On Mental Health and Overcoming Corporate Fatigue: 25 year old Chinoy quits his job and passionately chases his art business dreams

Deciding what to do for the rest of your life is already a daunting task for any young adult. But what about doing so in the midst of an ongoing pandemic?

For most of the ambitiously enterprising Chinoy youth, this usually meant a) making your way through the highly competitive corporate world, b) embracing your duties as a filial child by taking up the family business, or c) creating your own start-up. For Harvey Cu, founder of hobby paint business Hiro Paints, learning how to choose a path in life meant trying out all three — to varying degrees of success. 

Now, one of the first clear markers of your pending status as an adult is the obligation you have to society to get a job. Shortly after graduating from the Ateneo de Manila University in 2019, Harvey became one of many aspiring hopefuls to enter the glitzier tiers of the intensely demanding corporate landscape that is Metro Manila. It was here where Harvey spent a year working for a marketing research and advertising agency, helping to brainstorm campaign strategies and deliver pitches to clients from all kinds of industries. Many would consider this a decent job; and for a short while, Harvey did too. However, with the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 inevitably became a year of wake-up calls. The world changed. 

All of a sudden, as everyone was confronted with mass anxiety, grief, and the unrelenting pressure of corporate labor, people started to willingly counter job dissatisfaction and the societal pressure to overwork by resigning from their workplace. In the United States, they call the trend the “Big Quit.” In China, it’s a social protest movement named tang ping (躺平), which means “to lie down flat.” The act represents the rejection of an exhausting work life by simplifying economic ambitions and life expectations.  

In the Philippines, there isn’t quite a fancy name for the phenomenon; but regardless of whatever country you find yourself living in, corporate fatigue exists. COVID-19 has only exacerbated it. 

So in 2020, as many have done before him, Harvey quit his job. He then took a hiatus before working from home at his uncle’s company, where he specialized in e-commerce. But that, too, was exhausting. 

“In both those jobs, over time, I felt myself becoming more and more burnt out, to the point where even easy tasks would seem insurmountable. Without a strong support system at work, I fell into a spiral of depression that I tried keeping to myself. But things got worse, to the point where I felt l needed to seek professional help,” Harvey said, explaining the difficult decision.

“It seemed that fate had its own way of telling me what I needed to hear. It was a bad case of timing and me needing the space to be able to take care of personal matters — and ultimately, take care of myself,” he continued. 

The truth is that there is still a stigma against quitting what appears to be good jobs for the sake of mental health. In the middle of a pandemic, passing up income is a privilege that many families do not have. Beyond that, there is also the oft-believed perception that leaving means giving up. It’s a contradiction of our supposedly Chinoy values of hard work and perseverance: How are you supposed to achieve success if you’re giving up opportunities just like that?

Honestly, Harvey admitted, “I think for Chinese-Filipinos, especially, there is an added pressure to prove yourself once you reach a certain age. Quitting was not an easy decision for me at all. But in the end, I realized that I had to do things in service of myself too — not just in service of what I think is expected of me. I took a good look at myself and asked the hard questions: Am I happy? Am I healthy — physically, emotionally, mentally? And while I’m still finding the answers, just knowing the right questions to ask makes every day much easier to go through.”


Embracing art and business: Hiro Paints

Harvey restoring a dragon temple diorama with Hiro Paints. The water-based acrylics are ideal for designing miniatures, customized toys, and dioramas.


“To be honest, I’ve always wanted to make a paint brand. Even since high school. But I always thought I’d be doing this in my 40s, not at 25,” joked Harvey. 

At the end of the day, being happy with what you do in life is important. For Harvey, this meant combining his passion for both business and art — a path that was also once considered to be non-traditional among Chinoys. It was something that had started as early as during his teenage university years, when he dabbled in freelance graphic design and accepted commissions of painting denim jackets and bags for his then solo venture, HSC Denim Art. Ultimately, all of these experiences came together to mold the kind of person and entrepreneur that Harvey is today. 

Linking back to how he takes care of his mental health, he expressed, “To quote Marie Kondo, you treasure what “sparks joy” and kindle what makes you grow in your life. As the saying goes, nothing learned is ever wasted. Looking back, Hiro is kind of like my own artwork in itself, as there are traces of me in every facet of the business.”

In 2021, Harvey and his father finally hatched the idea to create Hiro, a brand of highly pigmented hobby paints. While the first syllable of the brand functions as a reference to their family business HiColors Inc, in its entirety, the Japanese word invokes positive connotations with its meaning of prosperity. Adding a third level to the significance of the name, Hiro also sounds similar to “hero.”

“It goes with the goal of making our customers feel like a hero when they use our paint — heroes who are proud of their work and immersed in their created worlds,” Harvey explained.


Left: A completely restored dragon temple diorama. Right: A freshly painted koi fish pond diorama.


As someone who indulges in art as much as his clients do, there is a pride in knowing how much his work in Hiro means to both himself and to other people. As a bonus prize, there is also the fact that Harvey works much more flexible hours but does not earn any less than he did while working in a corporate job. 

“What I love about this work I do now is that it’s truly a creative outlet, both in terms of art and in terms of business. I’m a firm believer that if you put in your honest best, then the rest will follow. Hiro didn’t start because I had profit at the front of my mind. It started because I just really love painting. And although I may not be the best at either, it feels awesome for me to be able to use my skills to help others find the same pure and simple joy I feel with this kind of art.”


Check out more about Hiro on their website and Facebook page. Contact Harvey Cu at


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