Masks at the Jojo Vito Designs Gallery
When I moved back to Bacolod City, one of the persons I came to know was Jojo Vito, the man behind the Jojo Vito Designs Gallery, whom I met through the Negrense Blogging Society, Inc. (NBSI). Since I was away for two decades from my hometown, I have become clueless on what’s popular, where to hang out, and who are the personalities in my city. Little did I know that Jojo, my fellow blogger and co-teacher/lecturer in the ETEEAP (Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency and Accreditation Program) of La Consolacion College-Bacolod, is famous because of his lovely masks. In case you did not know, Bacolod City is known for its Masskara Festival (READ: The colors of #MasskaraFestival2014), held every third weekend of October or the one closest to October 19. It has reached popularity because of its colorful history and mardi gras-like celebration.
It has only been recently when I had the opportunity to visit the Jojo Vito Designs Gallery along Alunan Ave., right behind the Chicken House along Araneta Ave. I’ve been wanting to see the place where most of Jojo’s creations are put on display.
As soon as we entered the gate, gigantic masks hanging on tree trunks greeted us with their wide smiles. The burst of vibrant colors bring energy to the quiet open space in front of its store. Standing there by the door with all these artworks surrounding me made my creative mind get into motion.
Yes, you can design your own mask and paint on them yourself for about Php100 to Php150. The gallery also holds mask painting workshops. Of course, it is better not to leave Bacolod without getting one of the souvenir items from the gallery. If you are into attending masquerades, cosplays, or other events, it is a great move if you bring home some of the beautiful masks made by Jojo Vito. Also, it is safer to buy them straight in his shop to make sure that they are original and not copied or imitated. You can also find them at the shops of the Association of Negros Producers (ANP) along Lacson St. (across PNB near the Capitol Lagoon) and in Robinson’s Bacolod.
Jojo shared how he started with his gallery. He began with a printing business but it didn’t really fly. Instead of profits, all he got were piles of scratch papers. But while others would give up on such circumstance, Jojo gathered the remaining papers and decided to make some paper mache. Since the Masskara Festival is the signature event of Bacolod, making masks was the most logical thing to do. The masks became instant hit and the rest, as they say, is history.
That happened about 12 years ago but it was only in 2011 when Jojo formally opened his gallery. His business has already expanded to other product lines like furniture, apart from the souvenir items and the masks, some of which are now made of fiber glass.
Over the years, the Jojo Vito Designs Gallery is tasked as the official mask maker of Bacolod’s Masskara Queen pageant. It was also chosen to create the masks for Miss Earth’s 2013 Fashion for A Cause and for Filipino communities in the USA, especially for the annual Philippine Independence Day Parade.
I remember one time when I asked Jojo how he manages his business. “It’s more like a hobby to me, a passion,” he stated. His Jojo Vito Designs Gallery is proof that you can rise from the ashes and that failure can only happen if you stop trying. Success, on the other hand, is achieved when you turn an unlikely situation to your advantage. That is a familiar story because it runs parallel to how the Masskara Festival came about (READ: Behind Masskara’s Smile). And the Jojo Vito masks symbolize that one ingredient of success is putting your heart, and your smile, into what you do.
Jojo Vito Designs Gallery
Alunan Ave., Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, Philippines
(+63 34) 435 1256