I had too many stories from the Tubo Cebu Art Fair for one post. So, I shared them in the weeks that followed over different diary entries. Here they are.



In August 2021, I saw a beautiful coffee-painting depiction of Dr. Christine Cusi @happydoc_ph posted in the Internet. So I private messaged the artist – Alyssa @alyssachristine__xp – to tell her how I loved her drawing. We became friends. During Crystal Faith Neri @nericrystal’s hospital stays related to childbirth, Alyssa helped us in printing documents needed for insurance claims. This was a time when my book project was still a fleeting consideration. Alyssa seemed to be the perfect person to consult because she didn’t know me well personally and I could get real talk opinion from an artist. She would meet me in the hospital hallways to listen to me as I pitched my book idea and showed her working pages in my tablet. Because of this, Alyssa’s name and photo appear in my book’s acknowledgment chapter.

When we needed our son Jax to see a developmental pediatrician earlier this year, I found out it was one of the most in-demand fields of medical practice with up to 1-year waits for doctor’s appointments. Truth be told, it had also been decades since I reconnected with Chris Cusi and I only did so in 2021 to chat her up about Alyssa’s portrayal of her. Yet, Dr. Cusi was kind enough to accommodate us during her off-clinic hours.

In the 2023 Tubô Cebu Art Fair @tubocebuartfair, both Alyssa and Dr. Cusi visited my booth at the same time. It turned out they had never met each other before. What are the chances of them meeting for the first time right in front of me in my own art booth – two years after Alyssa drew Dr. Cusi? I would never have guessed that. It was serendipity. One of the many things art can do is bring people together. And this is a good example of that.



“Your drawing of me was the most likes and shares I ever got in social media,” said Filipino sports icon and bowling legend @paeng_nepomuceno

referring to my late 2021 depiction of him that made the rounds in the Internet. “I think that made the post office remember me,” he said referring to the 75th anniversary commemorative PhilPost stamps that included him among ten world-renowned Filipino living legends.

My drawing also made Paeng accept my invitation to be part of my art book, and come over for the Tubo Cebu Art Fair. There, we met Reuben Gochoco, a Departnment of Education worker, who tipped us that Abellana National School recently renamed one of their class sections to “Grade 8-Nepomuceno” to forward their sports advocacy.

Humbled by that piece of information, Paeng Nepomuceno made an unannounced visit to the school the very next morning. He walked into a classroom where there was an ongoing parents-students activity. They were all pleasantly surprised that the namesake of their very class – Grade 8-Nepomuceno - was right there in the flesh sharing inspiring words, posing for photos, and signing cards.

During the @tubocenuartfair, Paeng met @kennethcobonpue – a furniture design icon who was also among the featured individuals in those post office stamps. It was the first meeting between these two world renowned Filipinos as declared by the Philippine Post Office in its anniversary stamps. “I actually own one of his tables,” admitted Paeng referring to Kenneth Cobonpue who Paeng said also designed the stamps.

It seems Paeng’s recognition bestowed by the Philippine Post Office must have helped bring his past sporting accomplishments to the attention of Abellana National School to name a section after him. His participation in my book led to his attendance in the Tubo Cebu Art Fair which in turn led to his chance meeting with Cobonpue. All of this started with just one drawing… one piece of artwork.

I guess there is a moral of this story for all artists: never ever underestimate the power and impact of art! Let's keep making art!



When I asked for Jun Impas' autograph during the ARTabang charity event in 2013, he made quite a lasting impression because he affixed his signature vertically, not to mention he is also left-handed.

When I was attending a godparents' seminar for Bayani and Pam's Alonzo in Sacred Heart Chapel, I noticed a majestic large painting by the altar with an unmistakable signature - Jun Impas'.

Ever since then, I became a huge fan of his vibrant realistic art, which I would always encounter and admire in other art displays. The best collection of his art I've seen was in the attic of his scenic mountain view place Florentino's. I eventually found out that it was my mom Nelia who cut the ribbon in Jun's first one man show in Montebello. That and other facts are contained in his book Pangandoy: The Art of Jun Impas.

In the Tubo Cebu Art Fair, I went to his booth with the intention of getting his book. He graciously accepted the offer of a book swap and was kind enough to put a dedication. The fan in me was more than excited. He's not just a great artist but also a great human being. I urge you all to get his book. His life story from humble beginnings and his art philosophy are very compelling reads. Credit to Jay for beautifully putting them all into words.



“People were lining up to get to my booth!” Yes, that is true but it all happened after the Art Fair closed. So the statement needs some context.

After all other artists had left, my booth was still around because of these factors: my inexperience in taking down booths being in my first art fair; the fact that I had 18 artworks; and so many heavy books to load to the car! I was physically and mentally drained from these past three grueling days.

