The city that Mel Tobias so dearly cherished has honoured the late Canadian Filipino writer and arts lover.
The City of Vancouver is naming a plaza after Tobias, whose passing last year brought great sorrow to the community.
City council voted on September 19, 2018 to designate the southwest corner of Kingsway and Joyce Street as Mel Tobias Plaza.
On that day, council also voted to name 14 other public spaces in the city after prominent residents of Vancouver.
Currently called the Collingwood Clock Tower Garden, the Mel Tobias Plaza is considered to be the first plaza in B.C., if not in Canada, to be named after a Canadian Filipino.
Here’s what the city said about Tobias in its media announcement: “Mel Tobias (1939-2017) was born in the Philippines, spent many years in Hong Kong, and in 1993 settled in Vancouver. As a writer and radio host, Mr. Tobias chronicled the challenges and achievements of his community in Canada and inspired countless Filipino-Canadians to celebrate their unique and multi-faceted culture. He also championed causes that sought to uplift newcomers, live-in caregivers, immigrant youth, and women leaders.”
According to the city, commemoration at each of the 15 sites will take the form of signs or an explanatory plaque, as appropriate.
“Plazas will receive, if needed, minor upgrades or maintenance to improve their appearance. Installations and any upgrades to the plazas are anticipated to be in place by the end of 2019,” the city explained.
Tobias has written for Canadian Filipino Net. In his last piece for the site and titled ‘Through a Vancouverite eyes: Filipinos in Lotusland’, Tobias reflected about his city.
Asking why Vancouver is often referred to as Lotusland, Tobias wrote: “Perhaps it is the slow-paced, laid-back way of life. It's a place where you can watch your toes while sipping a latte in the lotus position, and where no one admonishes you for not doing something more active, or something that may generate income. But hey, remember that eating of the lotus plant is supposed to induce a dreamy and contented state.”
In a tribute to Tobias, Canadian Filipino Net’s Prod and Eleanor Laquian described him as a “world wanderer” and a “man of many parts with many friends who loved him.
“He was always looking for ‘a place where his spirit can run free.’ He found ‘his corner of the sky’ in Vancouver, British Columbia. He became the quintessential Vancouverite – learning, earning, yearning and living for life. He made every minute of his life count.”