This year’s explorASIAN festival honours five pioneer couples in the Filipino-Canadian community.
Through their stories, the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society seeks to highlight the deep roots planted by members of this ethnic group in their chosen country.
“For immigrants, it is daunting to be in a strange new place,” VAHMS vice president Esmie Gayo McLaren told the Straight in a phone interview. “Knowing that they have roots in the community will help them belong. Stories from their pioneering families will show that they helped build B.C. and Canada.”
The honorees are publishers Leonardo and Marilyn Cunanan, educators Aprodicio and Eleanor Laquian, entrepreneurs Joseph and Doris Lee, dentist and community volunteer Rufino and Elvira Olivar, and philanthropists Miguel and Julia Tecson.
Early settlers of Filipino ancestry started arriving in Canada during the 1960s. Compared to Chinese, Japanese, and South Asians, who came in the 19th century, Filipinos and other ethnic minorities have a history that is largely untold.
According to McLaren, the VAHMS wants to chronicle their journey through its First Families, First Stories project. Launched last year, the endeavour started with the Filipino community.
With these stories, young Canadians of Filipino heritage can learn about their forebears and perhaps gain a heightened appreciation of their identity. “One of the things about identity is knowing where you came from,” said McLaren, a visual artist of Filipino lineage.
The Cunanans, Laquians, Lees, Olivars, and Tecsons will receive community-builder awards at a recognition dinner on Sunday (June 1) at the Pink Pearl Restaurant (1132 East Hastings Street).