The Romeo Forbes Story Writing Competition

The Romeo Forbes Children’s Story Writing Competition: Marrying Beautiful Art and Moving Story

What story can you see in this image?

This is the question that CANVAS’ Romeo Forbes Children’s Story Writing Competition asks at each contest season.  

The first and only of its kind, CANVAS commissions a local Filipino artist to come up with a painting or sculpture and writers are invited to create a story based on the image. That same artist will then bring the winning story to life through a series of at least 20 new artworks. These are finally showcased in a major solo exhibition and used as illustrations for the ultimate offspring of this unique collaboration: a full-color children’s book.  

Becky Bravo’s The Rocking Horse was the first story to win the competition. She bested 85 other Filipino writers with her poignant story of a father’s love for his son. It comes as no surprise – Becky Bravo is a multi-Palanca winner. The Rocking Horse won the Gintong Aklat Award in 2008 while Elmer Borlongan’s paintings that accompanied Bravo’s story sold out in two short hours.

All books from the competition come in both English and Filipino translations and are downloadable for free here on our website. The competition is an integral part of CANVAS’ One Million Books for One Million Filipino Children Campaign. 

Johanna Helmuth's Contest Piece 

Rules and Conditions

1. The Romeo Forbes Children's Story Writing Competition is open to all Filipinos.

2. Entries must not have been previously published, and all entrants must warrant the originality of their submitted entries.

3. Writers may submit only one entry, in English or Filipino, which shall be of 1,000 words or less. This word limit is a strict and absolute limit. Even just one word above the limit will be enough to disqualify an entry.

4. There is no particular theme, other than the use of this year's contest piece, a new work (shown above) by artist Johanna Helmuth, as the inspiration or basis for the entry.

5. All entrants hereby agree to authorize CANVAS to post such entries on its website, as CANVAS deems fit, and free from any payments, royalties or fees whatsoever.

6. There shall be only one winner, who shall receive a cash prize of PhP 45,000.00 (less applicable withholding tax) for his/her entry. The winner shall be responsible for all applicable taxes.

          The winning writer shall also be entitled to five (5) free copies upon publication of the book.

          The winner shall grant and transfer to CANVAS all intellectual property and publication rights to the story, including anytranslations, adaptations or modifications thereto.

          It is hereby understood that the cash prize to be awarded to the winner shall include consideration of such intellectual property and publication rights to the story, and the writer shall not be entitled to any other royalties or fees from earnings, if any, that may result from future publication of, licensing of, or other transactions on the same.

7. Except for the right to publish any received entry on its website, CANVAS shall not retain any other rights to entries that are not selected as the winner, except where separate agreements are reached with the writers.

8. CANVAS shall exercise full and exclusive editorial and artistic control over the publication of the winning entry and resulting book.

          While it is the full intention of CANVAS to publish the winning entry as a full-color children's book, CANVAS reserves the right not to publish the same for any reason whatsoever.

9. The winner of the CANVAS storywriting competition will be announced in or around the second half of December 2017. The winner will also be notified via email/text on the same announcement date.

10. CANVAS reserves the right not to award the competition prize in the event that the judges decide that no entry was received that is deserving of the top prize. In such unlikely event,however, CANVAS shall have no right whatsoever over all entries that were received; and shall not publish any entry, in its website or in any other venue, without the prior written consent or agreement of the author.

11. The decision of the competition judges shall be final, and no correspondence or inquiries into the same - including requests for comments/feedback on received entries - shall be entertained.

12. Employees of CANVAS, and members of their immediate family, as well as the Artist's immediate family, are disqualified from participating in the competition.


A CANVAS review panel shall read and award points for all stories received based on the following criteria:

          * Originality and Storyline (35%)
          * Imagery (35%)
          * Quality of Writing (30%)

          Based on the points received, CANVAS shall forward a shortlist of three to five stories with the highest scores to the Artist. The Artist shall then provide comments on any or all the stories, for final consideration by the panel of judges.

          The panel of judges - taking the contest criteria and Artist comments into non-binding consideration - shall collectively choose the winner from the shortlist of stories.

          If the judges cannot come to a consensus on the winner, they shall take a vote and the entry that gains the most number of votes shall be declared the winner.

          None of CANVAS' review panel, the judges or the Artist shall see any entrant's name until the winner is chosen.


Kindly follow these instructions carefully when submitting your entry:

a. Submit your entry as a Microsoft Word attachment to with the subject heading "ROMEO FORBES CHILDREN'S STORY WRITING COMPETITION - Johanna Helmuth". 

b. Please use the title of your story (or the first five words ofthe title) as the file name of your entry. 

c. Your attached entry must contain only the title and full text of your story. DO NOT include your name, contact number, address, or any other information, and DO NOT attach any pictures or other identifying information. 

d. Put your name, mailing address, and telephone/cellphone number in the body of your email when you submit your entry. 

The deadline for submission of entries is 5:00 p.m. (Manila time), Saturday, 14 October 2017.

CANVAS acknowledges each and every entry that we receive. If you submitted a story, and do not receive an acknowledgement from us within 24 hours, please assume that your story was not received and kindly resend it to us. 

Nevertheless, entries received after the deadline, even if sent earlier, may no longer be considered for the Competition. CANVAS shall not be responsible for entries which are not received, or which are received after the deadline, due to technical failure or for any other reason whatsoever. 

Why We Ask for the Transfer of Rights

The competition rules clearly state that the winning author should agree to transfer all rights to CANVAS and "...shall not be entitled to any other royalties or fees from earnings, if any, that may result from future publication of, derivative works, licensing of, or other transactions on the same".

This note is just to clarify where it is that CANVAS is coming from.

First of all, having complete ownership of the story rights makes it easier and less complicated for us to quickly and liberally share and give our consent to anyone who may ask for permission to use the winning story (something that we have always granted in the past).

It is for this very reason that the stories and illustrations of books we publish are all available and downloadable for free here on our website, despite the concern of some that the easy availability of the stories on the Internet could eat into the sales of our books (which, happily, has not proven to be the case).

Just as we were fortunate enough to have been given permission to adapt "The Man Who Planted Trees," into our maiden publication - "Elias and HisTrees," - we hope that the stories that we work on will inspire similar creativity.

A second reason why we ask for the transfer of rights is that CANVAS is a small nonprofit, and is not equipped to document and track royalty shares that ideally should accrue to authors and artists. It is for this reason that our prize (we think), is quite substantial and approximates (if not exceeds) what writers would normally expect to receive in royalties.

Finally, aside from the possibility for getting some of our books published abroad, we also sometimes talk with corporations about sponsoring the publication of books that can be given away to children in public schools and disadvantaged communities throughout the country. Clear and complete ownership of the rights makes it easier for us to pursue this mission.

selections fromthe backroom

CANVAS' online backroom, featuring selected artworks from our exhibitions that you may have missed. If interested in any of the artworks, please call 216-7750, or email


The Center for Art, New Ventures & Sustainable Development (CANVAS) is a non profit organization that works with the creative community to promote children's literacy, explore national identity, and broaden public awareness for Philippine art, culture, and environment.

CANVAS works with some of the best young artists to promote Philippine art, culture, and environment. To be placed on our preview list for future shows and exhibitions, or for more information, email us at