[Field Report/Photos] 4th Cosplay-Tanabata Festival, Baguio City, Philippines: Kindling on a Fire – A Humble Festival in a Small City

The Philippines and Japan have shared a handful of years together in the pre-World War II days. I still remember my grandmother telling me stories about Japanese soldiers who befriended members of our family in order to find places to rest and crash when they get deployed to far reaches of the country. As payment, the Japanese soldiers would leave trinkets or canned goods, which were considered novelties and in some cases, delicacies.

With the advent of anime, the interest in Japanese culture has surged immensely, with a large number of Filipinos, youths and adults alike becoming engrossed in practically everything Japanese. In my little city, which just happened to be one of the final Japanese outposts that were conquered at the end of the Second World War, the influence of Japan has never stopped nor waned. Indeed, Japanese culture is alive and well, as shown in the recently concluded 4th Cosplay - Tanabata Festival in the City.

1. The Basics

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1 - The Cosplay-Tanabata 4 Official Poster, showing the event’s features and sponsors.

The Tanabata Festival here in Baguio is organized by a local anime/cosplay group, called Otageki Cosplay Association, which was founded in July 2010. The group’s name, Otageki, is a portmanteau of the words Otaku and Geki, making it very appealing to anime fans, veterans and newcomers alike.

As a group, Otgeki aims to “promote cosplay excellence, artistry, and quality craftsmanship as a unified team and family while exemplifying discipline and continuing progress while having the time of our lives,” according to the group’s official Facebook page.

The festival is also done in coordination with the Japanese Association of Northern Luzon, a group of Japanese expatriates who currently reside in the city. A related article features exclusive interviews with officers with the JANL.

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2 – A member and the president of the Japanese Association of Northern Luzon converse as the event transpires.

Length of the Event

Being pretty much a small-scale event, the Cosplay-Tanabata Festival is only held for one day. This year, the event started at about 11:00 and ended by 18:00.

Place/Location

The Cosplay-Tanabata Festival is done in one of the Philippines’ most prominent tourist spots, the city of Pines, Baguio City. Specifically, the event was conducted in the gym of the city’s largest secondary school, which holds about 10,000 students every day.

Cost

One of the advantages of having events in the Philippines is the relatively low cost it entails on the part of the attendees. When the event started, the organizers only charged about 20 Philippine Pesos (about 50 Yen or 40 US Cents) as an entrance fee. This year, due to the event having a little more scale, the event cost 30 Philippine Pesos (about 70 Yen or 65 US Cents). The entrance fee is still quite a steal for an anime event, however.

Hotels

Several hotels are available in the city, and just like the entrance fee to the event itself, the fees are pretty budget friendly. Mid-range hotels cost about 2,500 Philippine Pesos (About 6,000 Yen or 50 US Dollars) a night, complete with free breakfast accommodations. The rooms in these hotels are also large enough to comfortably fit 2-3 people.

For the extreme budget traveler however, one can find accommodations for as low as 250 Philippine Pesos (about 600 Yen or 5 US Dollars) a night. The rooms in these budget accommodations are usually good for two people. Oh, and wi-fi is usually available for free too!

2. What to Expect/What to Bring

Being a relatively small-scale event, the Cosplay-Tanbata Festival packs a lot of activities that any visitor can take part in. This year, numerous activities were lined up, from cosplay events, to art contests, eating contests, free kenjutsu lessons, and even some basic sumo contests. Almost all of these are free of charge.
So what would a person’s survival kit contain if one wants to enjoy the Cosplay-Tanabata Festival? Here are the necessities.

  • Camera
  • - This is definitely a necessity if one wants to capture the numerous eye-catching moments in the festival. Being a festival that features a lot of activities for every participant and attendee, the moments one can capture are many.

  • Smartphone/Tablet Computer
  • – Of course, once a photo or video is captured, one can easily upload the files to social media sites, thanks in part to the organizers who were able to secure the sponsorship of one of the country’s most prominent telecom companies, Globe Telecom.

  • Cash
  • – Though the activities in the event are free, the food and some games require a very small fee. Thus, if one wants to become a guest in the festival, one must have ample pocket money for them to be able to enjoy the products being offered in the stalls fully. Again, due to the scale, card payments are not yet allowed, so all transactions are done completely by cash.

