Make art, and be good, be good, be good I


The first time I went to UP Diliman in Quezon City was when my high school friends and I went there last 2009. I remember little details like the wide open spaces of grass, some insects I wasn’t familiar with, and visiting our friend, Athena.

The second time happened yesterday, April 23, behind the brown doors of the RGEP Room, behind the square patch of bamboo trees, in the College of Fine Arts.

It was a windy day in UP for the Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan (Ang InK) Orientation Seminar 2016.

I’ve always wanted to write and illustrate stories. I don’t know how and when it started, but gradually over time, the interest began to sprout and grow into passion. I wanted to share the lessons I’ve learned from God, my family and friends, people I’ve met, strangers, life in general, and personal experiences to children and children-at-heart. I also began collecting children’s literature, because I have a specific dream for this collection someday!


This is the little library as of October 2014. There are more now! I bought Langgam and Tipaklong too not just for its timeless moral but for a sentimental reason as well. I remember reading this when I was younger, and it stuck with me since, like the Little Golden Books that my Mom and Dad gave to me as a child. 🙂 And suddenly, I remember the Berenstein Bears!

I think one of my inspirations too of joining Ang InK is because of this dream I have, that was inspired too by my Tita Cora who started a library for the community kids in a town in Cavite. But this will be for another story on another time. Thank you, Tita Cora. 🙂

There are lessons better understood in simplicity, through the eyes of a child. Stories are good places for us to include special things and memories in our life that could uplift someone, and also, uplift ourselves (and our younger selves, even).

When I submitted my application to Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan (Ang InK) last March 10, an association and non-profit organization of artists that aims to make and promote illustrations for children, I was saying to God and my Mom and Dad that it would be okay if I wouldn’t get in. I was already happy with the experience of drawing the illustrations which were part of the three requirements. And I was also not confident of my skills.

In second year high school (2006), I only began drawing more seriously. I had my own deviantArt account too where we could post our drawings and people could comment and save it as a favorite.

Except One

All children grow up except one, June 2010

One time, an anonymous person posted not so nice comments about my drawings. I can still remember what he called them. I remember hiding and marking the comments as spam to avoid seeing them whenever I see the works on my account that I’ve spent hours to finish well. I remember crying too. It hurt, but in retrospect, this taught me lessons.

You can learn. You can become better at your field, whichever field you are in, may it be engineering, culinary arts, carpentry, programming, architecture, agriculture, business, teaching, arts… You can practice. You can exceed the the goals you’ve set for yourself. You can say you did it even with the memory of people who carelessly let go of ill words towards your work. You know you’ve always done your best even when you were still starting. Yes, you can learn. Yes, you can sharpen your skills.


Charlie, 2008

But without a good attitude, the heart to create your work, and forgiveness to the people who hurt you or put a dent to your passion, your works would lack life and love. Do we do what we love with much interest, sacrifice, and our whole being, or do we do what we love with resentment and dangerous pride? Do what you love with the wrong intentions, and that would amount to less than your best.

So do the former.

Let’s try to be faithful, humble, and responsible stewards of the gifts we have been given, so our hearts and values will grow as well.

Last March 19, when I was feeling lonely and wanting to be with family, I received the news in my email that Ang InK accepted me as a member – as an Inkie! I truly couldn’t believe it… I have God, my family, and friends to thank. I have my friend Denise to thank too, because she informed me regarding the call for applicants this year! (Thank you, Denise!) Over the years, they have been relentless in believing in me, while I wasn’t. They are the reason I believe more and more in love and faith. They are the reason I am able to do what I love to do.

With these gifts graciously given to me by God, nurtured and supported unfailingly by my Mom and Dad ever since I started drawing, and believed in by my family and friends, I pray to be all heart in doing one of the things that I believe God wants me to do in this fleeting life, and that is to give light through words and illustrations for children and for anyone who wishes to see and love and trust like a child again.

Let’s give hope to children and pray that they grow to be loving, brave, and kind people because of the stories we make for them, the values we teach them, and the love we give them.

Pursue what you love to do with all your heart, whichever field you are in. The world needs you working hard and with heart, but most importantly, it needs you working hard and with heart for other people.

