Sanny Villafranca, also known as AJRAVII, a film student at the Asia Pacific Film Institute, aims to present the impact of creativity through his graphic novel “The Girl and The Tamaraw”. He said, “This project is inspired by the Indigenous Peoples and the Tamaraws. As creatives, we tell stories with the purpose of effecting change or inspiring it. My aim is to raise awareness for the protection of our endangered species and their natural habitat, and to showcase how culturally rich our nation is.”

Sanny’s graphic novel was the grand winner for the Graphic Novel Category of the Young Creatives Challenge (YC2), which held its grand finals and awarding ceremony last March 21, 2024 at BGC, Taguig City, Metro Manila. Organized by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) through the support of Sen. Imee Marcos and the Philippine Creative Industry Development Act (PCIDA), YC2 is a competition that showcases the creativity of the Filipino youth. It was created to inspire, recognize, and showcase Filipino talents in the fields of songwriting, screenwriting, playwriting, graphic novels, animation, game development, and online content creation.

Asked about how his graphic novel “The Girl and The Tamaraw” was conceptualized, Sanny stated, “In 2018, during a workshop led by Direk Surf Reyes, a Mowelfund founder, we were tasked with creating emotionally resonant stories that promote our culture. This narrative was born from that challenge and serves as a tribute to my mentor, who supported it while involved with the NCCA.”

The Quezon City resident also shared how his path to creativity began. “I remember when I was six, we lived near the PNR train tracks. My grandma had comics that she rented out to our neighbors. I read almost all of them. They made me love making up stories and drawing. Grandma helped me learn to draw, too. She really helped me grow creatively since I was little.”

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“In elementary school, I started joining various organizations like the music club, art club, and journalism club. I became more involved in school extracurricular activities and gained experience through inter-school events. My passion for the arts continued into my high school years,” Sanny added.

Currently, Sanny is working as an account director at an advertising agency, while also overseeing Sanny Istudyo Productions, which he established as a creative platform to pursue his passion for storytelling through various art forms such as music, film, and illustrations. “To refine my storytelling abilities, I am currently enrolled in a Film course at the Asia Pacific Film Institute. I am in the process of developing a screenplay for my finals. ‘The Girl and The Tamaraw’ is currently being prepared for publication, and we are also working on another story that promotes our culture,” he said.

What makes Sanny’s win in the Young Creatives Challenge even more inspiring is that he is a PWD (person with disability). Though he has hearing impairment, this has not deterred Sanny to pursue his creative passion. With heartfelt gratitude, he exclaimed, “I want to share this honor with my fellow creatives, especially those who have disabilities or facing doubts while pursuing their passions despite challenges. I’m grateful to my late mentor, Surf Reyes, as well as my late mother, to my family, and friends. A big thank you to DTI, YC2 judges, and Senator Imee for supporting programs that empower Filipino creatives. Thank you to the support of Hana Creative, Asia Pacific Film Institute, Meisner Studio Manila and to the Sanny Istudyo Team. We continue to dream of a nation that celebrates and highly values arts and culture. Mabuhay ang katutubong kultura at sining! Mabuhay ang malikhaing Pinoy! Maraming Salamat sa Diyos!”

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