  • The Right Expectations
  • – Compared with events that are conducted in the capital such as Anime-Con and other prominent anime events, the Cosplay-Tanabata Festival in Baguio City is fairly minimalist and small-scale. Thus, it is best not to expect too much with regards to the spectacle of the event. Rather, one must recognize it for what it is – an event in a small city done by a local group that simply aims to foster and promote the beauty of Japanese culture through anime.

3. The Activities

This year’s festival is fully endowed with activities, from the usual anime fare to the more traditional Japanese ones. Here is a list of the activities which awaited each participant in the event.

  • Orihime and HIkoboshi Best in Yukata Contest
  • – Participants who attended the in the event dressed in traditional Japanese attire received prizes.

  • ukinagashi Streamers Making Contest
  • – The contest was open to all participants, with the winners being displayed during the duration of the event. The winners also received prizes.

  • UTAnabata Live! Solo Competition
  • – Songs from Japanese artists, most especially anime themes, were sung by the participants of the competition.

    This was a pretty interesting event since more mature contestants sung themes from older anime while the younger ones sung those from newer releases. It was a way for people like me to feel my age.

  • On-the-Spot Art Contest
  • – Sponsored by one of the region’s art schools, the Cordillera School of Digital Arts, the contest was also open to practically everyone in the festival. Another art-based contest, sponsored by the Bag-Iw Art Society, a local art group, was also done.

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    3 - Anime enthusiasts engage in an on-the-spot art contest sponsored by local art groups.

  • AKB48 Fortune Cookie In Love Dance Competition
  • – Dancing to the tune of AKB48’s popular tune, several groups, from veteran anime fans to junior high students, engaged in a dance competition. Audiences were impressed with the younger contestants, with the junior high participants bagging the contest’s major prizes in a clean sweep.

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    4 - The AKB48 Dance Competition drew the eyes of everyone in the event, featuring groups ranging from participants in their 20's to competitors from junior high.

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    5- Groups from the local high school engage in a routine to the tune of AKB48's popular hit. The group was able to bag the 2nd prize.

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    6 - This group, composed of junior high school students, earned first place, proving that age matters not in an anime dance competition.

  • Eating Contests
  • – Sponsored by local businesses that embrace Asian, especially Japanese culture, Wasabi Burger and Spicy Ramen eating contests were done as well. Numerous attendees participated in the contests, especially since the sponsors were popular food chains in the city, with one of them, Miwishayu Burgers, making the list of one of the most unique burger houses in the country.

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    7 - Eating contests were well-received, with participants getting free food and bonding with each other, all in the name of fun and camaraderie.

    Apart from the contests, several Japanese-themes activities were also conducted, thanks in no small part to the Japanese Association of Northern Luzon. Among the two most prominent ones are the following.

  • Free Kenjutsu Lessons
  • – One of the activities that attracted the most attention, the Kenjutsu lessons were a hit, with anime fans practically lining up to get a feel of the basics of traditional Japanese swordsmanship. A feature on the Kenjutsu teacher that handled the lessons is the focus of a related article.

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    8 - The Free Kenjutsu lessons were a massive hit, with numerous participants showing great interest in acquiring the basics of traditional Japanese swordsmanship.

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    9 - Kenjutsu instructor Kenzou Alcala instructs two of the article's photographers on the basics of Kenjutsu.

  • Sumo Wrestling Challenge
  • – Yet another activity that attracted a lot of participants, the Sumo Wrestling challenge featured members of the JANL acting as the Yokozuna and challenging attendees of the event. Some prize money was awarded to the brave, strong souls who opted to step up to the challenge.

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    10 - A couple of attendees engage in a sumo match overseen by a member of the Japanese Association of Northern Luzon.

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    11 - The sudden flurry of limbs and bodies crashing into each other gives audiences a little idea of what Sumo Wrestling is all about.

    Of course, no anime-related event can be complete without booths! Booths featuring anime merchandise, independent releases, and some Asian delicacies were part of the event’s highlights. A very popular booth was the goldfish catching booth, which was enjoyed by the young and old alike.

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    12 - Even Spirited Away's No Face cannot resist the allure of a chocolate fountain. This particular food stall proved very popular, mainly due to most of their offerings costing no more than 20 Philippine pesos (about 50 Yen or 40 US Cents).

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    13 - Trinkets were also quite commonplace, with keychains, mini plushies and the like being sold for pretty fair prices.

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    14 - Anime-themed pillows, jackets, and other anime-themed merchandise also sold pretty well.

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    15 - This custom-printed mug with a chibi version of the Rogue Titan from Shingeki no Kyojin was a definite eye-catcher.