When I went aboard a jeep in the terminal in SM North EDSA, I was thankful that there was another passenger who will be going to UP. I planned of disembarking too wherever she would disembark, so I could ask where the College of Fine Arts was.

The driver dropped us off just near the Oblation. When I asked her, she told me that we had passed the place – the one by the waiting shed – but that I could walk to it as it was nearby. Happy that I was able to take a walk in the refreshing UP Diliman campus, I opted to not refer to Google Maps, as I find it an adventure to find the place I was looking for by just wandering.

Reaching the shed, I thought that I could either go straight or turn left where other jeepneys were going to. I kept a look out for a sign that says anything that I’ve reached CFA already.

Eventually, I reached a place to my right. It was a small place of classrooms with murals painted on the walls facing the road. I had felt an artsy vibe while passing by the place, but I decided to continue walking forwards.

But I was beginning to wonder where it could be, as there were no other streets going left to right. There were a few jeepneys and tricycles parked to the left side of the road. Just a few more meters away from me too, as far as my near-sighted vision could take me, was a gate.

“Bakit parang palabas na ako ng UP?” I thought. So I decided to turn around instead and go back. It was 9:25 AM – I still had time before the event started in 10 AM. I tried to use Google Maps now. I was able to locate the place, but somehow, the location services didn’t work properly, so I was still directionless and clueless but still happy with the adventure.

When I reached the place where the classrooms were again, I spotted a Ceramic Making workshop poster tied to the gate. I didn’t get to see it from my side when I reached the place for the first time earlier. On the text, I found “UP College of Fine Arts.” So could this be the place? The artsy vibe, the murals – they all pointed to the X on the map in my mind.

Luckily, there was a security guard. He was talking to two more of his friends or acquaintances. I asked where CFA was, and he said, “Ito na po.” He said the RGEP Room was just behind the patch of bamboo trees, the room with the brown doors. He also remarked that it was still closed, so I thought that maybe there weren’t any of us newbies yet who have arrived.

I walked from the gate and reached the RGEP Room.

I loved the area, the trees, the mosaic installations surrounding the bamboo trees, the sunlight through the tall trees, the quietness. Another person followed and arrived by the place. But there was still no one around the area, no sign, telling us that we could come in. But since we heard sounds coming from inside the room, I figured that they were still preparing, so my fellow visitor and I just stayed outside and waited.

After a while, someone opened the door, and I was just standing directly in front of the room, on the other side of the patch of bamboo trees (patch of bamboo trees – such a nice phrase I like writing!).

She had short hair and glasses. Later, she would introduce herself as Ara, one of the members of Ang InK! She asked, “Newbie?” I responded with a yes!


She beckoned for me and my fellow newbie to register and come in. Two more people came out, and they were Kev and Don.


Kuya Kev and Kuya Don had us sign, register, and write our names on neon green name tags.


And so we enter the RGEP Room! There were two or three newbies inside already. Suddenly, the feeling that I had sensed early in the morning started to intensify, started to declare its hold of me again. This was a feeling I had not felt since the first day of school in college. Before I had acid reflux in 2012, my stomach used to always feel queasy when an important event was about to happen – first day of classes, ceremonies, contests… Graded recitations. I felt it again here.

We waited for our other fellow newbies to arrive, while the officers continued in decorating the room. Somehow, this reminded me of the exam, probationary period, and my 4-year-long stay in The New Builder, the Official Student Publication of my alma mater, Mapúa. I missed it. I missed my friends there…

Ate Ara then proceeded to call us by our names and ask us to sit in our designated chairs. It was in alphabetical order, but they based on our first names. Since my nickname was Arli, I was seated at the front row, second seat from the right.

This never happened before! I would always sit at the back when it was in alphabetical order.

So my nervousness grew, but my Mom’s and Dad’s words that I should be assertive and steadfast remained in me.

I was seated next to a short-haired girl named Ana. We were able to talk to each other, and I was very happy. Meeting new people is an adventure in itself. She said she was a freelance graphic designer, and she assisted in a pottery shop just around the area. She reminded me of my classmate Nicole back in college! She said she was shy too, but once she gets to know people, she will be able to talk with ease. She had friends who got in Ang InK as well! Both of us were feeling nervous too that there might be an introduction.

