Photo by Yanna Tupas

Before Thriving, Vic Fario Suffered For Art

By Althea Villanueva

Playful. Vibrant. Deep: the first three adjectives I always think of when I see Sir Vic Fario’s paintings.

Whether in various art exhibitions in museums, galleries, or malls, seeing Sir Vic’s paintings are like entering through a door to my childhood memories made alive in vibrant colors of oil, acrylic and watercolor, when my environment was richer and well-nurtured.

I first saw one of his paintings in an art exhibit at Museo Iloilo back in 2015. I only knew later that the painting was a self-depiction of him, a man holding a cross in his right hand that symbolized his faith in God amidst the struggles of his situation. That was a far cry from the most primary subjects he depict in his paintings nowadays: children.

When we finally crossed paths in a small meeting for aspiring artists organized by a friend, it was revealed to me that Sir Vic was heading the art group. I was grateful for that event because, until today, I consider him to be one of my mentors in art.

I was also to learn later that he had a sad story to share. However, what he went through molded the artist that I am now writing about here.

vic fario lin-ay sang villa painting - project iloilo
Vic Fario’s ‘Lin-ay Sang Villa’. Photo by Yanna Tupas.

First Love

Born as Vicente G. Fario in Jordan, Guimaras, Sir Vic’s family moved around a lot when he was still a child. The plainspoken way he narrated his bittersweet childhood seemed like I was watching his life in documentary form.

Nage-enjoy gid ako sa nature. From house, gapa-school kami, daw three-kilometer walk. May ara gina-agyan nga suba, rice fields, fruit-bearing trees. That time ina ang gina-enjoy ko sa Guimaras, nature-tripping,” Sir Vic said. “Pero daw nag-stop kay nag-eskwela ko pagka-Grade 4 sa Manila upod ang akon sisters nga ga-work didto. Pero tuloy man gihapon ang pag-drawing ko. Kay gamay pa lang ako, amo na ang hilig ko.

[I really enjoyed nature. We walked three kilometers from our house just to go to school. We would be able to pass through rivers, rice fields and fruit-bearing trees. Those were the times I enjoyed in Guimaras, nature-tripping. But that stopped because I stayed with my sisters who were working in Manila to continue studying in Grade 4. But I still continued drawing. It was already my passion even when I was still a little child.]

I felt a portion of him—one that must be enjoying the innocence of childhood—taken away at that stage of his life. Thankfully, his sisters helped him go home to Guimaras and, with their financial backing, finished high school. He then began to dream of studying Fine Arts in Manila.

Pero parang imposible. Pulo kami nga mag-ululutod. Ang sisters ko, hindi man nakatapos sang pag-eskwela. Paano pa ako ayhan maka-eskwela sang Fine Arts, tapos sa Manila pa?” He pondered. “Pero dream ko gid ina, daw first love ba.

[It seemed impossible. We were ten siblings in the family, and my sisters had not even finished their studies. How could I be able to study Fine Arts, and at Manila, at that? But it’s really my dream, like it was my first love.]

I flashed back to the first course I ever loved. I felt my heart getting crushed.

ilonggo's pride by vic fario - project iloilo
Vic Fario posing beside his work, ‘Ilonggo’s Pride’. Photo by Yanna Tupas.

Going At It Alone

Despite his family’s financial instability, Sir Vic pursued his dream of becoming an artist by going back to Manila by himself. He was eager.

To support himself, he got a job as a janitor in an agency, jumping from one work place to another. On Saturdays, he enrolled in art classes, hoping he could fulfill his dream through it.

Pero na-frustrate ako. Kasi pagdating ko doon, nanginginig na yung kamay ko. Hindi na ako makapag-drawing ng maayos. So I have (sic) to stop. Either ang trabaho ko o yung art class. Pakiramdam ko asta janitor na lang gid ako,” Sir Vic said.

[But I became frustrated. When I arrived in Manila, my hands were already shaking. I couldn’t even draw well. So I had to stop. It’s either my work or the art class. I felt being a janitor would be as far as I get.]

Grabe yung naging inferiority complex ko. Kay knowing nga janitor ka, halin ka pa sa probinsya, mag-Tagalog ka (kag) daw Binisaya pa. Waay man gahambal ang mga tawo directly (sa akon), but ang self-pity sa akon ara.

