10 Cosplayers in Our Midst
Meet 10 Pinoys who live out their superhero and comicbook fantasies-not just on Halloween.
What would you give to become a superhero, goddess, or the most fanciful figment of your dreams? For cosplayers, it takes heavy doses of passion and time and an undying capacity for fantasy and imagination to transform themselves into ï¿½a warrior princess, a geisha, ï¿½Iron Man, Megatron, Masked Rider, and, yes, even a gargantuan Poring Emperor (from Ragnarok). It also takes rolls of fabric, a sewing machine, duct tape, rubber foam, and lots of glue. But at the heart of every character is the portrayal: from the walk to the talk.
Cosplay comes from the words costume and (role)play. ï¿½ No one can really pinpoint when and where it actually started. But it was Nobuyuki Takahashi who first coined the term in the article, "My Anime," after attending the 1984 World Science Fiction Convention and seeing a bunch of Trekkies (Star Trek fans) strutting their stuff. ï¿½ From there, it has evolved into a subculture among enthusiasts of anime, manga, comics, movies, TV series, video games, and basically everything fun and fictional under the sun.
Cosplay ï¿½ allows fans to step into the shoes of the characters that have inspired them. ï¿½ In turn, they also inspire others through their character portrayal. ï¿½ Most cosplayers were actually very shy and awkward people until they learned to be confident with who they are through the ever-growing cosplay community. ï¿½ Escapism? ï¿½ Not at all. ï¿½ Who among us hasn’t played make-believe with friends even once in our childhood (come on, you played bahay-bahayan with the cute boy/girl next door) and eventually became better people from the experience? ï¿½ Besides, it’s simply fun to walk around in costumes and be someone extraordinary for a day.
What does it take to cosplay? Iconic cosplayer Alodia Gosiengfiao explained it ï¿½in a one-on-one chat with SPOT.ph when she talked about how to deal with suddenly getting a Fans’ Day and finding yourself featured twice on Yahoo! on the same day.
We hooked up with 10 cosplayers and asked them to share some of their cosplay secrets.
Jin, age is your guess, cosplayer since 2005
Real life: Who says cosplay can’t change the world? ï¿½ For Jin, it’s not all about the costumes, competitions, and awards (though they’re pretty cool, too). ï¿½ It’s about the positive attitude and camaraderie each cosplayer contributes to the experience. ï¿½ "As silly as it may sound, a number of these fictional people somehow inspired me to be a better person," Jin says. ï¿½ So, it’s no surprise if Tuxedo Team (Jin’s close group of cosplay friends) is out to make everyone smile one costume at a time. Jin already has 30. ï¿½ (No, Cho Aniki, please.)
Go, go, Jin!: "When Quentin Tarantino visited Manila, and I [met] him while wearing my Gogo Yubari costume. ï¿½ I wouldn’t usually cosplay schoolgirls but I really enjoyed Kill Bill, and Gogo was one of my favorite characters there. ï¿½ It was amazingly surreal, meeting the person who created the character your cosplay is based on. ï¿½ He wouldn’t have his photo taken with other people, but he had me stand beside him and had some people get pictures of us. ï¿½ He told me I was a terrific Gogo."
Cosplay investments: "It’s difficult to compute for an average cost because each costume is different-and math is not my forte (laughs)-and sometimes we hardly have to spend anything because we can recycle other pieces like wigs or use clothes we already have. ï¿½ I guess I’m also a little hesitant to give a figure because some of the cosplayers reading this might think that if our expenses don’t match, they might be doing something wrong."
Cosplay boo-boos: "I tripped at an event where I was cosplaying Kenshin. ï¿½ My knees bled under my white hakamas. ï¿½ Thankfully a classmate came to the rescue with bandages and my friend patched me up before my blood stained the white pants. ï¿½ ï¿½ There goes the pathetic story of my cosplay battle wounds."
Superman-Clark Kent moment: "Surprisingly, some people do recognize me out of costume! ï¿½ I get pretty embarrassed when it happens on one of those days that I didn’t bother to fix myself up."
What the critics say: "There are people who think that cosplay is a complete waste of time. ï¿½ I guess it’s understandable how it’s a hobby that can be easily misunderstood. ï¿½ Negative comments don’t bother me, though. ï¿½ I know there are a lot of people out there who just aren’t well-versed in the social conventions of common courtesy. ï¿½ Sometimes my inner idealist makes me try to have a decent conversation with them to persuade them to be less judgmental. ï¿½ But most of the time I just let them be. As long as my friends and I are having a good time, a few rude strangers don’t really matter."