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    16 - Anime posters and prints were also available for the more frugal attendees, featuring images from iconic anime series like Hunter x Hunter and the like.

    The Cosplay-Tanabata Festival was also very well-endowed in the entertainment factor, with a number of local bands performing covers of Japanese songs. Anime themes, both classic and new, serenaded the hall as each band performed in full vigor, hyping the audience and keeping the atmosphere light and high.

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    17 - A local band that plays J-Pop performed a number of covers and served as background music while some of the contests were going on.

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    18 - This female singer was a definite crown-pleaser, singing her heart out in nigh-perfect Japanese, much to the delight of the audience.

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    19 - A group of fans cheer as performers belt out anime tunes onstage.

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    20 - The event had a very light and free atmosphere, as shown by these attendees emulating a Lion King moment with the author's puppy while anime songs serenaded the background.

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    21 - A young boy (the author's stepson) poses proudly with his prized catch from the goldfish catching booth.

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    22 - The author's stepson and one of the article's photographers pose with the goldfishes they won.

4. Cosplay Photos

Cosplaying is one of the most prominent ways a fan can show his or her appreciation of anime. By simulating the persona of a character that was brought to life through pen and paper, cosplayers are able to bring the character literally to life. Here are some notable cosplayers I and my photographers were able to capture in the event.

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23 - A veteran anime couple dressing up as iconic characters Kenshin Himura and Kamiya Kaoru.

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24 - Though young, these middle school students have begun their cosplaying careers by dressing up as Sword Art Online characters.

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25 - The Cosplay-Tanabata 2015 features a Yukata competition, and many attendees participated in it. This high school student poses in a yukata in this photo.

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26 - This pair of friends both dressed up as the main character from one of the most popular and critically-acclaimed anime that was recently released, Tokyo Ghoul.

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27 - Of course, anime conventions will never be complete without cat-girls among the participants.

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28 - Another cat girl poses for the camera as the event draws to a close.

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29 - Just a random Power Ranger on the prowl, keeping the peace at the event.

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30 - Just like cat-girls, no anime event will ever be complete without swordsmen.

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31 - Ninjas too, are a popular choice for cosplayers in the Phlippines, pushed by the popularity of shows like Naruto and Basilisk.

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32 - At the end of the day, the event is all about having good, wholesome fun.

One of the organizers of the event, Lora Lopez, is also an avid cosplayer. When asked about why she chose cosplaying as a hobby, she states that it originally started as a way for her to bond with her sister. Among the things she loves most is the experience of being able to bring anime characters to life. She also enjoys the process of making her own costumes.

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33 - The panel of judges from the Japanese Association of Northern Luzon, Philippines looks as performers grace the stage, together with event organizer and cosplayer Lora Lopez on the far right.

Her story on how she got into anime and cosplaying, as well as the group that organized the event, are featured in a related article.

5. Final Thoughts

Indeed, the 4th Cosplay-Tanabata Festival has gone quite a long way from what it was just a couple of years ago. When I first attended a Cosplay Tanabata Festival way back in 2013, the event was very small-scale, with only a few booths and a handful of cosplayers attending and participating in the events. With the recently-concluded festival in mind, it seems like this humble group of local cosplayers in a small mountain retreat of a city in the Philippines is in the process of continuously making their events more and more intricate. The inclusions of activities such as the Sumo Wrestling challenge and the Free Kenjutsu lessons are proof of that.

As an anime fan, events such as these do kindle the fire that anime has started in my heart way back when I was still but a child. By being in a place and in an event that is organized specifically for anime enthusiasts, one can easily feel that this passion that all of us here in Honey’s Anime share, regardless of whether we live in one of the world’s biggest and most advanced cities, or if we reside in a small, humble abode atop a mountain. Truly, this year’s Cosplay-Tanabata Festival was able to capture that feeling, showing its attendees that even an anime event on this scale is able to provide an experience that is quite unforgettable.

Interviews with the event organizers, as well as other key people in the event, are featured in a related article.

I am definitely looking forward to any other events this group has planned for the future.

Peter

Writer

Author: Peter "Virage" de Jesus

In the game of life, the Universe deals us a hand of cards. Some revel in the fortunes they are provided. Others resort to clawing their way up with the bad hand that they are dealt. A number would fold as the years go by. Our existence is a game of chances, and in this game, we all play. I play life in Hard Mode.

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Photos: Peter de Jesus, Ma.Claribelle Deveza, and Miranieva Buen


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