[Honey’s Anime Exclusive Interviews] 4th Cosplay-Tanabata Festival, Baguio City, Philippines: The Artist, the Cosplayer, the Teacher, and the Expatriates

The recently conducted 4th Cosplay-Tanabata Festival in Baguio City, Philippines covered in a related article was made possible through the efforts of numerous entities. Two local groups, Otageki and the Japan Association of Northern Luzon, Philippines took great part in the event, ensuring that everyone who attended the festival came out with a little Japanese culture with them.

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1 - The attendees of the 4th Cosplay-Tanabata Festival watching a performance onstage.

1. Interview with the Cosplayer, Lora Lopez

Lora Lopez is a member of the local cosplay group that organized the event. An avid cosplayer who has attended numerous anime-related events in the past years, she credits her passion for cosplaying to her sister, who was a cosplayer herself. Her love for anime began when she was still a child, with her sibling being hooked into Japanese animation. Soon, she was making her own costumes and participating in cosplay competitions, even winning a number of awards along the way.

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2 - Lora Lopez as Victorique of Gosick. Photo Credit to Christian Noel Reyes of Wanobo Photography, official photographer of Otageki.

As a member of Otageki, she was one of the key persons behind the event. In this interview, she talks about the cosplay goup, Otageki, as well as her views regarding anime in general.

Honey’s Anime:
-- What is Otageki and why did the group choose to conduct a Tanabata festival?

Lora Lopez:
"Otageki" literally means otakus who portray characters they like and role play them through Cosplaying. (from Japanese words "OTAKU and GEKI") OTAGEKI COSPLAY ASSOCIATION INC., is the very first and officially registered cosplay organization founded in Baguio City, PH in July 25, 2010.

Our company’s goal is to promote cosplay excellence, artistry, and quality craftmanship as a unified team and family while exemplifying discipline and continuing progress while having the time of our lives. We had decided to organize the Cosplay Tanabata Festival in collaboration with the JANL (Japanese Association of Northern Luzon) and ABONG. They are the active Japanese communities here in Baguio City and in the North.

-- Why did the group opt to conduct it in Baguio?

The practice of Tanabata Festival in Baguio City began in 2011 in the Baguio Museum to celebrate the Philippine-Japanese Friendship month here in Baguio City. Spearheaded by the President of the JANL, Hidenobu Oguni and Otageki, the first ever Cosplay Tanabata Festival was organized in 2011 at the Baguio Convention Center.

We continued to practice this Cosplay Tanabata Festival to share the Japanese culture to the people of Baguio City and as a commemoration of the friendship month. This is a chance for everyone of a common interest to meet and enjoy the festivities.

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3 - Lora Lopez cosplaying as Diao Chan, a character from Dynasty Warriors. Photo credit to Christian Noel Reyes of Wanobo Photography, official photographer of Otageki.

-- What are the areas covered by Otageki? Are Tanbata Festivals also being done in other places apart from Baguio?

We usually focus events organizing here in Baguio City. We visit or compete in cosplay competitions in other cities though. We are not too certain about the existence of other Tanabata Festivals being held elsewhere in the Philippines.

-- Is this the first time Otageki coordinated with the Japanese Association of Northern Luzon?

No, we have done collaborations for the Philippine-Japanese Friendship Month in Baguio for about six years now.

-- How was the event advertised?

We focused on social media sites, posters, tarpaulins and flyers. As it is a well-established event in Baguio City, the people already anticipate the event so they always follow the group’s Facebook Page. We also appeared in the Sky Cable program feature.

-- In your opinion, was the event successful?

Our group’s goal is to bring the people together with the same interests and to share the Japanese culture to the people of Baguio City for the Cosplay Tanabata Festival. If that’s the case, we could say the event was successful as we were able to gather 1,100 attendees (highest attendees count since the beginning) and a lot of people enjoyed the festivities. We are very glad about the outcome of the event this year.

-- Will there be similar events in the coming months?

Not certain if we’ll have a convention-type of event anytime soon. But we are preparing something big for November. Stay tuned!

-- What is anime to you?

A beautiful art and a form of literature showcasing Japan’s culture and arts.

2. Interview with the Expatriates, Hidenobu Oguni and Daisuke Hagiwara

The Japanese Association of Northern Luzon is a prominent group in the region, catering to several cities and provinces. In the Cosplay-Tanabata Festival, the members of the association, including the current president, were in attendance. They served as judges in the event, while also participating in several activities.

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4 - JANL President Ogumi Hidenobu smiles as he judges participants in UTAnabata contest.

I was able to get a couple of profile interviews with the JANL’s president and a member who currently owns businesses in the city. Together, they talk about what JANL stands for, and what their views are regarding the 4th Cosplay-Tanabata Festival.