Of cosplay rivalries: "I suppose they just want to cosplay well, so they aim to be considered the best. ï¿½ I just wish they wouldn’t put other people down in order to feel better about themselves. ï¿½ The cosplay community (and the rest of the world) would be a much nicer place without the pointless negativity."
2. Ashley Gosiengfiao, 20, cosplayer since 2003
Real life: "I’m a huge video game and anime addict, so it’s really cool to dress up as my favorite characters. ï¿½ Also, I’m a photographer, so taking part in photo shoots is one of my biggest passions," she says. ï¿½ However, she sees herself cosplaying only until her late 20s. ï¿½ Nowadays, she attends an average of five to six cosplay events per year to judge competitions and do autograph signings.
Claim to fame: "I won my first competition back in 2003 during the C3Con. ï¿½ After that, I took a break from cosplaying to concentrate on school, music and sports. ï¿½ When I came back to the scene two years after, I never joined a competition but did some judgings and guestings. ï¿½ The next competition I joined was for the Anime Festival Asia ’09 wherein my sister Alodia and I were chosen to represent the Philippines for the regional competition held in Singapore. ï¿½ That was the most special [event] for me."
Character profile: "I’ve cosplayed around 11 characters already. ï¿½ So far, my favorite would be Shiori Tsuzuki of Witchblade because the production of the costume was very complex, and we actually incorporated LED lights onto my humongous crescent-shaped weapon and headdress. ï¿½ "My dream cosplay would be Asuka Kazama from Tekken 5. ï¿½ Nightmare would probably be Aeris Gainsborough from Final Fantasy VII, because as much as I love the game, I dislike her character. ï¿½ I like Tifa Lockheart loads better."
Cosplay investments: "A costume usually costs ten to fifteen thousand pesos, including accessories and weapons. ï¿½ But it depends on the materials and if you’re going to have the costume made or make it yourself. ï¿½ The time to produce costumes ranges from a week to a month. ï¿½ Favorite material would be spandex fabric."
Weirdest thing a fan did: "There’s this fan-made video, and as I was watching it, I realized that there were some candid shots taken from a rather great distance. ï¿½ It got me wondering as to how he managed to do that."
What some critics say: "There have been negative comments about my sister and I getting paid to cosplay. ï¿½ Cosplaying should not be all about the money. ï¿½ Although we both agreed on this, we also think that cosplay shouldn’t be limited to just a hobby. ï¿½ People earn from doing what they love, and that’s what’s going on. ï¿½ If anything, I believe that they should actually be eager to find that cosplay is perpetually growing into an acknowledged industry."
Cosplay legacy: "I want to be remembered as one of the cosplayers who [moved] to propel this hobby into the mainstream."
3. Monique Dimanlig, 22, cosplayer since 2008
Real life: From playing dress-up with her mom to being made fun of in high school for her weird taste in clothes, this UST graduate has gone a long way- into the ways of the geisha, that is. ï¿½ "I fell in love with the geisha because they are so beautiful and I realized that through cosplay I start to become more feminine, graceful and elegant," she says. ï¿½ She established her character during the UP Anime Manga Enthusiasts convention in 2008 where she won as Hatsumomo from Memoirs of a Geisha.
Preparations for the character: "There are no traditional dance classes here but I did intensive research about the geisha and their community. I read books. I also watched documentaries and video clips on YouTube how they perform so I would know how they moved, talked, and interacted because that is really the heart of cosplay. ï¿½ Anybody can wear a costume but to become the character that is really something."
Cosplay support: "[The support of my family] is incredible! ï¿½ One time, my grandma came home and she said ’I don’t like what you’re wearing, look at this, I brought you new cloth. Use this!’ ï¿½ They would do everything to help."
Kimono 101: "I love silk because at conventions it’s really warm and there are so many people. ï¿½ I’d have layers on so it’s important that it’s light and cool so my makeup won’t melt."
Memorable moments: "I rode at the back of a tricycle in full geisha outfit [during Pinoy A*ko at PUP]. That ended so badly because the hem of my kimono got caught in the wheel and I got thrown onto the ground. I didn’t care about me, my first concern was my kimono because it was my favorite one.
"[Then] Edea [Final Fantasy VIII] because that was a real challenge because of the arch. There were three boys putting the thing together on my back and helping me and running ahead in the crowd saying, ’We’re sorry, let us pass!’ It was big and pointy and I could have hurt someone!"
Future plans: "I expect to cosplay until I’m old, until I have children and my children will also become cosplayers. ï¿½ I think that as I go on, I’ll try to become better and better."
