Cebu graduate surprises classmates, adviser with hand-drawn portraits

Marthy John Lubiano
Cebu graduate surprises classmates, adviser with hand-drawn portraits
A young artist celebrates his bond with his senior high school class in a unique and personal way

CEBU, Philippines – The graduation ceremony at the University of San Carlos (USC) in Cebu City last May 27 was made extra special when one senior high school graduate gave hand-drawn portraits to his classmates and block adviser.

The man behind the graphite portraits is 18-year-old John Paul Valencia.

Valencia used the monthlong period reserved for graduation practice to draw the portraits, working on them up until graduation day.

“I tried to draw one person per day. Sometimes, I could manage 3 portraits a day depending on how busy the week was. Only a handful, maybe 5, of my classmates knew since I also asked them for suggestions,” he said.

LABOR OF LOVE. The complete set of John Paul Valencia's portraits.

A special bond

Valencia drew these portraits because of the special bond his class shared.

“I think that there was respect in the class. Everybody had a role. Our class also won the school film competition, which made it more special,” he said.

Their short film entitled Miscreant’s Voice won awards including Best Film, Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best in Sound Engineering at USC’s 2018 CineSTEM Film Festival.

The young artist’s classmates also agreed that their bond was remarkable.

“[The film was] where it all started, to be honest, because before that, everyone really didn’t know much about each other’s capabilities. So when we were doing the film, we got to know each other, and from there we strengthened our bond into what it is today,” Johann Ethan Jade Osugay explained.

Joanna Miles Dancel recalled that forming the bond wasn’t exactly a smooth process. “We had conflicts: different ideas, different thinking, different opinions,” she said. “We couldn’t cater to everyone. But even with all that, the production team worked so hard, and I am so proud that all their hard work paid off.”

BOND. John Paul Valencia draws inspiration from the strong bond of his class.

The artist

When it comes to his skill, Valencia said that while he is mainly self-taught in terms of technique, he had also attended painting workshops in the past. 

He first drew vegetables, helicopters, and Spider-Man when he was two years old, got hooked on drawing anime characters from Grades 3 to 4, and then finally started drawing real people when he was in Grade 5.

Dancel could remember how talented Valencia was as early as Grade 1.

“Even back then, he was outstanding,” she said. “Literally anyone could tell he was a true-born artist. Despite all that, he is a very chill guy, a very humble friend. Sometimes, when he gets bored, he likes to do quick sketches of our faces. He plays guitar really well too. He is a very talented person.”

Jhudiel Saing, one of their classmates, said Valencia serves as an inspiration.

“It is invigorating to see that he utilized his talent, time, and effort to dedicate these pieces of craftsmanship and genius to us. By pursuing these passions despite the risks and fears, he inspires us to do the same,” said Saing.

Even though people describe him as a “true-born artist” and an art “genius,” Valencia is pursuing a mechanical engineering degree in college, reasoning that his talents can be applied to any discipline or situation.

“For me, art is the possibility of beauty in anything, and seeing everything as something more than reality,” Valencia said. –


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