I dread introductions. Ever since college. I truly need to embrace my shyness and let myself grow from it gradually. I don’t know but I felt like how a new student or a new employee would feel again during the event.

When everybody was seated, the hosts Ate Ara and Mr. Rev Cruz started the event. It was interesting to hear from them about how Ang InK started and their journey in the organization.


They also showed an animated video on Ang InK which I appreciated and wish I could see again.

After this, Ate Ara introduced to us Mr. Aldy Aguirre, one of the established InKies now in book illustration. His most recent works include the award-winning book The Little Girl in a Box. I loved his style – how he would portray his characters floating in a vast field or space. His art has a dreamy and soft quality to it.


He presented how he started off as an illustrator, still experimenting and discovering more of the style he wants his drawings to be in. He showed his earlier works too, and it’s always interesting to see an artist’s growth over the years. When he started giving advices in the last slides of his presentation, I took out my notebook and wrote what I learned from him.

  1. Give character to the main character – You have to add character and traits through interesting details that make the character him/her.
  2. Overall feeling of the book/illustration – When you look at the many illustrations in a book, there should be a unifying element in them. Each page should contribute to the main feeling you want to evoke in your readers.
  3. Get the right amount of being inspired – Mr. Aldy brought out one of the many elephants in the room, and it’s something that we know we’re doing but not addressing. I’m guilty of this too, when I would scroll through Tumblr or Instagram and get overwhelmed with all the inspiring artists I see. Inspiration is good, but there’s a danger to that when it stops you from being productive – you won’t be able to do your work anymore, as what our speaker had said. Big doses of inspiration could be poison that might lead you to doubt your own work or skill as well. Also, you wouldn’t want to consume, consume, consume, and forget to see, see, see. Your eyes only glance, scan the artwork on the screen, but we don’t let our mind perceive the story behind it. So when you decide that you’re filled with enough inspiration to get you working again, start on your project. In the words of Pablo Picasso, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”
  4. Have someone look at your works – Mr. Aldy said that he would show his works to an expert – his five-year-old child! And that is true! Children are experts at that. They are our main audience when we begin illustrating for them. If we could see the world through the eyes of a child, more possibilities of stories and illustrations come forth. It’s always good to have someone give honesty criticisms, especially when it’s coming directly from your main readers and from mentors who have been in the industry for so long.
  5. Rest please – Our speaker said that you have to rest after drawing or painting, because after you’ve taken your rest, you can still see afterwards what you can refine. This is something that I’ve learned too from Kuya Venz and Kuya James, two of the three Editors-in-Chief I’ve worked with back in college. Start writing the draft, finish it, sleep on it or rest first, then come back to it again – you will definitely find something you can improve on when you spent time away from it for a while.
  6. Don’t forget your why – You need to have something to go back to, something to keep you grounded, and that’s your why. When you lose focus or doubts creep in, you have to remind yourself over and over why you’re doing what you love in the first place.

At the end of his talk, we were given a chance to ask questions too.

Thank you for the inspiration and the advices, Mr Aldy! Happy Birthday too!

Ate Ara and Mr Rev then said it was time for lunch, so we all went out the room and got our… big burgers. I was surprised to see how big it was! One of the people I met there, Diigii, told me that the sibling of one of our fellow Inkies, Tristan, prepared the meals. It’s one of the best burgers I’ve ever had, and I’m not much of a burger person too! Thank you!

(Also, I got to go back to the south with Diigii, who is such a kind, fun, and warm person after the event! I’m thankful for the chance to meet new friends!) 🙂


While we got our paper cups and water too, I was able to talk to Ate Nerfs, one of my fellow Inkies. We talked about our favorite illustrators, and we both mentioned we liked Isabel Roxas’ artworks.


(I also got to say hello to a dog there who happened to pass by our area. 🙂

When I was finished with lunch, Ana introduced me to her friends: Mika, Diigii, and Christi. They were so fun!


And it’s nice too that I was able to meet Mika, because I follow her on Instagram and Tumblr. I love her illustrations too – the way she makes use of lines, textures, shapes, and curves. And color!

After lunch, Ate Ara and Mr Rev introduced us to our next speaker: Ms Liza Flores.

[Part II, to come soon…]






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s