They say it's a village to raise a child, and for Filipino artist and LGBTQ rights advocate Lui Manaig, it means using his voice and art to create a safe community for LGBTQ children where empathy, love, and freedom can thrive.
A testament to this is his children's book "I Like Wearing Rainbows," written by Agay Llanera. A product of a one-of-a-kind competition, I Like Wearing Rainbows began with one of Lui's artwork that invited Filipino writers to submit a story around it.
Among over 70 submissions, the one by Agay received Lui and the judges’ nod. The winning piece was then turned over to Lui so he could continue creating more paintings to support it.
Below, Lui takes us through his inspiration and creative process in creating the artworks for "I Like Wearing Rainbows." The interview has been translated to English for accessibility.
What was your inspiration behind the artwork/contest piece for the Romeo Forbes Children’s Story Writing Competition, which inspired Agay Llanera’s story?
When CANVAS invited me to create the book, I knew I wanted to create a gender or LGBTQ-inspired story while making the artwork open to interpretation. In the contest piece, I used visual cues like rainbows that didn’t look like literal rainbows, cabinets, and non-binary children’s toys.
I did this because I felt that, right now, the Philippines is not yet too open to discussing these topics with younger readers. This book can be a step forward in prompting parents to start these conversations with their children because acceptance starts at home. That’s why when I read the two finalists for the story writing contest, I was happy to see that the stories reflected what I wanted to convey through my artwork.
How long did it take to create the paintings for the story? Walk us through your artmaking process.
As an artist, I am used to always working, so I just worked every day to create the paintings. In conceptualizing the works, I took into consideration the book’s audience (parents and young readers), utilizing a more straightforward approach in illustrating each scene of the story.
Among all of the paintings for the book, which piece is closest to your heart?
I have two: the painting of my ninang and the the book cover. For the latter, I used various colored clothes—sort of a deconstructed rainbow—to convey the title. It’s also a nod to my childhood where I usually play with blankets and my mom’s clothes.
How did you feel after reading the story?
I didn't struggle with my coming out story. My parents already knew, so I didn’t have that “Cinderella moment”. However, I can see my ninang (who recently passed away) as the grandmother in the story. Growing up, I was always with my ninang, and she gave me the freedom to do whatever I want. She encouraged me to make doll houses and paper dolls. She was a seamstress, too, so she exposed me to arts and crafts. One of the artworks in the story—the scene where the grandmother was lying in the hospital bed—was based on an actual picture of my ninang when I was with her at the hospital.
What would you like readers to take away from the book?
I hope that children develop more empathy. They may not be like the main character in the story, but it’s important that they are aware and empathetic with others going through the same experiences. I wish that the book will be instrumental for parents in teaching their children to not judge their peers.