In January 2018, Leo Cunanan Jr. joined the board of the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society (VAHMS).
Cunanan is an artist and the publisher of the Canadian Filipino community and business directory Dahong Pilipino.
Cunanan recalls that he first got involved with VAHMS when his artists’ group Dimasalang III headed by mentor SYM Mendoza was invited to exhibit works for explorASIAN , an annual festival celebrating national Asian Heritage Month, in 2011 and 2012.
Last year, he received a note from VAHMS president Ken McAteer asking if he would accept a nomination to be a member of the board of directors.
Cunanan sought the counsel of Mel Tobias, an esteemed journalist and arts aficionado. (Tobias passed away in October 2017.)
“After many discussions with our good family friend Mel about the lack of presence of Filipinos in the mainstream circle of Greater Vancouver, I thought this would be a great opportunity to help the show and share our culture outside the Filipino community,” Cunanan wrote in an email to Canadian Filipino Net.
Cunanan was also inspired by the example of his father, Leo B. Cunanan Sr., who founded Dahong Pilipino.
“My father taught me to strive to show positive images of Filipinos,” he said.
As a visual artist, Cunanan works in pastel, charcoal, and water colour. He also does digital art.
His interest in the arts began with music. At age 21, he joined a band as a drummer.
“Growing up in Vancouver since I was nine years old, I have been fortunate to live and know both the Philippine and Canadian cultures,” Cunanan said.
May is Asian Heritage Month in Canada.
In May 2002, the Government of Canada declared May as Asian Heritage Month. The move was meant to give all Canadians the opportunity to learn about the history of Asian Canadians, and to celebrate their contributions to Canadian society.
“Over the last two centuries, immigrants have journeyed to Canada from East Asia, Southern Asia, Western and Southeast Asia, bringing our society a rich cultural heritage representing many languages, ethnicities and religious traditions,” according to the official declaration of Asian Heritage Month.
Cunanan serves a term of two years with the board of VAHMS.
Here are the two projects led by Cunanan as part of this year’s celebration of Asian Heritage Month in Vancouver:
May 1- May 31
Pan Asian Routes (Art Exhibit by Dimasalang III International Artist Group)
Opening Reception: May 3, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Alma VanDusen and Peter Kaye Rooms of the Central Branch of the Vancouver Public Library (350 West Georgia Street)
Exhibition at the Moat Gallery of the public library
Film showing with English subtitles from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. of Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon? (This is How We Were Before, How Are You Doing Now?), a classic Filipino movie set during the Spanish colonization