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From its origins as a fan activity in Japan in the 1970s, to the birth of the term "cosplay" in the mid 1980s, costumed role-playing of famous - and infamous - characters is rapidly gathering fans around the world.
The trend has particularly caught on with Filipinos, especially in the UAE where cosplayers gleefully transform themselves into their chosen character by mimicking the costumes, actions, speech and even the signature moves of the character. The best place to catch them? At the annual Middle East Film & Comic Con (MEFCC).
Why do Filipinos love cosplaying? "It's big among Filipinos because we are exposed to anime programmes at an early age. There is always an anime programme being shown daily on our local TV channels and they are dubbed in our language," says Jasper Jay, a Dubai-based training course coordinator and Comic Con regular. "Watching animes, movies about heroes and anything with super powers make us feel ecstatic as we hope to have those kind of powers. Cliche as it sounds, deep within us we want to be heroes as well and save the world," Jay says.
Cosplaying is also a fun way of bonding with Filipinos in the UAE, he adds. "Being in a foreign country, it makes me happy to see other Filipinos sharing the same hobby. The cosplay scene among Filipinos here in the UAE is improving. More Filipinos are joining cosplay and suiting up when they attend conventions," he says.
The UAE cosplay scene is evolving year after year, with more aspiring and talented cosplayers participating, says Khirstan Bautista, a hardcore cosplayer who bagged second place with his eccentric costume at this year's MEFCC. The Abu Dhabi-based student says making props and costumes is one of the biggest challenges of cosplaying, but that Filipinos take it in stride due to their "naturally creative" side."I enjoy the process of making props and costumes and I love the idea of giving everyone the chance to portray their favourite characters," Bautista says.
One of the Philippines’ biggest names in cosplaying, Alodia Gosiengfiao, was also a guest at the recent MEFCC in Dubai. For Gosiengfiao, cosplaying the Filipino way is usually about huge and elaborate costumes. “It’s common to see a lot of armour and a lot of robots – like huge and very elaborate,” shares the Filipino cosplayer and gamer.
She adds that cosplaying has gathered a huge following among Filipinos and practitioners have also become more sophisticated. “Back in the Philippines, [the quality of cosplaying] is already at an international level, that I can say. The cosplayers in the Philippines not only make costumes, they make machines now. Iron man like has servos and everything is spinning...[It's at a] wild level.”
She adds: “I've actually seen how the cosplay committee grew in the Philippines overtime. It took a while. I think there was a push with the conventions happening more frequently, like gaming conventions, anime conventions, techie conventions, comic conventions. In those conventions we have cosplay competitions – so you showcased your talent, like the stuff you make. It's really a good avenue to show your creativity and how you can perform on stage as well.”
Before becoming a famous cosplayer, Gosiengfiao was also a gamer and is still a huge fan of gaming. She's even signed a contract with Facebook to create exclusive video game content.
For cosplaying fans, here are practical tips from the multi-awarded cosplaying pro:
On becoming a better Cosplayer: "I encourage them to go to a convention like MEFCC so they can see how cosplayers do it. Go around, go on stage and the photoshoots on the side so they can approach those cosplayers and interact with them and even ask for advise. In different countries, we have different materials, we have different sources. I'm not sure how it goes here in Dubai, but back in the Philippines our favourite go to places are Divisoria, Kamuning."
How much will you spend? "It actually depends on the character. If you have a wig, contact lenses, shoes and stuff, maybe be [you will spend] around 10,000 pesos (Dh720). The wig alone already costs 2,000 pesos, the contact lenses 2,000 pesos and the shoes maybe a thousand – and [you need to spend for] all the other things as well. It can go up depending on the character. If you have an armour, you have swords, it will add up."
Big no-no in cosplaying: "I think it would be safe not to go like super super daring. In a convention in the Philippines, you can't control the people. Maybe like someone will have a camera down there. It's really hard, so just play safe."
This article was originally published in Gulf News here.
"The cosplay scene among Filipinos in the UAE is improving"