Macario “Tobi” Reyes and his family came to Canada when he was young.
The Vancouver real estate developer says that while he grew up and identifies as Canadian, there was always a part of him that remained Filipino.
“There was certainly an emotion in me that wanted to connect with my Filipino heritage,” Reyes told the paper. In a straight line in a telephone interview.
That’s why it seems only natural that the founder and CEO of development company PortLiving would be involved in the effort to build a Filipino cultural center in Vancouver.
“The idea of a cultural center came to me over a dozen years ago, and it was really organic for me, having been born in Manila and immigrating here at a young age,” said Reyes.
The handing over of this center would represent for him “the culmination of the immigration journey” that he and his family have taken.
“This is definitely one of my dreams,” he said.
In 2021, Reyes joined the board of Mabuhay House Society, a community organization.
“Mabuhay House is a non-profit organization that I helped found with other business leaders, community organizers and volunteers to help me be part of a larger group of Canadian Filipinos and create a steering committee for this effort,” he said.
[Mabuhay is a Tagalog word, which literally means “live long”. It is commonly used as an expression of cheers and best wishes.]
On Sunday (June 12), Mabuhay House will host an event at Helena Gutteridge Plaza on Vancouver’s City Hall grounds to mark the 124th anniversary of the Philippines’ independence.
The June 12 event will be hosted by journalist Ria Renouf, a Canadian of Filipino and Irish roots.
Reyes said he will speak at the weekend meeting.
“I’m very excited to be a part of this, and I hope to offer a few more details,” said PortLiving, referring to the cultural center project.
The creation of a center enjoys deep support among Philippine community organizations.
One of them is the Canadian Filipino National Cultural Center.
In a 2020 article titled “Keeping the Roots Alive,” NPC3 explained the importance of developing a community center.
The organization noted that the Filipino community in Canada has already “reached a second and third migration cycle”.
“Second- and third-generation Filipinos yearn to understand their roots, their heritage. The community needs a home where they can learn their native language, their history, traditions, values, arts and culture,” states the NPC3 report.
Furthermore, “Canadian Filipino artists and culture practitioners need a home to present and exhibit their work. Canadians surrounded by a growing Filipino community need to better understand Filipinos through their arts and culture.”
“Filipino Canadians don’t have a cultural center that can seed their soul, be a window to Canada. It’s time.”
Reyes wants to see two things with the community center project.
One of them is that its development be “a cause of unification and a call to action”.
“This for me would be a big step forward for the community, to work with its members and also those outside the community to move the project forward,” said Reyes.
Second, that it becomes more than a place for people to gather.
“I really think of it as a living structure. I really hope that we have the ability here to design not only something that is architecturally contextual and relevant to the goals of the center, but something that can continue to evolve with the needs of the community as well,” said Reyes.
O In a straight line asked if a center is likely to be developed in the South Vancouver area of Marpole.
“I can confirm that this is the neighborhood we are looking at in detail,” Reyes said.
It will also likely be part of a multipurpose development that will include residential and commercial components.
“I believe that because land is so scarce, we have to take the opportunity to see how we can use scale and diverse services to our advantage,” Reyes said.
Reyes said he and Mabuhay House are “working very hard to immediately get confirmation with the city [of Vancouver] for the next steps”.
“God willing and the timing is right, bringing a Filipino community center to life would be one of the most important aspects of my life,” Reyes said.