The Romeo Forbes Children's Literature Initiative

The Romeo Forbes Children’s Literature Initiative is CANVAS’ Flagship Program, and the similarly named storywriting competition, its main annual activity. 

Named after the young and extremely talented artist who illustrated CANVAS’ maiden book, “Elias and His Trees,” the concept is simple.  A young Filipino artist is commissioned by CANVAS to create an original painting.  This work then becomes the centerpiece of an open writing competition where interested authors are called upon to submit children’s stories inspired by the painting.  The winning piece is finally illustrated still as large scale paintings by the same artist – officially designated as the Canvas Fellow for the year – and published as a full color children’s book, with the paintings, showcased as a major solo exhibition for the artist.

Since its launch in 2006, The Romeo Forbes Children’s Book Storywriting Competition has evolved into one of the country’s major writing contests – and the accompanying art exhibition, one of the most anticipated annually.  It now serves as a showcase for some of the country’s best young artists and writers, and the publication of world-class quality, full color children’s books (all downloadable for free!) provide highly accessible, non-intimidating vehicles to promote contemporary Philippine art and literature.

Looking For Juan

Through the Looking for Juan Program, CANVAS collaborates with hundreds of artists, musicians and writers each year on activities and events designed to explore the use of art to encourage debate and discussion on selected social issues.  Currently, CANVAS focuses on national identity, free expression, technology & culture, and sustainable development themes.

Past Looking for Juan Events include:

  • Reflections on Red - Michael Cacnio and Kwentista ng mga Tsikiting (KUTING) collaborate on a groundbreaking sculpture and children’s literature exhibition to explore Filipino virtues and vices.
  • Crux - A unique interaction between critically acclaimed artist Manny Garibay and internationally recognized poet Gelo Suarez results in a provocative and creative commentary on the role of the Church and government in contemporary Philippine society.
  • The Looking for Juan Outdoor Banner Project -  In this annual public art exhibition, dozens of artists, writers, graphic designers and photographers are asked to express, in an image, their views on themes relating to the idea of the Filipino identity.  Their artworks are printed onto banners, and displayed in pedestrian-friendly public spaces to create a new kind of experience that allows visitors to view and appreciate great art, and explore important social themes in a non-intimidating and creative environment.  After closing, the banners are recyled into tote bags and sold as one-of-a-kind works of functional art. 
  • The Pacific Rim Parks Project - Survivor met Habitat for Humanity as 25 art and architecture students from all over the world converged on Puerto Princesa City in Palawan where they designed and built a Friendship Park - all in 30 days. 
  • Dekalogo - CANVAS asked ten artists from the famed Salingpusa collective -- Elmer Borlongan, Karen Flores, Manny Garibay, Neil Manalo, Ferdie Montemayor Jim Orencio, Anthony Palomo, Jose Santos III, Tammy Tan, and Cris Villanueva -- to reflect on and interpret Apolinario Mabini’s "The True Decalogue", Mabini's ten commandments that were framed to meet the needs of Filipino patriotism for all time. The artworks were then integrated with the words to create thought-provoking "Vote Wisely" posters as a collective contribution to public discourse during the national elections of 2010.

CANVAS also owns and operates the Looking for Juan Gallery and Gardens, as an alternative art space for young and emerging Filipino artists.

For more information, please visit

Canvas Downstream

CANVAS works to create additional revenue streams and creative outlets for showcasing the works of young Filipino artists and writers.  This includes providing research and development assistance, as well as distribution and retail support, for the creation of downstream merchandise based on their works.

For more information, please visit

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