Late Fil-Am historian and community leader Dawn Mabalon honored at SF art exhibit

SAN FRANCISCO — Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is traditionally a Mexican holiday in which friends and family members celebrate the deceased.

Here at SOMArts, the dead are honored through the 20th installation of the Dia de los Muertos exhibition.

“We have artists from all over the world gathered here presenting work, installations, videos about truly what it means to honor the dead, and to remember someone, and to honor someone’s legacy,” said Rio Yanez.

Drawing from the similar Catholic and indigenous traditions between Mexico and the Philippines — the exhibit also honors Dr. Dawn Bohulano Mabalon, a Filipina American educator and community historian who passed last year.

The exhibit on her, done by Kimberley Acebo Arteche, Terry Bautista, and Dara Katrina del Rosario, depicts the life and legacy of Doctor Mabalon shown through pictures, her books, and momentos donated from her family and the community.

The former professor at San Francisco State University is remembered for her life long work of documenting and highlighting the Filipino American experience, most notably the stories of Filipinos immigrating to her hometown of Stockton, California.

“Up to this day they still look up to her. Some people when I get to meet them they regret not taking her class, regret not meeting her in person but they read about her book and what she’s all about, about Little Manila. So it’s the legacy. It’s still continuing,” said husband Jesus Preez Gonzales.

Mabalon’s work continues to reach people throughout the world through her award-winning book “Little Manila is in the Heart: The Making of the Filipina/o American Community in Stockton, California”.

And one of her last pieces now reaches the younger generation with a children’s book she co-authored “Journey for Justice: The Life of Larry Itliong”.

“I want people to know she was a whole person. She was an amazing academic, amazing historian, amazing activist. But she was also a daughter, a sister, a wife, a friend. And it’s so beautiful because the exhibit allows that to happen, for you to see those identities,” said Dr. Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales.

“This is very great and quite an honor. And if Dawn was here she would be smiling and bringing her own ube cupcakes.”

The Dia de los Muertos exhibits is open now until November 8th.

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