However, there were still the Tubô Cebu Art Fair volunteers inside the mall. I felt they too must have been drained having gone through the same things as me, or even more. So I shouted to all of them: “Guys, I just want to thank you for working so hard. If you want, just come to my booth and get some postcards and stickers!” Yes, this merchandise that my able team – Jim and Jan (they are another diary entry coming) – worked so hard to sell the past three days was now being given away for free. But it was for the volunteers, and I feel they deserved it.

So they lined up in my booth and picked whatever they wanted among my sports drawings that were turned into stickers and postcards. I thought it was a memorable sight, so I mustered whatever energy I had left to go upstairs and take this photo. People lining up to my booth actually happened -– but after closing time! Thank you to all the @tubocebuartfairVolunteers!



While booths were open as early at 10am, the fair’s actual opening ceremony was set at 7pm. Thus, the book launch, which started at 5pm, was the first onstage event kicking off the @tubocebuartfair. And it was hosted by non-other than my super-niece @nininerini_, who is among those I dedicate my book to.

To cut a long story short, Nini nailed her hosting gig. Even my guest of honor @paeng_nepomuceno was asking me who was that very good host. Then @nericrystal and I explained that she was my niece and was also the host during our wedding 8 years ago.

Fast forward to the last day of the art fair, I was looking for a nice remembrance souvenir from this - my first art fair participation. I actually have a lot of empty trading card cases because two years ago I sold my basketball cards to raise funds for my impending fatherhood.

I saw Queen Wèi's booth, which she shared with equally amazing water colorist Richard Romeo Arts. She was selling sketch cards, done with pen and ink - which is my favorite medium. Even in my sports art, I actually use pen and ink to outline the colored figures – although it doesn’t look quite obvious. I am also partial to small art because of the intricacies needed to execute in such a small medium. And Queen Wei even uses the same Pigma Micron pens as me.

The clincher was that one of her subjects was the Pokemon character Pikachu. A little over two decades ago when I was a student, I went Christmas shopping with my late law school classmate Ria. She suggested I get the Pikachu kiddie backpack for Nini. So I did and I am sure Nini still remembers that backpack. What better souvenir to close the fair than one that reminds me of my niece who did a great job for me opening the fair.



She is known as Mariz but most of the exhibitors call her Ma’am Stela. Putting everything together is her specialty. Workaholic is her trait. Four years ago, I also worked with her but for something else entirely different – musical instruments, stage, screen and gear during an alumni homecoming. After our band’s gig and the audience all gone, I took a selfie with Stela Mariz (see 2019 inset photo) after we were both dead tired. It was as if to say: “we did it!” The

@tubocebuartfair 9seemed exponentially more difficult to coordinate than that alumni homecoming. But Mariz still did it.

As for the fair director @allenaatan, I’ve known him since grade school so I know him well. He is a devoted family man who does so many other things: runs business establishments; keeps in shape through sporting activities; and engages in a very broad range of hobbies and interests. In short, he has a lot going on in his life and he doesn’t need to be fair director. He does all this purely out of his advocacy and belief in all the artists.

It was actually in a Christmas 2022 dinner among batchmates (upper photo) that Allen told us about the Tubo Art Fair. There, he asked me to pinky promise to participate in 2023 since he knew I loved to draw. A week later, he texted me to finish my book by then. In June 2023, I presented the first prototype of my book. Mariz also came so it felt familiar and comforting to know that she was handling the art fair, as I have high trust in her.

It was approaching midnight on Sunday and I was probably one of the last artists to leave Ayala Center Mall. As I said goodbye to them, they were still staying and working. Thank you, we all appreciate you!



“I believe the children are our future.” I always have, always will. When it comes to the youth, I have one simple approach: Listen.

My interactions with the young who came to my booth in the @tubocebuartfair were among the most memorable ones. By listening to the young Gam, I fished out that she brought her sketchbook that she reluctantly showed to me after much prodding. Then I opened my bag and showed her my own sketchbook (I bet 99% of the adults visting my booth didn’t even know I brought a sketchbook). When she seemed comfortable enough with me, I gave her some tips to which she was so grateful.

She is just one example. Whenever young people come to my booth, I ask them if they draw. And if I got a yes, I’d always ask to see their work. I also invite them to add me in any of my social media accounts. Some who took up that offer have even said: “is it ok if I ask art tips from you?”

I made sure to have postcards and stickers in my booth as options for students who could not afford my book. Then I realized my book supposed to cater to them because there, I included so many of my drawings as a kid. It supposed to let them realize that if a seven year old me could draw that bad but still improve over time, then they can do it too. But how can I show them this, if they couldn’t get my book?

