BrandedUp in partnership with Galerie Joaquin
Nina Bantoto was only three years old when she was diagnosed with autism. Her parents can still remember the pain of learning about her condition. But the situation only strengthened their resolve to love Nina more and help her become the best that she can be. This love nurtured and paved the way for Nina’s gift.
As a child, Nina struggled to speak. And when she finally did, she still could not fully express herself. However, what she lacked in verbal articulation, she more than made up for with her immense talent in drawing, sketching, and painting. Nina’s passion for art grew and she began to paint, creating masterpieces of color that captured her vivid imagination. There were no traces of autism in her work, only her enormous creativity and artistry.
Now 27 years old, Nina is an international artist who is also a huge ABBA, K-pop, and Disney fan. She has held several exhibits at the United Nations and Philippine consulate in New York, Macau, and the Philippines. She works well with acrylic paints, watercolor, charcoal, and colored pencils. Recently, she has started creating digital works of art.
To celebrate her 27th year, Nina is holding her second solo exhibit titled Enter the Dragon currently running until Feb. 15 at the prestigious Galerie Joaquin at the Podium Mall in Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City. Just in time for the Chinese Lunar New Year, her fascination with the Chinese Zodiac animals is perfectly suited to the Year of the Dragon. Part of the proceeds will be donated to the REACH Foundation. In her own way, Nina’s special hands will help inspire and bring much-needed support to the PWD community.
Harnessing the gift
Throughout the years, Nina has been harnessing her gift of creativity. In 2010, Nina’s work was selected by the Beijing Town publication and published in their magazine. Between 2014 to 2016, she then joined several exhibits on different occasions together with other artists with autism in Manila.
In 2015, Nina was invited to join Best Buddies Philippines (BBP). BBP is a worldwide volunteer-based organization that changes the lives of individuals of all abilities in countries all over the world and has been positively affecting the lives of chapter members and communities where inclusion is an inspired joint mission. She is also an ambassador for BBP.
Her big break came in 2017 when Nina was part of a select group of featured artists with autism to represent the country in the United Nations in celebration of World Autism Day. During the same week, a fashion show featuring the artists’ work on piña designed by Patis Tesoro took place at the Philippine Embassy in New York.
In 2018, Nina’s first solo exhibit “Chiquitita” showcased her sensational works that depicted a spectrum of ideas, from fun Disney characters to sophisticated sarimanok's. A portion of the proceeds from the Chiquitita exhibit was donated to the REACH Foundation. REACH is a nonstock, nonprofit organization based in Mandaluyong City that is dedicated to helping Persons with Disabilities from depressed communities
In 2019, Nina represented the Philippines in the International Inclusion Conference Parenting and Education in Macao, SAR China. She showcased her works and had an actual demonstration of her talents at the workshop. Her work was selected in an international design competition in 2020 for people with intellectual disabilities. Nina bested 500 submissions for the Annual Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix for leather motorcycle attire.
An artist with a heart
During the same year in 2019, Nina and her proud parents, Lord & Arlene became co-founders of Arte Autismo Filipino (AAF) with other families. AAF is a social enterprise composed of parents and their artistic children with autism. They have to date put together several exhibits and projects to showcase and sell the works of the artists.
At the height of the pandemic in 2020, Nina joined Precious Works of Differently Abled Enterprise (PWDe). PWDe is a nonprofit organization that aims to provide a platform for PWDs to sell their goods and services. It was also the first time that Nina interacted with a broader set of PWDs. The group held online bazaars, and social media training for parents and caregivers in 2020 and has now shifted to face-to-face bazaars to support the members.
Nina's works have been printed on merchandise such as clothing, eco bags, greeting cards, stationery, and stickers to name a few. Through her brand SPECIAL HANDS BY NINA, she can support other NGOs and inspire many. By using her amazing talent, Nina can give back to those in need. Truly, every stroke of her brush has been a gift.
Experience Nina’s world of colors, music, and imagination. She is a ray of sunshine bringing hope, happiness, and the freshness of a new day. This is Nina seizing life’s promise.