Kevin Nash Sandoval, 38, a former tattoo artist and guitarist from Batangas, makes the sidewalks of Manila his home by selling ukay-ukay from Divisoria. He also works as a street artist, showcasing his favorite subjects: skulls and clowns.
His only wish this season is to replenish his art supplies so he can go back to drawing, his first love.
He never had formal art training but as a child, he remembers filling his room with art works. His father always repainted his room until Sandoval turned 12.
But by the time he reached senior year in high school, he quit his studies to pursue music: “Sabi ko sa tatay ko, ayaw ko na mag aral.” (“I told my father that I didn’t want to be in school anymore.”)
His band gigs earned him just enough to move around independently and to invest in a small enterprise. He was able to buy a tattoo machine and invited local street gang members—the solvent boys from his neighborhood—as his willing test subjects.
Sandoval’s bedroom in his family home in Morong, Rizal, became his atelier. Here, he would receive several creative types who sought him especially for his signature dark and skull images. It wasn’t long before word got around as his list of clients included rocker, big-bike connoisseurs, and artists, among others.
In 2005, Sandoval’s growing enterprise called Dead Man Body Arts Studio, began offering body piercing.
New Life in Manila
But things changed when his parents died the following year. Sandoval had no choice but to go to Manila to find a job. Instead of being in the industries he wanted, he ended up working as a stevedore for a fishing company.
His small-framed body, however, wasn’t built for heavy lifting; he decided it wasn’t the life he wanted. Once, while loitering in Luenta, he saw a group of arnis martial artists in training. Remembering that he once was into the sport through his grandfather, Sandoval thought of reviving his passion for it and befriended the group to join them. By this time, Sandoval’s career phases seemed to come through unexpected circumstances but his sense of being open to new things just made his new experiences even more interesting.
This time, another twist and turn in his life came when he joined an arnis tournament in Bulacan. That day, even before his fight came up, Sandoval’s instinct told him to quit and turn away from that particular fight especially since no body and head protection were to be used during the fight. The Php20,000 prize money, however, eventually became his incentive. He won the first two rounds but by the third round, he tripped and damaged his achilles heel.
His body and spirit were broken. The medical doctor who saw him after the fight recommended surgery that would entail a lot of cost. Sandoval didn’t have the money and felt that he didn’t want to be a burden to his family; he didn’t pursue the medical operation and opted instead to walk with a cane to support himself and for his mobility.
Life on the streets
With a less exciting but a little more stable source of income, Sandoval now peddles ladies clothes along the streets of Quiapo in Manila. Occassionaly, he gets the chance to present his drawings to spectators as well.
This Christmas season, for instance, his on the spot drawing sessions has been eliciting some appreciation from passersby.
He told InterAksyon that sometime he get Php300 from his works—just enough to buy him three meals for the day. Orphaned with no home, Sandoval makes do by resting and freshening up in motel economy rooms that charge per hour. This lifestyle has also allowed him to save up some money to stock up on his merchandise.
Still, things aren’t that bad, he says. “I cannot say that I have lost my dignity. Pareho pa rin naman, ako pa rin si Kevin Nash,”