AFTER close to two decades of perfecting his craft as maker of architectural scale models, Loloy Castro — architect, watercolor artist and entrepreneur – has something big in the works: the Barrio Miniature Project.
The idea came when he saw Christmas-themed miniature village displayed at the mall two years ago. The village portrayed Western motifs — from the houses to the trees and vehicles – and there wasn’t anything remotely Filipino about the display. That time Loloy had just worked on the Parian diorama for the Museo Parian sa Sugbo and the 36-year-old father of two wondered: Why not build miniature Filipino villages instead?
“The westernized miniatures are confusing for children,” explains Loloy, who runs CJ Model Works alongside wife Fatima. “With the Barrio Miniature Project, we want to showcase our own heritage as we create Filipino styled miniatures that are distinct to our culture.”
Loloy and Fatima have been in the business for almost 15 years, providing sturdy, detailed scale model structures for various real estate developers in the Visayas and Mindanao. The couple built the firm from the ground up when they were still students: from one employee, the company now has 50, not to mention its two 3D printers and five laser cutting machines. Fatima mainly runs CJ Model Works’ finances, while Loloy serves as creative director.
As for Loloy, the nature of their flourishing business complements his other interests — creating miniatures and watercolor paintings showcasing the beauty of old and modern Cebu. Loloy shares his insights through Sun.Star Weekend Intern Jolleanne Claire Perino:
How did you get into this business?
Since I was a kid I always loved the arts and was fond of building things. I also came from a family of artists, which somehow influenced me to take up architecture where I learned that you can visualize your projects easily by creating miniatures, and that led me into this business.
You are fond of creating miniature houses and watercolor paintings that are all about Cebu. What’s the idea behind this?
My wife and I are history enthusiasts — we like anything historical about Cebu. My works are all about Cebu, ancestral houses and historical places and events. We try to recreate what Cebu was way back then through the miniatures and paintings.
What’s your most memorable work?
The Parian diorama displayed in Museo Parian sa Sugbo relives Cebu from way back 1863. We were not paid big, but the fulfillment it has given me was more than enough.
What’s the best part of creating your work?
It’s actually the experience of living the scene. For my paintings, what I do is I add color for these images to make them more realistic and to grasp the feeling of living in that era, because normally we see from books only black and white images.
Most challenging part of pursuing this career?
Acceptance. Not everyone understands what we do. We are in the field of scale model making, and the only company in Visayas and Mindanao. When I started this business with my wife, we were still students, and people laughed at us for building what they called “toys.” Even my parents thought so, but this did not stop us from doing what we wanted for we were driven by our passion and desire for our craft.
How have you’ve grown from that experience?
I’ve grown to be mature in dealing with different people. Being in this business, we are exposed to different types of personalities, and I think this has helped me adjust. As an artist it has been normal to work alone, but over the years I realized that I also need other opinions to improve my work.
You mentioned that your company is the only full-service scale model studio in the city. What do you think of your current situation?
I feel lucky because Cebu right now is in a real estate boom. As the only company providing scale model works, we are in the right place at the right time. It is very fulfilling since this is really what I wanted to do. This also gave me the opportunity to provide jobs to Cebuanos who are not as fortunate, to finish their education. We train them to be the greatest artists they could be and this has been our advocacy over the last four years. We are in constant search for these types of people for I believe that they are the ones who put a lot of heart into their craft.
As a final note, what do you want to say to entrepreneur-artists who are just starting?
You stick to your passion. Somehow it will not feel like work because you are doing what you love. And someday that passion will grow into a company like mine where you let other people share the same passion you have.