Suyomano: A platform for Filipinos yearning to reconnect with their roots

CEO and co-founder Mary Lou Cunanan: ‘I wanted to give justice to the beauty, depth and diversity of our culture.’

By Zia Kalong

Suyomano is a virtual platform focused on cultural learning experiences touching on local languages, indigenous tribal cultures and medicine, mythology, traditional martial arts, food and beyond. Suyomano is made up of two unique Tagalog words:  “Suyo” which means gentle affection and “mano” which is a gesture of respect.

“We believe that bringing forth the best of Filipino cultural heritage will spark a global movement that will connect people around the world through cultural understanding,” said CEO and co-founder Mary Lou Cunanan.

Cunanan worked at the U.S. State Department and lived in Virginia for almost a decade. She went back to the Philippines after spending time in Southeast Asia, got her MBA, and founded Suyomano.

With the pandemic forcing traditional four-cornered classrooms to evolve into e-learning platforms, there is a newfound interest in online language learning.  An article by NBC News explores how Asian Americans used the quarantine to learn their families’ languages. The article featured Suyomano’s cultural classes: “For these Asian Americans, it starts with a shared appreciation for the language and a desire to pass it down generations. Learning is an opportunity to come together and reconnect with their roots.” As Suyomano’s Jackielyn Junio puts it, “Learning our language, traditions and history are all essential to understanding ourselves.”

The idea of reconnecting with one’s roots has become a salient theme recently. Just last November, Disney UK released the its Filipino-themed Christmas Advertising featuring the heartwarming story of a lola and her apo. As a family-oriented people, Filipinos are no strangers to stories like this. Many Filipino grandchildren share a special bond with their grandparents, often built throughout childhood and cemented through adulthood.

That’s why we always find ourselves going the extra mile to send out pasalubong (souvenirs) and balikbayan boxes from wherever we are, craving lutong bahay (home-cooked meals) like Adobo and Sinigang, and lining up to the nearest Jollibee store whenever we miss home. No matter where we go, something inside us is always yearning for a taste of home.

This is why we believe in preserving and teaching the next generation the Filipino language. We believe that language plays a key role in the expression and transmission of cultures.

There are over 10 million Filipinos living and working all over the world. We are a global people. We have a knack for thriving where we’re planted. It’s who we are, and it’s our job to keep and protect that identity for the futures to come.

We at Suyomano curate carefully crafted courses on Filipino culture, language, arts, traditions, and destinations, featuring experts and leaders from every field and industry both at home and abroad. Value, authenticity, and diversity are at the heart of the work we do.

In support of cultural heritage preservation, for example, we are proud to partner with Lyn Lambago, a T’boli artist and cultural worker, in honoring the T’boli culture as proceeds of Lyn’s classes go to her tribal T’boli house. 

“I have always dreamt of a platform that celebrates, promotes, and preserves the wonders of the Filipino culture,” said Cunanan. “Our culture is so rich and unique, and I wanted to give justice to its beauty, depth and diversity.”

All of our classes are online and can be accessed anywhere in the world, offering our students full freedom and physical safety from the ongoing threat of the pandemic. 

Many of our kababayans had to leave everything behind in pursuit of opportunities abroad, to provide for their children and families. We offer this as an ode to their sacrifice, hoping to retrieve what was lost somewhere in between.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: