Joy Fernando had tried his hand in the military service, but realized it wasn’t for him. As a graduate of the John B. Lacson Maritime Colleges (now JBLMFU), he also found it hard to find a job as a seaman. Back then (circa 1979), aspiring seamen needed connections with the shipping agencies to be able to start sailing on the high seas. After two years in the Philippine Navy (with five months spent in the Spratly Islands), Fernando went to Manila to try his luck there.
The late Ruther Batuigas, a hard-hitting police reporter who also owned a security agency, hired him and assigned him at the Philippine Star owned by the late Betty Go-Belmonte. He was initially assigned on the night shift. And he started sketching with pencil and paper to ward off boredom. Fernando had no training in drawing; neither had he engaged in sketching before. “It was really starting from scratch,” Fernando said on my program, “Maayong Gab-i, Iloilo,” last Friday, July 13.
But what began as a way to combat boredom soon took root. His skills at portrait sketching improved, and he kept at it at every opportunity. One day, his boss happened to notice some of his sketches when she passed by his guard post. She liked what she saw. Boxing champion Gabriel “Flash” Elorde was in his deathbed at the time, and the Philippine Star had prepared a special issue as tribute in the event he died.
“Ma’am Betty invited me to join the stable of Philippine Star editorial cartoonists to sketch the portrait of Flash Elorde to accompany the lead article,” Fernando said. He knew it was going to give him the break he needed, and set out to render what was ultimately picked by Mrs. Belmonte as the sketch for the article.
That was how Fernando’s career as a portrait artist and art teacher was launched.
Listen to his story in this video on Facebook Live.