4. Guy Singzon, 43 , cosplayer since 2007
Real life: Guy is a former NGO Field Operations and Special Event Supervisor and doting father known for his award-winning detailed armors and mecha. ï¿½ He takes pride in not only being a cosplayer but a freelance costume and props maker with around 46 wins (including commissioned works) in just two years and four months. ï¿½ Dubbed as a "cosplay legend" by Playground magazine, he dares anyone to say otherwise by letting his masterpieces speak for themselves.
Cosplay specialty: "I’m an avid fan of robots! I have toy robot collections. ï¿½ I actually like mechas and armor costumes because the detail involved is more challenging and simply because I don’t know how to sew! ï¿½ I tried using recycled carton boxes. ï¿½ That’s how I got known, as Spawn Mandarin silver version. ï¿½ But doing that is difficult and time-consuming. Rubber foam is faster to manipulate and it’s always available at Marikina. Give me a month to finish a costume."
Character profile: "I’ve done Warhammer (game character), Spawn Mandarin, and Spawn Samurai (comics), Ironman HulkBuster, Man in the Iron Mask, Juggernaut (X-Men), Counterstrike, Megatron, Bumblebee, Jetfire, and more."
Faves and hates: "[I like my] Counterstrike costume because it’s very familiar and it was the most expensive! But I don’t regret [spending] on my costumes because it’s all planned. My dream cosplay would be...the UP Oblation! Unfortunately, my physique isn’t that amazing. Character I wouldn’t be caught dead playing? ï¿½ None... just don’t make me dance!"
Cosplay boo-boos: "Wardrobe malfunction... lots, usually my belt snaps but it’s not noticeable. The craziest? I fell asleep inside Megatron! That’s what you get for staying up late making costumes."
Masked vs. unmasked: "From the start I always wore a mask. If I looked like Jericho Rosales then I’ll never wear a mask!"
Words of wisdom: "When I’m in costume, people call me weird. But hey, even if I’m not in costume I’m still weird. ï¿½ Cosplaying is not just winning a competition...the idea is to have fun!"
5. Shivena Rachel Uy, 22, cosplayer since 2008
Real life: When asked to describe cosplay in one word, Shivena gave three: Interactive. Passion. Fun. "[There are] too many words to describe cosplay!" she laughs. She usually doesn’t participate in contests and prefers to support those on the catwalk. "I only joined once during Cosplaymania 2009 to help my friends because their groupmate got sick and I was asked to fill in for her. ï¿½ It’s a Valkyrie Profile Group. We won though, so it’s a very memorable experience for me."
Character profile: "[I’ve played] around 15 characters in the past two years. [My favorite] would be Songstress Rikku from Final Fantasy X-2! I love her costume, and the character’s lively, and strong-willed.
Cosplay investments: "Some costumes cost roughly a thousand pesos if it was a simple school uniform. The rest ranges from around [a thousand to more than six thousand pesos]. The most expensive costume I have costs around six thousand pesos, which I only wore during a photo shoot."
Group vs. solo cosplay: "Cosplaying with a group is more fun since you portray characters with your friends from the same series. [However,] cosplaying alone [means] you’re in charge of your time. As a group, you have to be at least in sync with them. But I prefer groups because I enjoy going around with a bunch of my friends!"
Heart-warming moment: "It’s when people appreciate the effort that I put in every character. One that I treasure is from a random con-goer, a grandma with her grandchildren. She praised my cosplay. I didn’t expect it since people tend to just say thanks after taking a pic with you. But she was different. I was moved."
Cosplay advice: "Knowing who you are cosplaying is very important. Loving the character is very important! Not just for the sake of looking good."
Cosplay legacy: "A cosplayer who gave justice to the characters that she cosplayed."
6. Alexandra Keuls, turning 20, cosplayer since 2009
Real life: Watch out cosplayers, because this year, Alex is on a roll! Though new to the cosplay competition scene, this cosplayer and gamer is set to make her mark as "part of this country’s epic cosplay family." With her natural charm, upbeat attitude, and stand-out looks (she’s of Irish, Dutch and Filipino descent), no one’s doubting that she’ll help take cosplay to another level.
Memorable moment: "PCC 2009. That’s when I met Jean Paul Crisologo and James Ryan Siaron (a great photographer!) who I call my buddies today. That’s also when I met Erving Go (also an amazing photographer). I also became part of CSCENTRL’s (Comic Sale Central) banner family; not to mention another memorable group cosplay I did with Di Weber, Kara Leonardia, and Carmel Rivera. ï¿½ This is one convention I will never skip out on for its wonderful events that I will remember for a lifetime."
