Jun Aquino: The artist with a punch!
By Emmanuel Rivera, RRT
Thu, 09 Jul 2020
July 8, 2020
Barangay Maribago, Lapu-Lapu City, Philippines
If you’re a fan of boxing, basketball and politics here in the Philippines and abroad, chances are you’ve seen his artwork in multi-media form (physical and virtual) ---charcoal, watercolor, clay, pencil, oils, for example. He’s been liberally called the personal, de facto or resident painter for the fighting Senator Emmanuel D. Pacquiao by respected broad sheets, titles he reluctantly accepts. To his friends, family and fans, however, he is simply (The Official) Jun Aquino.
Jun Aquino accepts citation from Quezon City government with his mother.
He discovered his passion for the arts at age 6 at his stomping grounds up in the hills of Antipolo, Rizal province.
His first paint brush was a lock of his mom’s hair tied to a stick. His first medium was liquified mud on paper, he relates. In college, he honed his skills studying Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City. He was in charge of political artwork for the venerated Philippines Free Press (est. 1908) for 25 years until it closed down in the mid-1970’s.
Jun Aquino proudly tries on a replica belt of WBA welterweight “super champion” Manny Pacquiao. (Photo by Emmanuel Rivera, MGM Grand, Pacquiao-Thurman, July 20, 2019).
Amidst the current pandemic against Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2)---an invisible nemesis but with visible, palpable debilitating effects on everything tangible in the world---we can take solace in seeing beauty through Jun Aquino’s eyes and masterful brush strokes.
Mr. Jun Aquino’s work reminds us of an old opening line in Edymion, a poem by John Keats.
A thing of beauty is a joy forever:
Its loveliness increases;
It will never pass into nothingness
It is with great pleasure to re-introduce Mr. Rodolfo “Jun” Aquino to our friends at PhilBoxing.com and PinoyGreats.com.
Through his celebrated body of work, we are reminded that beauty persists through art.
Q & A
How young were you when you knew you thought you had a knack for the creativity and the arts?
I remember back in kindergarten, I saw a passenger jeepney stuck in mud and the wheels were deeply buried on the ground. Immediately, I got a piece of paper and pencil to copy the scene. I wanted to colorize but I had no watercolor set at the time. I went out instead to get mud outside and applied it to the paper. I thought I was being resourceful but the result was a muddy mess.
Who influenced you as an artist?
Well, every child loves and idolizes cartoon superheroes. Copying improved my drawing skills. During breaks in school, my classmates often handed me their notebooks requesting me to draw any cartoon character in their mind. I could easily draw familiar subjects without reference.
My grandpa Vic Santiago had an underground room full of classic boxers’ posters hanging on his wall like Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and Gabriel “Flash” Elorde. He gave me a short history about the fighters and tested me if I could copy any boxer I chose. For every pencil drawing he gave me 25 centavos or 4 drawings for 1 peso. I spent my earnings buying chicks and ducklings for a pet near Antipolo Church.
After high school, age 17, my drawing skills led me to find a job as an editorial cartoonist of The Philippines Free Press---a weekly English language news magazine which was founded in 1908 and the Philippines' oldest weekly political magazine.
Art Director Mr. Ezmeraldo Izon was my mentor and he provided me with guidance and motivation.
What is your favorite medium, genre and subject?
Life begins with family and ends with family. I have been blessed with my beautiful wife Melody and our 21-year old son Andrew Kyle who is into film making and photography. My family is everything. I am what I am, thanks to my mother who discovered I have a talent in art.>
Do you have any art advocacies and groups you’re involved with and support?
A Painting by Mrs. Santiago.
I was the president of SKP---Samahang Kartunista ng Pilipinas (Philippine Cartoonists Society from 2017 to 2020). We had a lot of projects from teaching basic cartooning for kids, helping animal rescue centers, promoting and saving our rivers and seas and saving endangered species in the Philippines through art. We just finished doing cartoons to help prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus during the recent lockdown.
What are your current projects?
Because of this pandemic, my one-man exhibit of Sen. Manny Pacquiao in Toledo Art Museum in Ohio sponsored by Fight Tyme, March 2020 was moved for next year; even the "Art of Boxing" one-man art exhibit in Loews Hotel for West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame in Los Angeles, California originally set for October 2020 was postponed to March 2021. But during this lockdown, I’m doing some artwork for New Jersey Hospital and New York for Filipino-American health care providers.
What are some of your future endeavors and how do you see the Filipino artists making an impact in a world post Covid-19 (SARS CoV-2)?