[My inferiority complex was a big issue. I was a janitor from province and I spoke Tagalog with a heavy Visayan accent. No one ever said anything about this to me directly, but I felt a strong sense of self-pity.]

Yet those frustrations led him to a church community in Barrio Maricaban, Pasay City. Through his involvement there, he realized he was stuck in self-pity and the need to keep up a false sense of identity. Until today, he credited his artistic breakthrough to his spiritual enlightenment.

From there on, Sir Vic’s new season of life began.

Without worrying about how to survive in Manila, he gave up his three-year stint as a janitor so he could train as a priest in the same Pasay community. As he was about to enter the seminary, he was advised to take up a minimum of 72 units in college to meet the school’s requirements. All along, he thought his dream to study Fine Arts died. This gave him an opening.

Sir Vic took up Fine Arts at the Philippine Women’s University and completed the required 72 units at the age of 27. Art might have been the farthest thing from his mind at that moment, but his dream of creating art was also rekindled because of it. Sir Vic had another choice to make: should he be a priest to serve the community, or should he continue pursuing his dream of becoming an artist?

Pakiramdam ko temptation iyon para hindi ako magpatuloy. Kaya ang ginawa ko, nag-stop ako sa college,” he said of that time. Bumalik muna ako sa Guimaras. Nag-pray ako na ‘let His will be done.’ Kay bal-an ko diin man ako maapok, gamiton man ako gihapon ni God for His purpose.”

[I felt I was tempted so I would not continue with my vocation. So I stopped college and went back to Guimaras. I prayed to God to let His will be done because I know that wherever God will place me, I’ll still be used for His purpose.]

vic fario at hiyas sang villa ii - project iloilo
Vic Fario was one of the featured artists at the art exhibit, ‘Hiyas sang Villa II’. Photo by Yanna Tupas.

An Artist, A Missionary

Sir Vic stayed at Guimaras for only a year. He then went back to Manila and, in three years, got a degree in Fine Arts. Then he went back again to continue what he started in Maricaban. This time, Sir Vic was confident of what he wanted to be: a missionary artist.

It was there where he met his wife, Mary Ann, a former day care teacher and a social worker. They have a child named Claire who is now studying at the School for the Arts in Iloilo National High School.

Real life, of course, still continued. Being a devoted missionary and an artist wasn’t easy for Sir Vic and his family. There came several health conditions that needed surgical operations, hospital bills paid with post-dated checks, and other financial and emotional challenges.

“It came to a point nga ginpamangkot ko na si God ngaa. But still, ang prayer ko that time, ‘let His will be done’. Ma-serve man ako gihapon kahit amo na ang gakalatabo.”

[It came to a point where I asked God why these things kept happening. But still, my prayer was to ‘let His will be done’. I will still serve Him, even when these misfortunes were happening.]

It was his faith that helped him endure. His sisters and leaders in their church community helped his family surpass those challenges. He said it even didn’t cross his mind at first that this might have been God’s way of listening to his cries. And the blessings didn’t stop there; opportunities to teach opened up for Sir Vic. His career became so fruitful that he was even able to pass his blessings back to his hometown of Guimaras.

Today, with all of these life experiences and lessons, Sir Vic’s love for art and missions grew exponentially. It might be a rollercoaster ride at times, but he believes it only challenges him to become stronger in his faith.

Na-realize ko nga sa tanan nga naagyan ko, it was God’s tool for me to flourish sa akon nga painting career. Gabalik man ako gihapon sa pagpipinta sang childhood memories, which was na-miss out ko noong bata pa ako. And the fact nga I’m a full-time missionary and artist na at the same time (bisan) gin-give up ko man ang teaching career ko.”

[I realized that in all the things I went through, they were God’s tool for me to flourish in my painting career. I always go back to painting the childhood memories I missed. And the fact that I’m now a full-time missionary and artist at the same time, even though I gave up on my teaching career.]

To those harboring great dreams like Sir Vic did, check this out:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

Althea Villanueva is a staff by weekdays, a volunteer on weekends, and a freelance writer and art-preneur by night.