Character profile: She has played seven characters so far but "the most fun to dress up as was Baby Bonnie from Darkstalkers. Despite her innocence, I had to show she’s one crazy killer. I actually felt like I was hunting for wild beasts during the convention."
Cosplay investments: "I cut a certain amount from my weekly allowance just for cosplay. Whether the idea is there or not, I just keep saving."
Her rewards: "It has given me confidence. ï¿½ I’ve always been scared to do stuff like this. I was given the chance, and when I got it, I don’t intend letting go."
Of cosplay and gaming: "Cosplay is about expressing yourself and the character you love. ï¿½ As for gaming, it’s another way to eat up those boring days, especially when you have nothing to do. Going off on grand adventures like in Dragon Age, and saving Hyrule again from the clutches of Ganondorf."
Head over heels for: "Wow! This ones’ a toughie. But for me, nothing beats Link from the Legend of Zelda; even if he has a language of his own." (laughs)
7. Captain Hank Sparrow, ageless as the sea (or 41), cosplayer since 2006
Real life: Oh, the pirate marooned on land? That would be Capt. Hank Sparrow, in the guise of a writer and bartender when the crew of Black Pearl Philippines isn’t pillaging conventions and events for good times and good deeds. It was his cousin Capt. Elizabeth "Silver" Swann a.k.a. Karen Kunawicz who got him into pirate duds and eventually, Hank found himself "constantly barking orders and using naughtycal terms." When out of costume though, he still gets asked to pose as Captain Sparrow and gets free drinks in the bargain.
A pirate’s life for me: "I have toyed with the idea [of other costumes] but Captain Jack Sparrow is just too much fun to not play. ï¿½ Oh there are so many [great events]...but I would have to pick the event at the Manila Yacht Club. Yours truly and the crew of the Black Pearl all got on a real ship, flew our very own black flag from the mast and was part of the regatta for the day. We had a cannon and everything. [I] would love to do that again. For a pirate costumer, it rarely gets better than that."
It’s no contest: "I’ve joined two cosplay events as a ’contestant’ got second place in both. My pirate’s pride will not let me accept defeat, [and I] haven’t joined one since. Love attending the events though."
Cosplay moment: "At a convention a grandmother with her children and grandchildren approached me and greeted me with ’I know you, you are Captain Jack Sparrow of the Pirates of the Arabian.’ She was dead serious. I didn’t know if her kids and grandkids were laughing harder at her or Capt. Jack Sparrow’s reaction. [I] didn’t have a clever comeback for that one."
What the critics say: "Aside from it being very, very, very addicting once you start, essentially, NO. But denial is always the first stage..."
Pirate’s advocacy: "For now, Black Pearl’s main advocacy is at Ward 9 at Philippine General Hospital where some children afflicted with cancer are being treated. ï¿½ Black Pearl Philippines visits, spreads a little cheer, divvying loot bags filled with toys, vitamins and other necessities."
Cosplay legacy: "Every costumer hopes to be remembered in costume... this may sound a little extreme but my dying wish is to be buried in my Captain Jack Sparrow costume. Maybe even have a proper pirate’s wake with rum and all the other pirate frills."
8. Nikki Rose A. Gevaña, 20, cosplayer since 2007
Real life: It seems as if Nikki was born to cosplay. First, she loves dressing up and role-playing. Second, her course, Production Design from the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde helps her make costumes and props. ï¿½ Third, her online business helps cosplayers with their cosplay needs such as wigs, accessories, etc. ï¿½ Fourth...there are just too many to mention including her active participation in CSCENTRL’s The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya group.
Fave cosplay: "Probably Haruhi Suzumiya (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya). I already did four versions of her costumes. What captured me the most with Haruhi is that she has this very strong personality and she speaks out whatever she thinks or feels. In fact, we almost have the same personality which is why portraying her isn’t such a hard task."
Balancing act: "I’m only able to work on cosplays during my free time. I see to it that I attend to my main priorities first such as family, school, work, and my online business. But I sometimes do find working on my costumes and props relaxing; and attending cons is like part of my break from my busy life."
Fave material: "Rubber or leatherette."
I am Haruhi!: "I cosplayed Space Captain Haruhi and there was this group of SOS Dan cosplayers who approached me to ask if they could take a picture with me. I was so happy to see many Haruhi cosplayers by my side [so] I shouted something like "Yoosh! SOS Dan members, ikuzooo!" then struck a pose. All of them were shocked and told me that I was so Haruhi-like."
Fan moment: "[There was a] time when some people approached me and started squealing ’Idol! Idol.’ ï¿½ Then they all started doing a worshipping gesture. I was so shocked and speechless that I just jokingly asked if they had the right person."