At 64 years old, Hidenobu Oguni stands as the president of the JANL, in charge of overseeing the association’s main functions. He grew up in Japan, but later went to the Philippines in 1998 as an officer for Texas Instruments, which has a factory in the outskirts of the city. Though he finished his contract with Texas Instruments after a few years, the allure of the city encouraged him to fully settle in the city at 2005. A couple of years later, he became the president of the JANL.

Honey’s Anime:
-- What are the goals of the Japanese Association of Northern Luzon?

Hidenobu Oguni:

It is very hard to start a life in a different country. If you are a foreigner, you will need local support, support from people just like you who are living close to you. You need a tool to communicate to each other. JANL is a communication tool for Japanese nationals living in the region. A form of local support.

-- What do you think about today’s event?

I am really, really surprised; and in a positive way too. I’m very happy that the youth in the city are getting involved in organizing events like this. I think we have about a thousand people in attendance today. It’s a very good number.

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5 - Members of the JANL serve as judges in the event's numerous contests. Daisuke Hagiwara (second from left) tallies his scorecard for the participant onstage.

Another member of the JANL I was able to interview is a Daisuke Hagiwara, a businessman who went to the Philippines 10 years ago. Hailing from the Saitama Prefecture in Japan, he originally went to the Philippines to study English as a second language. Ever the businessman however, he ended up opening his own ESL school in the city, and later, two authentic Japanese restaurants, Yamashita Noodle House and Sakura Terrace.

-- What does the JANL do?

Daisuke Hagiwara:
The JANL mainly organizes events for Japanese people who are settling in on the region. We support events like this one, the Tanabata Festival to promote Japanese culture.

-- Is the JANL supporting any other anime groups in other parts of the country?

As of this moment, we only support anime groups in Baguio City.

-- How did you promote the event?

For about two to three days, we appeared in several televised programs in Sky Cable (the local cable network) with Otageki. The event was promoted in those appearances.

3. Interview with the Kenjutsu Teacher, Kenzou Alcala

Kenzou Alcala is a full-blooded Filipino who is also part of the JANL. A Kenjutsu enthusiast, he has opted to come to the city in order to teach basic Kenjutsu to anyone who is interested. According to him, he has come to Baguio twice already, both as a guest of the local anime community.

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6 - Kenzou Alcala smiles as he watches attendees practice the basics of kenjutsu in the festival.

Honey’s Anime:
-- Do you conduct kenjustu lessons in Baguio often?

Kenzou Alcala:
Actually, this is only the second time. We just started doing this last February, during the Baguio Flower Festival (a month-long celebration showcasing the city’s flowers).

-- Why do you teach Kenjutsu?

I teach kenjutsu as a way for Filipinos to be exposed to traditional Japanese culture. There are many in the Philippines who teach kendo, which is quite a modern form of Japanese swordsmanship, but there are very few who teach kenjutsu, which is very ancient and traditional.

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7 - The kenjutsu teacher laughs as he looks at the activities unfolding onstage.

-- Do you have a school where you actually do regular lessons?

We have a private school in Pasig City (in the capital region), called the Hiten Okugi Shinkai. We practice a very old form of swordsmanship there, a style that is over 600 years old.

-- Is the school open to the public?

Unfortunately, right now, the school is only strictly by invitation only.

-- I notice that your first name is Japanese and your family name is Filipino. How did you get your name?

Kenzou is my swordsman’s name, given to me by my sensei when he took me up as a student. This is the name I carry now.

4. Interview with the Artist, Richie Hanzel Diay

One of the artists who took part in the Cosplay-Tanabata Festival is a local-bred talent. Richie Hanzel Diay belongs to the city’s repertoire of talented manga artists. With a deep love for art, Richie has always been drawn to comics. Though his first forays into the world of professional art fall into the horror Western and cartoons genre, he eventually transitioned into Japanese animation. With his former boss, he was able to collaborate and create a manga based on Philippine history and current events.

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8 - Artist Richie Hanzel Diay poses with his latest Sumi-e artwork.

Honey’s Anime:
-- What kind of art are you into right now?

Richie Hanzel Diay:
Right now, I’m into Sumi-e Art, or wet wash painting. I like Mixed Media too.

-- What were the anime that influenced your style?

I was influenced a lot by Dragonball Z and Zenki back when I was in the 3rd grade. Actually, no, it actually was Gatchaman, back when I was just 5 years old!

-- So what are your current projects today?

I’m currently a freelance artist. I primarily work as a flatsheet color artist nowadays, which is my day job.

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9 - His collaborative works, which features a story rooted in Philippine history and current events.

-- Do you ever see yourself stopping?

Even if I find a regular job, I will still try to give time for this.
HA: What is art to you, really?
Art is my passion. It definitely is my passion.

These interviews provide just a few viewpoints of some key people in a fairly humble event. Talking to each of them provided me with a certain perspective however – a perspective and a belief that this art, this subculture that I have fallen in love with is alive and well, and is very much here to stay.



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, Miranieva Buen and Wanobo Photography