I decided to give it as a pdf download to all these new young artist friends. For a book I worked so hard to make and spend so much to publish, I just gave it away for free to the young ones (to those who haven’t gotten theirs, send me a pm). After all, I believe the children are our future.



I just like to give a shoutout to my batchmates for Sacred Heart School Batch 1994 for coming over and visiting the booth.  Everytime I ask people to take our pictures, I would always say: these are my batchmates.  I did not expect this many of them to come to the art fair but it was a welcome sight.  I didn’t have pictures will all of them as some just dropped by quickly or we forgot to take pictures.  But this is a good sample size.

The last time I saw most of them was in our December grand alumni homecoming in 2019 when we were the 25th anniversary host batch.  That turned out to be the last big party before the pandemic struck us.  But it was a wonderful party as it was organized by Allen Arvin A. Tan and Stela Mari.  

Today under different circumstances, it’s still Allen and Mariz organizing things but this time it is the Tubô Cebu Art Fair.  So this is an appropriate post because it is fair director Allen’s birthday.  Happy Birthday Allen!


Interactions with Artists

The @tubocebuartfair inspired me as I saw artists in action or listened to them talk about their craft.

Across me was young architecture student Kent in the PASPI booth always doing live sketching with his great hands and feel. Fascinating was the sight of left handed Richard Romeo and right handed Queen Wei collaborating on the same board.

An artist who captures likenesses very well was offering live sketches for a criminally low P200! Ronyel Compra was describing his process in his t-shirt where no two will look exactly alike. I bought two, including his Philippine Constitution because it was my highest bar exam subject grade.

During Artist's Night in UP Cebu, I dropped by for literally 10 minutes only just to drink water and get dessert. I did catch artists jamming, creating some sort of trance-like hypnotic instrument music with hints of chants. Mind-blowing!

The following day, there was the public interaction in the middle of Ayala Mall in the Tubo Talks. It was my first time to interact with fashion designer Oj Hofer and architect Jonas Pacifico, whose fields of expertise and art style are so different from mine. Unscripted, it could have been a hot meandering mess. But from most accounts, our talk was enlightening for the audience. I'd credit moderator Jay Jore for a splendid job.

I could go on and on but this is getting long and I'm running out of space so this is it for this entry!



Art is usually not a top advocacy for politicians. Maybe those in the art world don't deliver as many votes as basketball leagues or barangay leaders. But oftentimes, works of art are also social commentary and can be a guiding light for politicians in their policy-making.

That's why I am proud of my cousin Vice Mayor. @raymondalvingarcia . He was the one who opened the @tubocebuartfair. He also opened the Arts Month launch. And so far in his term as Vice Mayor, he is the public official who has been such a strong proponent for the arts through cultural and heritage preservation, and recognition of the contribution of the great Cebuano artists. I am sure he is greatly influenced by his parents, Tito Alvin and Tita Ninette -both of who brought me to the Carcar residence of Cebuano art legend Martino Abellana back in the eighties when he was still around.

As I was in the fair all three days, I don't recall bumping into other public officials except for Parañaque councilor Jomari Yllana and his lovely wife Abby who visited my booth and got a book. It was a pleasure meeting them and I heard Jomari is in his last term as councilor. With a background from the performing arts, I think his passion for the arts can be similar to Raymond's.



My biggest thanks to @itsjanayca and @jimawatowee for joining me in this book launch journey. With no experience in hanging frames, I needed the help of these two fine fresh Fine Arts graduates from UP Cebu to setup my booth in the @tubocebuartfair. A big thanks to @youvebeenjayed and Mariz for the referral.

Since they came from the product design track of Fine Arts, I wasn't sure if they'd be interested in teaming up with me selling a book with sports art. They even are not big sports fans themselves. Yet, they embraced my journey every step of the way - going above and beyond. They attended my press conference, helped me frame my art, and also accompanied me to the printers to inspect the book project. They went downtown shopping to get materials. They burned the midnight oil to setup the booth.

During the three-day fair proper, they both displayed knowledge about the contents of my book, meaning they read it beforehand. They also worked with genuine enthusiasm which also made me feel like they had really embraced my art and my book.

The booth and the art fair was just really a side trip in their journey. They hope to someday go into the design industry, such as furniture. So when @kennethcobonpue visited my booth, I made sure to introduce them to him. If they apply with Cobonpue or any other firm, I will give them my highest recommendation. They are the unsung heroes of my successful book launch and art fair participation. I could not have done it without them. And since I read it's Jim's birthday today, please allow me to greet him... Happy Birthday, Jim!

Jovi Neri
November 8, 2023

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