillipines to be with her son, Coco, as he is sworn in to Lynn City Council on Monday. She brought with her a traditional barong and sinulog necklace for Coco to wear during the ceremony. (Spenser Hasak)
Local Government and Politics, News

Alinsug becomes first Filipino-American city councilor in New England

LYNN — The new Ward 3 Councilor Constantino “Coco” Alinsug will become the first Filipino-American city councilor in New England and the first out gay councilor in the city after the inauguration on Monday.

Alinsug, 50, will be wearing a national Philippine costume ― a formal long-sleeved shirt called a barong ― to the inauguration, which his mother, Maria Esther Alinsug, has brought especially for the occasion from the Philippines. The garment is black and embroidered by hand, said Alinsug, and since the Philippines was once a colony of Spain, it will look familiar to a lot of people of South American heritage.

“I am purposefully wearing it to show the people of Lynn ― because Lynn is a multicultural city ― that a city councilor from Guatemala could be on the horizon or a city councilor from Ukraine,” said Alinsug.  “The reason for me wearing it is to give honor to my heritage, but at the same time to give a message to the youth and the residents of Lynn that anybody, whatever they aspire for, they are welcome to be an official of the city of Lynn. This is our city and we need to help each other.”

Despite a long trip and COVID-19 restrictions, Alinsug’s mother travelled from the Philippines to attend the inauguration.

“I would consider myself as the proudest mom”, said Esther Alinsug. “This is a big honor for us, for the family.”

She said she was sad that her husband, Ember Alinsug, was not able to make the trip to the U.S. He was supposed to follow her a few days later, but the country was hit by Super Typhoon Rai (Odette) on Dec. 16, severely damaging their house and property in Consolacion, Cebu.

Alinsug is expecting some of his siblings, aunts and uncles, family friends and people from the Filipino community whom he doesn’t even know personally to come from New England, New Jersey, New York, California and Texas to attend the inauguration at the City Hall Auditorium. Unfortunately, he had to cancel a reception planned for after the inauguration because of the most recent COVID-19 surge.

Coco Alinsug grew up in a family of public servants. His family members have been involved in politics in Consolacion for over 100 years, starting with his great-great grandfather Gregorio, who was elected a city councilor in 1920. His grandmother Felisa, elected in 1950, was the first female city councilor in Consolacion, while Alinsug’s father served as a city councilor and a vice mayor for 25 years.

The tradition stopped with Alinsug’s father, as neither of his four children chose to run for public office until the last year, when Coco announced his candidacy for Ward 3 councilor. Although his parents believed in him ― and even printed “Vote Coco” T-shirts ― they were concerned that he would have difficulty navigating the American political process and gaining enough support from voters, Alinsug said.

Alinsug believes that voters chose him because they were ready for something new and different, as Lynn’s demographics have changed with more immigrants coming in from different countries.

“They can associate themselves with me and my story relates to their stories,” said Alinsug. “My story of coming to America is not a walk in the park. I had a lot of struggles in life.”

Putting himself out there as a politician opened him for more criticism and judgement from people, especially those who are homophobic, said Alinsug.

“That is a part of the challenge of my service. Service is service, it doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like if you have the heart to serve. That is my ultimate goal as the Ward 3 councilor,” Alinsug said.

He moved to the U.S. almost 20 years ago with $200 in his pocket.

“I was determined to move here because I really wanted to live my life as an open LGBT (person). I was determined to marry the love of my life,” said Alinsug. “Because of that determination, I am living my life and my American dream and that’s why it is the payback time.”

Since the November election, Alinsug has been spending a lot of time preparing for the job. He has attended a lot of City Council meetings, met one-on-one with all department heads and received a lot of calls and messages from the residents of Ward 3 concerned about various issues, from parking to cleanliness. Alinsug said he will act on all of these requests as soon as he is formally admitted to office.

He also went on a ride around the ward with outgoing Councilor Darren Cyr. Cyr showed him the areas that have some problems or need attention and also drove him to King's Beach and Swampscott to familiarise Alinsug more with the sewage pollution problem at that site.

“I know I can call him any time,” said Alinsug.

Issues around King’s Beach and renovation of the Kiley Park will be some of his main priorities, Alinsug said.

Before Monday, he chose, however, to be cautious of catching COVID-19 and spend a few days at home with his mother and his husband Peter Cipriano, watching movies.

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