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An Artist by Heart: Meet Mon Ruiz, Pinoy Customizer

Customization is the way of enhancing an existing toy for figure to come up with something that can't be bought in stores. Customization involves repainting and altering parts from small to extensive details which results into a creation that changes the appearance of the original source.

Customizing is very common in the toy industry, particularly in Transformers figures especially that the brand continues to expand. By searching “custom transformers” on the internet, one can find a lot of fans project items of different kinds from small to big figures with very intricate details. Some of these items can be sold for thousands of dollars.

We Filipinos are fan of the Transformer too! And because we are artists by heart, we have lots of ideas in mind to turn a thing into something more exemplary unique and one-of-a-kind! We cannot dare underestimate the ability of Filipino artists when it comes to customizing toys and action figures. Let's meet Mr. Mon Ruiz, one of the well respected pinoy customizers here in our country.  He is a humble guy with a great sense a humor, who is very easy to approach and will definitely accommodate you when you ask him about toy customizing... and well...  anything about Transformers too!  Let's get to know a bit of his humble beginnings in this short interview:

Q. How did the customizing started?
A. My wife did not like the toy I bought. The toy is the combination of optimus prime and jetfire based on the 2009 Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Movie. The toy did not look like with that on the movie we watched. That was the time I got a screw driver, I took out and alter some parts to at least resemble the toy we bought with that on the movie, and to please my wife. It is because she started to idolize the movie.

(Q. Paano po kayo nagsimula mag-customize?
A. Yung wife ko, di niya nagustuhan yung toy na nabili kong combination of optimus prime and jetfire. Napanood namin ung movie di naman ganun ang napanood namin, so that's the time kinuha ko yung screwdriver, nagbawas ng parts para maging kamukha ng sa movie - based on the 2009 Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Inayos ko lang ng konti, para atleast maging kamukha ng konti, and ma-please yung wife ko. Kasi naging idol nya yung palabas.)

Q. So, it is year 2009 when you started customizing. It seems that you are really an expert on this kind of field. Do you have any formal training? Or is this what they call a pure talent?
A. Actually I started when I was in high school. I work on model kits, tanks, airplanes. My favorite are jet fighters. That was where I acquired the skill of painting and building, skills that later on will be used on transformers that I am working on now. But the talent part is the passion to make something realistic. The formal schooling, formal training, I have none. I am an artist by heart. Back in college, my friends were fine arts students, while I was taking up engineering. I was fond of hanging out with them, while they were drawing.

(Q. 2009 lang nkayo nagsimula pero expert na expert na ang dating. May formal training po kayo or pure talent lang talaga?
A. Nagstart ako ng highschool, nagbubutingting ako ng model kits, mga tangke, eroplano. Hilig ko yung jetfighter. Dun ko na-acquireyung skill ng pagpepaint, pagbibuild, na later on pagdating ng transformers magagamit ko pala. Pero yung talent part pala is yung passion na gawing realistic yung isang bagay. Pero formal schooling, formal training wala. Artist ako by heart. Mga tropa ka mga fine arts ang course, pero ang course ko engineering. Ang tambayan ko sa fine arts, nagdadrawing sila.)

Q. Are you doing this for a source of income? Or is this purely a hobby?
A. It started our as a hobby then later on it eventually become a business.

(Q. Ito po ba ang source of income nyo or libangan lang talaga?
A. It started out as a hobby then later on naging business.)

Q. Are you doing this for a source of income? Or is this purely a hobby?
A. My first clients were from abroad. It happened when I posted one of my customized figures in my youtube channel. It generated 3,000 hits in just one day! People started to contact me for my services. Then maybe someone here from the Philippines saw my work too, and he customized a toy as well. It was discovered by my cousin when he found a customized toy displayed in Greenhills and he told me about it. I went to that toy store in Greenhills then that started my business locally, because they recognized me as the one who created the original model of the customized toy created for them.

(Q. Sino po ang clients ninyo?
A. First clients from abroad. Yung ginawa ko pinost ko sa youtube channel ko. Naka-hit sya ng 3,000 sa isang araw. Tapos dun nagstart na may magpagawa sakin. Tapos siguro may nakakita ng gawa ko, local, ginaya nila. Tapos nakita ng pinsan ko sa greenhills, kinwento sakin, pinuntahan ko, ganun nagstart locally kasi nakilala ako na ako yung gumawang kinopyahan. Nagoffer sila sakin na gumawa ako for them.)

Q. How long does it take to finish one toy?
A. When I feel driven, I can finish it in 6 hours; otherwise it will take me 6 months, heheh. Seriously it depends on my mood, and discussion with my client.

(Q. Gaano po katagal natatapos?
A. Pag sinipag 6 hours, pag tinamad 6 months. Depende sa mood, depende sa usapan ng client.)

Q. Do you see your kids following your chosen path?
A. My youngest son, he is 5 years old. Though it is normal on his age to mimick other people, I can see a passion in him because his lego designs are far different (in a better way) compared with his older brothers.

(Q. Nakikita nyo po ba yung mga anak nyo na susunod sa tinatahak nyong landas?
A. Yung bunso. 5 years old. Kasi yung bata nagmimimick pa. Tingin ko andun sa kanya kasi yung lego nya iba yung design more than sa mga kuya nya.)

Q. What advices and inputs can you give to the newbie customizers out there?
A. You can find a lot of inspiration from the creations of other customizers, but remember always be original. We have a lot of references, images and figures that can be copied. Refer to what's in the movie, not others' finished products. Be inspired because their creations are great, do it because you are motivated. Do not copy the works of other customizers.

(Q. Ano po ang maiaadvice nyo sa newbie customizers?
A. Marami kayong inspirasyong makikita sa mga gawa na pero always be original. Marami tayong references, maraming pagkokopyahan. Ang kopyahin nyo yung movie, wag yung gawa ng iba. Kumuha kayo ng inspirasyon dahil maganda yung nakita nyong obra, gawin nyo kasi nainspire kayo, wag kayo kumopya ng gawa ng iba.)

Wanna see a gallery of toys enhanced by our fellow talented Filipino artists? Check out their works on their facebook page at

Watch his custom toys in action at youtube on Grinkrystal channel channel.

This is one of his latest projects, with himself in the pictures:

Here are some of his previous projects... awesome, right?

Article:  Jenny Emen
Photos courtesy of Mon Ruiz