Cosplay advice: "Be persistent when executing your work and don’t rush yourself to have the best result. Try to experiment with a lot of things and don’t be afraid to ask advice or learn from other cosplayers."
9. Jenalyn Ching, 18, cosplayer since 2009
Real life: Don’t blame her, it was her kuya who literally dragged her into the world of cosplay. "What I saw fascinated me! The happiness that I saw in the faces of the cosplayers made me want to try it," Jen refers to her first day at Toycon 2009. From there, this model doesn’t only pose pretty for professional photo shoots and the catwalk but during conventions as well.
Fave cosplay: "My favorite character would be Yuki Nagato. I really poured a lot of effort [into it]. It was hard for me because we (me and the character) have opposite personalities so I really gave it my all to portray her as best I could. This was also where people started recognizing me as a real cosplayer. Another reason is that playing Yuki gave me the chance to cosplay with a group, which is really nice because it’s double the fun and [you build] camaraderie."
Model turned cosplayer: "Modeling is more serious work since I need discipline to carry myself especially on the runway. While in cosplay, it’s simply fun. I am able to enjoy what I’m wearing without worrying how I’m carrying the fashion. In cosplay, I’m able to enjoy portraying different characters with different varieties of fashion statements."
Ready, set, go!: "I always check myself in the mirror, practice poses, and take pictures of myself the night before a cosplay event to see if I’m able to [pull off] the character."
Convention buddies: Mom and big bro.
Best comment received: "Jen really projected Nagato really well." From CSCENTRL’S Raymond Sison.
Cosplay rewards: "The most significant thing that cosplaying has contributed to my personality is that I’m now able to communicate well with anybody. When I was just modeling, it didn’t require me to talk with people since the runway is just a runway where you’ll just walk. [Cosplaying has given me] the courage to talk to anybody without stuttering."
10. Abraham Cruz, 22, cosplayer since 2008
Real life: When he’s not being a UP Molecular Biology and Biotechnology major (he’s graduating, by the way), he’s War Machine or any mecha/monster character whose costume he actually crafted himself. It’s hard to believe that he forayed into the world of cosplay out of boredom. However, he’s still in the game because gets focus and confidence from it and got addicted to competing. (FYI: He’s bagged 42 cosplay awards). His dream is to win in an international competition as a representative of the Philippines and bring honor to the country through cosplay.
Character profile: He has played characters such as Samus (Metroid), Mechagodzilla (Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla), Lancelot (Code Geass), Batman Killgear (The Batman), Poring Emperor (Ragnarok), Mojacko, V (V for Vendetta), Oblation (UP), and Manny Pacquiao.
Cosplay specialty: "So far, I have no interest in cosplaying human characters. I’ve found my niche in mecha and monster cosplay and I am sticking to my guns." His reasons? 1) He’s a mecha fan. 2) He loves the challenge of mecha-making (and the details get people’s attention). 3) He thinks he’s not the pretty boy stereotype.
Dream and Nightmare cosplay: "Bahamut Fury from Final Fantasy VII Crisis Core. I wouldn’t be caught dead cosplaying as any Japanese school girl wearing a short skirt. I have hairy legs so it would be for my own good and the good of the general public."
Secrets of the craft: "I learned how to make costumes from a website by Robert Wong, a veteran Filipino cosplayer. Sadly, the site is gone now. But I really learned much by asking from many other experienced cosplayers such as Lyron Aquino, Guy Singzon, and Robert Torio. And trial and error."
Wardrobe malfunctions: "My wig and hat dropped when I tried to take a bow as V. And my mecha foot flew up in the air when I was destroying buildings as Mechagodzilla. I think the foot almost hit the judges."
V-day: "A girl kissed the lips of my mask when I was cosplaying V. It was surprising because she just grabbed me out of the blue while I was posing and did it in front of the crowd. V is quite popular with the women. Sometimes I miss cosplaying him."
Like a virus, cosplay fever is just beginning in the country with scores of new and familiar cosplayers entering competitions left and right or simply attending conventions with friends. It’s not a matter of interests, gender, age or occupation either as in the cases of Avril Bries, Monette Salas and Ivan Valerio (see their photos below), who are different cosplayers compared to each other. Cosplay has become part of their life and has even changed it such that Grace Roldan even claims that she’s "no normal girl now!"
So, go ahead, grab the photo op with Masked Rider (that’s probably Dennis Isidoro) or Spongebob in a mall. Cosplay certainly is no taboo. Hey, it’s not our fault that we’re a creative and fun race.