Artists are finding creative ways to keep their jobs and income in this pandemic -it is survival of the fittest. Lockdown affects all kinds of jobs. We’re adjusting to a new reality and we’ll have to find solutions in order to support our family. I also think that this is the best time to be really creative.
What are some of your hobbies?
Painting World war 2 airplanes, from Mustang, Stukas, Corsairs and Great Britain’s Spitfires. Maybe in the future I can showcase some of my exclusive World War 2 work including naval legends like Japan’s Yamato and the great Musashi. I’m learning to play the piano again playing with my dog Choco, shadow boxing and weights daily to keep me in shape.
Who are your favorite sporting heroes.
My first 10 in Boxing are: Manny Pacquiao followed by Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Rocky Marciano, Pancho Villa, Gabriel “Flash” Elorde, Henry Armstrong, Joe Frazier, Ray Robinson, Tommy Hearns.
Basketball first five: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Dr. Julius Erving, Kyrie Erving and Stephen Curry.
How does it feel to be recognized by the West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame?
I was the first Asian artist to be honored in The Art of Boxing Category by Mr. Rick Farris and Dan Hanley. Even today, I still cannot believe it happened. It is such an honor to be recognized by the West Coast Boxing Hall of fame in the USA. In 2021, our very own Ceferino Garcia will also be inducted.
Any parting thoughts for the boxing fans, particularly the Pinoys and the Filipino-Americans?
I wish one day here in the Philippines we could have a Boxing Hall of Fame Awards Night---something we can call our own.
Mr. Rick Farris, President West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame
A few months before our 2016 West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame event, I was introduced a friend of Manny Pacquiao, who happened to be one of the highest awarded political artists in the Philippines, Mr. Jun Aquino. At the time, I was planning the induction of the great Henry Armstrong into the WCBHOF and Jun showed me his recent painting of the boxing legend.
It was amazing!
So impressed with it I asked his permission to feature it on the cover of our annual souvenir journal. Mr. Aquino proceeded to paint brilliant portraits of every inductee of our second annual event. That year, Jun Aquino was also inducted into the WCBHOF's original "Art of Boxing" designation. Every year since meeting Mr. Jun Aquino, he paints our inductees, and each is presented their personal art by the artist himself.
To date, Mr. Jun Aquino, has painted 68 West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame legends. It is the ultimate compliment.
My knowledge of legendary Filipino boxing champions and respect for their contribution to West Coast boxing history has been recognized every year. In addition to Jun Aquino, we have inducted Pancho Villa, Gabriel "Flash" Elorde and Ceferino Garcia. The greatest boxers of the Philippines will continue to be honored, and their history will be shared.
Robert Lyons, President and CEO Starflite International Inc.
Jun Aquino is the best. He’s one of the all-time good guys. I know he’ll love these pictures. Here’s the story behind these photos. Jun had once told me he’s a big Chicago Bulls fan. Bill Wennington played in the final three championships with Michael Jordan, and if you watch the documentary The Last Dance, Bill was a prominent character in it. I had told Jun I was going to bring Bill Wennington to Manny Pacquiao’s house and I would like for him to be there and meet Bill. I had told him in the morning and we got there about 6 O’clock in the evening and lo and behold he painted this painting of Bill Wennington.
It was such a great moment you could tell Jun was a little nervous.
I’ve known Bill Wennington for a long time and again he’s one of the all-time good guys who’s currently an announcer with the Chicago Bulls. Bill grew up in Canada played on the Canadian Olympic team.
That night when we were eating dinner I asked Bill Wennington if he had a painting of himself or has anyone drawn his portrait. He told me no and that this was the first one. He knew exactly where he was going to put it in the house and he didn’t care what his wife or anyone else. He had the perfect spot for it. Bill is a big, knowledgeable boxing fan and he was so grateful and honored that Manny Pacquiao actually signed it as well.
(L-R) Emmanuel Rivera, Jun Aquino, Lorie DeoLeo, Robert Lyons (MGM Grand, July 19, 2019)
A Gallery of Mr. Jun Aquino’s Work
Robert Downy, Jr. ----IRON MAN
In another lifetime, it will be forever…
Senator Emmanuel D. Pacquiao and Mr. Jun Aquino.
Not Floyd Mayweather’s Garage.
Earvin “Magic” Johnson.
Nora Aunor with Jun Aquino.
Dr. Carmencita Agcaoili with Jun Aquino at San Francisco Consulate General.
(L-R) Dr. Ed de la Vega and Jun Aquino collaborating on Manny Pacquiao’s Mouthgard for Champions.
Click here to view a list of other articles written by Emmanuel Rivera, RRT.
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